Caught a recent article in the USAToday that US Home Prices were in February by Most in 7 Years.
Home prices rose 10.2% in February compared to the same month in 2012
Annual gain was biggest percentage gain since March 2006, near housing market peak.
Prices have risen in housing market for 12 straight months, underscoring recovery’s strength and evidence that the housing recovery strengthened ahead of the all-important spring-buying season.
The gains were broad-based. Prices rose in 47 of 50 states and in all but four of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. Delaware, Alabama and Illinois were the only states to report price declines.
Most of the demand has come from investors. Sales to first-time buyers remain below healthy levels.
Another reason prices are rising is the supply of available homes for sale remains extremely low. In January, it reached a 13-year low.
The supply of homes for sale did rise in February for the first time in 10 months. That suggests more people are gaining confidence in the housing recovery, which could help ease supply concerns and drive sales higher in the coming months.
Higher prices can also make homeowners feel wealthier. That can encourage more consumer spending, which drives 70% of economic activity.
More good news for both Florida villa buyers (prices are still low) and sellers (prices are rising again)!
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Orlando, the “Theme Park Capital of the World,” has enough to keep your family entertained for weeks if not months on end.
10 Best gives you the rundown on what each of these fantastic parks has to offer.
Aquatica Orlando brings the best of an aquarium, zoo, water park and amusement park together into one experience. With 38 slides, 84,000 acres of white sand beach and private cabanas for rent, you can easily spend the entire day enjoying the Florida sun with your family. Don’t miss the Dolphin Plunge, a clear tube water slide that takes you through the Commerson’s dolphin habitat.
What started as a showcase for the latest in innovation has transformed into one of Orlando’s largest theme parks, Epcot. It’s hard to believe how much Disney managed to pack into these 305 acres; you’ll find an aquarium, 1.3-mile promenade around the World Showcase Lagoon, 11 pavilions celebrating nations of the world and numerous attractions, like the iconic Spaceship Earth.
Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Islands of Adventure bring some of your favorite movie experiences to life. Wander through the world of Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, take a thrilling raft ride past dinosaurs on the Jurassic Park River Adventure, meet your favorite children’s book characters at Seuss Landing, get wet in Toon Lagoon or fly through the air on the Marvel Super Hero Island attractions.
LEGOLAND Florida, the largest LEGOLAND park in the world, features 50 rides, shows and attractions spread out over the LEGO-strewn 150-acres. If you’re traveling with younger kids, LEGOLAND makes a great choice since its designed for kids between the ages of 2 and 12. Be sure to stop by the Big Shop to bring some of the LEGO action home.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the sister of Disneyland in California, opened in 1971 with the 189-foot Cinderella’s Castle jutting up from the center. The park’s six themed areas — Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Tomorrowland and Fantasyland — are home to classic Disney favorites, like It’s A Small World and the Jungle Cruise, as well as some new offerings.
With guest access restricted to 1,300 per day, Discovery Cove feels more like an exclusive resort than a theme park. Without crowds to worry about, you’ll get to enjoy up-close animal encounters with dolphins, sting rays, tropical fish, sea otters and exotic birds. It’s all-inclusive too, so you won’t have to worry about food, towels or snorkeling equipment.
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida, the original park of Universal Studios Resort, brings pop culture to life on its 107 acres of Orlando real estate. Relive classics like E.T. and The Terminator or catch up with the characters of newer releases, like Despicable Me and Shrek.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
At the Animal Kingdom, Disney elevates the concept of a zoological park to something completely new. Here you can take a safari ride through the wilds of Africa — complete with real animals, raft down the Amazon or ride a runaway train through Mount Everest. The park is home to about 1,500 animals representing 250 species.
At SeaWorld Orlando, you and your family can meet Shamu, the world’s most famous killer whale. After you’ve observed all the underwater critters living at the park, get your heart racing on SeaWorld’s rides and roller coasters, catch a comedy show featuring sea lions and otters or grab a bite at Sharks Underwater Grill.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Go to the movies with Disney at Hollywood Studios, a theme park that takes you inside the world of show business with live stunt shows, animation galleries, a backlot tour and plenty of live shows, rides and attractions. Thrill seekers should be sure to take the plunge down the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
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We have numerous active enquiries for Florida properties of all kinds.
Many are from cash buyers looking to close/settle quickly to take advantage of the resurgent holiday home market in the Disney-area of Central Florida.
Many come from our growing family of thousands of British Home Group newsletter subscribers around the world.
Many are among the thousands of our customers who have already bought or financed a holiday home through us – so they have a track record of credit-worthiness and reliability.
Should you wish to sell your holiday home in Florida this year following are 7 tips for staging your home to sell
To sell your home, you need to make a great first impression.
First impressions are important when you put your home on the market. Consider that most buyers will spend just a few minutes in a house before deciding to make an offer, so invest your time and money wisely by following these seven DIY tips:
1. The neighborhood.
As potential buyers drive up to your house, do they see a well-kept neighborhood or a ramshackle mess? If a neighboring yard is unsightly, diplomatically offer to help clean it up.
2. The approach.
Are your driveway and front yard neat and tidy? Consider resealing the asphalt driveway, power washing the concrete driveway and washing the front of the house. Get rid of weeds, trim the shrubbery, plant attractive annuals and add mulch. Install new exterior light fixtures, a new mailbox and new house numbers. If the paint is peeling, you may have to bite the bullet and paint the house-just the front.
3. The entry hall.
What do buyers see the minute they open the door? Remove the clutter and consider repainting. Flowers and a guest book are great additions.
4. The kitchen.
Many buyers want to see the kitchen first, so keep the route from the front door to the kitchen clean and bright with no distractions. The kitchen should be spotless and odor-free.
5. The bathroom(s).
Make sure all bathrooms are clean. Display matching towels, pretty soaps and a new shower curtain. If the medicine cabinet is old, dirty or rusty, put in a new one. Replace the toilet seat. Now is the time to paint, recaulk and get rid of any mildew.
6. The closets.
Every buyer wants lots of closet space, so make sure yours are organized and not filled-a half-full closet looks luxurious. You’ll have to pack all of your stuff eventually, so be smart and do it now.
7. The rest of the house.
You never know which room will pique a buyer’s interest. Repair and paint as needed in the garage, basement and laundry room. Remove clutter as well as personal items like family pictures, diplomas, religious items, etc.
Dan Fritschen is the founder of project planning website RemodelOrMove.com and the author of five books on home remodeling.
We are now approaching the annual “high season” for home sales in Central Florida.
Let us know if you would like us to help you sell yours via our web site, blog and other often unique “transatlantic” home sales media.
Good artcile from the Guardian covering the main areas around us and some input from our very own Mark Shore!
Champions Gate is about 12 minutes’ drive from Disney World in Orlando, off Interstate 4. Its 900 acres are a busy building site that will soon be covered by 3,200 new homes. Smooth green turf now covers a golf course abandoned half-built when the property bubble burst in 2007. The good times appear to be back.
Similar projects are appearing across the state. Construction is picking up, carmakers are celebrating the return of truck sales, and house prices are rising. The US finally seems to be emerging from the worst property crash in living memory. Below the surface problems remain, but here in Florida the sun is shining again.
Mark Shore, who works for estate agent Florida Horizons in Orlando, lived through the boom and the bust. He arrived in the US from Britain in 2003 to work as a mortgage broker. As the property market took off, he says, people, including himself, were “swept away”.
“You sort of think it’s too good to be true, and it was, but everyone was so caught up in it,” he says. “Everyone was doing it. Financing was so easy. People just signed a bit of paper. Builders would have queues outside their door when they opened new developments.”
When the bust came in 2007, financing dried up overnight. House prices collapsed. A four-bedroom, three-bathroom home that would have gone for $350,000 in 2006 fetched just $170,000 by 2009 – if you could find a buyer. Lower down the housing ladder, life got even harder. Shore had his fingers burnt as his business collapsed and the value of his property investments tanked.
Today, buyers are back and business is picking up for Shore, now selling homes, not loans. But life is very different. He used to specialise in selling to British buyers, but they are gone, squeezed out by a strong dollar and the UK economic downturn. Brazilians are his biggest customers now. “By a mile – I’m thinking of learning Portuguese,” he says.
It’s the same story at the nearby Paradise Palms complex, where sales consultant Craig McCaskill says 30% of his clients used to be Brits; now it’s closer to 5%. Brazilians, Canadians, Norwegians and Chinese top the rapidly growing number of buyers, followed by US sun-hunters from colder northern states.
It’s not just the nationality of the buyers that is changing. Shore says two- thirds of his customers are cash buyers. There seems to be no shortage of people with $200,000-plus in cash to drop on a second home in the sun that they can rent out for extra income. “We can’t build them fast enough,” says McCaskill.
No single segment can illustrate a property market as large and diverse as the US’s, but the renaissance in Florida’s holiday-home market represents one of the brighter spots in America’s housing recovery. House prices across the US have risen for six of the past seven months, but 20% of homeowners are still “underwater” – in negative equity. Prices are still low, as are interest rates, yet few Americans have the money, or the credit score, to get back into the market.
“The mortgage market in 2013 is the same as it was in 2011 or 2012,” says Guy Cecala, publisher of trade magazine Inside Mortgage Finance. “Rates are low, underwriting is tight and a significant number of people won’t qualify for loans. That hasn’t changed.”
He estimates that a third of all home purchases are now made in cash, far fewer than in Florida, but more than the 5-10% he would expect in a “normal” environment. The resurgence is being driven by investors, and by current homeowners trading up, says Cecala. “It is a sign of a healthier market when you see existing homeowners driving new sales, but it won’t create new homeowners or absorb more supply.”
Just like in the UK, first-time buyers face the biggest problems. Those who can raise credit are competing with investors who can pay cash. On top of that, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the government agency that insures home loans, has tightened its criteria. The FHA was created as part of the New Deal in 1934 to encourage wider home ownership after the Depression. Burnt by the property crash, it implemented strict new rules and is pushing “more and more first-time buyers out of the market”, according to Cecala.
“First-time buyers drove the housing market in the past,” he says. “They are going to be a smaller part, but I don’t think we have created a generation of permanent renters. We have had a heavy dose of reality, but home ownership is still seen as an American right.”
Rising prices will pull some people out of negative equity: 7m homes were underwater last year, down from a high of 12m. According to JP Morgan, that could fall to 4m in two years. But that’s not enough for some, and anger remains that while the banks were bailed out, homeowners have been left largely to fend for themselves.
This month marks the first anniversary of the National Mortgage Settlement (NMS), a $25bn deal with lenders supposed to punish them for the worst excesses of the boom and help homeowners stuck in negative equity.
Brian Kettenring manages the Campaign for a Fair Settlement, which lobbies the US government for homeowner relief. He says the hardest hit are still suffering and there’s a “glaring lack of transparency” about how the funds earmarked for the poor have been spent, with minorities in particular getting a raw deal. He’s hoping for more when president Barack Obama gives his first state of the union speech since his re-election.
“More than four years since the financial crash and one year since the national mortgage settlement … there remains no justice for Wall Street and no fundamental relief for taxpayers,” says Kettenring.
Few people have watched the last real estate bubble as closely as Marc Weiss, chairman of non-profit organisation Global Urban Development and a professor at Columbia University. In the early 1990s, Weiss was Bill Clinton’s housing and urban policy adviser, overseeing the most ambitious attempt to expand US home ownership since the New Deal. The securitisation of loans – bundling them together and selling them as investment packages – looked like a great way to finance his dream.
“Bill Clinton, Bob Rubin, Larry Summers … we all thought the efficient allocation of capital was a good thing,” he says. “We saw our strategy dramatically succeed during the 1990s, then tragically unravel during the past decade.”
Securitisation brought global capital to the US home market and expanded financing for lower-income families. “This was great at the time, but by 2001 it was beginning to be distorted by greed, creating a whole new speculative bubble on a scale that we never thought possible,” Weiss says.
Compared with previous boom-and-bust cycles, the last one was nothing new, in that excessive financing and combined to drive the market to dizzy, unsustainable heights. But the global scale of this downturn was unprecedented and, Weiss says, “breathtaking”.
Some areas of the US were hit harder than others. States with open spaces and good weather, such as Florida and Arizona, attracted more speculative building, aimed at second-home buyers, who treated their purchase as an investment. The combination proved especially toxic when the market turned. But nationally, too, there was a change of thinking.
“In the past most people bought to own,” says Weiss. “Maybe it was a modest long-term investment. It was only in the 1970s and 1980s that you really started seeing people speculating – gambling on increasing values.” Now, he says, “part of these rolling regional economic cycles is a rolling speculation in real estate”.
After a bust, two things have to happen to get the housing market back on its feet, Weiss believes. First, regulation needs to be tightened up; then the public sector has to work with the private sector to pump energy back into the system. This time around, neither of those things have happened – yet. The US bailed out the banks but has not yet helped resolve the challenges facing homeowners.
Regulation of the housing market remains largely unchanged. “In part,” says Weiss, “it’s a reaction to the right-wing push for fiscal austerity, opposing regulations, promoting budget cuts.”
The market is now improving: affluent and second-home buyers are back, and markets are stabilising.
“But many homeowners are still underwater,” he adds. “We need a rethink of how home financing is done … I think a significant public policy shift will begin to occur: major reforms are on the horizon, and home ownership will bounce back, as it has many times before.”
SIGNS OF LIFE?
■ US home prices rose for a 10th consecutive month on a year-on-year basis in December. The US CoreLogic home price index rose 0.4% from the previous month and added 8.3% compared with December a year ago – the biggest jump since May 2006.
■ The CoreLogic data showed 46 of 50 states registering gains for the year.
■ The five states with the biggest house price increases were Arizona (up 20.2%), Nevada (15.3%), Idaho (14.6%), California (12.6%) and Hawaii (12.5%).
■ The S&P/Case-Shiller US house price data, which monitors 20 cities, showed prices up 5.5% between November 2011 and November 2012 – the strongest increase for six years.
■ CoreLogic data shows prices in Las Vegas, where 60% of homes are in negative equity, up 14% in the past year.
■ According to the Miami Association of Realtors, the number of home sales in Miami during 2012 set a new record.
■ California realtors say it took an average of 38 days to sell a family home in December, down from 59 days a year earlier.