Tampa Bay’s Optimistic Mid-Year Housing Report

homesforsaleThe home sales rate in Tampa Bay gained a recovery since the last month of June which faced an unsatisfactory sales rate. The improvement in the sales rate denotes a positive housing recovery.

The rate of home sales for 2014 reveals that there is significant growth since the housing bubble. According to the Realtors data, sales for the month of June were observed to be 3,400 for single-family homes. Median homes sold for $167,000 in 2014 and are observed to be 2 percent higher than the rates prevailing during the same time last year. The month of June witnessed sales of 750 condos in Tampa Bay. The median price for the condos rose since 14 months ago to $85,000.  Mortgage rates at the beginning of the year were observed to be 4.53 percent which subsequently fell to a rate of 4.14 percent.

The housing market boost has led to a home price rise since 2011.  As such the median prices for houses are observed to be growing steadily for the past few months. Such abrupt rises in home prices has repelled bulk investors and tight-budget buyers. This in turn has led to reduction in sales rate. However, the curbed demands of buyers and the low interest rates for mortgages played a role in attracting homebuyers. Moreover, the increasing employment opportunities, subsequent growth, and rising consumer confidence all improve a home buyer’s purchasing capacity.

Total cash deals were marked to be low in 2010. However, cash deals were recently observed to be 35 percent of all home sales; lower than the foregoing rates. Conventional sales form 73 percent of the total sales, with short sales and foreclosures forming 27 percent of total sales.

A Wells Fargo Securities economists state that buyers are active in the housing market in spite of the problems with supplies, lenders, delinquencies, and non-affordability of first time buyers. The improvements, however peripheral they may be, is welcomed by everyone.

Hillsborough County’s Real Estate Value is Steadily Increasing

home value increaseThe taxable value of a property is based on the difference between the market value of the property and any available exemptions according to state laws.

Taxable property in Hillsborough County for the year 2013 was $63.84 billion, which increased to $67.52 billion as marked in January 1, 2014.  The taxable values increased by 5.59 percent in 2014. In 2011, the property values declined by 4.27 percent. Since 2012, the values have increased less than 1 percent from the previous year. However, the values for 2013 reveal a growth of 5.29 percent.

Based on the transactions carried out in 2013, the market value of properties including homestead and non-homestead residential property, commercial property and new construction, raised by 8.2 percent to a value of $90.78 billion.  It is estimated that the increase in property values will lead to an increase in home equity. It will also; unfortunately, cause a minor increase in taxes. According to the Save Our Homes Amendment of 1992, the upper limit on taxes levied for homestead properties is set at either 3 percent or the increase in the previous year’s Consumer Price Index (CPI); whichever is less. The CPI increased by 1.5 percent last year.

The tax limit for non-homestead property is 10 percent. For instance, a home with a market value of $200,000; the taxable value of the property will be market value minus the exemption i.e. $200,000 minus $50,000. As per the estimates; the property tax increase for the foregoing would be $48. The tax is divided between Hillsborough County government, the county’s three major cities, and the county school board; and other agencies like the library system, the county’s environmental lands conservation program, and the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County.

Property owners will be notified of their respective property values, exemptions, and property taxes through the Property Appraiser’s Office in August. Property owners can object the values and exemptions within 25 days of receiving the notice. Such owners can approach the Property Appraiser’s Office to consult a representative; subsequently they can also file an appeal with the County’s Value Adjustment Board.

A Recent Purchase Brings $3 million in Improvements to a Tampa Waterfront Community

the coveAn exciting purchase has been made in a waterfront community in Tampa. Lubert-Adler, a Philidelphia based real estate firm, has paid $50.5 million for The Cove in a joint venture with the Laramar Group. The purchase was facilitated by LNR Property in an online auction. Having owned the property from 1999 to 2005, Laramar is familiar with the complex.

Constructed in 1980, and foreclosed upon in 2011, The Cove’s previous owners planned to convert the complex into condominiums. The new owners plan to spend $3 million in improvements to the facility.

Investors and residents interested in this waterfront community as it enters a new overhaul stage of improvements can contact realtor Vicki Boss for guidance and expertise as she offers an extensive understanding of the area and the dynamics of the Tampa housing market.

Westchase Area Complex Purchase Marks Largest Countywide Real Estate Transaction of the Year

west_parkIn a joint venture between Carroll Organization, an Atlanta based company, and AIMS Real Estate, a business unit within Goldman Sachs Asset Management, West Park Village in the Westchase area has recently been purchased. The complex sold for $122.5 million, marking the largest real estate transaction in Hillsborough County this year.

The latest and largest property in the Carroll Organizations developing Tampa Bay portfolio, West Park Village joins the ranks of their other complexes such as Lansbrook Village in Palm Harbor (571 units); and Arium Citrus Park (247 units) and Arium Bay Pointe (368) in Tampa.

A mixed-use community with 617 luxury apartments and over 40,000 square feet of retail, West Park Village offers quaint tree lined sidewalks through an abundant array of amenities. Apartment units range from one bedroom/ one bath (815 square feet) to three bedrooms/ three baths (2,046 square feet). The rental list prices range from $987 to $1, 864 per month.

Renters and investors alike can contact real estate agent Vicki Boss for comprehensive understanding and guidance through the West Park Village acquisition. Vicki offers extensive experience in the Westchase area and a true passion for helping you find your perfect home and investment.

Hillsborough Real Estate Values Show Third Straight Year of Growth

home valuesHillsborough County announces another hopeful sign of economic recovery as they expect to see a third straight year of growth in real estate values.

According to a recent weekly estimate from the county property appraiser’s office, between 2012 and 2013, taxable property value experienced an increase of about 5.79 percent, reaching a base of around $67.7 billion. This follows a 5.29 percent jump in this past year and a one percent increase in the year before.

The property appraiser’s office found the most improvement in South Tampa and in waterfront properties.

Bob Henriquez, Hillsborough’s property appraiser, commented on the new figures, stating, “You’re seeing the effects of an improving economy. A lot of this has to do with supply and demand. As folks feel more comfortable about spending money or have money to spend, unemployment goes down. More people are moving into the area. They’re buying houses. People have better jobs.”

However, Henriquez can’t exactly be sure what the driving force is behind this increase. It is not clear to the appraiser how much of the improvements are due to investor dollars rather than residents purchasing homes they intend to live in.

In any case, the increases in Hillsborough’s property values are reflected by neighboring counties as well. With all 24 municipalities showing two years of growth, Pinellas also estimates a 5.6 percent increase for the year. Marking its first year of revenue increases since the recession, Pasco expects around 3.75 percent in taxable value increases.

Hillsborough County budget director Tom Fesler has already begun outlining a few main areas for increased spending as the county expects another $30 million in property tax revenue.

These areas already include the Sherriff’s office, which will be allotted an added $7 million to its budget of around $380 million. The county’s repair, renovation, replacement, and maintenance fund will receive another $3.5 million in their budget. The county will also increase spending in infrastructure and budget for the fire department.

These are welcomed increases after the real estate crash when the city was forced to put off spending for facility maintenance and vehicle and equipment replacements.

City officials remain hopeful for these continued improvements, but with a grain of salt. Many still expect to see at least some economic challenges in the coming year.

At a recent budget workshop, chief financial officer Sonya Little told City Council to expect some challenges, “Even though we’re going through a recovery, we’re still faced with the legacy of the recession.”

In Tampa alone, Mayor Bob Buckhom estimates the revenue shortfall for the year could range between $10 million to $15 million. However, this still can be seen in terms of improvement. Down from $34.5 million three years ago, this would be the minutest shortfall the county has faced in years.

A Trip down the Oldsmar Trail Holds Something for Everyone

oldsmar trailNature enthusiasts, cyclers, pedestrians, and history buffs alike can celebrate as the 10 year construction of the Oldsmar Trail is almost complete. Hikers and cyclists can commune with nature and Oldsmar’s rich history as they wind through the continuous 10 mile system of trails.

Only two outstanding tasks remain for the city: paving a gravel path along the outfall Canal and widening the sidewalk on Pine Avenue near Bayview Boulevard.

Bicycle enthusiasts like Becky Afonso, 50, are excited for the residents to take full advantage of the nature trails, “I have seen so much wildlife out here, gators, red-tail hawks, herons, rabbits and armadillos,” said Afonso. “And not all Oldsmar residents know the trail exists.”

The Oldsmar Trail curves through 10 city and neighborhood parks including Cypress Forest Park in the north, Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve in the south, Canal Park in the west, and Bicentennial Park in the east. In the center of the trail lies R.E. Olds Park.

Afonso, a certified cycling instructor by the League of American Bicyclists, sports her Trek Five 20 touring bicycle along the trail and prefers to use the paths for many of her excursions through the city.

“I always prefer taking scenic trails over busy highways. I even use the trail to go up to see a movie,” said Afonso. “I can go from my home near R.E. Olds Park to Canal Park on the designated paths, and from there I use the sidewalks to get to the movie theater at Woodland Square.”

Over a period of 10 years, the project has been completed in a series of phases. Through some dollars from the city’s capitol budget, and most of the money through grants from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreational Trails program, the trail has reached near completion at a total cost of $4 million.

According to Lynn Rives, the city’s leisure services director, bringing together this funding was the toughest curve in the trail.

“The biggest challenge was assembling the money to do the project but we have had great partners that have made it all come to fruition,” Rives said. “Now we have lots of trail and lots of ways to get around that require minimal crossings at major roads.”

Jerry Beverland, who has written several books on the history of the Oldsmar area and is currently a City Council member and a former mayor, says that efforts for getting the trail on the ground began as early as the 1990’s.

“No way did we comprehend what it would turn into today,” he said. “If someone told me back then that the trail system would be this big I would have asked them what they had been drinking.”

Also a lover of history, Afonso hopes to team up with the Oldsmar Historical Society in the coming year and provide bike tours of the Oldsmar Trail. Afonso will break the trail into three sections, giving participants a choice of which part of the trail they would like to explore. All three loops will begin at R.E. Olds Park. Historical quick fact: the park was named after Ransom Olds, the founder of Oldsmobile and the original developer of the city.

“The blending of a bicycle tour with history has people learning something while they’re exercising. The residents can learn history of where they live and for visitors they can learn history of where they are,” said Afonso, who came up with the idea, in part, through watching the success of the walking tours put on by the historical society.

Not surprisingly, Councilman Beverland said he approves of Afonso’s idea to incorporate history and exercise into the nature trails.

“Oldsmar is rich in history and it goes way back. For example, on the trail, go down past Bicentennial Park. If you stop and be silent, you can almost see the Tocobaga Indians who lived there hundreds of years ago,” he said. “You can almost hear them too.”

Kick off the Summer with a Tequila Twist at the Tampa Bay Margarita Fest

tampa-bay-margarita-festivalThis Memorial Day weekend the second annual Tampa Bay Margarita Festival will kick off the summer with a tequila twist. More than tripling their flavor options from the previous year, the festival will be offering over 35 margarita flavors, from mango jalapeno to raspberry peach. Organizer Ferdian Jap of South Tampa promises the flavors will also include traditional lime, sour mix, and agave nectar.

The festival will be held at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive, on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, May 24th, from 2 to 10 p.m. Partakers must be at least 21 years of age and are welcome to bring their pets, beach chairs, and dancing shoes. Festival-goers are invited to come and spend their Saturday sampling unlimited amounts of more than 40 tequila brands.

Anticipating a crowd well surpassing last year’s unexpected 5,000, Jap has implemented a new system to streamline this year’s event, from check in to drink purchasing.

“We went to 80 bartenders expecting about 7,500 people this year,” Jap said. “Last year, we were not prepared for the crowd of about 5,000. Many people complained about the lines that it took an hour to get a drink.”

Having practiced his new streamlining system at events such as the Summer of Rum Festival, Bourbon & Brew Country Bash Festival and the Spring Beer Fling, and coupling this with the large increase in bartenders, Jap expects people to be pleased with the ease, speed, and accessibility of this year’s festival.

Discovering last year that they couldn’t keep up, the event is also preparing for increased demand in frozen margaritas. This year, they will include a 40-foot frozen drink machine capable of serving over 10,000 frozen drinks.

Keeping things cool and relaxed, the event will also include more umbrellas for shade and chairs available for rent.

“We are bringing in more umbrellas for shade, like all over the park,” Jap said. “There will be a cool zone as well.”

Jap co-owns Big City Events with his business partner Monica Vamer and is well known for coordinating popular events in the Tampa Bay area, such as the Tampa Tee Off and the Gasparilla Film Festival. He is confident that the second annual Tampa Bay Margarita Festival has all the ingredients for a perfect mix.

Fireworks, food trucks and food vendors, and performances by Los Lonely Boys and five other local and regional bands, are a few of those perfect ingredients.

“Having Los Lonely Boys headline seems to be the perfect fit to a Tex-Mex-themed festival,” Jap said. “Not only are they popular after their Grammy-winning hit, ‘Heaven,’ but they have a new album that just came out recently and Margarita Festival in Tampa is their only stop in Florida.”

And let’s not forget the margaritas.

“Margaritas are definitely the drink of summer and people love it because you can pretty much play around, experiment and create any flavors that you want and it still tastes great and refreshing,” he said.

Opening for the main event on Saturday, a “Grand Tequila Tasting” will be held at the Epicurean Hotel, 1207 S. Howard Ave., on the evening of May 23rd. The event will include more than 40 tequilas and their brand representatives, as well as an assortment of food pairings.

Admission to the second annual Tampa Bay Margarita Festival is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. The cost for VIP tickets is $85 and $100 at the door.

For more information and ticket purchasing, visit www.tampamargaritafest.com.

Increase in Tampa Bay Home Sales

tampa-homesDuring the housing market meltdown and the Great Recession, short sales increased and were dominant in Florida’s housing market. Tampa Bay is experienced a strong rebound in the number of short sales in March 2014.

According to the statistics, 2,900 homes were sold in March 2014. This rate was logged at 7% less than the rate in March 2013. The initial months of 2014 have showed a gradual reduction in rates than the previous year. The cash sales in March 2014 were marked at 1200, lower than that of 1500 homes in March 2013.

The data also revealed that 225 homes underwent short sales in 2014 as compared to 500 in March 2013. Condominium sales also decreased 1 percent than the rate in March 2013. There were 2000 conventional sales (sales apart from short sales or foreclosures) in March 2013 and the similar rate is evident in March 2014. However, the median home prices increased to $157,000 in March 2014. These earlier rates were observed to be steady for the previous 27 months.

The rise in market prices in 2014 held back the investors who showed interest in the housing market in 2013. The Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service data reveals home sales rates increased by 25 percent in Tampa Bay. A Brandon-based broker stated that short sales and foreclosures have reduced overall. As a result, market conditions have improved. Mortgage rates with a 30-year fixed loan have increased from 3.5 percent as marked in previous years, to 4.3 percent as marked in March 2014. Some realtors believe that the boost in home prices could stabilize the market and would condense the fear of another housing bubble.

Credit Suisse Group AG is a Switzerland-based multinational financial services holding company headquartered in Zürich that operates the Credit Suisse Bank and other financial services investments. According to the survey conducted by Credit Suisse, there exist fewer homes for sale and the contenders for it are many. This scarce availability of homes has lead to further increases in home prices. The agents are optimistic about the price rise and anticipate that home prices should ascend in the near future.

Home prices are already showing a steady rise. An Apollo Beach-based broker states that during the month of March 2014, there was a moderate increase of home sales as compared to the dismal months of January and February 2014. The broker expects people to indulge in buying and selling. This trend could pave way to market stability.

National Mortgage Settlements

wall-street-bullSince 2012, national mortgage settlements with the major banks have reached a landmark level. The total amount provided in relief for settlement was $20 billion. Out of this amount only a small portion, approximately $5 billion, was paid for by mortgage bondholders, with the banks providing $5 billion in cash penalties.

The director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute in Washington D.C stated that due to investor loans, the payments received under the national mortgage settlements were higher than the amount previously expected. The settlement was intended to provide incentives to the country’s five largest mortgage servicers to reduce their servicer-owned loans, loans owned by banks themselves, and to modify the loans held in securitized trusts.

Bank of America, JPMorgan/Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Ally/GMAC are the five major banks with whom the settlements took place. It was found that the incentives were not satisfactory for both Bank of America and JP Morgan. They exploited the situation and realized the incentives for reducing their own losses. Pursuant to the settlement, investors contributed $3.7 billion and $1.2 billion for relief to Bank of America and JP Morgan, respectively. As such, BoA and JPM earned 35 percent of credits solely from their investor’s loans.

On the contrary, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally/GMAC did not concentrate on investor loans for paying off their credit. The fact that the investor’s contributions were used for the servicer’s loans signifies an unwarranted shift from the approved standards. It seems to be a travesty of justice. Moreover, there is uncertainty about the 15 percent cap placed on loan modifications of investor-owned loans assured by Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Loan modification and principal reduction persuades investors to settle the loans at an affordable price and prevents the hardships of foreclosure. It is beneficial to the investors to help them pay-off the loans. But the settlement also provided credit to the banks for loan modification and principal reduction that they did not initiate. Ocwen Financial (OCN) approved a mortgage settlement of more than $2 billion for mishandling foreclosures, failing to honor loan modifications agreed to by previous servicers, and charging borrowers excessive hidden fees.

The director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute stated that the settlements should be entered cautiously to ascertain the investor’s contribution to servicer’s loans fairly. The director further stated that principal reductions and loan modifications also should be entered carefully. The settlement should serve the best interests of both the borrowers and the lenders.

Florida Single Family Residential Market Ranked Weakest in the Nation

While a recent study of single family residential markets ranked Long Island as the strongest in the nation, Florida single family residential markets didn’t come out looking so fair.

Pro Teck Valuation Services recently released their Home Value Forecast, a measure of single family residential markets, for the month of January 2014. Long Island stood out among the rest of the nation as having the strongest market.

Pro Teck Valuation Services’ Chief Executive Officer, Tom O’Grady, commented on the figures saying, “Long Island leads Home Value Forecast’s ranking as the hottest real estate market in the nation in our January Home Value Forecast.”

O’Grady continued, “Many factors account for Long Island’s strong market, including foreclosures making up an inconsequential 2.18 percent of sales and available housing inventory at only 3.63 months.”

Pro Teck’s valuation research for the Home Value Forecast uses indicators such as sales and listings activity, home prices, months of remaining inventory (MRI), days on the market (DOM), the sold-to-list price differentiation, and REO activity to determine the rankings of real estate markets throughout the nation.

Last month’s Home Value Forecast gave California a particularly favorable ranking, with 6 of the 10 best markets in the nation to be found in the sunny state.

O’Grady noted these figures, stating, “In our January HVF top ten, California is again well represented … In particular, the Los Angeles market has seen a major shift, with sales prices up over 24 percent from the last rolling quarter.”

Overwhelmed with foreclosures, Jacksonville, Florida, was ranked as the weakest single family residential market in the nation. Jacksonville currently lists 81.15 percent of its sales as foreclosures, dwarfing Long Island’s 3.0 percent of sales as foreclosures and greatly weakening its ranking among the nation’s real estate markets.

O’Grady commented on Jacksonville’s housing struggle, saying, “Looking at the five year forecast, Jacksonville’s prices are not expected to get anywhere near its 2007 peak. Foreclosures will continue to hamper the market from returning to true market fundamentals for the foreseeable future.”

Many Florida markets find themselves rife with foreclosures, including the Westchase area. If you find yourself in the midst of a foreclosure, it is important to remember that there are other options to being foreclosed upon. Realtor Vicki Boss has extensive experience in fighting foreclosures and an incredible success rate for completing short sales. If you are in a foreclosure, it is important to understand that your case is time sensitive and that an advocate like Vicki Boss could be essential in selling your home before you lose it to foreclosure. Contact Vicki Boss today for a knowledgeable and passionate advocate.