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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tax relief may work against real estate vultures

Tax relief may work against real estate vultures

mhaggman@MiamiHerald.com

For two years Magdiel Guillemi watched the condominium towers go up across South Florida and waited for his chance to buy in. Now the 25-year-old aluminum company executive thinks his time has arrived.

With the housing market stuck in slow motion, more and more condos nearing completion, and many jittery preconstruction buyers wanting out as closing day approaches, Guillemi's betting he'll be able to buy at steep discounts. Then he hopes to sell for a profit, just as flippers did when the market was on the way up a few years ago.

Call it the contrarian view of real estate investing. While the market appears stone-cold to many individual buyers and sellers, others -- the so-called vulture investors -- see opportunity.

Guillemi says he's already finding bargains but he wants to act fast: The Florida Legislature starts a special session this week to consider lowering property taxes -- a move he thinks could spur renewed buying activity and endanger the low-cost deals he's scouting.

''If they cut taxes that will motivate individual buyers,'' said Guillemi, who plans to start buying in the next few weeks. ``And I want to get in before they do. I don't want to be left with the crumbs.''

Large investor groups and hedge funds are also scouring the region for bulk deals at bargain prices.

At the height of the 2001-2005 housing boom, it seemed everyone was getting into real estate, hoping for fat profits. But a separate class of speculators sat out during those frenetic days, betting the market would be bid to unsustainable heights yet still hold long-term value.

Their gambit: Buy on the dip and ride the market up.

The question for these investors is when to buy. Many observers say the market hasn't yet hit bottom, others say the time is right.

But for the vulture investors, who have pooled cash and waited for their big chance to score from a market correction, this week's special session brings a twist. It's spurring some like Guillemi to accelerate their plans and others are hoping legislators don't accomplish much.

Peter Zalewski, a former journalist who a year ago started condovultures.com -- a company that helps buyers find bargains in a downturn, said he fears decisive action in Tallahassee will provide a jolt that could potentially undermine his plans.

''There is an urgency that is being created by the legislative issue,'' Zalewski said. ``If they resolve the property tax issue, the market will get some medical attention. We don't want that, we want to bleed out the market some more.''

Of course, few will feel badly if vulture investors' prospects evaporate. Home builders, brokers and many homeowners hope Zalewski's thinking that a cut in property taxes will give the region's anemic housing market a shot in the arm is right. The Latin Builders Association and Builders Association of South Florida are both pressuring leaders in Tallahassee for sharp cuts.

But not everyone is convinced a property tax cut in Tallahassee will cure the housing markets ills. Among the other issues the market must work through are:

• A giant oversupply of homes: more than 76,000 were listed for sale in April in Broward and Miami-Dade counties compared to some 50,000 a year ago. Over the next 18 months about 20,000 new condo units are expected to come onto the market in Miami-Dade County alone, possibly spiking unsold inventory as those units are put back on the market for resale.

• Insurance rates have not come down. Condo associations and individual homeowners are still grappling with hefty premiums.

BIG BUYERS

Analyst Jack McCabe, who is advising large vulture investors on bulk deals, said big investment groups aren't as worried about tax rates as individuals -- saying such costs can be spread out across big buyers' portfolios.

Last week McCabe announced the completion of the first market-corrected deal he's worked on since the slowdown began. While short on specifics, McCabe said a multibillion-dollar private investment fund bought a substantial block of newly built condominiums from a publicly-held home builder in Florida. His investor client, he said, was chosen because of its ``ability to close quickly in an all-cash transaction, noncontingent on financing.''

Currently, he said the market is too sick to recover from a tax reduction alone. A big property tax cut may reignite buying now, he said, but would effectively create a false bottom.

''Meaningful reduction will slow down the correction cycle but the correction is still inevitable,'' said the Deerfield Beach analyst, who has warned for some time about too much construction going up too fast. ''The market is so sick it will take a while to cure this,'' he said. ``This is not a head cold, it is more like pneumonia.''

But such doomsayers also believe the market is poised for brighter days ahead. McCabe says that barring calamitous hurricanes, the market will have righted itself by 2010 -- just as the first baby boomers turn 65.

''No one is more bullish on Florida long-term than me,'' McCabe said.

It's such thinking that prompted corporate raider Carl Icahn to announce last week that he would continue efforts to buy Bonita Springs-based WCI Communities. And Zalewski spent last week showing property in South Florida and Central Florida to two investor groups, one from Michigan and another from Colorado.

DEEP DISCOUNT

Guillemi, meanwhile, is focusing on a unit at the Brickell on the River condo in Miami. He said the owner bought it for $341,000 and is trying to sell for $280,000.

''The seller has two other properties under foreclosure and is having trouble making mortgage payments,'' said Guillemi, operations director of FDS Aluminum in Pompano Beach. ``I'm trying to pick it up for $260,000.''

So with an eye on the special session in Tallahassee, he's ready to move now. ''With tax reform you will have two things pushing people into the market: lower prices and lower taxes,'' Guillemi said. ``I'm not going to wait. Of course, you have to be smart about it. There is a lot out there and you can't get married to the first girl you see.''

 
Posted at 2:41:31 PM
 
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Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Making Canadian Suburbs More Age-Friendly

As the population ages and the life expectancy of Canadians increases, therersquo;s a lot of discussion about where older people are going to live and how to make their communities more age-friendly.

The baby boom generation is moving into their senior years, but most of them are not yet interested in downsizing to condominiums or moving from their current homes. In fact, they are still actively purchasing move-up homes and recreational properties.

But Statistics Canada says that as the boomers age, beginning in 2031 the share of the population aged 85 and older will increase rapidly. Almost one in four seniors in Canada will be 85 or older by 2051.

Thatrsquo;s going to put a lot of pressure on seniorsrsquo; residences and long-term care facilities. Currently about a third of those aged 85 and older lives in these types of residence.

Most seniors want to stay in their own homes for as long as they are physically and financially able to do so, but some homes and communities make that easier than others.

About two-thirds of Canadians live in suburban areas, built after the Second World War and filled with young families who enjoyed their single-family houses and roomy backyards. But if you live in the suburbs, you likely need a car to get to local amenities such as grocery stores, medical services or community centres.

A report by Glen Miller for the Institute for Research on Public Policy says that by 2036, 42 per cent of residents aged 75 and older will no longer have a driverrsquo;s licence, according to estimates by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Citing research by the Canadian Urban Institute CIU, Miller says, ldquo;As the design of subdivisions changed, the average size of single-detached dwellings increased from 850 square feet in the 1950s, to 2,000 square feet in the 1970s, to 2,000 to 3,000 square feet in the 1990s, to 3,500 square feet today, even though average household size has declined. The result is that many neighbourhoods lack the critical mass of population to support local services and amenities. Instead, residents of newer subdivisions >

Miller says, ldquo;Itrsquo;s fair to say that our current suburbs are no place to grow old.rdquo;

Without the ability to drive themselves because of physical or financial limitations, seniors can quickly become isolated in their communities. The problem has been recognized by municipalities for many years, Miller says, and in 2007 the concept of age-friendly communities AFC was introduced by the World Health Organization.

ldquo;More than 500 municipalities have since committed to becoming age-friendly,rdquo; writes Miller. ldquo;Despite the original enthusiasm, however, the AFC movement has led only to minor physical improvements, such as the addition of park benches, better lighting or clearer signage, and it has thus far failed to generate the scale of public policy intervention needed to bring about significant changes to the built environment.rdquo;

He says in most municipalities, the planning department doesnrsquo;t take AFC into consideration. A study by the CIU of 25 cities that committed to becoming age friendly found that none of them have incorporated the idea into their official plans. None of them modified their approvals process to reflect AFC goals or put the aging population as a priority when planning development.

Miller notes that the governmentrsquo;s health care policies support healthy aging and aging at home. ldquo;In order to capture the imagination of the older adults who stand to benefit from age-friendly development practices, municipal planners and their developer colleagues need to seek out and deliver compelling examples of age-friendly development that will benefit people, and customers, of all ages.rdquo;

He provides some recent examples of AFC. In Port Credit, part of the City of Mississauga, Ont., a brownfield site that was once the St. Lawrence Starch factory has been developed into a mixed-use community over 15 years. First townhomes and mid-rise condos were constructed, along with retail and other amenities on the ground floor. Then a retirement residence was added. The development is within walking distance of the commuter rail station.

Most of the buyers >

Another example is in Don Mills, Ont., which was touted as Canadarsquo;s first car-oriented suburban subdivision. A local plaza was turned into an indoor mall but later it was redeveloped with mid-rise condominiums and a new plaza with open community spaces.

Existing suburbs are a tougher challenge, but Miller points to two examples of streets near suburban areas that have become community hubs. Broadway, in the Kitsilano suburb of Vancouver, and a North Toronto neighbourhood around Yonge Street both have several mixed-used mid-rise developments.

ldquo;Although not explicitly planned as age-friendly projects, both focus on creating a high-quality public realm through zoning that encourages a mix of community-oriented uses and street grids that facilitate walking and easy access to public transit,rdquo; says Miller. ldquo;These two community hubs have proven attractive to empty nesters as well as young families who can afford to rent or own condos.rdquo;


> Full Story

The Best Mobile Plans for Real Estate Agents

Find the coverage you need

It may seem obvious, but the most important part of a mobile plan is coverage. It doesnrsquo;t matter how much data or how many minutes you have if you canrsquo;t use them, and this is true not only on your home turf, but wherever youre likely to go. If you typically stay local, that makes the search easier. But if you travel regularly to real estate conferences or for out-of-town clients, make sure your coverage will be just as good when youre on the road.

Tips:

Look at the coverage map for your carrier so you wonrsquo;t be surprised by gaps in coverage.
Search for online reviews of your carrier in geographic areas you frequent.
Dont forget international coverage, if thats part of your business needs.

All about the data

Today, most mobile plans beyond prepaid plans have unlimited talk and text, but data is still a large variable. Data needs vary from person to person based on their office setup, work >

Office bound
Do you spend a significant amount of time in the office, with sporadic journeys out for showings and closings? Is your phone largely for communicating and browsing simple listings, reading contracts, or researching? If so, consider a smaller data plan or a pay-by-the-gig plan. Basic Web browsing and using your navigation app wont use much data, and therersquo;s no need to pay for more than you need. Pay-as-you-go plans are particularly flexible, giving you access to as much data as you need at a reasonable price, without wasting money.

Road warrior
Are you a realtor who lives in the car? While yoursquo;re out of the office, are you catching up on listings, watching video walkthroughs, updating images on your site, and sending files? You may get by with a pay-by-the-gig plan, or you may want to go full-out on an unlimited option.

If you can, look through your data usage for the past few months. If its more than 3-4 GB/month per line, its time to upgrade. If youre not sure if you need unlimited data, start with a flexible data plan and upgrade if you find yourself buying a lot more.

Office manager
If you have several agents on one plan for a collective or small office, you may want to jump right into the unlimited plan, especially if your team trends more toward road warriors than office bound. If your data use justifies it, this can help lower tensions that can crop up when one person is using more data than someone else.

Saving money

If the cost of data is a concern, you can save money with a little effort and creativity, especially if you work in urban or heavily settled areas. Scope out coffee shops, libraries, and other local businesses with free WiFi and move your work out of your car. Also, take a closer look at your mobile plan. You may find that they also offer WiFi hotspots that their customers can use rather than burning through data.

Keeping track

Once youve picked the best plan for your location and use, you will still want to keep track of your account to make sure youre not leaving money and unused data on the table. Most carriers have an app for tracking data usage and billing. Keep an eye on your data use and adjust your plan as needed.

With so many options available today, choosing the right mobile plan can be a challenge. But armed with the right questions, you can weed out those that donrsquo;t meet your data and financial needs, and find the perfect plan for you and your business. That way, you can focus your efforts on building your business and matching clients with their perfect properties.


Christy Matte is a die-hard techie and contributing writer for Xfinity Mobile. Shes a Boston-based writer who has been covering tech for the past decade or so, and enjoys video games, surfing the Web, and any gadget she can get her hands on.


> Full Story

Ask the HOA Expert: Limited Common Elements, Quorum Rules

Answer: Common elements available to one or several members instead of all are referred to as "limited common elements". This means they are common but limited to exclusive use of one member as in the case of a unit deck or designated members as in the case of a private street.

These limited common elements are typically identified on the legal plat and cannot be expanded without encroaching on common areas which belong to all owners in an undivided interest. So, the board has no authority to allow such requests. Changing this requires a vote of members which may be up to 100.

Question: At our recent annual meeting, an issue was brought up and a motion was made on something that was not on the agenda for the meeting. The president allowed the motion to be made, seconded and voted upon. But, there were not enough members represented to constitute a quorum. Was this an illegal vote?

Answer: The vote was illegal due to lack of quorum even if it had appeared on the Meeting Agenda. Without a legal quorum, no business may be transacted or elections held. You might have a lively discussion but nothing official can take place.

Lack of quorum is an all too common scenario than can be cured by proxies. A proxy is the written authorization by one member given to someone to act on their behalf at the Annual Meeting. Proxies must be distributed well in advance of the meeting and collected before the meeting to ensure a legal quorum. Getting folks to return their proxies can be challenging and multiple requests may have to be made, including going door to door to collect them if necessary. There is a sample Proxy in the Meetings section of www.Regenesis.net

Question: We recently had our unit chimneys cleaned. A board member accompanied the contractor and opened and secured units upon exiting. As a result of this process, it was discovered that one of the units was jammed with stacks of newspapers, garbage, furniture blocking hallways, piles of clothing and cases of cans. The resident is clearly suffering from a hoarding problem.

Should the board get involved in this situation? No neighbors have complained of any noxious smell. The area outside her condo is tidy. She keeps to herself, is pleasant to the staff and not a smoker.

Answer: Turning a blind eye to a hazardous situation is not the way to go. A letter to the resident and landlord if applicable is in order. When garbage isnrsquo;t being disposed of regularly, it is only a matter of time before there is vermin problem. The fire hazard potential sounds great as well so the letter should include a request to remove or store flammables.

Question: Can the board offer discounts to members that prepay a special assessment rather than participate in a payment plan?

Answer: No discounts should be offered since they would cause a shortfall. It is appropriate, however, to charge late fees to those that donrsquo;t pay as agreed.

However, it is a bad idea for HOAs to finance special assessments at all because of the increased administrative costs and the likelihood of dealing with delinquent payments. For example, If you have a 30 unit condo and allow 24 monthly special payments, you have 720 payments to track and 720 potential collection problems. Instead, require each member to provide special assessment funds from whatever source they have available. Some have cash, some has an equity line of credit or credit card. The HOA should not finance the special assessment or borrow the money.

Question: Our homeowner association is made up of condominiums built in a townhouse >

Answer: Itrsquo;s a very bad idea to allow individual unit owners to do or pay for this kind of work directly because of:

1. Quality Control. Is the person doing the work experienced? Is the material being used of good or superior quality?
2. Risk Management. Is the person doing the work properly insured for injury and liability?
3. Owner Still Financially Responsible. Doing this kind of work does not >

Question: What kind of expectations or working >

Answer: The board should:

1. Support the managers decisions unless a clear mistake has been made.
2. Not undermine the managers actions in rules enforcement and collections.
3. Carefully consider the managers advice since it comes from experience and training.
4. Be respectful of the managers busy schedule.
5. Allow the manager to execute the terms of the management agreement without micro-managing.
6. Remember that the manager works for the board.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net


> Full Story



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