Florida Home Sales: Buyers can’t take their time anymore

Prospective homebuyers used to go slow, considering the size of the investment they were making. They wouldn’t sign a contract until they visited the home two or three times, chatted to neighbours and checked with local police to make sure the area was safe.

Who has time for that these days? …….. Hardly anyone.
The housing market has soared past recovery and is bearing down on chaos. Buyers in control during the bust now are on the defensive, racing from home to home and making offers on the spot before somebody else swoops in with a better deal.

The insanity has even created a new sales category of sorts: Flash sales. It’s a home that gets listed in the morning, and is under contract by nightfall.

“We’re literally running to houses and as soon as you get there, there are three other people,” said Terry Story of Coldwell Banker in Boca Raton. “Buyers are very anxious to get something quickly.”

The flash sales are becoming more common, practically out of necessity.

Pembroke Pines resident Angela Medina and her husband were driving north to look at two homes in Palm Beach County when her smartphone buzzed with a text alert about a three-bedroom home that had just been listed in Palm Beach Gardens.

The couple toured it, made an offer and signed the contract, all within 24 hours.

“From the time it hit my phone to the time we saw it, maybe an hour passed,” said Medina, 36. “You’ve got to be proactive.”

The sale of the Medina’s own four-bedroom Pines property went the same way. It was listed and under contract in one day. Both deals are scheduled to close July 1.

Stiff competition from investors and a shortage of properties for sale have cut the number of days a home stays on the market.

In April, the typical single-family home in Palm Beach County went under contract in 78 days, down from 90 a year ago, according to the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches.
Broward County’s days on market declined to 34 from 45 during the same period, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors said.

Real estate agents say many other attractive homes are getting snapped up sooner than that. Not every quick sale happens overnight, but in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, 1,503 homes have gone under contract within two weeks during April, a 149 % increase from a year earlier, according to the Redfin real estate brokerage.

From March to April, the tri-county region had a 45 % increase in contracts within two weeks, the highest percentage of Redfin’s 22 markets nationwide. Overbuilding, speculation and easy financing combined to cause the housing crash. The recovery has been fueled by investors paying cash, a dwindling inventory and historically low mortgage rates in the 3 % range.

In the past week, rates have inched up to over 4 %, which will cause even more people to jump into the market, said Jim Heidisch, broker at Campbell & Rosemurgy in Deerfield Beach. “There’s a sense of urgency,” he said. “I always tell people, ‘You’re not buying a house, you’re buying money, and you want to get the cheapest rate you can.'”

Robyn Jackson, Redfin’s South Florida area manager, said the increase in quick home sales is not just a function of the market. The text alerts and other technology have empowered buyers, giving them access to listings and other details that used to be available only through a real estate agent.

Most buyers Jackson works with have found homes they want to see even before they meet with her.

“With all the information out there, we have more educated, savvy buyers today,” Jackson said.

Miami one of top global cities for prime property growth

The average price of luxury homes in the world’s key cities fell by 0.4% in the first quarter of 2013 although the annual rate remained positive at 3.6%.

Cities in Asia, North America and the Middle East continue to dominate the top half of the results table while seven of the bottom ten rankings are occupied by European cities.

On a regional basis, cities in the Middle East recorded average annual price growth of 11% while Europe was the weakest performing region with prime prices falling on average by 2.3%.

A typical prime property is now worth 21.3% more than it was in the second quarter of 2009 when the Prime Global Cities Index hit its post-Lehman low.
Overall eight cities recorded double digit price growth in the year to March. Jakarta, Bangkok and Miami topped the table this quarter, recording annual price growth of 38.1%, 26.1% and 21.1% respectively.

The measures aimed at cooling residential price growth in Jakarta and Bangkok have been less stringent than those applied across many neighbouring Asian cities, allowing new middle class wealth to fuel demand and push prime prices higher.
In Miami’s case, Latin American wealth is a key driver of the luxury market, with the flow of capital from Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina proving influential.

Cities in Asia, North America and the Middle East continue to dominate the top half of the results table while seven of the bottom ten rankings are occupied by European cities.

In Europe, however, the price of luxury homes in Monaco increased by 10% in the first three months of 2013 as international interest swelled and the supply of apartments, particularly above €10 million, proved limited.

Tokyo, recording a 17.9% fall in prime prices, was the weakest performing city in the year to March 2012. However, after nearly 15 years of deflation, the Bank of Japan has announced radical monetary easing measures, and as a result business sentiment as well as demand for prime property is now strengthening.

Knight Frank points out that unlike Japan, the governments of China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore face the opposite challenge; trying to restrain growth. ‘Asia’s policy makers are not only introducing more lending restrictions, taxes and regulations, but the strength of these measures has been stepped up in recent months,’ said Kate Everett-Allen, head of international residential research.

‘In each year since 2009, our Prime Global Cities Index, has repeatedly recorded its weakest rate of growth in the first quarter of the year,’ she explained.

‘As a result, we expect stronger growth to emerge in the second quarter as buyers continue to search for luxury bricks and mortar as a way of sheltering their assets from the Eurozone’s continuing turmoil and the fragile global economy,’ she added.

Pinewood Shepperton to build US studio near Atlanta

UK film studio Pinewood Shepperton has announced plans to build its first sound stages in the United States.
The Pinewood Atlanta complex will be built on 288 acres of land south of Atlanta, Georgia, as a joint venture with a US investment company.

Georgia has been among the US states drawing film-making away from Hollywood with tax incentives in recent years.
The deal is the latest sign of expansion at Pinewood, the home of the James Bond franchise.
Earlier this month it announced a joint venture with a Chinese media group, potentially giving it access to the fast-growing Chinese market.
‘Fiscal incentives’
In a statement on the company’s website, Pinewood’s chief executive Ivan Dunleavy said the agreement to build Pinewood Atlanta was “another step forward for the Pinewood brand internationally”.
“This new studio will target US productions,” he said. “Georgia has excellent fiscal incentives and a great crew base.”
In a bid to lure film making, Georgia introduced hefty tax incentives for production companies five years ago.
Since 2008, film and television productions in Georgia have been able to receive a tax credit of 20-30% if they spend $500,000 or more, and a further 10% if they feature a Georgia-peach logo.
That has led to a boom in productions. According to state figures, productions filmed there generated more than $3bn (£1.9bn) last year, compared with just $244m five years ago.
Pinewood Atlanta will feature multiple sound stages, and will be used to produce films, television, music and video games.
It is being built in conjunction with investment firm River’s Rock, and Pinewood said it expected construction to begin immediately.

USA accounts for 1 in 4 property enquiries

US property is the most popular it has ever been on TheMoveChannel.com, according to the latest Top of the Props report, accounting for 1 in 4 of all property enquiries last month.

America’s popularity surged by 5 per cent in March 2013 to account for 25.95 per cent of investment activity – the largest share ever recorded by any country on the site.
The country became investors’ property market of choice in October last year, when it seized the top spot from rival Spain with 20.91 per cent share of enquiries. Since then, demand has continued to increase, hitting 21.44 per cent in December before slipping back to 20.58 per cent in February. But America marched forward to new heights last month, as buyers were won over by the country’s recovering market.
Cape Verde and Hungary also proved popular, climbing back into the top 10 as Cape Verde leapt 10 places from 17th, but neither could compete with the steady demand for the usual favourites. Indeed, the top five destinations among investors remain USA, Spain, Brazil, France and Portugal, with Brazil breaking new records to attract 8.17 per cent of enquiries.
Other familiar destinations were less fortunate: while interest in Spain, France and Portugal stayed high despite the eurozone recession, demand for Italian property dropped to record lows.
The traditionally popular lifestyle destination, hit hard by the financial crisis, fell four places in the TheMoveChannel.com chart to 10th place. Italian real estate accounted for 2.31 per cent of all property enquiries on the site, down from 3.38 per cent in February 2013. The figure marks the country’s lowest share of activity since Top of the Props records began. Its previous record low was recorded in November 2012, when Italy attracted 2.91 per cent of all enquiries.
“It has been a completely different story for the USA. With recovery now well underway for US real estate, America’s popularity continues to build momentum. The latest concerns surrounding Cyprus’ bailout are likely to drive even more buyers across the Atlantic, securing the USA’s dominance of international real estate for the foreseeable future.”

Places to Retire Abroad – Belize

Let’s fast-forward to Belize’s unique appeal to U.S. retirees: It’s the only south-of-the-border country whose official language is English. Until 1973 it was called British Honduras, and was a crown colony of the U.K.; it was granted full independence in 1981 (although Queen Elizabeth II is still head of state).

Another goodie: It’s catching up to Panama and Costa Rica’s retiree perks. Its Qualified Retired Persons program, known as the QRP, offers benefits and a fast track to residency status.
Squeezed between Mexico’s Yucatan coast and Guatemala to the south, sparsely populated Belize is a Central American paradise, with tropical jungle flora, endless white beaches, an aquamarine Caribbean sea, some of the world’s best reefs for snorkelers, fishing to die for, Mayan ruins, and even casinos. Most expats settle either on the largest island, Ambergris Caye, or in Corazol Town on the mainland’s northern tip. Ambergris Caye has the fancy restaurants and condos, including million-dollar properties. It can be as expensive as South Florida (Leonardo Di Caprio bought an island west of Ambergris Caye). The Corozal district, a few miles’ drive from the Mexican border, is far more affordable. Corozal expats live a laid-back life, with year-round outdoor play (boating, hiking, swimming, diving), but are still only 20 minutes from the malls and cineplexes of Chetumal, the capital of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
After many visits to Belize, Atlantans Walter and Terri Fisher, 55 and 49, built a “concrete ranch house” with a water view for $125,000, including the lot. “The house was finished in 2007,” Walter reports. “Last year we sold our house in the States, got off the corporate treadmill, and moved here. I drove down in my truck on my own, and Terri—and five cats—flew down. We’re completely happy, though it’s tough being this far from family.”
A former educator, Audrey Shabbas, 68, moved to Corozal from Berkeley, California, with two of her four children three years ago. “We looked at Nicaragua, but Belize had what we wanted—water all around,” she says. “We bought a home with one-third of what we got for our Berkeley house—and it’s three times as wonderful. I’m very blessed to be here.”