Cash Rules Southwest Florida Home Sales

Cash is king in Southwest Florida where the certainty of a quick, uncomplicated home sale can trump a higher offer that’s at the mercy of a bank loan officer.

That’s what local buyers, sellers and brokers alike say, and the sentiment is borne out by a recent report by Irvine, Calif.-based housing data company RealtyTrac.

Among metro areas with 500,000 or more residents, Cape Coral-Fort Myers is No. 1 with 73.6 percent of its home deals in cash in the first quarter, according to the report.

 

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The Naples area wasn’t included in the report because it has fewer than 500,000 residents.

“It’s amazing how much cash offers there are,” said Courtney Neuhausel, co-owner of Fort Myers-based Sandbill Homes, which buys and sells homes and property. “You would think things would be tighter” with the recession still vivid in people’s memories.

He cited an example of a purchase brokered by Sandbill in which the buyer “offered $20,000 under list price, and the seller took it just to have the comfort of knowing it was a done deal.”

But deals don’t always play out that way, Neuhausel said, because someone in no hurry to sell won’t be swayed by the prospects of a speedy transaction.

Still, he said, some sellers — especially of land — buy and sell at a rapid pace and won’t deal with anything but cash offers because they can’t afford the delays and the uncertainty that go with financing.

When Sandbill buys land, Neuhausel said, he has to close the deal quickly and irrevocably. “If I have a nonretractable contract and I put $5,000 down, I don’t want to walk away from that money.”

Jeff Tumbarello, owner/broker of North Fort Myers-based Steelbridge Realty, said the difference between cash and carry can cut both ways.

A cash buyer using his own money might be unwilling to bid up to the price needed to close the deal in a rising market, he said, while “a leveraged buyer will pay more” because he’s financing the deal with a loan.

In that case, Tumbarello said, “the narrative favors the leveraged buyers, who are able to respond more to the sellers.”

Bob Knight, co-owner of Cape Coral-based Paul Homes, said that for a buyer having a house built, there’s been a recent shift back toward financing.

“During the recession it was more cash for building new construction because it was difficult to get financing,” he said. “Banks were still reeling because of what happened. Now, in the past 18 months, the banks have opened up a lot more.”

As a result, Knight said, some of his clients who have the wherewithal to simply write a check are financing because low interest rates make that a more attractive proposition.

From a builder’s perspective it’s a wash, he said. On the one hand, “With the bank, the money’s in place and it will be to the end of the project. It’s more work, though, dealing with the bank’s regulations.”

Dealing directly with a buyer is generally simpler but the builder has to make sure he’s good for the total cost of the project,” Knight said. In the end, “It’s probably about the same amount of time.”

Mike Diamond, of Diamond Custom Homes, who builds upscale houses in Lee and Collier counties, said his clients generally can pay cash although sometimes they choose strategically to use a private banker or a line of equity. “Most of these people aren’t obtaining a mortgage.”

Also, he said, a lot of customers simply have a lot of cash lying around with no attractive options to invest it: interest rates are low and the stock market is arguably over-bought after five years of strong gains.

“There’s just a lot of cash on the sidelines,” Diamond said.

Condo Market In SW Florida On The Rebound

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Mike Banson recently handled the last sale of a bank-owned condominium at the 13-floor North Star Yacht Club on the Caloosahatchee River in North Fort Myers.

That’s a sign of the times in Southwest Florida, where the condo market has enjoyed a resurgence in the past year as single-family prices bounced back from the depths of the recession.

“I was the on-site agent for about six years, selling out all the bank-owned units,” said Banson, of Vision One Realty Group — the last unit, a penthouse, went for $531,000.

Naples-based land-use consultant Michael Timmerman, president of MJT Realty Economic Advisors, said the condo sector is doing well for sales prices, although for larger projects the cost of construction still makes it impossible to build new ones.

Projects building on a smaller scale have had better luck.

Jeff Barney, spokesman for Santa Luz LLC, said the company’s condominium Santa Luz, which started sales in February, is sold out of all but two units of the 20 in its first phase.

The project, off Daniels Parkway east of I-75 near JetBlue Park, consists of buildings with four units in each one.

“We had a very busy season,” said Barney, adding that another eight units will go up for sale within three weeks with 36 more to come.

“Most of the buyers we have are snowbirds and what they really get drawn to is the maintenance-free lifestyle,” he said. “They can leave for six months and come back and everything looks exactly the same.”

Because of its location in Gateway, Barney said, “We’re getting some young families. The last two we sold have been to folks about 40.”

Commercial real estate broker Steve Luta said he thinks there will be interest by builders in smaller projects in and around downtown Fort Myers.

That could offer a more urban lifestyle with buildings situated near the jobs, restaurants and nightlife of downtown, he said. “Some people don’t want the single-family home, lawn maintenance, pool, and all that stuff.”

Gary Tasman, founder and executive director of Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Property Southwest Florida, said new construction such as Santa Luz and Neill Communities’ Villa Palmeras, are selling well in Lee County.

“There are already home builders building condos and they’re selling as fast as they can get out of the ground,” he said.

There would be a market for new high-rise condos as well, Tasman said, but that sector — hard hit when the market imploded at the end of 2005 — is still being sold cheaply enough that the cost of new construction is far more than buying an existing one.

Banson said that’s the case at North Star, where “a lot of the units may be in the $150-per-square-foot range. It would take $300 a square foot to build this product again.”

Towers will first rise again directly on the Gulf of Mexico between Estero to Marco Island, he predicted.

For that type of construction, “The prices need to push $500 a foot to be viable right now,” he said. “It’s probably $400 right now.”

Still, Tasman said, prices are rising fast and new Gulf-front towers may come sooner rather than later. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear an announcement of a new Gulf Front tower within the next 12 months.”

Connect with this reporter: @DickHogan (Twitter) or email dhogan@news-press.comBy Dick Hogan

Condo costs

The cost per square foot of building a Gulf-front skyscraper condominium:

• $250 hard construction costs

• $75 soft costs (marketing, advertising etc.)

• $81 25 percent developer profit

• $101 land

Things to do in Southwest Florida: April 25-May 4

Friday

Jennifer’s 10th Annual Art of a Woman Exhibit A variety of works will be showcased, including abstract and realistic painting, contemporary raku clay creations, painted furniture and whimsical sculptures. All will be available for purchase. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 14-26 at Jennifer’s Fort Myers boutique, 13451 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, 481-8582

 

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Duo Romantico The singing couple performs opera, “popera,” musical-theater music and more at their last concert before going on tour. 7 p.m. $25. Italian-American Club of Cape Coral, 4725 Vincennes Blvd., Cape Coral. 332-1853

Rock the Dock This two-day event featuresfood and live entertainment by Deb and The Dynamics from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, followed Saturday by The Rachel Hughes Duo from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., the Cracker Blues Band from 2-5 p.m. and The Landsharks from 6-9 p.m. Marina at Edison Ford, 2360 W. First St., Fort Myers, 245-7320. marinaedisonford.com

 

Saturday

Balloons Over Paradise The two-day event features 60 hot-air balloons and performances by Sister Hazel, Rachel/Hughes Band and JJ McCoy. There will be delicious food, arts and crafts, tethered balloon rides, classic car show, dog agility performances, a polo exhibition and an equestrian drill team performance. 6 a.m.-noon. Seminole Tribe Youth Ranch Immokalee, 1195 State Road 29, Immokalee. 800-218-0007. seminoleimmokaleecasino.com

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• Fort Rock at JetBlue Park One of the biggest metal festivals to ever hit Southwest Florida. With 15 bands on two stages, the lineup includes Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, Korn, Trivium, The Pretty Reckless, Lacuna Coil, Seether, Sick Puppies, Twelve Foot Ninja andBlack Stone Cherry. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. JetBlue Park, 11581 Daniels Parkway, Fort Myers. $54.50-$109.50 (excluding taxes and fees, prices subject to change). Parking: $15. Info: Fortrockfestival.com

 

Drive the Lane Celebrity Basketball Game This event is presented by MADD SWFL and Lee County Coalition for a Drug Free Southwest Florida. Hometown champions Earnest Graham and Jevon Kearse, as well as Jeff Dellenbach, Daunte Culpepper and Antonio Freeman, all former NFL players, will participate on the court. Our local heroes, law enforcement officers, firefighters, high school principals, coaches and student athletes will be their teammates. 1-4:30 p.m. $5 adults, $2 students. Bishop Verot High School 5598 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. 791-7560. madd.org/drivethelane

Fight for Air Stairclimb The Stairclimb raises money for the American Lung Association by collecting pledges to ascend the stairway of High Point Place, the tallest building between Tampa and Miami. Teams can practice on Saturday mornings once they’ve registered. $25 registration fee; each climber must raise $100. High Point Place, 2104 W. First St., downtown Fort Myers, 908-2685. fightforairclimb.org

Sunday

Sunday Blues Benefit Great food and music will be served up at The Heights Foundation’s Sunday Blues from 2-6 p.m. Musicians Randy Thomas, Danny Shepard and Doug Molloy will entertain guests and Jake Elwood and friends will make a special appearance. The buffet features The Blue Coyote’s creative and original menu items. $50 per person; sales of wine and the Bacon & Egg Bloody Mary will be donated to The Heights Foundation. Blue Coyote Supper Club, 1100 Par View Drive, Sanibel Island. 472-9222. heightsfoundation.org

Florida Gulf Coast University Chamber Choir in Concert Admission is free for this concert, however there will be a free-will offering during the performance. 4 p.m. North Naples United Methodist Church, 6000 Goodlette Road N., Naples, 593-7600.

Taste of North Fort Myers Sample local food and drinks while enjoying entertainment, a car show, free kids games and activities, free petting zoo, raffles and more. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. $3 per person, free for ages 5 and younger. Shell Factory and Nature Park, 2787 N. Tamiami Trail, North Fort Myers. 997-9111. tasteofnorthfortmyers.com

 

Monday

Black & White Party, an Evening of Beauty & Fashion This event celebrates the new Redken Premiere School of Cosmetology. Features hair by Redken 5th Ave stylists, a catwalk fashion show provided by White House Black Market and Fantasy Makeup by Cara and the FL Academy. RSVP to floridaacademy.eventbrite.com. 6-8 p.m. Florida Academy of Massage and Skin Care, 4387 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, 489-2282.

Wednesday

Boz Scaggs The singer-songwriter is on tour in support of his new release “Memphis,” showcasing both original songs and choice covers. 7:30-9:30 p.m. $49.82-$81.62. Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers, 481-4849 or bbmannpah.com

Thursday

Prism Concert The Fort Myers High School music department will be divided into its varied components. You will hear and see the full instrumental, choral, dance groups, and a variety of soloists and small ensembles. 7 p.m May 1-2. $8. Fort Myers High School, 2635 Cortez Blvd, Fort Myers, 334-2167. fmhsgreenwave.net

• ArtsNaples World Festival Venetian Masquerade This event kicks off the weeklong arts festival in Naples. An Italian Carnevale atmosphere combines with a gourmet multicourse dinner and unique musical surprises. Guests’ attire to be Black Tie & Mask, or Masquerade Costumes. 7-10 p.m. Individual tickets $350 or $2,400 table for 8. The Club at Olde Cypress, 7165 Treeline Drive, Naples. 888-613-8488. ArtsNaples.org

May 2

Digital Lee Showcase 2014 A design and technology showcase of the most exceptional student projects from the Lee County Public School District. This year’s exhibit will debut on May 2 at 6 p.m. The competition is open to Lee County’s middle school, high school and post-secondary programs in graphic design, animation, publication design and Web design. Artwork will be displayed until May 22. Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, 2301 First St., downtown Fort Myers, 939-6326. digital-lee.com

• Art Walk The free, monthly art event takes place from 6-10 p.m. the first Friday of every month. Art galleries and other businesses stay open late for art shows, live music, an after party and more. Downtown Fort Myers. fortmyersartwalk.com

May 3

13th Annual Free Comic Book Day A single day when participating comic book shops across North America give away free, specially produced comic books. Comics Cards and Stuff will promote the event with a large sale raffle and special giveaways, along with appearances by several “superheroes” and Star Wars Stormtroopers. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Comics Cards & Stuff, 3563 Fowler St., Fort Myers. 939-0878. facebook.com/fortmyerscomics

May 4

19th Annual Taste of the Beach featuring Baywalk Blues Festival Restaurants along Old San Carlos Boulevard, on Fort Myers Beach, will offer samples of their signature dishes and compete for top Taste of the Beach Award honors. Gates open at 11 a.m. Food will be served until it runs out or at 5 p.m. Tickets will be available on site. Admission is $5 for adults and children over 12. Food tickets are $1 each with a $5 average food serving price. 454-7500. tasteoffortmyersbeach.com

Third Annual International Food Festival Sample international cuisine from eight Mercato restaurants and enjoy live music. Most menu items will be priced less than $6. Kids’ Zone available featuring bounce house, arts and crafts and many other fun activities. Location: lawn next to MASA. Noon-4 p.m. Mercato Shops, 9115 Strada Place, Naples, 254-1080. mercatoshops.com/event/3rd-annual-international-food-festival/2145431190

Fleamasters’ Best-Dressed Chihuahua Contest event begins at 1:30 p.m. with registration beginning at 11 a.m. Enjoy a special performance by the Calendar Girls Dance Team at noon. Registration is $10 per dog. Fleamasters Fleamarket, 4135 Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Fort Myers, 334-7001. fleamall.com

The Heights Foundation and Lee Reefs Present LionFish Fest – Feast on the Beast On Sunday, May 4 from 2-5 p.m. Join celebrated local chefs from Crave Culinaire, Three Fishermen, Red’s Seafood, Cru and The Timbers, as they present a unique twist on Florida fare. Guests will vote for their favorite dish. The event will include door prizes, fun auction items, a signature tropical drink and live music, as well as displays about Lionfish and our reefs. Mitch and Billy of ScubaNation television will be on hand showing their underwater videos. Katie Walls of WINK News will emcee the event. Admission is $50 per person, children under 12 are admitted free. Harlem Heights Cultural Arts and Community Center, 15570 Hagie Drive, Fort Myers, 482-7706. heightsfoundation.org

Monitor Your Smart Home While Away

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This year many snowbirds won’t need someone to watch their house while they spend the summer up North. They can watch it themselves, even from thousands of miles away. That’s just the beginning. If a repair person needs to fix something in their home or deliver some furniture they can simply let that person in with the push of a button. Then they can watch the repair or delivery people in their home and lock up after them.

It’s all part of the new smart homes that are loaded with the latest technology. Vitex of Naples is one of the largest installers locally of these systems that make life so automatic people don’t even have to get up to answer the front door.

“If someone rings the doorbell, they can see who it is on their TV and then they can open the door for them,” explained Everette Evangelista, a control programmer for Vitex. “Everything can be controlled with a remote, iPad or TV.”

The technology can be used for everything from security and lights, to music, fans and air conditioning. It can be hooked to the pool to set the heat and temperature. Residents coming down from the North can heat up their pool, roll up their shutters, light up their house and cool down the temperatures before arrival.

“You can walk in the house, sit down and have the home do what you want,” Evangelista said. “You can be sitting on the couch and you can turn on the pool waterfalls and the jets. It controls every light in the house and you can dim it to your preference. Once you get in bed for the night you don’t want to get up to turn off the lights or control the temperature.”

Marcia Savage of North Naples says the lighting feature is one of her favorites.

“The lighting is really nice, especially with a large home you can create scenes for entertaining,” Savage began. “When I go to bed at night I can just hit a good night switch and it turns everything off so I don’t have to go around turning off all the lights.”

While Savage can’t open her doors with her system, she can see the outside of her home on her iPhone and can control everything from her lighting and music to her security system and air conditioning.

“I have an app on my iPhone so I can access everything from my phone. So that’s nice,” she said. “It’s very cool.”

The Vitex system is customized to what the homeowner wants. It can be as simple as just controlling the lights to as complicated as controlling almost everything in the home. The system runs from about $1,500 for just the lights to more than $250,000 for the works.

“Everyone lives in their home differently,” Evangelista said.

He begins with a 30 day generic technology package and then customizes it for the client. The system can be installed in both new and existing homes.

Hidden switches in closets allow less clutter on the walls. The brain of the operation is hidden in a utility room or garage.

Mark Wilson has a Vitex system in his Gulf Shore Boulevard condo.

“The important thing for us was to be able to control any source in any room,” Wilson said. “If we are playing music we can transfer it to any room in the house. If I want to listen to one thing and my wife wants to listen to another we have that ability.”

Wilson’s system is mostly for music, lighting and visual feeds.

“On the TV I can play multiple things from many sources. If we are watching a movie in the family room we can transfer that movie to any room in the house. It is automatic. Everything in the house is controlled from one central point. It is for the ease of living.”

Ease of living is the key Evangelista stressed. It’s also the wave of the future and Evangelista says it just keeps getting better.

“If you are not home you can see the pool guy cleaning the pool or you can see the housekeeper. It gives you peace of mind,” Evangelista continued. “Why spend money on a house watch guy when you can just pick up your iPad and see it yourself? Remember the cartoon ‘The Jetsons?’ We are getting there and we are getting there quick.”

Construction Companies See Increase In Groundbreakings

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Dirt is flying throughout Southwest Florida.

Many construction companies are seeing an uptick in groundbreaking projects, and for an industry notably impacted by the recession, this is a welcomed — and long awaited — indicator.

“I’d definitely think it’s an improvement over where we’ve been the past four years,” said Jeff Hunt, president of EHC Inc.

EHC is a Naples-based construction company that provides pre-construction, earthwork and infrastructure services. It broke ground on five projects during the first quarter, bringing its total to nine active projects in Southwest Florida.

Its most visible groundbreaking is the Hertz global headquarters being built in Estero. EHC won the multimillion-dollar contract by Turner Construction Co. for phase I to provide earthwork and infrastructure services, such as clearing, excavation, grading, paving, off-site improvements, underground utilities, sidewalks and site amenities.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” he said. “It’s a high-profile job.”

Rich Broome, executive vice president of corporate affairs and communications for Hertz, said the global headquarters hasn’t really begun excavating yet because it took a little longer to complete financing. However, he expects it will begin this month. And Hunt said EHC has begun other parts of the contract, such as clearing and preparation for the site work. Excavating is only a small part of the contract.

EHC is also working on a new Sam’s Club at Pine Island Road and Hancock Bridge Parkway in Cape Coral, as well as various transportation improvement projects.

During the past several years, Hunt said the available private sector work has been mainly small, in-fill commercial projects, and the company survived on transportation and government-based projects. It was only recently, he said, that larger private sector work in commercial, retail and office buildings picked back up.

“All the other industries that we service … that’s coming back online,” he said.

Yet EHC isn’t the only company with a surge of groundbreakings.

“This is the year that you’re going to see commercial new construction,” said Gary Tasman, executive director of Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Property Southwest Florida.

Tasman said the uptick in commercial construction is caused by a combination of things: commercial land prices are still low, construction costs are increasing but not as high as most people expect they’ll be, the housing market is recovering, there’s a low interest rate environment and impact fees have been reduced.

DeAngelis Diamond Construction Inc., based in Naples, has started 10 projects since December.

“We see a very good ’14 and a very good ’15,” said Jay Waltbillig, principal and vice president of DeAngelis Diamond Construction.

One of its bigger projects is The Arlington of Naples senior living community. DeAngelis Diamond Construction started its roughly $70 million project in December, and this is a joint venture with Archer Western.

DeAngelis Diamond Construction also began work on a memory care facility at Terracina Grand, and it recently broke ground on a fire station for the North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District.

Waltbillig said senior living has become a large market, and the fastest growing, for the company, but it has also seen an increase in new construction for private sector commercial projects and multifamily living projects.

GCG Construction Inc. in Estero finished renovating the headquarters for Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida in December. The same month, it began construction for a 6,500-square-foot Goodwill Retail & Donation Center in Moore Haven.

It’s renovating MarineMax Naples and expects to begin work on an Enterprise Rent-A-Car in May.

 

New EHC projects

EHC Inc., a Naples-based construction company that provides pre-construction, earthwork and infrastructure services, broke ground on five projects during the first quarter of 2014:

Hertz global headquarters in Estero

A contract by Turner Construction Co. to develop phase I of the Hertz global headquarters in Estero.

Sam’s Club in Cape Coral

EHC is working with R.A. Rogers Construction Co. to develop about 38 acres for a new Sam’s Club at the intersection of Pine Island Road and Hancock Bridge Parkway.

U.S. 41 and County Road 951 Intersection Improvements in Naples

Community Asphalt Corp. has engaged EHC to perform earthwork and infrastructure services for the U.S. 41 and County Road 951 intersection improvements in Naples.

Winchester Boulevard Extension in Englewood

Zep Construction awarded EHC a contract to provide site construction services for a nearly three-mile extension of Winchester Boulevard in Englewood.

I-75 bridge upgrade over the Caloosahatchee River

EHC is teaming up with Ajax Paving Industries to provide the base rock layer for the asphalt portions for the I-75 bridge project over the Caloosahatchee River.

New Restaurants, Retail Coming To Hot Alico Road Corner

Site work is underway now for a retail construction project that will bring a handful of restaurants and retail shops just northwest of Gulf Coast Town Center.

Development plans for the 22.5-acre parcel feature several restaurants, including Chili’s, Tijuana Flats, B.J.’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, and PDQ, a new concept by the founders of Outback Steakhouse with a menu centered on chicken tenders.

Road and utility construction is first up for University Plaza West and that is scheduled to be finished in June so that the restaurants can begin construction, said Frank Mirasola, vice president of Vantage Properties, the project developer.

“The size and scope of Gulf Coast Town Center has created this large demand because the large customer base is coming from pretty far away just to shop and have a meal there,” Mirasola said. “These restaurant companies don’t spend millions of dollars on new locations unless they know they have the customer demand for them.”

B.J.’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, which features craft beer, burgers and pizza, has 15 locations in Florida.

PDQ, which stands for “People Dedicated to Quality,” according to the restaurant website, was founded in Tampa in 2011 by Outback Steakhouse co-founder Bob Basham and MVP Holdings CEO Nick Reader.

Vantage purchased the land for University Plaza for $4.5 million in December from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. The land stretches from the northern entrance road to Gulf Coast Town Center south of Alico Road west to the Interstate 75 interchange. Negotiations are still underway with tenants for the land nearest the interstate and could include additional restaurants, shops, offices or a hotel, Mirasola said.

The project is one of several in the works near Gulf Coast Town Center. Commercial real estate broker Steve Cunningham, a partner with LandQwest Commercial in Fort Myers, said the area promises to see plenty of construction for years to come.

“During the recession, the retailers really pulled in their horns and were just focused on trying to maintain the status quo and surviving,” Cunningham said. “Now, they are ready to get back to work. Projects like these take one or two years of planning, so there will be things happening there for some time.”

Cunningham said Gulf Coast Town Center and Florida Gulf Coast University combine to be very attractive to retailers.

“It has the perfect mix of people because you have middle to upper-income residents in the neighborhoods nearby and then you have the college students,” Cunningham said.

Act Now to Refinance Your Home Before It’s Too Late

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(Florida) – There has never been a better time to refinance your home. That’s because of a little-known government program called the Home Affordable Refinance Plan (HARP). This allows Americans to refinance their homes at shockingly low rates, and reduce their payments by as much as $4,905 a year.

But here’s the catch – like most government programs, this is likely temporary. But the good news is, once you’re in, you’re in. If the thought of a lower payment, fewer years on your mortgage, and even taking some cash equity out of the deal is appealing, the time to act is right now.

A true middle-class stimulus package

This is unknown to many, but the Home Affordable Program is for the middle class. If your mortgage is $625,000 or less, you most likely qualify. Basically, the Government wants banks to cut your rates, which puts more money in your pocket (which is good for the economy). However, the banks aren’t too happy about this – here’s why:

  1. You can shop several lenders, not just your current mortgage holder
  2. Your home’s Loan-to-value (LTV) can be 80% to 125%

You think banks like the above? Rest assured, they do not. They’d rather keep you at the higher rate you financed at years ago. That’s why the pressure is on time-wise. The Middle Class seems to miss out on everything (did you ride the last stock bubble? Probably not). Thus, it’s almost a no-brainer to jump on this now. You should act fast in order to refinance your house at these near historic low refinance rates. If your mortgage rate is currently higher than 3.11%, you can greatly benefit:

  • The average monthly savings is $250. Can you use an extra $250 a month?
  • Many homeowners not only save every month, but depending on their current rates, they can also shorten their term.
  • Get cash now – because the rates are so low, besides the benefits above, many homeowners also opt to take a little cash equity for home improvements, a vacation, or a nice boost to the savings account.

Here is an example of how much can be saved:

Here’s an example of what can be saved by a rate of 3.25% and 6.75% (which is around what many homeowners have when they got loans years ago):

Refinance Example

So this means over the life of your mortgage, you could save more than $150,000. That’s just by lowering your “already good” rate of 6.75% to an even lower 3.25%.

This is why it’s a no-brainer – you will likely lower your payment, possibly shorten your term, AND also get cash. There’s zero downside. This is how powerful that little word called “interest” is. The middle class never sees “breaks” like this. So this is your chance to get “in”.

But how do you find these rates?

Here’s the trick – there are a few free websites out there that will compare mortgage rates for consumers, and allow them to choose the best one (that’s a great thing about the internet – it allows you to do business with lending institutions all over the country).

Our research found that RateMarketplace, one of the country’s largest and most respected refinance comparison websites, is one of the few companies with HARP lenders on its network, and is currently assisting homeowners like you to obtain further information regarding superb mortgage rates.

We like RateMarketplace, because there’s no obligation and their service is fast & easy. It takes about five minutes, and the service is 100% free. You have nothing to lose except money stress.
But you do have to act now.

Home Sales in 2013 Rise to Strongest Level in 7 Years

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The housing market has been experiencing a “healthy recovery” over the past two years, with home sales last year rising to the highest level since 2006, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest housing report.

“Existing-home sales have risen nearly 20 percent since 2011, with job growth, record low mortgage interest rates, and a large pent-up demand driving the market,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “We lost some momentum toward the end of 2013 from disappointing job growth and limited inventory, but we ended with a year that was close to normal given the size of our population.”

Existing-home sales rose 1 percent in December 2013 compared to November and reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.87 million.

Existing-home sales for all of 2013 reached 5.02 million sales, 9.1 percent higher than 2012, and the largest rise since 2006 when sales were at 6.48 million at the close of the housing boom, NAR reports.

Home prices were also on the rise in 2013, up 11.5 percent over 2012, with a median existing-home price of $197,100 last year compared to $176,800 in 2012. It was the strongest gain in home prices in a year since 2005, when home prices rose 12.4 percent, NAR reports.

NAR President Steve Brown says that with job growth expected this year, home sales should hold despite rising home prices and higher mortgage rates.

“The only factors holding us back from a stronger recovery are the ongoing issues of restrictive mortgage credit and constrained inventory,” Brown says. “With strict new mortgage rules in place, we will be monitoring the lending environment to ensure that financially qualified buyers can access the credit they need to purchase a home.”

Housing Recovery Regional Snapshot

Here’s a look at how existing-home sales fared in December and for the year across the country:

  • Northeast: Existing-home sales fell 1.5 percent in December but remain 3.2 percent higher than December 2012. Median price: $239,300, up 3.6 percent from year ago levels
  • Midwest: Existing-home sales dropped 4.3 percent in December and are 0.9 percent below year ago levels. Median price: $150,700, 7 percent higher than December 2012.
  • South: Existing-home sales rose 3 percent in December and are 4.6 percent higher than December 2012. Median price: $173,200, up 8.9 percent from a year ago.
  • West: Existing-home sales increased 4.8 percent, but are 10.7 percent below a year ago. Median price: $285,000, up 16.0 percent from December 2012.

Condo Revival Slowly Emerging

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The condo market is on an upswing, but sales are still more than 30 percent short from its peak.

From 2009 to 2013, condo sales increased more than 55 percent, while total existing home sales rose by 29 percent during that time period, according to National Association of REALTORS® data. In comparison, during the boom years between 2001 and 2005, condo sales rose more than 50 percent and existing-home sales increased by 37 percent.

While the share of condo sales to total existing-home sales is nearing pre-recession levels, the number of sales is still not at its peak, the CoStar Group notes.

“Today’s condo market does not involve the irrational speculation of the mid-2000s, when renters fled apartments to get a share of the expanding home price pie,” CoStar Group reports. “A portion of the current sales are often to foreign investors in condo-rich markets like South Florida and to current home owners looking to downsize.”

In its latest existing-sales housing report, NAR reports that the median existing condo price was $198,600 in December, up 10.9 percent over year-ago levels.

The State of the Union is Getting Better for Homeownership

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WASHINGTON (January 28, 2014) – The following is a statement by National Association of Realtors® President Steve Brown:

“NAR commends President Obama for highlighting two key policy reforms during his State of the Union address tonight that support the future of homeownership and the business of real estate.

“Realtors® welcome the President’s call for legislation to keep the dream of homeownership alive for all Americans while protecting taxpayers from the risk of costly bailouts. NAR supports bipartisan legislation in the Senate that will restructure the secondary mortgage market to encourage private capital while also preserving the government guarantee so that middle-class homebuyers continue to have access to safe, reliable mortgage products, such as 30-and 15-year fixed-rate loans.

“President Obama also called on Congress to pass legislation to curtail the frivolous patent infringement lawsuits and licensing schemes that have unnecessarily cost Realtors® and other main street businesses valuable resources. NAR is working closely with legislators and allies to draft patent reforms that will combat these abusive trolling practices.

“NAR is ready and willing to work with President Obama and Congress to develop sound policies to promote and protect the American dream of homeownership.”

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.