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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Real Estate Prices Rise Again in Miami

Miami is still proving to be one of the hottest property markets in the United States, as median sale prices were up for condominiums and single-family homes in March. The market is continuing to be popular with overseas buyers and investors.

Last month the median sales price for single-family homes rose by 4.4%, up from $225,000 in March last year to $235,000 for March 2014. Prices have now risen for 28 consecutive months, according to figures from the Miami Association of Realtors. The average sales price for a single-family home rose by 17.8%, increasing from $389,847 in March last year, to $459,102 for March 2014. The article in Propertywire points out that Miami is still attracting worldwide investors, and demand continues to be strong this year. However inventory levels are rising, creating a more balanced market.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The median sales price for condominiums in Miami increased by 19.8%, rising from $167,000 in March last year to $200,000 in March this year. The average sales price achieved by condominiums in Miami rose by 16.3% from $324,380 in March last year, to $377,290 in March 2014. Property in Miami is continuing to sell for nearly the asking price, an indication that shows the properties are being priced correctly. As a result buyers have realized they need to be competitive in today’s market.

Single-family homes spent a median 47 days on the market in March, an increase of 11.9% compared to March last year. The average price achieved was 94.9% of the listing price, a slight decline compared to March last year when the figure was 95.3%. Condominiums spent a median of 59 days on the market, an increase of 22.9% compared to March last year. The average sales price achieved was 94.2% of the listing price, a slight decrease of 2.5% compared to March 2013.

The number of active listings at the end of March increased by 29.1%, with inventory of single-family homes increasing by 22.5%, and inventory of condominiums increasing by 33.3%. At the moment there is a 5.6 month supply of single-family homes, and a 7.5 month supply of condominiums, increases of 9.4% and 27.7% respectively. The number of sales of distressed properties is continuing to decline in Miami-Dade County.

Last month just 31.5% of closed residential sales were distressed compared to 41.4% in March last year. Real estate experts point out this decline shows the overall health of the Miami real estate market, as the improving economy and increasing home values is leading to fewer foreclosures and short sales.
by Allison Halliday
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CHART OF THE DAY: The US Homeownership Rate Has Fallen To A 19-Year Low

The comeback of the U.S. housing market has been one of the most bullish economic stories in the world since the financial crisis. Sales, construction starts, and prices have all trended higher.

While sales are up, ownership rates are actually down as reluctant Americans are opting to rent rather than buy.

According to new Census data, the homeownership rate slipped to 64.8% in Q1 from 65.0 % a year ago and 65.2% in the previous quarter.

This is the lowest level since Q3 1995.

With the housing market recovery stalling a bit recently, some argue that this trend needs to reverse.
“For housing market re-acceleration, a pickup in household formation is essential,” said UBS’s Sam Coffin. “Household formation had accelerated through a year ago but faltered surprisingly in 2013.”

Coffin believes Ownership rates will pick up again soon.

Others, however, are not so optimistic.

“Tight mortgage credit, especially for first time homebuyers, we expect will contribute to a continued downtrend in the homeownership rate in coming years and an historically disproportionate share of new household formations going into rentals and multi-family,” said Morgan Stanley’s Ted Wieseman earlier this month.
 by Sam Ro
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Fun New App Helps Buyers Find The Perfect Home, operated by Move Inc., announced the launch of its first app for the iPhone and iPod touch that allows consumers to scan through homes for sale and give properties a thumbs up or thumbs down. The information is then used to help buyers become more aware of their home-shopping preferences.

Doorsteps Swipe, a free app powered by, allows potential home buyers to collect listings that appeal to them in one spot. The app allows users the option to browse active listings from® in their surrounding area or to manually insert up to three areas. The app also features a “surprise me” option for users who aren’t sure where they want to look.

Initially, when users access the app, they’ll see only a photo and street address of a home and will then decide if they want to learn more. If they do, they can give the photo a “thumbs up” or swipe the screen to the right to indicate a “like.” The “likes” form a log for users to view later, as well as options to learn more about the listing or share it.

If users don’t like a listing, they can give the photo a “thumbs down” or swipe the screen to the left to indicate a “dislike.” Once the user passes on a few homes, they will receive feedback from the app that gives them a better sense of their likes and dislikes based upon their behavior.

“Doorsteps Swipe was created to get soon-to-be first-time buyers comfortable with the process of searching for a home and help them discover what they truly want through a simple, entertaining, and easy interface,” says Doorsteps founder Michele Serro.

“This type of instantaneousness in mobile can help eliminate the endless search for a home with the perfect profile. The online home search for someone very early in their search is more fun when there’s a whole lot less to decide. The homes each user collects might not necessarily represent the homes they will actually buy, but rather the ones that will help them make the best decision for tomorrow.”
by Mike Wheatley
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Accumulating Wealth With Real Estate

This is petty much real estate investing 101 but it’s good to go back over the basics occasionally. If you invest wisely, your first increase in wealth should occur as soon as you sign the closing paperwork. If you buy a $100,000 house for 80% if market value, you should be worth $20,000 more as soon as the deal closes.

Cash Flow and Equity Growth

While you own the house, most of your increase in wealth will come from positive cash flow. If your positive cash flow is $200 per month after all of your expenses are covered, that comes to $2,400 a year. If you hold the investment house for 10 years, your positive cash flow totals $24,000.

If the house appreciates at an average rate of 7% per year and inflation is 2.5% a year, your actual equity growth is 4.5% per year (7% – 2.5%). The $100,000 property will appreciate to a value of $210,485 (compounded annually) over 10 years. Another increase in your wealth of $120,485 (210,485 – 90,000).

The equity growth however is not without risk. One risk happens when investing in a small rural town that is heavily dependent on a single employer. If that employer goes out of business, the entire town can become a ghost town wiping out the value of anyone owning real estate in the town and surrounding areas.

Debt Pay Down
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, the third typical way of accumulating wealth through real estate investing is by paying down the debt used to finance the investment. With each passing month that you use renter’s cash to pay down your debt, the portion of the investment that you own debt free increases. Assuming you finance the entire purchase price of $80,000 at 5% interest on a 30 year loan, your outstanding balance after 10 years will be $65,074. Your wealth will have increased another $14,926. Here is how all of the numbers add up for that 10 year period:

At closing              $20,000

Cash flow             $24,000

Appreciation       $120,485

Debt pay down     $14,926

Total                   $179,411

That’s a darn good return if you financed the entire deal without putting any of your own money in. Of course, you’ll probably need to put some money down but even if you invest $10,000 that’s still a very handsome return on your money.

You don’t have to wait ten years to get all of your money out of the deal. The $200 in cash flow is coming to you every month. The growth in appreciation and pay down of debt are occurring over time. You can borrow against these sources of your wealth to invest in other properties or do with it as you want.
by Brian Kline
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Monday, April 28, 2014

Real Estate and the City: What You Need To Know in 2014

Feeling caught in between a rock and a hard hat when it comes to real estate? Is a good deal feeling all too elusive? Cheer up prospective property owner! Here are 10 buyer/seller trends that will help you build your knowledge (and net worth).

Let's start with some fast facts: Homeowners have a higher net worth than renters; homeowners acquire a higher level of borrowing power; homeowners can leverage their equity and they have more personal control over their finances.

In Ottawa, for example, the market has been fairly consistent over the past ten years. In 2000 the average residential home in Ottawa was $150,000... 14 years later, those have doubled to $363,000.

According to the Altus Group, demand for new housing should increase in line with employment over the next two years -- especially for more affordable condominium product in key locations. Ottawa-based expert realtor Marnie Bennett says now is the time to buy a home in Ottawa. "Currently it is a buyers' market in a number of neighbourhoods. We are seeing homes selling for up to $10,000 less than last year. There are over 8,000 properties on the market which is about 1,500 more than same time last year. Astute buyers are taking advantage of this market."
(Photo credit: sebastien.barre)

Wherever you are, always keep in mind that you are buying an investment that you may want to sell in years to come. In terms of future selling potential, make sure you are buying something that has a large buying group. Opt for updated homes, on quiet streets, that have open concept designs allowing for lots of natural light. Modern bathrooms are always a plus. You can even go so far as to look at model homes to find out what consumers are looking for and what is popular. Research has its rewards.

Before you go shopping to buy a home it is very important to know your finances and what can you afford.

First, review all your payments such as car, hydro, heating, taxes, furniture, insurance, as well as have a solid understanding of all closing costs associated with buying a home. This will go towards understanding how much of a down payment do you will need.

If you are looking at a purchasing a condo, understand your full payments and condominium monthly fees. Know that condo fees do increase over time, so budget accordingly.

If it is a house, can you rent out the basement and offset your monthly costs? "By creating a revenue generating property, with one or two bedroom apartments in the basement levels, you can offset your mortgage payments," explains Bennett. She also notes that half of the revenue is considered part of your annual income when qualifying for a mortgage.

And if the basement is looking more shabby than chic, "Many banks will provide a properties improvement mortgages that will pay for all the renovations."

Be sure to factor in different government programs, such as using your RSP as down payment -- which can potentially add up to $40,000 if there are two first time homebuyers. In Ontario, first timers can take advantage of not having to pay the land transfer tax (up to $2,000 savings).

"Monetary gifts from family or friends can also help with the down payment, however those funds must be sitting in your personal bank account a full 90 days prior to making an offer."

Lastly, check out the 1 per cent Down Payment Plan. This is available for buyers with a beacon score of 725 or more. Find out your score at

"If you have a great credit score, and the income to support a mortgage, there are so many ways that you can acquire a home," says Bennett. Understanding the different types of mortgages, and what you would qualify for, is the next step. Visit a few banks and inquire about the programs they offer first-timers. Do you want a variable rate or a fixed rate? Can you pay bi-weekly and pay off the principal faster, then look at accelerating mortgage payments?

"Most mortgage programs can be customized to your personal needs. For example, you can get a five-year accelerated mortgage plan that allows your first year payments to be lower, and increase in line with your income over the following years. Hybrid mortgages use a combination of fixed and variable rates, while a 10-year mortgage allow for the security of low interest rates." Shop around and ask questions.

A realtor with a proven track record will have glowing referrals and testimonials to match. He/She will oftentimes have special buyer plans to reduce your risk. This might look like a buyer assurance plan (ie. if you don't love your home they will buy it back). Just as important is how available they are to show you homes. "If they don't communicate with you on a regular basis, and prove to be proactive from the get-go, move on and find another," says Bennett.
home-prices-in-2014-Canada-real-estate-market-5813 Zachary Scott St.
(Photo credit: fabfemme)

Here are some questions you should ask:
-Do they have a home warranty?
-Can they offer special pricing and discounts?
-Do they have access to distressed properties or foreclosures?
-Do they know the average price your desired neighbourhood(s)?
-Do they have proprietary access to homes that are not on the MLS system?
-Why are sellers selling (and are they motivated to move quickly)?
-Can they help you amass the people you need to buy a home? This team may consist of (but is not limited to) a lawyer, home inspector, renovator, contractors, appraiser, and a banking group.
-Do they have lenders that will provide you the best financing?
-So they have contacts that will provide you with corporate and wholesale pricing for items such as appliances?

Not all agents are created equal. You should feel confident that they are selling you a home that you want, not what they want to sell you.

Start reviewing the lifestyle you would like. Be realistic and focus on composing a list of 'must-haves' and a separate 'extras' list.

If you are considering buying a condo, each development will have different kinds of amenities. Gyms, home theatres, party rooms, saunas and pools, libraries, a concierge for security, maid service, dog walking and the list goes on. As part of your exercise of knowing your lifestyle, determine what is most important to you. There is a cost for these maintenance-free, lock-and-leave services.

Looking to buy a new high-rise condo off paper? It is extremely important that you have a full understanding of what is included. Look at the floor plans; understand the size of windows; the view and obstructions; what are the standard finishings; what are the closing dates and associated timeline for payments.

Make sure any deposits are given to a lawyer in trust. Schedule pre-delivery inspections and make sure all deficiencies are recorded.

You will also want to know what compensation will be if, for example, the builder does not deliver on time... Will they pay for your alternate accommodations? A good real estate agent will help you negotiate these issues and get it all signed off.

If the term "fixer-upper" does not have you dashing in the other direction, consider doing a few things yourself to polish that diamond in the rough.

When purchasing such a property, have the renovation sketched out and priced out immediately. Know your time lines as the Canadian seasons play a huge role in what can be done outside.

If you are fixing to flip, then the ideal time to buy is late Fall, so the home is on the market by Spring.

In terms of design, review point #1, and understand the target market. How are energy trends and green living lifestyle affecting housing designs? Don't skimp on hiring professionals to help get the job done on time. Your realtor should be a trusted source and help you find the right people. Property pro Marnie Bennett makes an important note not to "over improve". She urges consultations with a designer and stylist, who will make sure you do only what will give you the highest return on investment. "You never want to be the castle in the neighbourhood, be aware of home values on the street and stay in line. Also ensure that you are doing improvements that are not too personalized. Everything you do should add value to your home, and at the same time appeal to a large market segment."

"Buyers are definitely at an advantage if they understand demographics and city planning," Bennett says. It is important to work with a realtor that is knowledgeable about zoning. Visit the city planner's office, or check online to see where the city growth is happening. Some of the best places to hone in on are near hubs of the local light rail system. Take time to take in stats on schools, crime rates, transportation, and average prices in those neighbourhoods that interest you. Where is the gentrification happening?

When you get clear on your top area, it is then critical to know what is being built across the street. What is being done to augment the master community? For example, are there any new green spaces in the works?

For a look across Canada, I turned to a report complied by a group of experts at MoneySense magazine (October 2013).

#7 BC/Vancouver
The top 5 neighbourhoods are Mount Pleasant (West and East), Fairview, Main, Fraser and East Mount Pleasant. Noting that EMP houses just east of Ontario Street are typically 20 per cent to 30 per cent cheaper.

Beach bums should check out Fairview. Located between Kitsilano and Mount Pleasant, Fairview's average home price is 36 per cent less than comparable homes directly to the west. Many of the buildings are older, which gives people, willing to work with fixer-uppers, an opportunity to add a bit of sweat equity.

Like Mount Pleasant, homes on the east side of Main sell for $300,000 to $400,000 less than those on the west side, but both areas have great access to good schools, tons of independent shops and restaurants and Queen Elizabeth Park.

#8 Alberta/Calgary & Edmonton
Overall, Calgary's new housing market has fully recovered from a 2009 - 2011 slump and there is a ton of condo investment going on. This may be due to the fact that first-time homebuyers are the youngest in Canada (BMO, 2014). The Calgary Real Estate Board states in a 2014 report that "there is higher investor activity in Calgary than Toronto" on a percentage basis.

Ok, great, what neighbourhoods are best in Calgary?

For family homes, it's all about the community of Lakeview.

Spruce Cliff for condos and townhomes and a very new LRT station.

Finally, Varsity Village was voted the best community to live in by local media in recent years.

The best neighbourhoods fall within the North Central and Northwest regions, just outside the city's downtown core. Check out the area known as Zone 7, which includes the communities of Inglewood, Kensington, Westmount and North Glenora. On average, homes in these neighbourhoods were priced almost 8 per cent cheaper than the rest of the city. Their appeal lies in the lower price point for single family homes that come with established schools, medical clinics and shops.

#9 Ontario/Toronto
What's a potential buyer to do? Toronto housing prices have continued to climb, with some homes attracting multiple bids and selling for $100,000 or more over list price.

Take a deep breath dear reader...and take a look at these 'hoods.

Wychwood has close proximity to wealthy neighbourhoods, access to transit and the downtown core, expansive green space, and there is the newly built Wychwood Barns (think farmers' market and an art gallery). All of the above make this an under-appreciated area.

Similarly, homes in the Junction area will continue to appreciate because of their proximity to High Park and Roncesvalles.

Yonge-St. Clair is also seeing price momentum because of its proximity to wealthier neighbourhoods. The real value in this area is in new condos and older, under-renovated homes.

Two other neighbourhoods to consider are Englemount-Lawrence in the northwest, near the Allen expressway, and Moss Park - an area going through massive gentrification.

#10 Quebec/Montreal
Yup, real estate is still cheap compared with other major Canadian cities, and the best opportunities right now are on the island itself.

Start looking in the Rosemont/La Petite Patrie area, known locally as Little Italy.
Villeray/Saint Michel/Parc-Extension neighbourhood is very affordable with lots of condo conversions. Average property prices are more than $100,000 cheaper than neighbouring communities, and the area is experiencing dramatic growth.

South-West (Sud-Ouest) homes are 11 per cent cheaper than the average Montreal Island home, but area prices have appreciated 40 per cent in the last three years and a high-tech hospital -- slated to open in 2015 -- is prompting speculation on future home prices.

Finally, Marnie Bennett insists on paying close attention to the current real estate cycle i.e. Are we in a buyers' market, or sellers' market?

"This is the greatest asset of your life, so do the research, choose your realtor wisely, and buy only what you love and can afford."

With the lowest interest rates in 65 years, and pricing rising every year, it's a good time to get into the game. Kiss your landlord goodbye and start building personal wealth for the long-term.

Marnie Bennett is an award-winning broker at the Bennett Property Shop -- one of the world's top boutique brokerages. As a real estate guru, Marnie has largely devoted her efforts to educating consumers on the buying process and how to acquire wealth through real estate. For more expert advice, check out and follow Marnie on Twitter @MarnieBennett.

by Sara Graham
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2014 Michigan Housing Market Starting to Thrive

While much of the country is still far from recovery, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) announced today that this year could be the state’s best year for housing since 2008. The state of Michigan is currently celebrating a surge in new housing starts, rising home prices and a decline in foreclosures. All of these crucial information was shared at the 16th annual Building Michigan Communities Conference.

MSHDA Executive Director Scott Woosley expressed at the 3-day long conference that the state of Michigan in 2014 is currently “brighter,” than it has been in the previous 5 years. As much of the state’s housing sectors recover, consumer confidence and demand is reportedly returning to pre-recession levels and the state is spurring even more of an economic recovery.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the findings of the Michigan’s 2014 Housing Industry Assessment:

1. New housing starts
It is being forecasted that by the end of 2014, Michigan will see a 20% yearly increase in new single-family housing starts. In 2013, this department saw a 30% surge from 2012. Builders are scheduled to set a record that has not been met since May 2008 – to begin construction on 16,000 homes statewide. Nearly 30,000 new single and multi-family housing starts are being projected by the end of 2016.

2. Home sales
Home sale total prices are projected to show gains this year. This foreshadowing is due to a 10% increase of average sales during the first quarter of this year along with additional increases reported by local Realtor associations statewide. To top it off, last month was the 24th consecutive month with an increase in Michigan’s average sales price.

3. Prices
Average prices are expected to build momentum. It was found that yearly gains from 3 to 15.5% may be met. This prediction stems from a 13% rise in average sales prices in 2013 (highest point since 2006).

4. Recovery
Local state Realtors have also reported an “uptick,” in open houses, establishing that potential buyers are going for mortgage programs that are rated at up to 4.5% interest. All-in-all, buyers appear to be entering the market.

Additionally, the job market is recovery as well. In the first quarter, it was reflected that there is currently a growing demand for sales staff. Reportedly there hasn’t been this much demand since 2009, and is 7% higher than March of last year.

5. Construction
While we mentioned that housing starts are skyrocketing, the market is especially taking off specifically in the Southeast Michigan communities of Plymouth and Canton, across Oakland County, Greater Lansing in mid-Michigan, and in the West Michigan communities of Rockford, Holland and Grand Rapids.

6. Foreclosures
Data from RealtyTrac shows that foreclosure activity in the state is way down to 2,900 filings in March of this year from 4,800 filings from April of last year. MSHDA’s Step Forward Michigan program is especially helping lenders, nonprofits and federal assistance program in this department. This data shows that struggling homeowners are fighting their financial hardships and avoiding foreclosure.

This information that was presented at the Building Michigan Communities Conference (which annually draws more than 1,700 attendees) shows that some areas are indeed recovering. Similar to the mortgage rate downtrend that took place last year, we should not take this as an ultimate sign of economic recovery.
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What Luxury Home Buyers Want

The two amenities luxury home shoppers want the most are a chef’s kitchen and a sprawling views, particularly of oceans, mountains, or cityscapes, according to a new survey by

Fifty-four percent of luxury home buyers voted for the chef’s kitchen, while 44 percent flagged the views. Thirty-eight percent also say the square footage of the property is a key attribute, and 36 percent say having an expansive master suite is important.

“The luxury home buyer is an important contingent of today’s real estate market, as luxury homes tend to drive trends throughout the entire balance of the marketplace,” says Barbara O’Connor, chief marketing officer at Move Inc., which operates

“We are seeing large portions of buyers throughout the country — from 23 percent in the Northeast region and 23 percent in the South Atlantic — eyeing luxury homes. This means sellers, builders, and certainly REALTORS® should all be paying particular attention to desired luxury amenities, such as chef-quality kitchens and master suite features, to close deals for them.”

Forty percent of luxury buyers say the biggest challenge in searching for a high-end luxury home is to find a property that meets their family’s needs; 20 percent say it’s limited number of properties offered.

What’s prompted their search for a luxury home? The survey found that 19 percent of luxury home shoppers say a recent success in their career has prompted their home search, while 17 percent say they entered the market because they’re newly retired.

Other popular motivations for a luxury home: 14 percent say they are entering the luxury market as an investment, and 12 percent say they have entered the market to purchase their first home.
by Mike Wheatley

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