New Bayou Grande Townhomes

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As we begin our search for new construction property in the area, the result is impressive! Having gone through years of no building at all, Pinellas County is experiencing record numbers of building permits being pulled each month. One of the first, Bayou Grande Townhomes is worth a look. If you are in the market for a new construction, Bayou Grande Townhomes in St. Petersburg is a must see!
These elegantly appointed, three level homes are quality built by Southern Crafted Homes and 100% Eco Crafted for energy efficiency. They provide 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, 2 half bathrooms, a Bonus room, laundry room, 2 car garage, Great Room, Master Suite with large walk-in closets and depending on the floor plan, either covered balconies on each level or a covered lanai with courtyard views. There are 2 floor plans to choose from with optional elevators. The Arcadia plan has 2,413 Square Feet Total Living and the Beaumont has 1,934 Square Feet Total Living.

Bayou Grande is a quick 5 minute drive to Madeira Beach and John’s Pass Village and centrally located with easy driving to St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Tampa.
Whatever your pleasure from boating, fishing, golfing, shopping, dining or sunset happy hours the New Bayou Grande Townhomes is the place to be.

Access To Mortgage Availability Highest In 3 Years

WASHINGTON – April 14, 2014 – Access to mortgage availability is at its highest level in at least three years, and credit standards are expected to loosen even more this year, according to a newly released index by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

MBA’s index, which tracks mortgage credit availability, shows that in March the gauge rose to 114 – the highest reading in the gauge’s three-year history.

“I don’t think there’s any question that mortgage underwriting has gotten easier or is looser than it was two or three years ago, but it’s nowhere near where it was in 2005, 2006,” Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, told The Wall Street Journal. “We are talking about easing from extremely tight underwriting standards.”

Some housing experts worried that new mortgage rules for lenders and borrowers this year would tighten credit access. Indeed, 80 percent of bankers said they expected the new regulations to have a “measurable reduction in credit availability,” according to a survey by the American Bankers Association.

However, Bob Davis, ABA’s executive vice president, says standards will likely loosen up as lenders adapt to the new rules.

“There will be a tendency for some liberalization over the course of the year,” Davis told The Wall Street Journal. The reason: Lending experts say that the number of mortgage refinancing applications has fallen drastically over the past year, and more banks will probably look to the home-purchase market to make up for that lost share of income.

Nearly 17 percent of large banks have recently eased credit standards for prime purchase mortgages, while 5.6 percent have tightened their standards and the remainder have left standards the same, according to the Federal Reserve’s recent senior loan officer survey.

Source: “Mortgage Credit Most Available in at Least Three Years, Gauge Says,” The Wall Street Journal (April 9, 2014)

© Copyright 2014 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD

Boomers & Housing -70% Expect Next House To Be Their Last

MADISON, N.J. – March 25, 2014 – According to a survey conducted on behalf of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, baby boomers (ages 49-67) are generally optimistic about living an independent, active lifestyle outside planned retirement communities.

The survey found that 57 percent of boomers plan to move out of their current home, and 70% believe the house they retire in will be the best home they’ve ever owned.  “With approximately 77 million boomers in the U.S., it’s quite significant for our industry to see that this population has so much positive anticipation for the home in which they will be retiring – and for the majority, their aspirations involve making a move,” says Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.   Among boomers who feel more confident about achieving their ideal retirement lifestyle compared to five years ago, the top factor is having a retirement lifestyle plan (49%).

Approximately 1 out of 4 boomers surveyed is likely to buy a second home to use during retirement. On the selling side, 31 percent of boomers are more likely to want to sell their home now than they were five years ago, suggesting a renewed confidence in the real estate market.

 Retirement to-do list: Historically, retirement was almost automatic at the milestone age of 65. Many boomers, however, have a different plan in mind: 28% who are not yet retired, never plan to retire; and 46 percent of boomers who plan to retire still anticipate working part-time.
The Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Baby boomers Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 U.S. adults ages 49-67, between Feb. 6 and Feb. 18, 2014, using an email invitation and online survey. Quotas were set to ensure accurate representation of the U.S. adult population 49-67.


© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Revised Flood Insurance Bill Passes Senate!

WASHINGTON – March 14, 2014 – Florida homeowners saddled with recently raised flood insurance premiums they can’t afford will have much of that burden lifted when President Obama signs a flood insurance bill that the Senate passed yesterday.

The bill, H.R. 3370, passed the House earlier. U.S. law does not officially change until the president signs the bill into law, but President Obama’s staff says he plans to do so.
Of specific interest to Realtors: The bill no longer requires the cost of flood insurance to readjust upon the sale of a home in an area where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) subsidizes policies.

“There’s much to celebrate,” agrees Frank Kowalski, 2005 Florida Realtors president and also an insurance agent. “Once the bill becomes law and companies offering flood insurance are able to tweak their computers, they should be able to write NFIP flood insurance policies as they did before.”

Bill details (H.R. 3370)

  • Home sales: As a result of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, the cost of flood insurance immediately rose to its actuarial rate at the time of a home sale, and the buyer could be required to pay many thousands more per year than the seller. The just-passed bill, however, maintains flood insurance price continuity, and the purchaser is treated the same as the current property owner.
  • Reinstates grandfathering: All post-FIRM (flood insurance rate map) properties built to code at the time of construction are protected from rate hikes that result from new data – the flood maps created after the fact. Also important: The grandfathering stays with the property, not the policy.
  •  Annual rate increases capped at 18%: FEMA cannot raise flood insurance rates within a single property class beyond 15 percent per year. And it cannot raise a single homeowner’s rate more than 18 percent per year. (Before Biggert-Waters, the rate was 10 percent; until the new bill is signed, it’s 20 percent.)
  • Annual rate increases capped by home value: The bill requires a 5 percent minimum annual increase on pre-FIRM primary residence policies that are not at full risk, but it also says FEMA must try to minimize the number of policyholders that are charged an increase greater than 1 percent of their flood coverage. For example, a home covered for $250,000 in flood damage might face a yearly increase no higher than $2,500.
  • Policyholders refunds: Buyers who purchased pre-FIRM homes and were already charged higher flood insurance rates than the seller should be refunded the price difference once the bill is signed.
  • Annual surcharges: A new fee will also be introduced to all flood policy holders – an annual surcharge of $25 for primary residences and $250 for second homes and businesses – until subsidized policies reach full risk rates.
  • Affordability study funded: Biggert-Waters required FEMA to conduct a study to determine the rate impact on homeowners, but FEMA never completed the study by the mandated deadline. The new bill funds the study and gives FEMA two years to complete it.
  • Home improvement threshold: In addition to homebuyers, higher flood insurance rates could kick in if an owner renovated or remodeled a home beyond a set level. Under current law, it’s an improvement equal to 30 percent of the home’s value. Under the new law, the improvement level returns to its historic norm of 50 percent.
  • Additional provisions: The new bill includes several other provisions, including preserving the basement exception, allowing for payments to be made in monthly installments and reimbursing policy holders for successful map appeals.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

BIG News on Flood Insurance Relief!

ORLANDO, Fla. – March 5, 2014 – Realtors across Florida support the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, H.R. 3370, overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. House Tuesday, 306-91.

“This action in Congress will bring the much-needed certainty our real estate market has been missing since Biggert-Waters went into effect, and provide immediate relief to Florida homeowners who were facing financial ruin due to sudden and drastic flood insurance premium increases,” said 2014 Florida Realtors® President Sherri Meadows, CEO and team leader, Keller Williams, with market centers in Gainesville, Ocala and the Villages.
Meadows added, “While good-intentioned, the Biggert-Waters Act had the effect of stigmatizing properties that are in flood zones. Current property owners, as well as those looking to buy, didn’t know if a new flood map might be adopted next week or next year. This legislation will give property owners in Florida and across the country peace of mind, by ensuring a slow and steady phase-in of risked-based increases.”

“That’s a huge win for homeowners,” Brandi Gabbard (chair of the Pinellas Suncoast Association of Realtors)  said. “We also hope to see more interest from private insurers to offer flood insurance policies. The Pinellas County area has seen good success with Lloyds of London and Homeowners’ Choice Property and Casualty Insurance Company. There are several bills legislators are introducing in Tallahassee to support the private market for flood insurance. Encouraging competition among private insurers will be the long-term, sustainable answer for this issue.”

Under the U.S. House bill:

  • Immediate increases in flood insurance premiums up to 10 times the previous cost are eliminated.
  • Those who already paid such increases receive refunds.
  • Primary homeowners not already paying full rates could see their annual rate increases average 15 percent and be capped at 18 percent.
  • Second homes and businesses not already paying full rates could receive premium increases of about 25 percent per year.
  • Renewal increases are capped at 18 percent for homes in newly mapped flood zones.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a goal of having annual premiums not exceed 1 percent of total coverage provided by the policy.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Jumbo loans loom large in luxury housing

Along the beaches here in Tampa Bay, waterfront property can become quite pricey so the article below is definitely worthy of note!

NEW YORK – Feb. 17, 2014 – Jumbo mortgages are providing the housing market recovery with a boost, according to industry experts. Buyers looking at luxury property currently can obtain jumbo mortgages with interest rates that are on par with – and sometimes even lower than – conventional loans.
Moreover, the new qualified mortgage regulations (QM) don’t apply to jumbos, which makes them a more flexible option for buyers who want things like interest-only loans or who have a high net worth but complicated finances.
Jumbo mortgages can make sense for financing luxury housing even when buyers have enough cash, says Denise Andres, a real estate agent with ERA Landmark in Bozeman, Mt., who recently helped a client who downsized with a jumbo loan rather than pay all cash. “His thought was, with the gains in the stock market, why would I want to pay all cash if I can get 30-year money so low?” she says.
Jumbos are luring more buyers into “move-up” purchases, and this, in turn, is freeing up inventory at the lower end of the market.

Source: Reuters (02/11/14) Pinkster, Beth
© Copyright 2014 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD

It’s (almost) official – foreclosure crisis is over

IRVINE, Calif. – Dec. 12, 2013 – RealtyTrac’s Foreclosure Market Report for November shows foreclosure filings – all default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions – decreased 15 percent from the previous month and 37 percent year-to-year.   The 15 percent monthly decrease in November was the biggest month-over-month decrease since November 2010 when U.S. foreclosure activity plummeted 21 percent in one month following the revelation of the so-called robo-signing scandal in October 2010.

While the drop reflects all homes somewhere within the foreclosure process, a decline in the number of homes receiving their first foreclosure notice reflects a stronger improvement. A total of 52,826 U.S. properties started the foreclosure process for the first time in November, down 10 percent from the previous month and 32 percent from a year ago, hitting its lowest level since December 2005.  In Florida, the percentage drop in owners receiving a first-time foreclosure notice was also dramatic. The state had 6,744 foreclosure starts in November, an 18.02 percent decline month-to-month and a 45.9 percent drop year-to-year.

The number of Florida foreclosure completions – the final step where a lender takes back the home – also dropped in November, though not as dramatically. Completed state foreclosures were down 2.72 percent month-to-month and 15.59 percent year-to-year.  Florida foreclosure activity in November – starts, in progress and completions – decreased 15 percent from the previous month and 23 percent from a year ago for the fourth consecutive month with an annual decrease. However, the state still has the nation’s highest state foreclosure rate: one in every 392 housing units with a foreclosure filing.

Among metro areas with a population of 200,000 or more, those with the highest foreclosure rates were the Florida cities of Jacksonville, Miami, Port St. Lucie and Palm Bay, along with Rockford, Ill.  “While some of the decrease in November can be attributed to seasonality, the depth and breadth of the decrease provides strong evidence that we are entering the ninth inning of this foreclosure crisis with the outcome all but guaranteed,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
“While foreclosures will likely continue to stage a weak rally in certain markets next year … it is highly unlikely that there will be a foreclosure comeback that poses any major threat to the solid housing recovery that has now taken hold,” he adds.

Foreclosure Market Report highlights:  
• November foreclosure starts increased from a year ago in 15 states, including Pennsylvania (up 233 percent), Delaware (up 104 percent), Maryland (up 74 percent), Oregon (up 38 percent), and Connecticut (up 37 percent).  
• There were a total of 30,461 U.S. bank repossessions (REOs) in November, down 19 percent from the previous month and 48 percent from a year ago. It’s the lowest level since July 2007 for a 76-month low.  
• Only five states posted year-over-year increases in REOs: Delaware (179 percent increase), Maryland (41 percent increase), Connecticut (9 percent increase), Maine (6 percent increase), and Iowa (2 percent increase).  
• Scheduled foreclosure auctions (which are foreclosure starts in some states) in November increased from a year ago in 19 states, including Oregon (726 percent increase), Massachusetts (217 percent increase), Utah (214 percent increase), Connecticut (199 percent increase), Delaware (104 percent increase), and New York (34 percent increase).  
Among the nation’s 20 largest metro areas, those with the highest foreclosure rates were Miami, Tampa, Chicago, Riverside-San Bernardino in Southern California, and Baltimore. Only three of the 20 largest metros posted annual increases in foreclosure activity: Baltimore (up 46 percent), Philadelphia (up 34 percent), and Washington, D.C. (up 6 percent).  

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

TaxWatch study: How does flood insurance impact Fla.?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Nov. 21, 2013 – Congress extended the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years through last year’s Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. While the Act’s goal is to make NFIP pay for itself over time and ease a current deficit, it had unintended consequences as some homeowners discovered substantially higher costs for coverage.
Florida TaxWatch conducted a study to determine exactly how Bigger-Waters impacted Florida and its counties. Their findings:
• Floridians paid $3.60 in flood premiums for every $1 that came back to cover damages.
• Florida has more than 2.05 million policies. Of those, 268,648 (13 percent) are subsidized. The Act directly impacts the subsidized policies.
• Pinellas, Miami-Dade and Lee counties have almost 48 percent of the state’s subsidized policies and will be most affected by upcoming policy cost increases.
• Monroe County has the highest density of subsidized policies (percent of all those with flood policies that are subsidized) – more than double the density of Florida’s next-highest county, Pinellas.
• Most of NFIP’s current $24 billion debt is due to claims from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, which had minimal impact on Florida.
• Two Florida hurricanes tapped into NFIP resources: Tropical Storm Isaac in 2012 ($407 million in paid claims) and Hurricane Wilma in 2005 ($365 million).
In November, Florida joined Alabama in filing an Amicus Curae brief in a Mississippi lawsuit against FEMA. The lawsuit claims FEMA failed to conduct an affordability study of flood insurance premium changes as required in the Biggert-Waters Act, and asks the court to delay implementation of the changes until the required studies are completed.

To read the full Florida TaxWatch report or get more flood insurance information, visit the Flood Insurance Toolkit on Florida Realtors’ website.
© 2013 Florida Realtors® 

Owning Vacation Rentals The Right Move?

As the market here in Tampa Bay evolves, one section – vacation rentals – is on the rise.  According to HomeAway Inc., an online marketplace for vacation rentals, the average rental property can expect a 77% occupancy rate for seasonal rentals.  People seeking long term rentals is on the rise as well. With the shake up of the market over the past few years and the significant number of displaced homeowners due to foreclosure or short sales, there is a comfortable security about living in a rental property.

Now that properties are beginning to increase in value again, owners can enjoy the bottom line while the property is appreciating.  The difference in vacation rentals is primarily that time and effort is necessary to market and maintain the property.  “If the owner optimizes the time and effort put into managing their vacation rental, the return on investment is substantial,” says Brian Sharples, co-founder and chief executive officer of HomeAway.

An increasing number of aging boomers, seeking a warm weather respite from the winter snow and ice, look at vacation rentals as a way to have access to a second home to stay in while covering a significant portion of the cost through renting the property when they are not in residence.  Many of these buyers eventually plan to retire in these homes or condos.

Although inventory of available homes and condos for sale in the Tampa Bay area, there are still opportunities if a buyer recognizes the potential quickly as a listing first comes on the market.  To learn more about becoming involved in owning vacation rentals, contact The Purtee Team info@floridagulfproperty.com

Florida Insurance Rates – Shouldn’t They Go Down?

Last week Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, asked a pertinent question about why Florida Insurance Rates aren’t coming down. In a letter sent to Florida’s insurance commissioner, Kevin McCarty, Atwater referred to one of the main costs for insurers, reinsurance, that has been coming down this year.  It has been reported that those costs have come down 15-20% yet those savings aren’t being passed on to consumers. He wants to know why and he wants to see Floridian’s insurance bills coming down.

“If insurance companies can justifiably raise rates on Florida families because the reinsurance market drives their costs up, they can certainly lower the costs for Florida families when reinsurance prices fall,” Atwater wrote.  Obviously McCarty’s office is preparing a response.  According to an article by the Associated Press, “Annual reports prepared by Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation show that the department has been approving more than 100 rate hike requests a year since 2009, including requests to raise rates by double-digits.”

There is no question that the impact of Hurricane Andrew to SE Florida in 2002, as well as the storms in 2004 and 2005, took its toll on insurance companies. However, it is good to know someone is watching and ready to challenge when the costs should be reversing.