Weston, Florida Ranks #8 in Best Cities to Live In - Money Magazine

  • Population 69,081
  • Median Home Price $365,000
  • Property Tax $7,672
  • Unemployment rate 4.5%
  • Commute time 30 minutes

Just about any location worth its spot on the Best Places list can brag about great green space, and Weston—with a dozen sports fields, nearly 50 miles of lined bike lanes, and the 100-acre Weston Regional Park—is no exception. But Weston residents enjoy the kind of open space you won’t find in many places in the country. About 25 miles to the east is the Atlantic Ocean. And on Weston’s western flank is the Everglades, a resource that’s so iconic, there’s a likeness of it right on the City's Town Crest

Geography is key to much of Weston’s success. Located within easy commuting distance of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, this planned community also offers abundant employment options, at companies including Cleveland Clinic Florida and Ultimate Software. Weston is at the top of our list for economic opportunity, a category driven largely by purchasing power. That means residents have to sink less of their household income (the median is $99,690 a year) to buy a home than residents in most places around the country. It’s also family-friendly: All the public schools have earned an A average from Florida’s Department of Education. “Weston,” says Pam Fishman, a stay-at-home mom and New York City transplant, “offers a truly wonderful quality of life.”

Best Places to Live in the US

Interest rate hike coming – but no timetable

WASHINGTON (AP) – Aug. 29, 2016 – Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Friday that the case for raising interest rates has strengthened in light of a solid job market and an improved outlook for the U.S. economy and inflation. But she stopped short of offering any timetable.

Yellen sketched a generally upbeat assessment of the economy in a speech to an annual conference of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She pointed to steady gains in employment and strength in consumer spending.

She also noted that while inflation is still running below the Fed's 2 percent target, it's being depressed mainly by temporary factors.

"In light of the continued solid performance of the labor market and our outlook for economic activity and inflation," Yellen said, "I believe the case for an increase (in the Fed's benchmark borrowing rate) has strengthened in recent months."

Still Yellen declined to hint at whether the Fed might raise rates at its next policy meeting, Sept. 20-21, or at its subsequent meetings in early November and mid-December. Instead, she stressed, as she frequently has, that the Fed's rate decisions will depend on whether the freshest economic data continues to confirm its outlook.

"As ever," she said, "the economic outlook is uncertain, and so monetary policy is not on a preset course."

Economists took her remarks to mean that while a rate hike remains possible at the Fed's September meeting, it isn't necessarily likely.

"We think most officials will want to see more concrete evidence of a rebound in GDP growth and a rise in inflation towards the 2 percent target, with a December move still appearing the most likely outcome," said Andrew Hunter, an economist with Capital Economics.

Hunter pointed to a government report Friday that the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at an anemic 1.1 percent annual rate last quarter as evidence that the Fed likely wants to see stronger growth.

In December, the Fed raised its benchmark rate modestly in response to a brighter economic picture, notably a job market nearing full health. The rate had been kept at a record low near zero since the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

At the time, the Fed foresaw four additional rate increases in 2016. But since then, global economic pressures, financial market turmoil and a brief slump in the U.S. job market have kept the Fed on the sidelines.

Some economists have said they think conditions are ripe for the Fed to boost rates next month. Others say they foresee no action until December, after the elections, at the earliest.

Stanley Fischer, the Fed's vice chairman and a close Yellen ally, said after her speech that in deciding whether to raise rates as soon as September, policymakers will assess the August jobs report next Friday to see whether employment growth maintains its solid pace of the past three months.

"That will probably weigh in our decision, along with other data that may come in," Fischer said in an interview on CNBC. "We think the evidence is that the economy has strengthened."

Fischer said it was still possible that the Fed could raise rates twice before year's end. But he said that would depend on the strength of forthcoming economic data.

In her speech, Yellen said the Fed still believes that future rate increases, whenever they occur, will be "gradual."

Some have said that if the Fed does decide to act in September, it would need to further prepare investors. After Yellen's speech, data from the CME Group indicated that investors foresee only a 24 percent probability of a rate hike in September and about a 58 percent chance by December.

The Fed chair on Friday defended the extraordinary tools the central bank has used to support the economy since the 2007-2009 Great Recession. To ease the impact of the recession, for example, she said the Fed had effectively used bond purchases to reduce long-term borrowing rates and had assured investors that short-term rates would stay low.

But to combat future downturns, she said the Fed should explore other options, too. She mentioned raising the Fed's 2 percent inflation target to give it more leeway or possibly expanding the types of assets the Fed could buy beyond Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities. But she said those options would require more study.

Yellen said that while the Fed's support had been critical in supporting the economy, political leaders should considering using the government's tax and spending powers as well. She said efforts need to be made, in particular, to boost the productivity of U.S. workers. Productivity growth has weakened sharply in recent years and has been a major factor in holding the economy back.

Yellen was the lead-off speaker Friday for the annual conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The conference draws members of the Fed's board of governors in Washington, officials from the 12 regional banks and monetary leaders from around the world.

In advance of Yellen's speech Friday, several Fed officials met Thursday with about 120 activists from the Campaign for Popular Democracy's Fed Up coalition. The group of policy activists, labor unions and community groups has been lobbying the Fed to keep rates low to allow the economy to strengthen enough to benefit more Americans.

The group, some wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan, "We Need a People's Fed!" posed questions about economic policy and the need for diversity to the Fed officials who took part in the 90-minute discussion.

"Our communities are being sacrificed for an inflation enemy that isn't here," said Rod Adams, a community organizer for Neighborhoods for Change in Minnesota.

The coalition said it wanted the Fed and Congress to consider changes in the makeup of the boards of directors of the 12 regional banks to promote more diversity among a group of officials that is mainly white and male and dominated by bankers.

AP Logo Copyright © 2016 The Associated Press, Martin Crutsinger. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

What do you do if floodwater rises unexpectedly?

BATON ROUGE, La. – Aug. 17, 2016 – Due to recent flooding in Louisiana, FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is offering the following tips on what to do after a flood to ensure that local residents are aware of hazards as they re-enter flooded areas and guidance on filing flood insurance claims for those who have coverage through the NFIP.

"We encourage area residents who are not insured for flooding to protect themselves from the financial costs of future floods by obtaining flood insurance through the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program)," FEMA adds. "You can learn about the NFIP and FloodSmart, the marketing and education campaign of the NFIP, by visiting

During a flood

Move to high ground. When it floods, go to higher ground. Avoid areas subject to flooding. Be aware of streams, drainage channels and areas known to flood so you're not cut off from your evacuation routes.

Watch out for water. Don't walk across flowing streams or drive on flooded roads. Moving water just six inches deep can knock you off your feet and cause an injury. Even two feet of water is enough to sweep a car off the road.

Listen for updates. Listen to the radio or TV for information. Be sure to follow the instructions of local authorities.

Turn off power. Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if advised to do so. Don't touch any electrical devices if you're wet or in standing water.

After a flood - Check for damage.

Check for structural damage before re-entering your home. If you suspect damage to water, gas, electric or sewer lines, contact authorities.

Remove wet items. Immediately remove wet carpeting, furniture and bedding. Any item holding moisture can develop mold within 24 to 48 hours. Clean and disinfect everything touched by floodwaters. Get cleanup tips at the Center for Disease and Control's website.

Plan before you repair. The rebuilding decisions you make now to lower your risk and insurance costs can result in big benefits over the long term. Contact your local building inspection or planning office or your county clerk's office to get more information.

File your flood insurance claim. To file your claim, you'll need your insurance company's name, your policy number and a phone number where you can be reached. Take photos of any water in the house and anything damaged in your home. Make a detailed list of all damaged or lost items.

Ask about disaster assistance. Federal disaster assistance might be available if the president has declared a federal disaster. When available, this assistance typically comes in the form of a loan and must be paid back with interest.


Understand your flood insurance claim and policy. If you have questions, call 800-621-3362 and use Option 2.

Get a repair permit from your local building official. A substantial damage determination is required for building repairs in the Special Flood Hazard Area. A building that is damaged to 50 percent of its market value or greater is considered a substantially damaged building, which requires that all repairs meet local flood damage prevention ordinances. That determination is a factor in future premium rating for a flood insurance policy and is needed for Increased Cost of Compliance claims.

Learn more about ICC (Increased Cost of Compliance Coverage). You may be able to obtain up to an additional $30,000 toward elevating, relocating, or demolishing your home to comply with the local floodplain management requirements. Ask your adjustor about opening an ICC claim.

Ask about mitigation grants. Grants for elevating homes may become available because of the flood event. Ask officials about applying to the State of Louisiana on your behalf for Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding.

For more information

Contact your local building inspections or planning office or county clerk's office to get more information on local building requirements before repairing your structure. If you can't find a local contact, call your state NFIP coordinator.

For more information about flood insurance, visit To financially protect your property with a flood insurance policy, call your insurance agent or call 800-427-2419 to find an agent near you.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®

Fla. has 4 of top 10 retirement cities

NEW YORK – Aug. 24, 2016 – The financial website rated 150 U.S. cities on affordability, health care, activities and quality of life. Of 11 Fla. cities in the study, all ranked above average.

According to WalletHub, its analysts compared the affordability, quality of life, health care and availability of recreational activities in the 150 largest U.S. cities. They used a data set of 31 key metrics that ranged from "cost of living" to "public-hospital rankings" and "percentage of the 65 and older population."

Top 10 retirement cities in the U.S.

1. Orlando

2. Tampa

3. Scottsdale, Ariz.

4. Miami

5. Sioux Falls, S.D.

6. Las Vegas

7. Cape Coral

8. Atlanta, Ga.

9. Minneapolis

10. Los Angeles

Other Florida city rankings

13. Fort Lauderdale

15. Port St. Lucie

21. St. Petersburg

26. Pembroke Pines

40. Hialeah

63. Tallahassee

68. Jacksonville

WalletHub provides an example of its rating system – individual trait rankings that, when combined, provide a total score by city:

Retirement-friendliness of Orlando (1=Best; 75=Avg.)

No. 70 – Adjusted cost of living

No. 42 – Annual cost of in-home services

No. 21 – Number of recreation & senior centers per capita

No. 19 – number of adult volunteer activities per capita

No. 27 – Emotional health

No. 43 – 'Mild weather' ranking

No. 1 – Number of home-care facilities per capita

For the full report, visit WalletHub's website.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®

Photo by Droneit


4343 Fox Hollow, at The Ridges - Weston FL 33331




Ratings and recommendations on

Scammers phish for mortgage closing costs

by Colleen Tressler

Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Buying a home is exciting. You saved for the down payment, scheduled the move, and are dreaming of planting new roots. Closing is right around the corner… unless a scammer gets your settlement fees first.

The Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors® are warning home buyers about an email and money wiring scam. Hackers have been breaking into some consumers’ and real estate professionals’ email accounts to get information about upcoming real estate transactions. After figuring out the closing dates, the hacker sends an email to the buyer, posing as the real estate professional or title company. The bogus email says there has been a last minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells the buyer to wire closing costs to a different account. But it’s the scammer’s account. If the buyer takes the bait, their bank account could be cleared out in a matter of minutes. Often, that’s money the buyer will never see again.

If you’re buying a home and get an email with money-wiring instructions, STOP. Email is not a secure way to send financial information, and your real estate professional or title company should know that. If it’s a phishing email, report it to the FTC.

Here are some ideas to help you avoid phishing scams:

  • Don’t email financial information. It’s not secure.
  • If you’re giving your financial information on the web, make sure the site is secure. Look for a URL that begins with https (the "s" stands for secure). And, instead of clicking a link in an email to go to an organization’s site, look up the real URL and type in the web address yourself.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
  • Keep your operating system, browser, and security software up to date.

Learn more about protecting yourself from phishing and what to do if your email is hacked.

If you gave your information to a scammer, visit

Colombia Registers Most South Florida Real Estate Online Searches in December

Miami Market is No. 1 on

MIAMI — Colombia topped all foreign countries searching online for South Florida real estate in December 2015, according to new statistics from the MIAMI Association of REALTORS® (MIAMI). Colombia edged Brazil to lead all global consumers using MIAMI’s search portal,

Brazil had ranked as the top foreign nation using in 17 of the previous 18 months. Brazil has led MIAMI’s global search rankings in every month except three (May 2014, July 2015 and December 2015) since June 2014. The December 2015 statistics also showcase increased interest from the Philippines and Spain.

“Colombian home buyers have long sought South Florida real estate,” said Mark Sadek, the 2016 MIAMI Chairman of the Board. “Miami’s tropical climate, global business center, world-class shopping and history of multiculturalism are just a few reasons why Colombians and all international home buyers continue buying local properties.”

Colombia: A Top Market for South Florida Real Estate

Colombian home buyers tied with Argentinians in purchasing the third-most Miami real estate among foreign countries, according to the 2015 Profile of International Home Buyers in Miami Association of Realtors Business Areas. Colombia registered 10 percent of all foreign Miami transactions, according to the survey conducted by MIAMI and the National Association of REALTORS. Only Venezuelan (13 percent) and Brazil (12 percent) buyers purchased more.

Colombians moving to South Florida are often upper-middle-class families who want to enjoy their prosperity earned in their homeland as professionals and entrepreneurs. Colombians spend the second most on South Florida property among foreign buyers. The $516,000 average purchase price of Colombians tied with Argentina and only trailed Brazil ($766,000), according to the 2015 survey.

Interest Grows from the Philippines, Spain

Philippine and Spanish buyers increased their online interest in South Florida real estate in December 2015. The Philippines’ fifth-place finish among foreign visitors was the country’s highestever finish. Spain posted its highest appearance since it took sixth place in consecutive months in May 2013 and June 2013.

The top-10 countries visiting in December 2015:

1. Colombia

2. Brazil

3. Venezuela

4. Argentina

5. Philippines

6. India

7. Spain

8. Canada

9. France

10. Puerto Rico

The top-10 countries visiting in December 2014:

1. Brazil

2. Venezuela

3. Colombia

4. Canada

5. Russia

6. India

7. Argentina

8. France

9. Greece

10. United Kingdom

Texas is Top U.S. Market for Miami

Texas finished as the top U.S. state searching South Florida real estate online in December 2015, ending a long Californian streak atop of the rankings. California had led Miami real estate online searches for 13 consecutive months, a streak dating back to November 2014.

This marks the first time Texan consumers had posted the most searches on

The top-10 U.S. states searching in December:

2015: 1) Texas, 2) California, 3) New York, 4) Georgia, 5) Tennessee, 6) Illinois, 7) Michigan, 8) North Carolina, 9) South Carolina, 10) Pennsylvania

2014: 1) California, 2) Texas, 3) New York, 4) Illinois, 5) Georgia, 6) Ohio, 7) Tennessee, 8) Massachusetts, 9) Pennsylvania, 10) Michigan

South Florida: The No. 1 Market in the U. S. for International Consumers

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach market ranked as the top market in the world for

international consumers searching for U.S. real estate in December 2015, according to

The top-10 markets for overall international real estate demand:

1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

3. Bellingham, WA

4. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

5. Urban Honolulu, HI

6. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

7. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI

8. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL

9. Watertown-Fort Drum, NY

10. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

South Florida ranked as a top-five market for consumers in nine of the top-10 largest regions in the world in December 2015, according to

● North America: 1. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA; 2. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI; 3. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX; 4. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL; 5. PhiladelphiaCamden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

● South America: 1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL; 2. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL; 3. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA; 4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA; 5. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

● Northern Europe: 1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA; 2. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA; 3. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL; 4. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL; 5. Tampa-St.

Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

● Australia and New Zealand: 1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA; 2. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA; 3. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX; 4. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX; 5. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL

● Western Europe: 1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL; 2. Los Angeles-Long BeachAnaheim, CA; 3. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA; 4. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VAMD-WV; 5. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL

● Caribbean: 1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL; 2. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL; 3. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA; 4. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL; 5. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA

● Southern Europe: 1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL; 2. Los Angeles-Long BeachAnaheim, CA; 3. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA; 4. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI; 5. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

● Eastern Asia: 1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA; 2. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX; 3. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA; 4. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV; 5. Jacksonville, FL

● Western Asia: 1. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA; 2. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL; 3. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA; 4. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX; 5. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

● Eastern Europe: 1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA; 2. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL; 3. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA; 4. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI; 5. OrlandoKissimmee-Sanford, FL

About the MIAMI Association of REALTORS® The MIAMI Association of REALTORS® was chartered by the National Association of Realtors in 1920 and is celebrating 96 years of service to Realtors, the buying and selling public, and the communities in South Florida. Comprised of six organizations, the Residential Association, the Realtors Commercial Alliance, the Broward Council, the Jupiter Tequesta Hobe Sound (JTHS) Council, the Young Professionals Network

(YPN) Council and the award-winning International Council, it represents more than 41,000 real estate professionals in all aspects of real estate sales, marketing, and brokerage. It is the largest local Realtor association in the U.S., and has official partnerships with 136 international organizations worldwide. MIAMI’s official website is

Realestate Weston Florida

Fla. housing market enters ‘outer range of stable’

WASHINGTON – Feb. 24, 2016 – Freddie Mac's monthly Multi-Indicator Market Index (MiMi) finds that two states – Florida and Arizona – have entered their outer range of stable housing activity.

MiMi attempts to judge housing market fundamentals – the "sweet spot" for balance – calling those markets "in range." To come up with a MiMi score, Freddie Mac says it "draws from multiple data sources, including our daily business with more than 2,000 mortgage lenders" and local market data.

According to the latest December 2015 MiMi score, Florida's index hit 80.1. Freddie considers a score between 80 and 120 to be "in range." It finds Florida "in range and improving" with a score that rose 1.39 percent over the previous month and 3.62 percent over the previous three months.

On a year-over-year basis, Freddie Mac found Florida to be the most improving state, with a MiMi score increase of 16.59 percent. Compared to Florida's score during the depth of the recession (October 2010), the MiMi score today is 98.8 percent higher.

On the metro level, several Florida cities have improved greatly, with Orlando making the MiMi list for most improved metro area both month-to-month and year-to-year.

Nationwide, the MiMi purchase applications indicator improved by nine percent in 2015 for its best showing since September 2013. The national MiMi value stands at 82.7, indicating a housing market on the outer range of stable.

"At the start of 2015, MiMi showed the national housing market in a weak position, but by the end of the year it … is just inside the stable range of housing activity," says Freddie Mac Deputy Chief Economist Len Kiefer. He calls the latest score good news, but says there's more work to be done.

Kiefer calls a solid increase in purchase applications one positive sign, with "borrowers being current on their mortgage" a second positive trend. And "what's really anchoring this recovering housing market is the improving employment picture, which is giving more people the confidence to purchase a home, including first-time homebuyers," he adds.

MiMi Dec. 2015 findings

Thirty-five of 50 states plus the District of Columbia have MiMi values in a stable range, with the District of Columbia (102.5), North Dakota (96.7), Hawaii (96.2), Montana (95.6) and Utah (94) in the top five.

Fifty-six of 100 metro areas have MiMi values in a stable range, with Austin, TX (98.8), Denver (98.3), Honolulu (98.2), Salt Lake City (97.4) and Los Angeles (97.2) ranking in the top five.

The most improving states month over month were Oregon (+1.66%), New Jersey (+1.62%), Arizona (+1.39%), Florida (+1.39%) and Missouri (+1.25%).

On a year-over-year basis, the most improving states were Florida (+16.59%), Oregon (+15.64%), Colorado (+14.09%), Washington (+12.58%) and Nevada (+12.54%).

The most improving metro areas month over month were Orlando (+1.65%), Baton, Rouge (+1.57%), Portland (+1.52%), Palm Bay (+1.48) and Tampa (+1.40%).

On a year-over-year basis, the most improving metro areas were Orlando (+20.33%), Cape Coral(+19.16%), Tampa (+18.51%), Portland (+18.20%) and Denver (+17.72).

In December, 45 of the 50 states and 86 of the top 100 metros were showing an improving three-month trend.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®

Fla.’s housing market continues strong track in Jan.

Florida Real Estate

Study: Buying beats renting in most Fla. metros

Florida real estate

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Dec. 11, 2015 – The latest national housing market index produced by Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and Florida International University (FIU) faculty indicates the housing market in several cities – including Dallas, Denver and Houston – may be nearing pricing bubble territory.

Based on numbers from the end of the third quarter, the latest Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent (BH&J) Index comes on the heels of the recent S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which found home prices across the nation rose 4.9 percent in a 12 month-period ending in September.

"The U.S. housing market across the board is moving toward rent territory," says Ken Johnson, Ph.D., a real estate economist, one of the index's authors and an associate dean of graduate programs and professor in FAU's College of Business.

The BH&J Index measures the relationship between purchasing property and building wealth through increasing equity versus renting a comparable property and investing in a portfolio of stocks and bonds. It examines the entire housing market in the United States and isolates the markets of 23 key cities.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Feb. 23, 2016 – Florida's housing market saw rising median prices, fewer all-cash closed sales and a tight inventory of for-sale homes in January, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 16,529 last month, up 2.7 percent over the January 2015 figure.

"Florida's housing market remains on a steady path," says2016 Florida Realtors President Matey H. Veissi, broker and co-owner of Veissi & Associates in Miami. "While inventory levels are tight, the months' supply of homes for sale remains stable and distressed property sales continue to fall. The current market offers a great opportunity for sellers, who are getting nearly 94 percent (for existing single-family homes) of their asking price at the closing table; existing townhouse-condo sellers are getting more than 93 percent of their asking price. And while mortgage rates are inching higher, they remain historically low, which gives consumers more buying power."

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $199,000, up 13.7 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in January was $152,000, up 10.9 percent over the year-ago figure.

January marked the 50th month in a row that statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and for townhouse-condo properties rose year-over-year. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

Looking at Florida's townhouse-condo market, statewide closed sales totaled 6,942 last month, down 4.8 percent compared to January 2015. However, the closed sales data reflected fewer short sales and cash-only sales in January: Traditional sales in Florida rose 21 percent for single-family homes and 7.1 percent for condo-townhouse properties. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

"Overall, statewide sales growth remained slow in January, but it's important to note that this trend has not been uniform across all price points," says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O'Connor. "Taking a closer look at the data, what we are seeing are large year-over-year declines in properties selling for less than $150,000. Sales in this price range, which comprised over a third of January's total sales, were down by nearly 17 percent compared to January 2015. Sales of homes in price tiers of $150,000 or more, on the other hand, were actually up over 14 percent, year-over-year.

"An overall rise in home values is partly responsible for these contrasting trends," adds O'Connor, "but the real culprit is a lack of inventory in lower price tiers that has resulted from high rates of investor activity and conversions into rentals."

Inventory was at a 4.5-months' supply in January for single-family homes and at a 5.9-months' supply for townhouse-condo properties.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.87 percent in January 2016, up from the 3.67 percent average recorded during the same month a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Media Center at and look under Latest Releases, or download the January 2016 data report PDFs under Market Data. Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors website.

Breakout: NAR: Existing-home sales inch up in Jan., price growth accelerates

© 2016 Florida Realtors®

Currently, Dallas, Denver and Houston are at or above previous index scores that strongly favor renting as opposed to buying in terms of wealth creation.

"It is no longer a matter of if, but when and to what extent, we will see a downward pricing event in these three cities," Johnson says. "Prices are rising too fast in these cities, and there are no underlying fundamental changes in their economies to support current pricing, especially in the face of a booming stock market."

The housing markets in some cities, such as Miami, Honolulu, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle, are considered a tossup between ownership and renting in terms of wealth creation. While prices are on the rise, they are nowhere near the danger point for triggering dramatic pricing declines.

"A continuation of rapid and dramatic price increases in these real estate market places will almost certainly lead to pricing bubbles and resulting local real estate crashes," Beracha says. "On the other hand, a slowdown in pricing in these areas should allow these cities to pull back from the edge."

Some cities – Chicago, Cincinnati and Cleveland – remain strongly in buy territory with negative BH&J scores. These scores are suggestive of vibrant real estate markets that have room to grow in terms of pricing. The only real danger is that of market contagion, in which negative pricing events in one real estate market lead to downturns in other markets.

"Interestingly, Houston had relatively low BH&J scores back in 2006 and fared pretty well during the collapse," Johnson says. "Unfortunately, Houston is now leading the pack in terms of renter friendly markets, which is not good in terms of future expected housing prices."

U.S. tightens visa waiver program for 38 countries

WASHINGTON – Dec. 1, 2015 – The United States will begin screening passengers entering under a visa waiver, based on any past travel to a country known as a terrorist safe haven, the Obama administration announced Monday.

The new policy was one of several changes announced to the visa waiver program in the wake of terrorist attacks Nov. 13 in Paris.

Though President Obama has resisted efforts to impose restrictions on refugees from Syria, he has indicated a willingness to work with Congress to change the visa waiver program that allows 20 million visitors into the USA each year. The program allows passengers from 38 countries – mostly European but also Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan – to visit the USA without advance approval for 90 days or less.

The White House announced Monday that it asked for a review of whether those 38 counties were cooperating with security reviews.

Fewer Fla. foreclosure homes ‘seriously underwater’

IRVINE, Calif. – Jan. 28, 2016 – RealtyTrac's Year-End 2015 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report finds a drop in the number of Florida homes that are "seriously underwater" – ones that owe at least 25 percent more on mortgages than the current value of their home.


At the end of 2015, one in five mortgage homes (19.8 percent) in the state were seriously underwater. One year earlier, it was one in four (24.7 percent). A significant part of that drop occurred in in the last quarter of the year: In the third quarter, 23.2 percent of Florida homes with a mortgage were seriously underwater.

The United States will expand the use of fingerprints and photographs to identify passengers and update its databases to include any past travel to a country considered a terrorist safe haven. Such countries include Somalia, Mali, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia and Venezuela, according to the State Department.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the visa waiver changes would "enhance our security without undermining the international connections that are critical to the strength of our economy."

Earnest said Obama named Rob Malley, a National Security Council official, as a senior adviser on the Islamic State. Earnest urged Congress to confirm the Treasury Department's top counterterrorism official and update the legal authority to use military force against terrorist groups. He put the visa waiver issue in the context of a broader battle between Obama and Congress.

"For too long, Capitol Hill has been a source of politically motivated posturing, but few, if any, tangible improvements to our national security. That's wrong, it's dangerous, and it falls far short of what the American people deserve," Earnest said.

Congress was considering legislative changes in the visa waiver program as early as September, when a House Homeland Security Committee task force recommended updating passports to include identifying information embedded in a microchip. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Monday he expects the House to vote on a visa waiver bill by the end of the year.

Copyright © 2015,, USA TODAY, Gregory Korte. Contributing: Paul Singer and Bart Jansen in Washington

On the flipside, more Florida homeowners became "equity rich" in 2015 – homes with at least 50 percent equity. The year ended with 20.7 percent of homes equity rich; a year earlier, it was 17.5 percent.

In a look at metro areas, two Florida cities ranked in the top five for their share of seriously underwater properties. Lakeland ranked second (24.4 percent of all mortgage homes seriously underwater) after Las Vegas; Orlando ranked fifth with 22.2 percent.

Two Florida cities also make RealtyTrac's top-five list specific to foreclosure properties that are seriously underwater. Lakeland ranks third (46.1 percent) after Las Vegas and Chicago, and Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach ranks fifth (44.9 percent) after No. 4 Cleveland.

"The equity in South Florida homeownership continues to grow with our rising prices," says Mike Pappas, CEO and president of Keyes Company in the South Florida market. "Distressed homeowners who are underwater still have options – working through a short sale – usually receiving some cash for moving or utilizing the advantageous HARP refinancing vehicle. "

National foreclosure numbers

Nationwide, one in 10 of homes with a mortgage (11.5 percent) was seriously underwater at the end of 2015. That number is a drop from 12.7 percent at the end of the third quarter and 12.7 percent year-to-year.

"Over the past three and a half years, the number of seriously underwater properties has been cut in half," says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. "But we continue to deal with a long tail of seriously underwater properties, and it will likely be another five years at least before most of those remaining underwater properties move into positive equity territory."

At the end of 2015, one in four U.S. homes with a mortgage was equity rich (at least 50 percent equity) – 22.5 percent of all properties with a mortgage. The number of equity rich properties at the end of 2015 was 19.2 percent of all properties with a mortgage compared and 20.3 percent at the end of 2014.

In a look at only homes in foreclosure at the end of 2015, 49.7 percent had some equity – the highest percentage since RealtyTrac began compiling the data in 2013. The percentage is an increase from 43.3 percent in the third quarter of 2015 and 34.6 percent year-to-year.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®

HUD Eases FHA Condo Financing Rules

SAN DIEGO – Nov. 13, 2015 – Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Ed Golding announced changes to FHA condominium policies last night at the National Association of Realtors®(NAR) convention in San Diego.

Effective immediately, FHA will streamline the condominium recertification process and expand its definition of acceptable "owner-occupied" units to include second homes not owned by investors. The provisions expire in one year "until the agency can implement a more comprehensive condominium rule change."

The change should qualify more condo complexes for FHA loans. That, in turn, will give more buyers access to FHA low-downpayment mortgages.

The new rule:

  1. Modifies the requirements for condominium project recertification
  2. Revises the calculation of FHA's required owner-occupancy percentage
  3. Expands eligible condominium project insurance coverages

Florida homebuyers, perhaps more than any other state, will benefit from FHA's new rule.

"This is going to be an amazing stimulus to the housing market for the first-time homeowner and entry-level housing buyer," says Frank Kowalski, president of Florida Realtors in 2005 and an insurance agent. "It's a catalyst for change and long overdue. Thousands of contracts could not use FHA financing, and buyers were forced to come up with 25 – even 30 percent downpayments."

Kowalski says FHA's rule change should help more than just first-time buyers, however. Condo financing problems also frustrated the move-up market – condo owners who want to make the move to single-family housing.

"It's difficult to sell an existing unit if you can't find a qualified buyer," Kowalski says. "A lot of people are frozen in place: Those in (a condo unit) can't get out; those out can't get in."

According to Golding, the just-announced FHA changes are in line with ones requested by NAR, which has been an advocate for reform. NAR cited problems with a lengthy and complex recertification process, burdensome owner-occupancy requirements, and the limits on acceptable property insurance.

One major benefit for Florida condo owners: the property insurance rule change. FHA will now accept Citizens Property Insurance coverage – the Florida-owned company and largest condo insurer in the state.

In addition, FHA changed the way it will view co-insurance clauses, which exist with most Florida condos. That change alone will help up to 85 percent of Florida's condo associations, according to Danielle Blake, the Miami Association of Realtors' government affairs director and a long-time advocate for FHA change.

According to Golding, insurance and recertification changes will take place immediately. Policy changes related to owner occupancy, commercial space percentage, FHA concentration and spot approvals would be addressed through formal rulemaking in the near future.

"Condos are often the most affordable option for homebuyers, especially first-time buyers, and making sure FHA financing is an option is important to supporting homeownership," says 2015 NAR President Chris Polychron.

HUD provides an overview of all changes in Mortgagee Letter 2015-27, which is posted online.© 2015 Florida Realtors®

Cash sales down – but some Fla. cities don’t notice

NEW YORK – Oct. 27, 2015 – Cash sales made up 30.8 percent of all home sales nationwide in July, down from 34.2 percent the same month a year ago. It's the 31st year-over-year monthly drop in a row.

According to CoreLogic, cash transactions slipped 0.5 percentage points on a month-to-month basis. The five states where these deals were highest during July were Alabama (47.4 percent), Florida (44.7 percent), New York (42.8 percent), West Virginia (41.1 percent) and New Jersey (39.5 percent).REO properties accounted for 56 percent of all cash home purchases. Cash deals for resales and short sales made up about 30.2 percent and 28 percent, respectively. All-cash sales of new homes, meanwhile, tallied 15.6 percent of the total sales volume in that niche.

Of America's 100 biggest metro areas, Florida is home to all five markets with the greatest percentage of July cash sales: West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, at 53.2 percent; Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, at 52.2 percent; North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, at 50.1 percent; Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, at 48.4 percent; and Cape Coral-Fort Myers, at 47.9 percent.

Source: 24/7 Wall St. (10/23/15) Ausick, Paul© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Fla.’s single-family home sales up 13.4% in Sept.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Oct. 22, 2015 – Florida's housing sector continued its momentum with more sales, rising median prices and a tight inventory of homes for sale in September, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of existing single-family homes statewide totaled 23,574 last month, up 13.4 percent over September 2014.

"Florida's housing sector continues to show strength with more closed sales and an uptick in new listings," says 2015 Florida Realtors President Andrew Barbar, a broker with Keller Williams Realty Services in Boca Raton. "September marked the 46th month that statewide median sales prices increased year-over-year for both single-family homes and townhouse-condo properties. Sellers received a higher percentage of their original list price, with single-family homes getting on average 94.3 percent and townhome-condos getting 93.2 percent on average. It also took less time to make the sale in September: a median of 46 days for single-family homes and 53 days for townhouse-condos.

"Sellers should take advantage of the strong market conditions with rising median prices, while would-be buyers can benefit from interest rates that currently remain at historically low levels and greater access to mortgage financing."

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $199,900, up 11.1 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in August was $150,000, up 5.1 percent over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors®(NAR), thenational median sales price for existing single-family homes in August 2015 was $230,200, up 5.1 percent from the previous yearthe national median existing condo price was $217,400.In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in August was $493,420; in Massachusetts, it was $365,000; in Maryland, it was $270,956; and in New York, it was $252,500.

Looking at Florida's townhouse-condo market, statewide closed sales rose last month with a total of 9,348, up 8.4 percent compared to September 2014. The closed sales data reflected fewer short sales in August: Short sales for townhouse-condo properties declined 43 percent while short sales for single-family homes dropped 36 percent. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

"The Florida real estate market continues to hum along," says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. "We're seeing increases in both sales and prices in virtually every metropolitan statistical area (MSA) and in both single-family homes and townhouses and condos. Inventory continues to decline and those declines have now reached homes at the $250,000 level.

"However, with pending sales down, mortgage accessibility increasing and interest rates due to rise, we think the market will even out as we go forward into 2016."

Inventory continues to tighten, with a 4.4-months' supply in September for single-family homes and a 5.2-months' supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors. Most analysts consider a 6-month supply of inventory as the benchmark for a balanced market between buyers and sellers.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.89 percent in September 2015, down from the 4.16 percent average recorded during the same month a year earlier.To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors' website under "Research." Association members (login required) also have access to local data specific to their market.

Real Estate Market to Stay Strong through 2017

NEW YORK – Oct. 7, 2015 – Expect at least three more years of favorable real estate conditions, with the overall housing market projected to continue expanding at steady levels through 2017, according to a new survey from the Urban Land Institute Center for Capital Markets and Real Estate. The results are based on predictions from 49 of the real estate industry's top economists and analysts.

Compared to previous forecasts, the latest ULI forecast is less bullish on its outlook, however.

Overall, real estate indicators are expected to be better than their 20-year averages through 2015 – but the economists predicted that a few real estate indicators won't perform as well: commercial property price growth, equity REIT returns, retail availability rates and single-family housing starts.

"The latest Consensus Forecast has picked up on recent growth concerns and stock market corrections around the world," says William Maher, ULI leader. "The U.S. economy and real estate markets are in much better shape than most other countries, but global economies and capital markets are increasingly inter-related.

"Still, the vast majority of indicators in the forecast indicate favorable economic and capital markets in the U.S., as well as moderately strong real estate fundamentals and investment returns."

Additional ULI Consensus Forecast highlights

Commercial property transaction volume is predicted to rise for another two years and then level off to $500 billion by 2017.

Commercial real estate prices are forecasted to rise by 10 percent in 2015 and then slow to a 6 percent increase in 2016 and to 4.5 percent in 2017 – below the long-term average growth rate.

Vacancy rates are projected to decrease slightly for office and retail over the next three years. On the other hand, industrial availability rates and hotel occupancy rates are projected to improve in 2015 and then basically plateau in 2016 and 2017.

Single-family housing starts are projected to increase to 745,000 in 2015, 842,000 in 2016 and 900,000 in 2017. Despite the increases, starts are expected to remain below the 20-year average.

Home prices are expected to moderate to a 5 percent growth rate this year, 4.3 percent in 2016 and 3.9 percent in 2017.

Source: Urban Land Institute

© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Broward Monthly Market Summary Statistics for July 2015

Closed sales up 11% year over year with, Average Prices up 7.9% compared to same period in 2014,

with inventories shrinking and Interest Rates at record low will only trigger an incremental trend

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Record Real Estate Sales in Miami Fuel Two Years of Double Digit Appreciation

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