green-housingBabcock Ranch, a new 18,000-acre solar powered town is to have a new development.  Thanks to Kitson & Partners, Naples-based Fox Premier Builders are to be constructing this new environmentally friendly town, just 20 minutes away from Fort Myers.

In addition, Towne and Stock Development has also begun construction in Lake Timber.  This is the fight community that is being put up at Babcock Ranch with additional models expected next month from Florida Lifestyle Homes of Fort Myers.  Situated on 50- or 60-by-130-foot home sites, the base prices are in the $300s. Cooter Ramsey of Allison, Ramsey & Associates was the designer along with Timberbuilt and Cottage Collection floor.  Each plan has a covered front porch which means that the home can be from front to back but still allow for neighbor interaction.  There are also front yard spaces, fenced in backyards and rear porches.

Meanwhile a part of North Key Largo (which used to just be a pile of old trash including sinking boats and illegal structures) has now been transformed into an aquatic preserve.  This 22 acre property located across from Alabama Jack’s restaurant is to be known as the John Gautier Aquatic Preserve.  This was a long project which began with getting squatters out and working with the property owner who had inherited the space from  her mom who knew nothing about what was going on at the property.

home-designNow is a good time to buy a Florida home.  Well, now rather than in six months’ from now as opposed to six months earlier.  It looks like house prices are going to be increasing and it seems that single family rental properties in Broward County have real investment potential.  Moving over to Miami-Dade however, the situation is not as good since despite the fact that there has been a jump in prices there, mortgages seem to have a higher risk. Investors are rather encouraged to look at Palm Beach County for retail or restaurants.  However in that region, there is a scope of empty properties which creates a swing vote in home prices.

Of course, home moves occur much more frequently during the summer months everywhere you go, so Florida is not singled out in that way.

The status of Florida housing is impacted greatly by the increase of baby boomers since many retirees move there.  Since there are approximately 2 million of these per annum, the situation of both risk and opportunities presents itself.

Then there is the home one chooses itself.  According to Bill Ennen, a custom builder at Fort Myers, there are many areas housebuyers should consider before making the purchase.  Too often people have a list that is simply not long enough:  it is so much more than the amount of bedrooms/bathrooms and location, he says.     The way they should do this he says is by looking at their lifestyle. For example, do they often entertain guests?  Do they need a formal space?  Do they need large bedrooms for extra beds?  Do they have small kids and need a garden?  Do they need a comfortable spot for just the two of them to chill, etc.

When you answer these questions you’ll see for example if you want the dining room to be separate from the kitchen as you might not want guests seeing you preparing food.  However, it should be noted that even in an open space situation where the two are connected, a wall can often be built.

Anyway the point is that when purchasing a home, lifestyle is an important issue to take on board.


What is the latest in the housing market in Florida?  This industry has long been essential to the Sunshine State.  In this video, Dr. Brad O’Connor, Chief Economist at Florida Realtors® presents statistics and insight into what the figures mean.  And for those entrepreneurs looking for advice in the region, LaunchPad Holdings LLC co-founder Glen R. Wakeman has been engaged in "hundreds of capital market transactions, raised hundreds of millions of dollars of new equity and lead large organizations in Fortune 10 companies."  Based in Florida, LaunchPad seeks to offer its clients "an energetic ecosystem of advisors, thought leaders, accelerators and capital providers."

floridaSince Florida has no income tax, real estate taxes are substantially lower than elsewhere in the nation.  For example, these taxes can be a staggering 50 percent higher in a place like Connecticut.  In addition, the state has great infrastructure and in 2016 it recorded a $1 billion surplus, being used by Governor Rick Scott to reduce/eliminate business taxes as economic excellence results in population growth and thus increased tax revenue.  On the flip side, places like Connecticut are losing their taxpayers and becoming unable to balance their budget. Not so for Florida.

Furthermore, Florida continues to have a reputation for being one of the best quality places to live, nationwide. In the ‘Top 5 Cities for a Second Home’ report, two cities claimed the top two spots: Naples (at Number 1) and Boca Raton (at Number 2).

Why is that?  First, a lot of New Yorkers are buying second homes and they want to escape the horrible winter weather of their home town. Boca Raton has some beautiful, gated communities and makes a great place for the successful professional to lay his or her hat.  They have the great country clubs, golf and easy access to airports.

Then, Naples has something to offer New Yorkers too.  Being a completely different vibe to the Big Apple, still with the great climate of Boca (but on the other side), this city has a very laid back attitude, but also with private communities.  Off the beaten path it still provides simple access to Fort Myers and South Florida.

So Florida has what to offer for both prime and second home buyers.

homesWhat kind of sustainable housing options are there in Florida?  Well, the “dome homes” that can be seen coming out of the Florida coast (that look a bit like they come from a cult) could have completely fitted into that category.  According to the project visionary’s grandson Lee, these were “totally self-sustaining.” When Bob Lee designed them they got their power from solar panels and had backup generators as well.  They are now seen as forward thinking and a design toward a more sustainable way of life.

Another potential in the state are the proposed “tiny houses,” a concept created by Rick Kearney with the idea of aiding the affordable housing plight common in Tallahassee. The concept he is proposing, is a $7.8 million concept he’s calling “The Dwellings.”  What this is though is a tiny house community that will have homes between 250 and 400 square feet on 30 acres next to Wolf Creek.  These will absolutely be sustainable, being built with shared areas and powered by solar panels.  There will be communal spaces which will have on-site community services, a community center, greenhouse and organic garden.

There is a lot of potential in Florida for sustainable housing.  And with Kearney’s new proposal, a lot of low income families’ problems could be solved.

mortgageThere have been some good reports in the Florida housing industry recently, resulting in a reduction in all cash closed sales and a boost in median prices. Data from Florida Realtors has shown that the market is steady and that the supply of homes for sale is stable. The numbers speak for themselves: condominium sales increased 10.9 percent and home sales price 13.7 percent. According to Florida Realtors president, broker and co-owner of Veissi & Associates, Matey Veissi, this is a great opportunity for sellers who will end up with close to 94 percent of their asking price. Even though mortgage rates are slightly on the rise, they “remain historically low,” which results in added buying power for consumers.

And then there are the Florida flippers. According to a new report from Trulia, there has been quite a significant increase in homes being flipped throughout the state. In 2015, 6 percent of homes sold were flips. This is an increase from a few years ago, as for example, in 2014, 4.9 percent of homes were flipped in Palm Beach County and the following year this had increased to 6.3 percent.

And then at the end of last month, Stock Signature Homes hosted Open Houses throughout its Southwest Florida regions. This gave potential homeowners the opportunity to check out stunning furnished models as well as move-in ready homes. For those who are coming from a different state, this open house day let them become familiar with amenities in the area as well.

Overall though, things are looking up for Florida real estate. As Chief Economist at Florida Realtors, Dr. Brad O’Connor concluded, "2015 was a very strong year in terms of sales growth in Florida's single-family home markets, thanks to a sales surge that began in the fourth quarter of 2014 and lasted through the third quarter of 2015. In each of the first three quarters of 2015, we observed double-digit percentage increases in sales on a year-over-year basis. Year-over-year growth in 2015's final quarter was more subdued, signaling a possible return in 2016 to more stable rates of sales growth.”

teacherSome years ago, an affordable housing trust fund was created to respond to the housing boom in Collier County. It was a great idea which ultimately “amounted to nothing” as was only in operation between 2005 and 2007, which was the when housing prices went through the roof. The program ended but there was $104,957.50 in funds that had not been claimed.

But it might now be time to put this back in place. Increasingly more families are being “priced out” of the region. Next month commissioners will be subject to a presentation about the trust fund (along with other possible initiatives) in the hope of finding a solution.

A solution is exactly what is needed right now, since, according to Commissioner Donna Fiala, Collier County was “one of the worst places hit in the entire country. There was no call for affordable housing. Developers and their attorneys were coming to us saying, 'Give that money back. We need it to invigorate the economy.'" This sentiment was echoed by Darlyn Estes, Director of Human Resources at Collier County’s Sheriff Office. She said, "We have some new hires from the other coast who are still driving over after working here a month. There doesn't seem to be any inventory of lower rent apartments available in Collier County." Indeed, at a starting salary of $40,000 what hope do they have of getting housing?

Since rent is escalating along with housing prices, it is crucial that this matter is dealt with soon. A kind of chicken-and-egg situation has also arisen given that if people cannot afford to live in the area they cannot afford to work in the area. And if the market is bad, schools will suffer because teaching positions simply do not pay the rent.

Affordable housing trust funds could really provide a big solution to all of this. They are already being operated in other parts of Florida (Manatee, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach) where middle- and lower-middle-class families have been assisted with their housing.

propertyAccording to Freedie Mac, “the South Florida housing market continues to rate favorably on a national housing scale.” Indeed parts of the region actually went up by 14 percent from last year.

In addition, year-over-year, the entire state of Florida came out as “the most improving state,” enjoying a percentage increase of 14.47. Oregon came in next at 12.2 percent so this record for Florida is most noteworthy.

For those concerned about what will be in 2016, Florida Atlantic University professor Ken Johnson (who is also a real estate economist) said “in a worst-case scenario, South Florida prices will fall flat in 2016, and homes will sit on the market longer. [Even with this] people would still be able to sell their homes. It wouldn't be like it was in 2008 when you woke up and couldn't sell your home for any reason."