Helping Buyers, Sellers and investors reach their goals for over 20 years.

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our Miami Beach Real Estate Blog. We are always looking for input so if you have any questions or comments we would welcome them.  We strive to get only to give the best to our community.  Look forward to hearing from you soon.   


Take Care,

Aug. 25, 2014

Condo or House in Miami and Miami Beach?

Question:  I'm moving to Miami and wonder should I buy a house or a condominium and should I live in Miami Beach instead? Condo or House in Miami

I actually get this question a lot and being a Miami real estate agent for several years  find that it's not a matter of which type of house you should buy but what suits your lifestyle, tastes, needs and budget. Miami Beach is a lot more expensive than Miami Metro itself. There are more condominiums in high-rise luxury apartments in Miami Beach which can easily top $5 million or more. So, it's all going to come down to your budget. Also, when you purchase a condominium, regardless of where that is, you will usually have additional fees for homeowners dues and association costs. These can range anywhere from $100 a month to several thousand dollars a year. You have to add this onto the cost of your mortgage when considering your monthly budget. The condominium mortgage payment alone might be $1500 that the new add-on $500 a month for amenities and your over the $2000 mark before you know it. Lenders will help you decide which direction to go with and which makes the most sense for your budget but you might have to settle for a less expensive condominium in order to make the Association monthly payments.

....Or a House?

A single-family house on the other hand will have the add additional responsibility of exterior maintenance and possibly landscape but you usually will not have additional association fees. That's not always the case however, many homes in the Miami area are in gated subdivisions and controlled by homeowners Associations. Even if you have a single-family home you will have additional homeowners dues that will cover either common area maintenance, road maintenance, and even sign maintenance. Everything has to be taken into consideration when choosing a condominium or a house. Do you want the responsibility of taking care of the entire property or just the interior? Are you looking to save money and buy a bigger house so that you don't have association fees or do you prefer to spend a little extra and have everything taken care of? Do you prefer more of the resort style living or a single-family house on a small lot?

... Back to Condos?

Condo or House in Miami BeachYou are also a little more restricted when it comes to condominium living. You will have to follow by the Association's rules and bylaws which may require you to pay certain special assessment fees from time to time, restrict you on the number of pets or even if they allow pets at all, and noise ordinances. Because this is similar to an apartment you will share walls with other tenants and residences so the noise level will need to be kept down.

Many high-rise condominiums in Miami and Miami Beach have beautiful views. This is something you might not get with the house. Several estates and beachfront homes might have beautiful views but can also  be several million dollars. Luxury high-rise condominiums and even lowrise condominiums, against the bay or in Miami Beach, may still have beautiful views with home prices less than $400,000.

It's best to make a list of things that you're really looking  for in a home purchase regardless of whether it's a condo or a house. Then decide on your budget; speak with the lender to find out exactly how much money your budget can afford each month towards a mortgage payment and/or condo association fees. What will make or break the deal? Do you prefer the responsibility of a single-family house that's not in an association or would you like the added security of being in a fully funded association with all amenities under the sun? Maybe somewhere in between?

There are plenty of choices, options and price ranges to choose from. Feel free to browse my website and give me a call when you're ready to look at any of these homes and condominiums up close and personal. I would be happy to answer more questions for you and give you pros and cons to buying a condo or house in Miami.

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Aug. 21, 2014

U.S. Home Sales at Highest Pace of 2014, Says NAR From WPN

U.S. Home Sales at Highest Pace of 2014, Says NAR

U.S. Home Sales at Highest Pace of 2014, Says NAR


According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing-home sales in the U.S. increased in July 2014 to their highest annual pace of the year, as the ongoing decline in distressed sales continued.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million in July from a slight downwardly-revised 5.03 million in June. Sales are at the highest pace of 2014 and have risen four consecutive months, but remain 4.3 percent below the 5.38 million-unit level from last July, which was the peak of 2013.

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Lawrence Yun

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says sales momentum is slowly building behind stronger job growth and improving inventory conditions. "The number of houses for sale is higher than a year ago and tamer price increases are giving prospective buyers less hesitation about entering the market," he said. "More people are buying homes compared to earlier in the year and this trend should continue with interest rates remaining low and apartment rents on the rise."

Yun does warn that affordability is likely to decline in upcoming years. "Although interest rates have fallen in recent months, median family incomes are still lagging behind price gains, and mortgage rates will inevitably rise with the upcoming changes in monetary policy," he said. 

The median existing-home price for all housing types in July was $222,900, which is 4.9 percent above July 2013. This marks the 29th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of July rose 3.5 percent to 2.37 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.5-month supply at the current sales pace. Unsold inventory is 5.8 percent higher than a year ago, when there were 2.24 million existing homes available for sale.

Distressed homes- foreclosures and short sales - accounted for 9 percent of July sales, down from 15 percent a year ago and the first time they were in the single-digits since NAR started tracking the category in October 2008. Six percent of July sales were foreclosures and 3 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 20 percent below market value in July, while short sales were discounted 14 percent.    

Yun says the deepest housing wounds suffered during the Great Recession are beginning to fully heal. "To put it in perspective, distressed sales represented an average of 36 percent of sales during all of 2009," he said. "Fast-forward to today and rising home values are helping owners recover equity and strong job creation are assisting those who may have fallen behind on their mortgage due to unemployment or underemployment." 

All-cash sales in July were 29 percent of transactions, down from 32 percent in June and representing the lowest overall share since January 2013 (28 percent). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 16 percent of homes in July, unchanged from last month and July 2013. Sixty-nine percent of investors paid cash in July.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell for the third consecutive month to 4.13 percent in July from 4.16 percent in June, and remains the lowest rate since June 2013 (4.07 percent).

The percent share of first-time buyers in July rose slightly for the second straight month to 29 percent (28 percent in June), but remain historically low.

Thumbnail image for WPC News | Steve Brown, NAR 2014 President

Steve Brown

NAR President Steve Brown says the new credit scoring calculation recently announced by Fair Isaac Corp., or FICO, will improve access to homeownership. "NAR supports efforts to broaden access to credit for qualified homebuyers, especially those who have been shut out of the housing market or forced to pay higher interest rates because of flawed credit scores," he said. "A solid credit score is necessary to keep borrowing costs down."

The median time on market for all homes was 48 days in July, up from 44 days in June; it was 42 days on market in July 2013. Short sales were on the market for a median of 93 days in July, while foreclosures sold in 58 days and non-distressed homes typically took 45 days. Forty percent of homes sold in July were on the market for less than a month.

Single-family home sales increased 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million in July from 4.43 million in June, but remain 4.2 percent below the 4.75 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $223,900 in July, up 5.1 percent from July 2013.

Existing condominium and co-op sales remained unchanged in July from June at an annual rate of 600,000 units, and are 4.8 percent below the 630,000 unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price was $215,000 in July, which is 3.3 percent higher than a year ago.

Regionally, July existing-home sales in the Northeast stayed at an annual rate of 640,000 for the second consecutive month and are now 9.9 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $273,600, an increase of 2.4 percent from July 2013.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales increased 1.7 percent to an annual level of 1.22 million in July, but remain 4.7 percent below July 2013. The median price in the Midwest was $175,200, up 4.1 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South rose 3.4 percent to an annual rate of 2.12 million in July, and are now up slightly (0.5 percent) from July 2013. The median price in the South was $192,000, up 5.0 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West climbed 2.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.17 million in July, but remain 8.6 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $304,100, which is 6.3 percent above July 2013.
- See more at: http://www.worldpropertychannel.com/north-america-residential-news/home-sales-july-2014-nar-existing-home-sales-report-median-home-price-real-estate-news-lawrence-yun-steve-brown-home-inventory-8449.php?utm_source=WPC+News+Alerts&utm_campaign=0174bdf7e6-WPC_News_Special_Report_August_21st_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_11958aeb79-0174bdf7e6-63905285#sthash.zRwizT9K.dpuf

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Aug. 18, 2014

Miami Landlords Profit Big Time

South Florida Landlords Gain Large Profits on Investment Properties

According to a recent article in Bizjournals.com, the average landlord is making a large profit in the South Florida real estate market. The report also comes from zillow.com, one of the nation's leading real estate websites. Zillow ranked South Florida as one of the countries best market for residential landlords who are not professional investors. This means that average investors such as those that may own less than five properties are earning an average of $515 only behind the highest, which is Oklahoma City at $536 (on 1 property).South Florida Landlords Gain Large Profits on Investment Properties

Rents have jumped nearly 6% since June 2013, which is well ahead of the national rate of just 2.5%. The national website Zillow calculates profits based on the difference between rental income and mortgage payments on a median priced home. Zillow also accounts for property and income taxes, maintenance and vacancies.

As rental payments go up, short-term income flow will naturally continue to improve. Because of this, thousands of South Florida homeowners have become landlords during the housing bust just after 2008 when prices drop dramatically. Those that bought during peak prices are still finding themselves struggling to make a profit but those that purchased while prices were dramatically undervalue continue to see monthly profits increase.

 

The rental market is continuing to rise as prices increase. The South Florida market including those around Miami and Miami Beach are finding a balance between the rental market and purchasing. Prices may be the same for similar properties depending on rent versus a mortgage payments. Those that have plan on a short-term living environment or those that have not corrected their credit to the point of a mortgage loan may find that renting is a better option. Because of this, landlords are making a killing at profit investments each month. [Source]

Think you can compete? It's not hard considering these are mom and pop landlords and not big-wig investors. Because I work with a variety of buyers and sellers including investors, I can offer you the tools and resources to make an informed decision on the best rental property for your needs. Whether it's a flip property or monthly cash flow, call me to find out the first steps needed in becoming a Miami investor.

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Aug. 12, 2014

What you Need to Know About Aria on the Bay Condos

Aria on the Bay is a condominium tower located at 1770 North Bayshore Dr. in Miami Florida. This newly constructed condominium offers 647 residential units on 50 floors with over 40,000 ft.² of commercial space. With over 1000 parking spaces, there's plenty of room for everyone at this fantastic condominium building designed and developed by the Melo Group.  this sensational tower was designed by Arquietectonica  and is still under construction set for completion in 2016. Here's what you need to know about this luxury high-rise condominium.

Amenities:Aria on the bay

  • Two curved sunrise/sunset swimming pools
  • Children's pool
  • Hot Tub
  • Indoor/outdoor social room
  • Sundeck and lounge area
  • State-of-the-art fitness center
  • Yoga studio
  • Outdoor fire pits with custom seating
  •  Barbecue patio area complete with kitchen
  •  24-hour reception desk and on-site monitoring
  •  Controlled entry garage with assigned, secure parking
  •  Valet parking
  •  Meeting room with social areas including pool tables and flatscreen media
  •  Game room
  •  Library
  •  Theater
  •  Team lounge and kids play area
  •  Business cent 40,000 Ft.² of Retail and Office Space on the Ground Floors

Aria on the Bay is located and directly behind Margaret Place Park on Bayshore Drive. You're just one block away from Biscayne Boulevard, the Sea Isle Marina and Yachting Center, and the Venetian Causeway to Miami Beach. This is luxury Florida real estate at it's finest. Because the building is still being finalized prices may vary for different units. Please call if you are interesting in learning more about Aria on the Bay and I would be happy to offer the latest news on this building. There are other similar buildings in the area that are move-in ready with several units currently for sale. 

Whether you are buying a permanent residence, vacation home or second getaway, the Aria on the Bay may suit your budget and tastes perfectly. Call me today to learn more or get a list of similar properties with amenities in the area.

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Aug. 4, 2014

Where to Buy a Condo in Miami Beach

As a real estate professional I have to be careful talking about where to live in some of the best areas in Miami Beach. We are bound by fair housing laws and while anyone is free to look up crime rates, school districts, and personal opinions of those that are not in the real estate profession, I am bound by fair housing laws and cannot use certain terms or steer a buyer one way or the other. However, I can talk about different areas, neighborhoods, buildings and such in the Miami Beach area and let you decide what works best for your needs and budget.

The Miami Beach area is one of the hottest real estate markets in the US. Even though we have gone through our own downturns in the mid to late 2000s, the Miami Beach area is hotter than ever. Many home buyers pay cash and there are also several instances where multiple offer situation is the norm.

Where to buy a condo in Miami Beach

When purchasing a condominium within a complex on Miami Beach you want to think about waterfront or non-waterfront, what type of waterfront either oceanfront or the bay, the age of the building, parking, and the amenities that it offers.

Here are some tips to purchasing in the Miami Beach area, the condominiums and the neighborhoods therein.

South of Fifth, also known as Sofi, is appropriately at the south end of Miami Beach south of Highway A1A. There are approximately 10 to 15 condominium buildings in this area but most are bayfront and many have beautiful views of the water way out to the ocean. These homes include the Yacht Club at Portofino, the Continuum Towers, Southpointe Tower, Bentley Beach Hilton, and the ICON just to name a few. These are some of the most expensive condominiums in Miami Beach with homes starting at about $500,000.

West Avenue is just north of South of Fifth and offers popular luxury buildings are located along the bay with beautiful views of the bay, the city and the ocean. These condos offer a variety of amenities with easy access to local grocery stores, shops and fitness centers. Many of these buildings they also have their own amenities and prices start at about $350,000.

Read more:  5 Things to Know About Buying a Condo in Miami Beach

The Sunset Harbour Towers are located just north of Highway 907 on Biscayne Bay. It offers beautiful views of the Venetian Causeway and the city skyline with condominium starting about $800,000.

Then you have the ocean. Beautiful waterfront properties, condominiums and townhomes all up and down Miami Beach with prices from $400,000-$10 million. These include buildings such as 1550 Ocean Dr., Caribbean Condo Miami Beach, the Mosaic, Bel Air on the Ocean, Canyon Ranch and Aqua just to name a few. These homes will offer a variety of luxury properties and loads of amenities such as on-site fitness centers, beach access, swimming pools, concierge services and more. Each building features its own specific amenities with a variety of price ranges, layouts, designs and floor plans.

You really have to decide what your budget is, where you want to live, and what kind of building you're looking for. If you have an idea of these free search criteria feel free to give me a call and I would be happy to offer you a complete list of all properties that match your search criteria. If any seem like something you would like to see further give me a call and we can set up a personal tour.

 

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July 28, 2014

Selling a Condo on Miami Beach

4 Things to Know about Selling Condos and Townhomes on Miami Beach

If you need to sell your condominium or townhome in Miami or Miami Beach you might start looking online for tips and suggestions on how to get fast offers and the most exposure for your condo. Here are four things you need to know about selling a condominium, townhome, loft or any property in Miami Beach.

1.  Make sure you hire the right agent.4 things to know about selling your Miami Beach Condo

Now of course everyone's going to say this but What is the right agent? You need to hire an agent that not only knows the Miami Beach area but knows the building that you're selling in as well. They need to know as much about the property as possible in order to answer buyer questions, they need to be tech savvy so you get the most exposure for your property, and of course, you need a professional, licensed real estate agent or broker in order to put your property on the local MLS. This gets the most exposure because 85% of homebuyers start their property search online. By having a good combination of knowledge, online experience, and licensed skills, a good agent can get your condominium the exposure it needs.

2. Stage it for the general public.

Home buyers need to feel themselves in the property and if you still have personal photos up, collections, memorabilia, or the home is simply cluttered with your personal items, buyers have a hard time seeing themselves in the home. Make sure it's very clean, hire professional stagers if possible, tour other open houses in your building or in the Miami Beach area, take pictures, and get a good sense of what other buyers are looking for so you know how to stage your property to appeal to the majority of home buyers out there. You don't want anything too masculine or too feminine in order to appeal to all genders and all lifestyles. This can be very difficult so that's why your agent is crucial in helping you make the right decision when it comes to staging and preparing your condo for sale.

3. Be flexible and reasonable with home buyers on showings and communication.

A huge drawback too many condo sales is that it's simply impossible to show the home. If the property has many security systems, appointment-only schedules, strict showing hours, or tenants that are unreasonable, it can be very difficult to show the property, hence you just won't get as many home buyers through the home and it probably will not sell very fast. Try to be as flexible as possible with home buyers and agents, and if you have a tenant, work out some agreements so that the home can be shown with a short amount of notice.

4. Price really is King.

If the home is not priced correctly you just won't get the right buyers through the door or even that many hits online. Trust your real estate agent when it comes to their research on comparable properties. If you offer something more for less than your closest competition chances are you'll get more buyers to the door and more offers on the table.

As your agent, I can help you prepare, price, list and sell your Miami Beach condo or townhome. Because I know the area, the buildings, and the current market, there's no better choice in an experienced seller brokerage than with Elite Miami Property

 

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July 21, 2014

5 Things to Know About Buying a Condo in Miami Beach

5 Things to Know About Buying a Condo in Miami Beach

Miami Beach Florida has such a diverse culture that it can appeal to many different budgets and lifestyles. It's 86 blocks long from north to south and gets more narrow the farther north you go and has numerous single-family neighborhoods on the west side with condominiums on the ocean front side. It is one of the most desirable areas in the world but many people ask, "where's the best place to live and what should I know about buying a condominium in Miami Beach?" Real estate is pretty expensive here so unless you're moving from another area of Miami, here are some things to know about buying a condo in Miami Beach when relocating from somewhere other than our area.

1. Understand what your budget may mean in Miami Beach.5 Things to know about buying a condo in Miami Beach

If you're moving from a location that has a lower cost of living you might be surprised as to the high cost of living in Miami Beach. Not only do you need to consider monthly mortgage payments but homeowners dues and any other special assessments required from the condominium complex in which you buy. You'll need to look at the location of the building, whether you're going for waterfront or bay-front, the type of unit itself, any parking facilities and which neighborhood in Miami Beach you'd like to live. Map out your budget, your search criteria, and a building that matches what you're looking for in services and amenities. Most Miami Beach condos will offer a variety of resort style amenities such as swimming pools, fitness centers, and business rooms, but others may offer even more such as a spa facility, concierge services, room services and valet.

2. The higher you go on the building the more expensive the unit will be.

This is probably standard no matter where you're purchasing a condominium but in Miami Beach it's even more prominent. The higher you go in the condominium buildings the better view you'll have and typically more square footage. You need to know whether you want a view of the ocean or of Miami and what your budget can maintain.

3. Don't forget about homeowners dues.

Whether you're buying in a country club community, gated neighborhood or high-rise condominium complex, you'll likely have homeowners dues. These dues are typically required each month or quarter and may be several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars depending on the amenities and the caliber of building. These will need to be paid directly to the homeowners association and cover common area maintenance, landscaping, exterior building maintenance and may also include several utilities such as trash pickup, water and limited insurance. You may be able to afford a $3000 mortgage payment but add on another $1000 for homeowners dues and you may be out of your budget.

4. Most condo associations will have their own application requirements and restrictions.

You may need to fill out a condo association application in which a board will need to approve your residency. The homeowners association may have several people appointed to the board that live in the building or a combination of on and off-site residences. They will approve different things such as your budget, finances, lifestyle and whether or not you have pets.

5 Things to know about buying a condo in Miami BeachHomeowners associations will also present you with their CC&R, which stands for covenants, conditions and restrictions. These are all the rules of the complex and state what you can and cannot do and any legal proceedings that may be necessary. It's a good idea to read through this or have your real estate attorney go over all the paperwork answering any questions you may have. This is also a great way to find out if the complex is under any liens or if you'll have to pay any special assessments in the near future for larger purchases such as painting or siding. You will also want to verify whether you agree with the way the building is run and if there are too many contradictions or discrepancies on how the association handles the management of the property now is the best time to find that out.

5. Have your financing ready to go.

This is probably one of the most important things about purchasing any type of property. Having a lender that understands Miami Beach condominium purchases and getting you the right mortgage and interest for your needs is crucial. Your lender will issue a pre-approval letter stating that you've already done the financial homework necessary in order to purchase this property. This paperwork will need to be presented with an offer and potentially the board for approval as well.

Purchasing a condominium building in Miami Beach is quite different than a single-family house sold by one owner. Sometimes, you have to jump through hoops but enjoying the lifestyle once you've moved in can make it all worthwhile.

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July 14, 2014

New Construction, Permits and Miami-Dade County Real Estate Market

The Miami-Dade County has been ranked as the #1 County in the entire Southeast US for new home building. This is based on new residential building permits in the first quarter of 2014. According to the Census Bureau, the Miami area grew faster than any other part of Florida with the 218% increase over last year. Orange County, Palm Beach County and Sumter County followed as the #3, #4 and #5 by expenditure. This is also one of the highest valued housing areas in the entire country as the average cost per unit was nearly a half $1 million.

“These numbers are encouraging for prospective Miami homebuyers and investors alike, as construction spending is a strong economic indicator of job growth and market demand. The rise in new home construction has raised price tags on South Florida properties, but offers more alternatives for buyers and higher resale value.” [Source]New construction permits in Miami

In Miami-Dade County, building permits were the top grossing performers for the first quarter of 2014 at $772,790,360. This is the seventh most populous county in the US with the downtown Miami and Miami Beach area as well as its numerous suburbs. With new construction projects, condominium buildings and multifamily housing, there's an increased cost of rent and a healthier stabilizing economy. The average cost per unit was about $400,000 in the first quarter and as Miami grows it continues to be twice the size of growth of the second fastest area in Lake County.

As of the publishing of this post Miami Beach has a total inventory of around 4000 properties with a median list price of $480,000. The median days on the market are roughly 90 with a median house size of about 1010 ft.². This roughly translates to $521 per square foot up 5% over last year.

For the condominium and townhome market, the median house size is about 910 ft.² with about $500 per square foot.

If you're looking at selling your Miami or Miami Beach home but you worried about the competition from new subdivisions, there are many buyers looking for established properties with fenced backyards and mature landscaping. Because there are numerous buyers moving to this area or relocating with in the state of Florida, you shouldn't worry about finding the right buyer for your property.

If you're considering buying, there are numerous new homes, condominiums and well-established neighborhoods throughout Miami and Miami Beach.

Call me today for more information on new subdivisions, condominiums, or any property for sale within the Miami-Dade County area.

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July 9, 2014

Bank of America weekly update for July 8, 2014

 

 


July 8, 2014

Last Week in Review

The better than expected Jobs Report for June caused some fireworks in the markets. Read on for all the highlights.


Table Source: Vantage Production, LLC


The June Jobs Report showed that 288,000 new jobs were created, while the figures for April and May were revised higher by a total of 29,000. Through the first six months of 2014, job creations have averaged 231,000 jobs per month, a 19 percent increase from the same period in 2013.

The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from an expected rate of 6.3 percent, matching the lowest level since September 2008, a decent report and a meaningful lift in labor market activity. 

In housing news, pending home sales (i.e., homes sales in which a contract has been signed but the sale has not yet closed) jumped 6.1 percent from April to May. This was the largest monthly gain since April 2010, when buyers were chasing the homebuyer’s tax credit. Meanwhile, research firm CoreLogic reported that home prices, including distressed sales, rose 8.8 percent in the year ended in May. This is down from the near 10 percent that was recorded in April, and down almost three percentage points from just three months ago.

What does this mean for home loan rates? The strong economic news boosted stocks at the expense of bonds, as investors shifted their money from safer assets like bonds to try to take advantage of gains. Since home loan rates are tied to mortgage bonds, both bond and home loan rates worsened last week. However, home loan rates remain attractive and near some of the best levels seen this year.

Forecast for the week

After last week’s activity, supplied by the June Jobs Report and the Independence Day holiday, this week’s calendar is light. 

  • The June Federal Open Market Committee Meeting Minutes will be released on Wednesday, and they may give hints as to whether the Fed intends to end its bond buying program later this year. 
  • Thursday brings Weekly Initial Jobless Claims. Recent numbers have been hovering around the 300,000 mark, in line with expectations.

As you can see in the chart below, home price appreciation overall nationwide has been cooling as the year progresses.

Chart: CoreLogic Home Price Index

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July 9, 2014

Maule lake floating home Project Check this out? From Biscayne Times.

The Biscayne Times

WEDNESDAY
Jul 09th
In the Market for a Hyper-Luxurious Floating Island? PDF Print E-mail
Written By Erik Bojnansky, Senior Writer   
JULY 2014

IF YOU CAN’T FIGHT SEA-LEVEL RISE, WHY NOT JOIN IT? HOW ABOUT RIGHT HERE ON MAULE LAKE?

A

Lake_1

Home sweet floating home: The residential islands will be off the grid, completely self-sustaining. Dutch Docklands

Dutch company has submitted plans to anchor 30 artificial floating islands in Maule Lake, a privately owned lake in North Miami Beach. Maule Lake lies east of Biscayne Boulevard, adjacent to the Aventura community of Point East, the North Miami Beach neighborhood of Eastern Shores, and the twin 24-story towers of Marina Palms Yacht Club & Residences, currently under construction at 172nd Street and the Boulevard.

 

The project’s name: Amillarah Private Islands -- North Miami Beach. The project’s developer: Dutch Docklands USA, a company owned by Frank Behrens, chairman of the Miami Dutch Chamber of Commerce.

Behrens didn’t return several phone calls for comment, but in August 2013, he told Miami Today that his company was considering a body of water somewhere in Miami-Dade County as the site to unveil Dutch Docklands’ floating-home concept in the United States.

“You can create whole new communities, and because it’s floating and on the waterfront, it would mean very high-end real estate,” he told the weekly newspaper. “You can create private beaches, private islands. Those big projects could be easily realized in Miami and would be fantastic attractions.”

 

Lake_2

At 6900 square feet, the floating islands will accommodate gardens, swimming pools, even a beach.

Dutch Docklands, based in Delft, the Netherlands, is the parent company of Behrens’s U.S. subsidiary. The award-winning firm, which specializes in floating technologies and design, was founded in 2005 by real estate developer Paul H.T.M. van de Camp and Koen Olthuis, an architect who has made a career designing luxury homes and other floating structures via his architecture firm Waterstudio. Olthuis also has patents for floating foundations strong enough to hold dozens of homes, roadways, cars, and parks, even cruise ship terminals.

 

Utilizing Olthuis’s patents, Dutch Docklands is designing a floating apartment complex for South Holland, re-engineering the floating islands for Dubai’s Palm Island project, and building a series of floating projects for the Maldives. In fact, the proposed floating islands within Maule Lake are named after another Dutch Docklands project, Amillarah, in the Maldives. The word amillarahmeans private island in Maldivian, according to Dutchdocklands.com.

Maule Lake, with direct access to the Intracoastal Waterway and the ocean, covers 174 acres and has a deep bottom that can accommodate yachts up to 100 feet long, according to a real estate website.

Under the plans Dutch Docklands submitted to the City of North Miami Beach on June 26, the Maule Lake version of Amillarah would consist of 29 manmade, anchored islands, each of which would include a two-story, four-bedroom villa, a patio, garden, sandy beach, swimming pool, rooftop terraces, al fresco dining areas, and two boat slips. A 30th island would be an “amenity island” staffed 24 hours a day for the exclusive use of residents and their guests.

 

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Imagine entertaining guests you’ve picked up from shore, as your home gently sways with the tides

If the project moves forward, all 30 of the islands, co-designed by Waterstudio and Coconut Grove-based Bermello Ajamil & Partners, would be constructed offsite and transported to Maule Lake.

 

Boats would be an essential element for the islanders: Each island would be at least 500 feet from shore and about 80 feet from its nearest neighbor.

Another interesting feature of Amillarah Private Islands: They would be off the grid.

“Dutch Docklands have designed the floating islands to be virtually self-sustaining,” according to Greenberg Traurig environmental attorney Kerri Barsh, a lobbyist for Dutch Docklands in a letter to Carlos Rivero, North Miami Beach’s acting planning director.

“By deploying cutting-edge technology and sustainable building designs, Dutch Docklands will eliminate the need for the floating islands to connect to existing potable water supplies, waste water collection systems, or to electric utilities,” her letter states.

Freshwater would be provided by “collectors and advanced filtration systems,” according to the letter. Solar panels and “hydrogen-powered generators” would provide electricity. Solid waste would be gathered by a private contractor and a special vessel “will be kept ready at all times for the exclusive use of municipal emergency responders.”

 

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Within a 39-acre area: 29 floating homes and one “amenity island” for the exclusive use of residents

As for the disposal of human waste, each of the 6900-square-foot villa islands, and the 6800-square-foot amenity island, would be equipped with a “biological sewage facility” to “address wastewater and sewage consistent with U.S. EPA regulations.”

 

Perhaps the best news for a city in search of additional revenue, the letter points out, is a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that floating homes are “akin to real property and not vessels,” and thus can be taxed. (The case was brought by North Bay Village resident Fane Lozman against the City of Riviera Beach, which demolished his houseboat.)

Since the islands will be marketed to affluent islanders who will live on Amillarah only “40 percent of the time,” there will be few, if any, floating homeowners claiming a homestead exemption.

“Assuming each residential island is appraised at a value of $12.5 million and applying 2013 millage rates,” according to Barsh’s letter, “we anticipate that the project will generate approximately $2.8 million annually in [property] tax revenue for the city.”

But for Amillarah to happen, part of Maule Lake will need to be rezoned, Barsh noted. North Miami Beach’s swath of Maule Lake is currently designated “as an open water and transportation corridor.”

Thus Barsh is asking for PUD-3 zoning for a 39-acre section of the 174-acre lake. Under PUD-3, a developer could construct up to 1941units in buildings as tall as six stories on 39 acres. With bonuses, a developer could create 2911 units in towers up to 12-stories in height on PUD-C zoned land. (Development is not permitted in Aventura’s sliver of Maule Lake, which the city refers to as a “conservation district.”)

 

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In the early 20th Century, much of Maule Lake was once a busy rock quarry owned by E.L. Maule.

Dutch Docklands USA still needs to close on its contract to buy the lake from a trusteeship headed by Raymond Williams, a descendant of E.L. Maule, founder of the Maule Rock Mining Company. 

 

During the early 20th Century, 60 train carloads of limestone rock each day were mined from what is now Maule Lake, and used to construct roads, bridges, and buildings in Dade and Palm Beach counties. The limestone also served as ballast for Henry Flagler’s railroads before being replaced with granite, says local historian Seth Bramson. Maule Rock Mining wasn’t alone. Ojus Rock Mining Company, owned by A.O. Greynolds, was extracting rock from the earth just a mile west of Maule’s mine. Sometimes the competition turned nasty. In January 1921, Ojus Rock Mining took out an ad in the Miami News claiming that Maule’s rock was shoddy.

Eventually, Maule’s rock pit became a lake. “When you go down to a certain level in South Florida,” Bramson explains, “you hit water.”

Whereas Greynolds gave his rock mine to the county for Greynolds Park (see “Green Piece,” June 2013), Maule Rock Mining sold chunks of its 300 acres to real estate developers and to the state (for highways). In 1957, Maule Lake was dredged for fill for the creation of Eastern Shores.

Brackish water flows in and out of Maule Lake via Snake Creek, the Oleta River, and neighboring Dumbfoundling Bay. So, too, does aquatic life. Snook, catfish, and tarpon have been fished at Maule Lake for decades. The lake was even used in a few scenes for the hit show Flipper, according to a 1964 Miami News article.

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Architect Koen Olthius holds patents for floating foundations strong enough to hold dozens of homes, roadways, even cruise ship terminals.

 

Maule Lake was popular for boat racing, especially during the 1950s and 1960s. But in 1991 the state enacted strict speed limits at the lake to protect manatees. Between 1974 and 1993, 19 dead manatees were found in or near Maule Lake, according to the Miami Herald.

Since 1998, Patrick Killen, commercial director of Keller Williams Elite Properties, and his wife Karen, broker/owner of The Villas, LLC, have been trying to sell Maule Lake on behalf of the Williams trust. (In this pending deal, Patrick Killen is representing the potential buyer, Dutch docklands. Karen Killen represents the seller.)

A picture of Maule Lake adorns the top of Patrick Killen’s Facebook page. At one point, according to Killen, Donald Trump was under contract to buy Maule Lake so he could fill it in and build a high-rise there.

“I think most people don’t know that it’s a private lake,” Patrick Killen says. “For whatever reason, it’s not common knowledge.”

Maule Lake is not only private, it is pricey. Four years ago the asking price was $17 million. More recently it was listed at $19.5 million, says Killen.

Maule Lake will be a nice fit for Amillarah, explained Barsh in her letter to the city. The lake’s depth of 22 feet means it’s unlikely that “sensitive environmental resources” will be present at the bottom. Then there’s the fact that North Miami Beach and Maule Lake happen to be in South Florida.

“No place in the United States is as vibrant and exciting as South Florida,” Barsh notes in her letter. And no place in the U.S. is as threatened by sea-level rise, she adds.

 

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Maule Lake may soon be transformed from tranquil free anchorage to a floating, boating new community. BT photo by Erik Bojnansky

In as few as 50 years, low-lying areas, such as Eastern Shores, Keystone Point, and Sans Souci Estates, may be regularly flooded during high tide. (See “Lost in a Rising Sea,” September 2012.)

 

For this reason, Amillarah is not just a quirky, alternative lifestyle -- it’s also the future of development in South Florida, according to Barsh, writing that “Dutch Docklands believes its technology will help address some of the threat of sea-level rise. By choosing North Miami Beach for its first project in the United States, Dutch Docklands hopes its approach can become a model for the whole of South Florida and the world.”

Whatever Dutch Docklands’ intention, Marina Palms developer Neil Fairman can’t help but like the company’s top executives. Fairman says he met them a few months ago and was struck by their agreeable demeanor. Among other things, they assured him that their project won’t interfere with the operation of Marina Palms’s 112-slip marina.

“They seem like nice people, and they seem very soft-spoken and ready to cooperate with the community,” he says. As for the project itself, Fairman says, “I think it’ll be very cool.”

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