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Ozona Shores – Palm Harbor, FL

March 21, 2013

JUST SOLD!

130 Harbor Drive
Palm Harbor, FL 34683

Ozona Shores in Palm Harbor, FL

MLS #: U7562945

4 bedrooms, 4 full baths, 1 half bath, 2-car garage, 3,021 square feet, List Price $897,900, WATERFRONT

One of a kind view on the Gulf of Mexico with private boat dock! This impeccably maintained Ozona home features magnificent views of the Gulf you can’t find anywhere else. This unique home boasts custom builder designs throughout. Spacious at over 3,000 sqft of living space. You will appreciate that the four separate bedrooms each have their own bathroom. There’s an expressive outdoor patio that’s a great place to relax and sit by the pool. And as you look out from the pool you’ll enjoy having your own unique view of Florida sunsets. You might never leave unless it’s to drop your jet ski/boat right into the Gulf off your own personal dock. This quiet golf cart friendly community has much to discover. So come enjoy the Florida lifestyle that you know you deserve.

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Orchards of Radcliffe – Port Richey, FL

March 21, 2013

JUST SOLD!

7711 RADCLIFFE CIR
PORT RICHEY, FL 34668

MLS #: U7572118

2 bedrooms, 2 full baths, 1-car carport, 1,248 square feet, List Price $46,500

Spacious 2 bedroom, 2 bath End Unit Condo in Orchards of Radcliffe, an ‘Over 55’ Gated Community. The kitchen boasts loads of counter-space & the breakfast bar overlooks the living room-dining room combo & glass enclosed porch. Master bedroom features 2 closets, one a walk-in & a private bath. Inside laundry room, carport w/outside storage room, alarm system, plus hurricane shutters on the master bedroom and porch windows. Enjoy the sparkling community swimming pool, heated spa, community pond and picnic area & very active clubhouse with stocked exercise room. Monthly fee of $330 includes everything but electricity: basic cable, lawn/ground maintenance, roof & exterior bldg maintenance, trash, sewer, water, bldg insurance, escrow reserves and your own security system. Close to restaurants, shopping, parks, medical facilities & so much more.

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Big discounts on foreclosures fading

March 12, 2013

NEW YORK – March 12, 2013 – Homebuyers may not get as great of a deal on a foreclosure as they once did, according to Paul Diggle from Capital Economics in a new report.

Foreclosure starts are falling and the inventory of foreclosures has been decreasing, which has caused the discount on foreclosures to lessen.

The discount on foreclosed homes compared to other homes has fallen to a 12 percent average, according to Diggle. That was about the same percentage prior to the housing crash, he says. Last year the foreclosure discount averaged about 30 percent.

“Ultra-low mortgage interest rates and steady, if not spectacular, job creation could mean that the delinquency rate and foreclosure start rate are falling quickly,” Diggle writes.

Source: “Those Amazing Deals on Foreclosed Homes Are Disappearing,” Business Insider (March 7, 2013)

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Forget ‘improving’ or ‘rebound’ – Fla. is ‘on fire’

March 8, 2013

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – March 8, 2013 – Lesley Deutch, senior vice president at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, said the “Florida market is on fire” in her latest update on the state’s housing market.

Deutch says she traveled the state recently and visited more than 20 communities. While recovery reports differ between Florida cities and urban areas, she reports five major trends:

1. Land prices. While the price of land continues to rise quickly statewide, Orlando feels the most pressure. Deutch says she saw some submarkets where “land and finished lot prices have now surpassed peak levels.” In Orlando, she sees developers buying raw land “just to gain a position and market share.”

2. Home prices. Some communities, such as Orlando and Naples, are seeing 1- to 2-percent new-home price increases monthly, Deutch says. The hallmarks of a seller’s market have also returned, such as lotteries. She expects a 2013 price increase of at least 10 percent in many Florida markets.

3. 55-plus market. Deutch reports a 20- to 25-percent jump in potential buyers interested in active adult living, according to builders in Southwest Florida. She also notes a boost in customer traffic in second- and third-tier markets.

4. Foreign buyers. It’s more than Miami, Deutch says. While in Orlando, she visited a sales office that had three active buyers: One from Brazil, one from Germany and one from China.

5. Foreclosures. While the state has a notoriously long foreclosure process, Deutch says banks are slowly releasing foreclosures. But investors continue to buy new foreclosures shortly after they hit the market.

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

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Chris, that is NOT a sinkhole!

March 8, 2013

Today I had to explain to a new seller of mine that you cannot toss a case or two of wine into a sinkhole and call it a wine seller.

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Interest-only mortgages begin to reappear

March 7, 2013

NEW YORK – March 7, 2013 – Well-off borrowers increasingly are turning to interest-only mortgages, the same ilk of loan that drove many homeowners into foreclosure in recent years. With this product, borrowers pay interest but no principal during the first few years of the loan. The monthly payments can be 30 percent to 40 percent lower than regular mortgages.

Interest-only mortgages accounted for about 14 percent of private mortgage originations from January 2012 through October, according to the latest data from real estate analytics firm CoreLogic. Under new mortgage rules by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, lenders that continue to provide interest-only mortgages starting in 2014 could face greater liability in lawsuits filed by borrowers who end up in foreclosure.

Lenders say they provide these loans only to lower-risk, affluent borrowers with significant assets.

Some borrowers find these mortgages are more flexible, but they do come with risks. Borrowers will not build equity in homes with interest-only payments, and a fall in housing prices could leave borrowers owing more on the home than it is worth.

Source: “The Return of Interest-Only Mortgages,” Marketwatch (03/01/13)

© Copyright 2013 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

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Are banks easing up on mortgage standards?

March 6, 2013

NEW YORK – March 6, 2013 – A very tight mortgage lending environment “promises improvements this year as the drivers of tough credit standards reverse,” according to Moody’s Analytics ResiLandscape Report. Still, lending will remain tight by historical standards, the report notes.

Tight underwriting conditions have been one of the main obstacles to a housing market recovery. But the credit agency says that those conditions began to ease somewhat this year and likely will continue to do so.

“Rising house prices give lenders more breathing room to extend credit,” the analysts at Moody’s noted.

Over the past year and a half, large lenders have loosened up or, at least, held standards stable on prime loans for mortgage originations, according to the Survey of Senior Lending Officers.

Aiding lenders’ confidence is that mortgage delinquencies have fallen to pre-recession rates.

“Being right-side up on the mortgage improves a borrower’s credit profile. It also lowers the risk of default and increases the likelihood of trade-up buying,” according to Moody’s report.

Mortgage supply will remain constrained, but “improved consumer credit quality combined with steady growth in jobs, low mortgage interest rates and modestly rising house prices makes it clear that more households will be able to qualify for a mortgage,” Moody’s said. “Greater credit availability will, in turn, help drive stronger home sales and stronger price appreciation.”

Source: “Slight opening of credit spigot aids housing outlook,” HousingWire (March 4, 2013)

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Bank of America mortgage exec talks about Fla. housing market

March 5, 2013

BRADENTON, Fla. – March 5, 2013 – As first time buyers begin coming back into the real estate market, we take a look at what is going on in the mortgage industry since last year’s $25 billion settlement with the country’s five largest mortgage lenders.

Under the settlement, mortgage lenders agreed to make unprecedented changes in how they service mortgage loans and handle foreclosures. With the backing of a federal court order and the oversight of an independent monitor, the agreement created dozens of new consumer protections, making the servicing process substantially more transparent.

The protections range from requiring a single point of contact for borrowers, establishing case review and paperwork processing requirements and deadlines, and restricting practices such as “dual tracking” in which banks pursue a loan modification while simultaneously pursuing a foreclosure.

The $25 billion settlement was with the country’s five largest mortgage lenders including Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Ally/GMAC. The settlement raised hopes for a real estate recovery. It’s especially urgent in Florida, the state that leads the nation in foreclosures yet which also posted strong across-the-board improvements in 2012.

If you have or want a home loan or refi from Bank of America in Florida, the person ultimately responsible is 54-year-old Tampa-based senior vice president Sandy Robertson. The Bradenton Herald’s Stephen Frater caught up with Robertson on Friday for an exclusive interview with the banking giant’s go-to-guy for mortgages in the Sunshine State, “the nation’s most troubled real estate market.”

Q: What is Bank of America’s portion of the housing debt market?

A: The bank is the fourth largest bank in the country and has the largest share of the market in Florida.

Q: Currently in Florida, 11 percent of the housing stock is distressed by some definitions, and 40 percent of the market is underwater. Some underwater owners take a calculated decision to walk away and take the credit hit. Does that concern you?

A: Much of the distressed housing stock is due to a backlog in the foreclosure process. The bank is working more on proactive short sales and CACs are located in Tampa Bay to help people make the transition easier. People should contact their lender and talk with them when they are underwater. I have a more bullish outlook on the topic. The bank has been able to do more proactive short sales and I’m excited to see the appreciation in home prices. The numbers are trending in a new direction.

Q: Recent “bank-owned” data shows that 45 percent of homeowners believe owning is more affordable than renting. What is the buy-versus-rent calculus in the Florida market following the great recession?

A: The rise in rents relative to home prices may encourage buyers to enter the housing market. Interest rates are also at historic lows, and affordability is high due to lower home prices and low interest rates. Rental prices are dramatically increasing in the Florida market which is another reason why purchasing a home is a more affordable option in many cases.

Q: Please describe Bank of America’s program for low-to-moderate income buyers.

A: The bank offers quarterly programs and seminars in the market, which educates buyers on the home-buying process. The goal is to provide a realistic view of a buyer’s true budget versus what they think they can afford. A buyer should focus on paying themselves first and save for a down payment. Customer Assistance Centers (CAC) are also available in the market to help find resolutions.

Q: With the recession and many people taking hits to their credit score, what is the “new” normal?

A: The standard has not changed much except what we are seeing now is more documentation being needed in terms of income earnings and bank statements. The loan process has changed over the last few years – it takes longer now. Borrowers must be prepared to fully document income and expenses.

Q: Fifty-percent of deals in the Miami market were cash-only in 2012. Is this a new trend? Will it continue?

A: This is not necessarily an increase or something new. We’ve been seeing this in the market over the past two years. In 2012, there was a range of 30-70 percent of cash buyers in any market depending on where in the state they were located.

Q: How is the prominence of cash buyers affecting first-time homebuyers?

A: We believe over time we will see less cash buyers as inventory continues to shrink and new development emerges. The best thing for a potential home buyer to do is to work with a lender upfront. It is important to note that more construction will go into the first-time homebuyer market going forward.

Q: What can a potential buyer with a credit score of 600 and a regular job expect? Can this person buy a home?

A: The best thing for someone in this situation to do would be to come in and talk with a lender. We may have some work to do, but they should come in and have a talk with us.

Q: President Obama touched on difficulties people are having with refinancing and mortgage availability during his State of the Union address. How will this be fixed?

A: The relation of loan to value is the biggest issue right now, along with unemployment. The unemployment rate is even higher in Florida. Job growth will be critical in fixing the current state of housing and refinancing options. The state of Florida had a rate of about 50% of the market being underwater homeowners; this has now dropped to approximately 38%. Through the HARP Program (a federal program for homeowners not behind on mortgage payments but unable to get traditional refinancing because the value of the home has declined, they may be eligible to refinance through the U.S. HUD Home Affordable Refinance Program with a new, more affordable, more stable mortgage.) Bank of America has been able to provide help to many underwater homeowners with HARP.

Q: What are some of the bank’s Web-based tools used to educate homeowners or would-be buyers?

A; I would refer your readers to our online Home Loan Guide. It is a comprehensive tool for potential home buyers and current homeowners on mortgages, refinancing, and home equity. It is located at, https://www.bankofamerica.com/home-loans/home-loan-guide.go.

Much of the information used in our local market seminars is also included in this guide.

Copyright © 2013 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.), Stephen Frater. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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Many improving their bad credit as economy improves

March 4, 2013

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – March 4, 2013 – Melvin Montesino endured the full brunt of the Great Recession: A lost job, then foreclosure and even bankruptcy.

Since then Montesino has been on the rebound, working two jobs while improving his damaged credit. “It wasn’t easy. Some banks even turned me down for a prepaid credit card,” he said.

But his efforts have paid off. Despite the foreclosure and bankruptcy, he will close on a three-bedroom, two-bath home in Coral Springs later this month. “It’s pretty spacious,” he said.

The South Florida housing market is filled with thousands of others trying to start over after the recession left them with severe dings to their credit. Many are making good progress. In fact, South Florida is second only to the Los Angeles metro area in the number of people who have improved their once sub-prime credit scores in the year that ended Sept. 30, according to Equifax, the national credit reporting agency.

Some 40,000 people in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties raised their credit scores to 620 or above in a year, removing them from the Subprime/Risky category that meant they had to pay the highest interest rates – if they could get credit, Equifax found. That netted a 3.6 percent decline in the number of South Floridians with bad credit, a substantial improvement.

“People are getting back on their feet and improving their credit,” said Howard Dvorkin who founded the Fort Lauderdale-based nonprofit, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services. More people are optimistic about starting over – calls for help in improving low credit scores are up about 25 percent from just a year ago, he said.

In January, consumers in the three counties had an average credit score of 645, just three points below the national average, the consumer website CreditKarma.com reported.

Many South Florida lenders are trying to help out. Deerfield Beach senior mortgage specialist Adam Cohn said his company, The Mortgage Firm, provides free counseling to help people improve their credit scores so they can better qualify for a home loan.

Cohn, who helped Montesino get a loan for his Coral Springs house, said some South Floridians just need a little nudge, such as encouraging them to pay off credit cards with balances less than $500 to boost their credit score.

One woman took his advice and recently raised her score 30 points to 650. That got her a conventional loan for a home in Davie, Cohn said, a loan she otherwise would not have been eligible for.

Cohn said he also was able to help a man qualify for a loan on a Boynton Beach house after improving his credit score despite filing for bankruptcy five years ago.

“He’ll be closing in the next couple of weeks,” Cohn said.

Some who were forced into bankruptcy or a short sale of their home because of extenuating circumstances beyond their control – and not because of overspending – can qualify for a mortgage in as little time as 24 months, said secondary lender Freddie Mac spokesman Brad German. Those who are foreclosed on have to wait longer – at least three years – to get a Freddie Mac loan, German said.

In Parkland, contractor Ken Viviano sees his recent truck loan from Miramar-based Tropical Financial Credit Union as the start toward rebuilding his damaged credit and eventually buying a new home. He now is trying to short sale his Parkland home that he can’t afford.

“Life was good for many years. Then someone flipped the switch,” Viviano said. Large construction companies could not even pay his company for assignments already finished, Viviano said. “That wiped out my savings and caused me to go into bankruptcy,” he said.

But now the economy is better, he said. Viviano said he and his workers are concentrating on individual homeowners’ kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects.

He is grateful Tropical Financial gave him a chance.

Credit union staffers are aware of the financial trauma that South Florida went through and are willing to take a risk on members who are working again and have the money to pay on debts, said Tropical Financial’s chief lending officer, Helen McGiffin. “We’ll look at their alternate payments, such as utility bills, to see if they have been paying.”

To get a mortgage on the Coral Springs house, Montesino said he was able to improve his credit score to above 700. His break: A bank agreed to give him a prepaid credit card. He said he paid that and other bills faithfully and in the last two years was able to get other credit.

“It was pretty rough in 2008,” said Montesino who has since gone on to work in air conditioning and as a courier. “But you keep working hard.”

Credit score levels

A credit score reflects your creditworthiness to lenders. Increase your score by paying bills on time; using no more than 30 percent of your available credit; obtaining your credit report and disputing errors. Here’s what the scores mean:

720-850 (Excellent) – Earns the best financing terms.
700-719 (Very Good) – Favorable financing.
620-699 (Average) – Qualifies for most loans at higher interest rates
500-619 (Subprime/Risky) – Highest interest rates, credit uncertain.

Copyright © 2013 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Donna Gehrke-White. Distributed by MCT Information Services. Staff writer Richard Burnett contributed to this report.

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El Pasado – Palm Harbor, FL

March 2, 2013

JUST SOLD
El Pasado – Palm Harbor, FL

1801 E. Lake Rd. #12A
Palm Harbor, FL 34683

MLS #: T2549280

3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1-car carport, 1,500 square feet, List Price $130,000

Rare 3bd END unit on the ground floor is finally available. This clean and pristine property faces a conservation area and has a screened-in porch with new carpet and a huge storage unit. The entire unit has ceramic tile floors that are easy to maintain. Spacious master bedroom includes a separate entry to the screened-in porch and a large walk-in closet. The master is conveniently away from the other bedrooms providing privacy. Kitchen has a brand new stove and disposal while the other appliances are newer. The kitchen has also been updated with a brand new sink. Off the kitchen there is a breakfast room plus on the other side of the kitchen there’s a formal dining room area. Oversize great room with vaulted ceilings opens up to the screened-in porch and makes the whole room light and bright. Two good size secondary bedrooms with their own bath and an interior laundry room with a washer and dryer complete this move-in ready unit. This is not a short sale and can close fast.

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