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BRITISH HOMES GROUP Florida

Headed for Orlando? Here’s what’s new.

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2014’s most popular destinations, according to Facebook

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OIA posts another record year for international travel

BY CAITLIN DINEEN STAFF WRITER

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JOSHUA C. CRUEY/STAFF FILE PHOTO Travelers wait to pass through security at Orlando International Airport, which saw a record high for international traffic.

Orlando International Airport has another record in the books.

Fiscal year 2013 may have ended with a record high for international traffic, nearly 3.95 million travelers, but fiscal year 2014 has comfortably surpassed it.

According to the Greater Orlando International Airport Authority, international traffic for the fiscal year, which closed in September, reflects a 5.68 percent increase over last year.

“I don’t think it’s any secret what drives this is this destination,” said Phil Brown, Orlando International’s director.

Brown said years of marketing and improvements at the airport, including the February introduction of10 electronic kiosks that allow passengers to enter certain information such as purpose of visit and number of travelers in the party, are yielding results.

“We’re trying to get the repeat visitors,” he said.

Some 4.17 million international travelers passed through the airport this year. Last year’s total had been a 5.2 percent increase for the airport and considered a banner year by airport officials.

Domestic-passenger volume remained the bulk of OIA’s traffic, although its increase didn’t break a solid percentage point this year. Clocking in at about a 0.7 percent rise, that amounted to just a tad more than 31 million domestic travelers. Still, that increase — a sliver-sized difference of 75,771 passengers from 2013 to 2014 — comes after a year in which domestic traffic had dropped.

Overall traffic figures this year posted a 1.25 percent increase.

In 2013, domestic travel had decreased about 2 percent, and overall traffic at the airport had been down 1.2 percent, according to the authority.

Brown said airline travel, no matter the destination, is always subject to the strength of the economy.

Gas prices continuing to drop, he said, might have resulted in a new consumer confidence to spend money elsewhere.

Additionally, changes made to area attractions, such as the expansion of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, have kept airport traffic figures thriving this year, said Brown.

Brown said Orlando and Central Florida have always been a leisure destination, but an increase in business travelers was noted this year, partially in thanks to developments at Medical City at Lake Nona and expansions in the region’s technology sector.

“It’s a combination of all those aspects,” he said, adding increased seat capacity on international flights also contributed to the airport’s success.

Brown said he thinks Orlando International’s year of growth is sustainable, even in light of two years posting more a 5 percent increase in one travel category.

Frank Kruppenbacher, chairman of the airport authority, said the increase was “welcomed and encouraged news” as the airport entered the final quarter of 2014.

In addition to releasing annual traffic reports, authority officials released September figures that show 5.2 percent, 4.84 percent and 4.88 percent increases in international traffic, domestic traffic and overall passenger traffic, respectively.

Orlando’s Attractions Have Little To Do With Mickey

http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2014/11/21/downtown-orlando/19320023/

10 best rides and attractions at Walt Disney World

http://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/experience/america/theme-parks/2014/06/04/10-best-rides-and-attractions-at-walt-disney-world/9963393/

August Featured Property Of The Month

     

Fully furnished 4 bedroom 3 bathroom home on the ever popular orange tree development and currently used for short term holiday rentals. This home also has a heated pool and spa with a screen enclosure and a mature hedge for additional privacy. The home is situated in an over size corner lot and the garage is used as a games room. Disney is within a 15 minute drive and a publix supermarket, shops and restaurant are only minutes away. This property benefits from an upgraded furniture package and there are flat tv screens in all the bedrooms, two bedrooms have en suite bathrooms.

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Orlando Travel Guide

Orlando. It’s the City Beautiful, a shiny little town of about 250,000 people. It’s oft considered a suburb of all things Mickey, but locals and savvy visitors know the truth.

Orlando has history. It has nature. It has sports. It has art and culture and a local dining scene that’s not only rife with the biggies, but a top location for chains testing out new dishes. On top of that – it’s exploding with local, indie and farm-to-table venues. Not to mention craft beer. And cocktails.

Orlando’s busy, modish downtown keeps adding more venues – cultural, culinary and otherwise. And it’s only an hour from the closest beach, two to the gleaming white sands of the Gulf of Mexico.

And yes, okay. Orlando also has theme parks. Arguably the BEST theme parks in the world. Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld and a host of smaller attractions delight everyone from the families most expect would flock here to every single slice of the traveling demographic, college kids to grandparents.

Orlando, as it happens, is the most visited U.S. destination, setting an all-time world record in 2013 when a staggering 59 million visitors chose to spend their vacation dollars in Central Florida. The city must be doing something right.

Why should you visit? For starters, you haven’t seen Orlando lately unless you were here yesterday. The city is expanding. EVERYWHERE. From the theme parks to downtown to the greater metro, brand-new attractions and near-perpetual redevelopment of old favorites keep things fresh. And the outer-lying areas, those still mercifully Undeveloped, remain – which means nature lovers can get out in it and experience the beautiful of natural Florida along with its more – let’s just say ersatz appeal.

What’s new at the parks?

SeaWorld Orlando’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, which opened just last year, is the property’s biggest expansion to date (and a phenomenal improvement on the previous penguin exhibit). The experience begins with a story and a ride and ends inside the birds’ habitat. It’s a beautiful, albeit chilly attraction at 32 degrees, but a refreshing break, particularly after standing in line in summer temperatures. You can linger as long as you like. May 2014 will see Ihu’s Breakaway Falls open at SeaWorld’s Aquatica water park. It stands to be the tallest, steepest and only multi-drop slide in town.

Potter fans who’ve yet to make the pilgrimage to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure might want to wait just a little longer. This summer, its 2.0 Potter park – Diagon Alley – will open at Universal Studios Orlando with new themed rides, restaurants and a two-way, park-to-park journey on the famed Hogwarts Express.

Walt Disney World’s continued expansion at the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland continues with the opening of the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster and the expansion of Downtown Disney – soon to be re-christened Disney Springs – is in full swing. Rumor has it some critically acclaimed restaurants will be joining its already impressive roster of dining and shopping.

Downtown debuts

City growth is happening everywhere, not just at the uber-competitive parks. Fans of the arts are enjoying the morphing cityscape as the sparkling new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts nears completion (its opening date is November 6, 2014). The beautiful facility will boast two performance theaters, a community theater, outdoor plaza and performance space on a two-block site that will accommodate new dining and shopping options, as well. National tours and internationally heralded performers and troupes will find a state-of -the-art home away from home.

The Citrus Bowl has been razed and is undergoing a $200 million renovation and will host some huge college bowl games once open – the Capital One, Russell Athletic and Florida Blue Classic among them. Additionally, Orlando’s new major league soccer team will be playing its 2015 season at the new Citrus Bowl. But that’s only until their new $85 million purpose-built venue is completed in 2016.

The “Real” Florida

For a destination so well known for its incredible (if theatrical) theme-park brands, less is said about the thousands of acres of pristine woods and wetlands, much of it mere minutes from the prime hotel zone. Central Florida’s most impressive natives include birds such as the pretty, pink roseate spoonbill and the impressive sandhill crane – sometimes growing to four feet in height. Bald eagles soar overhead, as do other raptors, and the swamps are alive with alligators. You might spot any of these on hikes, paddling trips or airboat rides. And you should. The flora and fauna here is unlike anywhere and worlds away from Cinderella’s Castle.

Existing home sales up 4.9%; best gain since ’11

Existing home sales rose for the second-straight month in May — climbing to their strongest pace since fall — as more homes on the market helped draw buyers.

Sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million, up 4.9% from April’s revised 4.66 million rate, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

The monthly percentage gain was the highest since August 2011. Last month’s sales rate also beat economists’ median forecast of 4.73 million in Action Economics’ survey.

“The long-awaited spring bounce in home sales looks to have finally appeared,” said RBS Markets chief U.S. economist Michelle Girard in a research note.

Both sale prices and inventory improved last month, which is a good sign, said Stephanie Karol, of IHS Global Insight.

“As long as sellers feel assured of making a profit, they will feel emboldened to list their homes; and as buyers feel they have a good selection of well-located properties to choose from, they will continue to look and bid,” she said in a research note.

Despite sales’ improving trend the past two months, they are still weaker than last year. In May 2013, the annualized sales rate was 5.15 million.Through May, sales are down 8.2% from the first five months of last year.

The market also continues to be difficult for buyers with modest financial resources, such as first-time buyers. Their share of sales declined to 27% in May, down 2 percentage points from April and from April 2013.

Although single-family home sales rose 5.7% from April, they’re also down 5.7% from a year ago.

Compared with last year, the lower-priced end of the market looks weakest. Sales of homes under $100,000 and from $100,000 to $250,000 fell in every region of the country last month compared with May 2013. But sales of homes priced at $1 million and above rose everywhere but the Midwest.

The median existing home price was $213,400 in May, up 5.1% from a year earlier.

Still, more homes on the market, prices that are rising more slowly than in 2013 and recent declines in mortgage rates should create better conditions for more buyers, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors.

Freddie Mac reported last week that the U.S. average for a 30-year mortgage was 4.17%. That compares with an average 4.48% last December and 3.93% a year ago.

This year’s declines in interest rates are likely to be temporary. Rates are expected to tick up as the Federal Reserve pares the monthly bond purchases it launched in 2012 to hold down long-term interest rates.

The Realtors group said total housing inventory at the end of May rose 2.2% to 2.28 million existing homes available for sale. That’s 6% higher than a year ago.

At May’s sales rate, there’s a 5.6-month supply of homes for sale, which is still below the 6-month inventory that’s considered a balanced market between buyers and sellers.

More data on the housing market is due Tuesday when Standard & Poor’s releases the Case-Shiller Index of home prices for April, and the government reports on new home sales for May.

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Florida bridges can be adventures: Here are 6 that will enchant you

By Kevin Spear, Orlando Sentinel

In Florida, a bridge can be a rare hill to conquer, an overlook for great views, a place for a social outing or a workout — and one of the best ways to connect with the state’s unique water world.

“We talk about it all the time,” said Renata Cherapay, who meets with her mother three times a week on the Max Brewer Bridge in Titusville, about 45 miles east of Orlando. “My dad asks, ‘Why do you go?’ You get a cool breeze, clean air, you can look at the water and you can talk while you walk.”

As they set out on a recent afternoon, her mother, Bobbie Burgamy, added: “It eases your mind.”

Bridge trekkers go to experience the outdoors the way it can’t be done on a neighborhood sidewalk or park path.

Many adventure bridges have sidewalks protected by steel or concrete barriers, outlooks that extend as small stages over the water and public parking.

The thing about the Brewer, and what a lot of its fans proclaim, is the venue is good day and night, 2 p.m. or 2 a.m. and during warm weather and blustery.

As with perhaps all adventure bridges, Saturday mornings are jammed.

“It’s our town’s track,” said Margaret Thompson of Titusville, who was logging laps with her husband just before sunset recently.

Not unlike the Golden Gate and Brooklyn bridges, Florida’s adventure bridges complement the personalities of their settings.

Fitting for Jacksonville’s blue-collar roots is its Main Street Bridge, a throwback to the days when riveted steel was the real way to cross Florida waters.

St. Augustine’s Bridge of Lions is a museum centerpiece. Sarasota’s Ringling Bridge feels like part of the classic sun, sea and sky of a Florida vacation.

Affluent Fort Lauderdale has its 17th Street Bridge, the state’s tallest drawbridge, which opens like car hoods. It can accommodate yachts of lowly millionaires when closed, but it must open occasionally for billionaires’ behemoths.

Tampa and Clearwater, as of late last year, can brag about the only high bridge that looks like it can carry cars but is dedicated to recreation and to the burgeoning network of trails in the Tampa Bay area.

In all, about a dozen Florida bridges are in the top tier for adventure. Others include the Melbourne Causeway in Brevard County, Veterans Memorial Bridge in Martin County, Rickenbacker Causeway in Miami, Old Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys and the Albert Gilchrist and Barron Collier bridges in Charlotte County.

All stand out in different ways and are locally famous; trekkers at one bridge are often unaware that other bridges offer as much enjoyment.

The vast majority of the state’s thousands of bridges have little or no safe room for walking or biking, or otherwise don’t encourage recreation, and there is no program to create more adventure-worthy bridges.

“It’s case by case,” said Bob Crim, manager of the Florida Department of Transportation Production Support Office. “If sidewalks and bike lanes lead up to a bridge, then they’ll probably be on the bridge, too.”

FDOT also has no online page or printed brochure that showcases the best bridges for recreation.

Among the newest — and the closest to Central Florida — is the Brewer Bridge. It was rebuilt and opened in 2011, transformed from a low and inhospitable drawbridge to a span of concrete with an arch not quite like a rainbow but with an apex of more than 70 feet.

It rises from the edge of Titusville, flies over the Indian River and lands at the foot of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which abuts Canaveral National Seashore.

In the most visual way, it is the doorway between two worlds, one of civilization’s hustle and bustle and the other of celebrated marsh and migratory birds.

The view from the high bridge, like the scene from other bridges, casts a kindly patina on distant features. Everything comes off as scenic, including Kennedy Space Center’s giant box of a building once used to assemble moon rockets.

A few weeks ago, during the hottest part of a weekday afternoon, Rosalio Cenobio of Titusville strode across with purpose. Why? He patted his belly to indicate he wanted to knock off a few pounds.

Another man didn’t slow to talk but explained his motivation was: “Maybe more for my mental health than my physical health.”

By 5 p.m., the bridge scene was energizing. Anglers were arriving, setting up on a fishing pier and nearby banks.

Colorful kites of kite surfers performed aerial pirouettes in the near distance, and business picked up at a restaurant below the bridge at the west end

As the sky gathered for sunset, Cathy Flick and Dolly Hieronimus arrived. The two, well into their retirement years, used to come daily. But Hieronimus, the slacker, started yoga twice a week, so now they trek the Brewer only five days a week.

The payoff from the Brewer, said Flick, is that the gossip and scenery combine to obscure the exertion.

“You don’t know it hurts because you are talking,” she said.

Mary Hughes showed up, as she often does, to walk and stalk sunsets with her camera.

“I’ve gotten some gorgeous photos,” she said.

As the span’s lights began intruding into sundown’s fading reds, Angela Scully propelled her 2-year-old daughter in a stroller, beaming when asked about the bridge.

“After a long day at work, it’s just relief to be here,” she said. “This is what Florida is about.”

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Orlando tourism gets sunny treatment in New York Times

Jim Stratton12:25 p.m. EDT, May 27, 2014

The paper highlights hotelier Harris Rosen and singles out Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter for keeping Central Florida tourism hot during the downturn. One excerpt:

“What happened was Harry Potter — there’s no doubt about it,” said Anthony Crocco, Central Florida regional director for Metrostudy, a new-home industry consulting firm.

Can’t help but wonder how that played at the happiest place on earth.

Home prices highest since 2008

Prices of existing homes in the core Orlando market edged up to $163,000 in April – the highest median price since 2008, according to a new report.

Prices in an area that includes mostly Orange and Seminole counties increased for the third consecutive month, according to Orlando Regional Realtors Association. Home prices were up more than 13 percent from a year earlier but remain far below the peak of $264,000 in July 2007.

Interest rates dropped to 4.39 percent in April from 4.43 March, helping drive an increase in sales to 2,630 from 2,435 a month earlier. The listings grew slightly to 10,647, which was the largest amount in three years but the months of inventory actually declined slightly to a supply of only 4.05 months because increased sales activity ate into the available listings. A six-month supply is considered normal.

Orlando area’s outlying neighborhoods see biggest home-price recovery

To find the Central Florida neighborhoods where home prices have bounced back the most in the past year, look at newer communities at the region’s outer edges.

Growth pockets in Eustis, Paisley and Montverde in Lake County showed price gains of about 30 percent from February 2013 until the same month this year. So did portions of St. Cloud and rural parts of south Osceola County, including Harmony.

Overall values in the four-county Orlando metropolitan area increased 20 percent during that period, according to a new Homes.com study that compared sales of the same homes over time by ZIP code.

“Those were the hardest-hit, so of course they’re going to see the most recovery,” Keller Williams agent Lawrence Bellido said of homes in the outlying areas. “At Bella Collina in Montverde, they weren’t selling anything out there, and it would be the same for Harmony.”

Throughout Central Florida, recent price gains have varied greatly from one community to the next. For example, growth areas south of St. Cloud have shown gains of about 30 percent during the past year, but prices grew by only about half that amount in older parts of St. Cloud, where streets are named for states and some homes were built in the 1920s.

Similarly, long-established areas of Oviedo, Casselberryand Kissimmee saw price appreciation of about 15 percent during the past year — a heady recovery by most standards but lagging the rest of the region.

Prices in the Mount Dora and Apopka areas increased 11 percent, while values in Winter Park were up only 8 percent during that time.

One reason prices have increased faster in some neighborhoods than in others: Foreclosures hit hardest in newly developing areas because owners of houses built just before the real-estate crash in 2007 had little or no equity in their homes.

They were more likely to walk away from the debt, end up in foreclosure or go through a short sale, which happens when lenders approve sales prices that are less than the mortgage owed. Values dropped the most in those foreclosure-impacted neighborhoods, so the bounce-back also has been more dramatic.

“Those markets where prices got so low were where the prices increased the most in the last three years,” said Mike Timmeran, president of Naples-based MJT Realty Economic Advisors, which advised Homes.com on the price analysis.

Homes.com is one of the country’s largest real-estate-data companies and analyzes same-home sales, which are considered a more consistent gauge of market conditions than overall monthly sales reports.

The wide swing in price recovery — even in neighboring areas — can be confusing for buyers.

Houston resident Mike Raab said the mix of appreciation among neighborhoods has made his hunt for a house in Orlando challenging because it’s difficult to figure out fair market value: Are owners basing the price on sales in nearby areas that are rebounding quickly instead of close-by communities that have been slower to recover?

Sellers can take advantage of out-of-town buyers who don’t know the shifting Orlando market, he added.

“You’ve got to be very, very careful that someone doesn’t say, ‘Here’s some outside money coming in, and we can really pull one over their eyes,'” Raab said. “Prices can bounce tremendously from block to block. It’s really a disparate recovery.”

The Homes.com price index shows that Metro Orlando’s market recovery lags the nation’s other Top 100 metro areas. All metro areas started with an index level of 100 in January 2000. As a group, they peaked in July 2007 and then bottomed out about three years later. By February of this year, they were back near their peak-level pricing.

But in the Orlando area, prices remain far below their peak, according to the index and other price reports. A report released last week by the Orlando Regional Realtors Association showed the median price in the core Orlando market reached $163,000 in April — about $100,000 below the peak levels.

The realities of the long recovery ahead are not lost on Central Florida suburbanites.

In rural Osceola County, Tina Snow bought a house in the Harmony community in 2004 and said that, although prices may be on the rise, they’re still not what they were when she purchased. Prices in that ZIP are still down about a third from their peak in November 2006.

“You know what hurt them the most? You walk in and it’s so beautiful it takes your breath away, but then 2008 came along, and the real-estate crash hit us,” Snow said. “We’re so far out that just to get anything from a store, it’s 7 miles.”

St. Cloud native Melissa Godwin, a real-estate broker, said home prices in that town didn’t see huge gains because prices didn’t decline as much.

“Houses in downtown St. Cloud — yeah, some of them went through short sales — but a lot of them were built before I was born, and they didn’t take such a heavy swing,” she said. “They’ve had much more sustainable increases.”

USTA unveils plans for new tennis center at Lake Nona

The United State Tennis Association announced this morning that it will build the “new home of American tennis,” with more than 100 courts, at Lake Nona by the end of 2016.

The USTA unveiled plans Wednesday morning for the $60 million center, which will have more than 100 courts — about double the playing space of a Mobile, Ala., center now considered the nation’s largest tennis facility.

On Wednesday’s announcement at UCFs College of Medicine at Lake Nona, Orlando MayorBuddy Dyer said, “I think we can honestly say that we have become the sports Mecca in the United States.”

The 63-acre project will house the USTA’s Community Tennis and Player Development divisions and foster the growth of tennis with training and events for youth, recreational players, college athletes and professionals.

“This new home for American tennis will truly be a game-changer for our sport,” said USTA President David Haggerty. “This world-class facility will be an inclusive gathering place for American tennis and will allow us to impact our sport at every level, from the grass roots to the professional ranks.”

As envisioned, it would become the site for everything from league matches and training camps to collegiate tournaments and national-level competitions. The center also would become the home of the University of Central Florida varsity-tennis program.

It’s expected to employ about 150 people, many of whom now work at the association’s existing Community Tennis Division headquarters in White Plains, N.Y., and a training center that USTA has leased at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton.

The USTA considered locations in the Southwest, North Carolina and elsewhere in Florida but settled on Lake Nona in southeast Orlando, in part because of incentives that included a 30-year, $1-a-year lease on land from the Tavistock Group, developer of Lake Nona.

Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed, but Tavistock is expected to bear much of the cost, USTA officials said Tuesday. North of Lake Nona Boulevard and south of the body of water called Lake Nona, the center is planned as the initial piece of a 100-acre cluster of sports and human-performance businesses. Lake Nona already is home to a collection of hospitals and research institutes called Medical City.

“This USTA deal is meant to ignite the sports and human-performance cluster in the same way the UCF Medical School and Sanford-Burnham ignited Medical City,” said Rasesh Thakkar, senior managing director of Tavistock.

UCF is about to embark on a $5 million fundraising campaign to build 12 team practice courts at its campus in east Orange County and an equal number at the Lake Nona center. Plans for the college-level facility at Lake Nona include mast lighting for televised events and elevated seating for about 1,200 spectators. It also will feature a two-story pavilion for concessions, restrooms, locker rooms and office space.

“This is an opportunity for us to enhance tennis in the Orlando community, which is already a rabid tennis city,” said UCF Athletics Director Todd Stansberry. “Having a center of this magnitude is just going to enhance the opportunity to play tennis and bring the greatest players from around the world to Orlando, which is going to elevate Orlando as a tennis destination.”

The city will pay for a new road to access the site. On Tuesday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyerwould not say how much the roadwork will cost but said funds will come from transportation impact fees, which are charged on new construction. In addition, the city is offering more than $200,000 in tax incentives. Orange County and the state are also providing incentives, but the details were not available Tuesday.

“The city, county and the state played a role, but Lake Nona, with the contribution of the land and the capital construction costs, was major,” Dyer said. He said the project “cements our reputation as one of the leading sports cities in all of America.”

In addition to the Orlando Magic NBA team, Orlando is home to Disney’s Wide World of Sports, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Golf Channel and college bowl games. The city also is planning to build a professional soccer stadium.

Work on the tennis project is scheduled to begin by the third quarter of this year. The USTA’s current lease at Evert Academy in Boca Raton is about to end, officials said.

Haggerty said he did not expect the new center at Lake Nona to rob clubs and tennis centers elsewhere of significant tournament business.

“We think a facility like this will host major events but not every year,” he said. “We will be transparent and communicative. We aren’t trying to put clubs or great facilities out of business.”

From today’s USA TODAY
10 countries racing to buy American homes

International homebuyers are attracted to the United States for a number of reasons. These include favorable housing prices, good weather, the country’s relative economic stability and an attraction to America in general. As the housing market improved and home prices rebounded, the interest of foreign buyers in U.S. properties has soared.

Interest in U.S. property increased dramatically in a number of countries between 2009 and 2013. In all, interest in home buying, according to housing market firm RealtyTrac, increased by 95% or more in 10 countries, and at least doubled in nine of these nations. Interest in U.S. property by residents of the United Arab Emirates rose 352%, the most out of any country. Based on subscription data provided by RealtyTrac, these are the 10 countries where interest in buying American homes is on the rise.

Overseas buyers likely see value in the U.S. housing market. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, said, “The U.S. real estate market is coming off of a rough patch and entering recovery mode. And so international buyers see it as a great time to jump in and catch the U.S. market on the upswing.” According to the Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index, the U.S. housing market is just beginning to rebound from its lows set in March 2012. 

While tepid growth may dissuade some potential homebuyers, these countries have many exceptionally wealthy residents. Three of these countries – Germany, the United Kingdom and China – each had more than 10,000 ultra high net worth residents last year and were in the top five countries globally in that measure. China’s total number of ultra high net worth residents is even greater if the 3,180 ultra wealthy residents of Hong Kong are included.

Another key factor that drives many prospective homebuyers to consider the United States is common language. English-speaking countries accounted for 68% of international residents looking for homes in the U.S. Much of this interest came from U.S. neighbor Canada, which alone accounted for 45% of all international interest. The United Kingdom and Australia also each accounted for more than 10% of all interest, ranking second and third among all countries, respectively. 

However, language does not explain the increased interest from countries such as the UAE and China, Blomquist noted. Additionally, much of the growth in foreign interest has come from European nations, including Switzerland and France. Six of the countries with the largest percentage increases in property seekers are located in Europe.

Another likely important factor in driving international interest in U.S. homeownership may be America’s reputation as a relative safe haven for investors. For many buyers, Blomquist noted, the U.S. represents “the most stable country out there.”

Concerns about the financial systems in Italy and China may contribute to demand for U.S. homes from those countries as well. Worries in China, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland and the U.K. about the local housing market may also be driving U.S. investment.

To determine the 10 countries where the interest in buying American homes is on the rise, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed subscriber data from RealtyTrac. We also reviewed figures on real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth, population and other macroeconomic factors from the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook. Figures on the number of ultra high net worth individuals, defined as people worth $25 million or more, are from Wealth-X. 

These are the countries racing to buy American homes. 

10. Germany

> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 95.2%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 
2.6% (7th highest)
> GDP per capita: 
$39,468 (18th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 

17,820 (2nd highest)

Germans accounted for 2.6% of all of RealtyTrac’s international homebuyers looking for U.S. property between 2009 and 2013. During that time, home searches rose by more than 95%. Contributing to Germans’ ability to afford international property was the country’s high number of ultra high net worth individuals last year of 17,820, second only to the United States. Despite the weakness of the eurozone economy and Germany’s own slowing growth, no major eurozone country grew faster in 2013. However, interest in U.S. properties has tapered off recently, despite the euro’s gains against the dollar. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of German prospective homebuyers to RealtyTrac rose by just 3.4%, less than most foreign nations during that time. 

9. Sweden

> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 100.0%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 
2.0% (9th highest)
> GDP per capita: 
$40,870 (14th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 

1,070 (25th highest)

The number of Swedes interested in buying U.S. real estate doubled between 2009 and 2013. Much of this growth happened last year, when the number of Swedish home searches to RealtyTrac rose by 43%. Like many countries with many residents looking for homes in America, U.S. property may be considered an especially good investment, especially as their country’s economy has been stagnant. Sweden’s gross domestic product has grown less than 1% in each of the past two years. Additionally, many Swedes might find U.S. home prices more affordable. U.S. home prices remain below last decade’s highs, while many market followers believe Swedish home prices are precariously high.

8. Canada

> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 107.7%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 
45.0% (the highest)
> GDP per capita: 
$43,146 (9th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 

4,980 (8th highest) 

Canadians make up the largest share of international U.S. home-buying interest, accounting for 45% of total international RealtyTrac subscriptions between 2009 and 2013. The U.S. geographical proximity to Canada and the cultural similarities between the two nations may explain the interest of Canadian investors. The strength of the Canadian economy may have also given residents more opportunities to invest. Last year, the average Canadian household’s net worth, the total value of all assets minus all debt, exceeded that of the average U.S. household. Residents may also find U.S. properties attractive because some consider Canada’s housing market to be overvalued by some.

7. Australia 

> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 121.9%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 
11.0% (3rd highest)
> GDP per capita: 
$43,042 (10th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 

3,405 (11th highest)

Australians accounted for 11% of all of RealtyTrac’s international subscribers, third most after the United Kingdom and Canada. The country’s strong economic growth – at least when compared to other major developed economies – likely contributed to the increased interest in buying U.S. property. Australia’s economy grew by 3.7% in 2012 and an estimated 2.5% last year, according to the most recent IMF figures. By contrast, countries in the developed world grew by just 1.4% in 2012 and 1.3% in 2013. Despite recent declines, the Australian dollar has also gained considerably against the U.S. dollar in the past few years, also potentially contributing to the increased interest.

6. United Kingdom

> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 153.8%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 
12.1% (2nd highest)
> GDP per capita: 
$37,299 (21st highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 

10,910 (4th highest)

U.K. interest in owning American property has jumped in recent years, including a 34.6% increase in the number of residents looking for property on RealtyTrac alone. Economic reasons could influence prospective homebuyers – residents may see U.S. homes as a safe or profitable investment. The U.K. government’s Help to Buy program, which provides financial help to prospective homeowners in the U.K., has drawn controversy. Detractors of the program have expressed concerns that home prices in the U.K. could rise to unsustainable levels. According to a June 2013 study by the National Association of Realtors, U.K. residents primarily buy single-family homes in suburbs and resort towns in the United States.

5. Italy 

> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 178.4%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 
1.9% (10th highest)
> GDP per capita: 
$29,598 (34th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 

2,075 (14th highest) 

Italian interest in U.S. homes rose considerably in recent years. Residents looking for homes in the U.S. rose by 178% between 2009 and 2013, despite Italian GDP falling by 2.4% in 2012 and 1.8% last year. In fact, the faltering economy may encourage many Italians to consider U.S. property as a relatively good investment. Italy is also home to a number of extremely wealthy citizens with the resources to invest globally. As of last year, there were more than 2,000 ultra high net worth individuals in Italy – 14th most globally – despite the fact Italy’s population totals an estimated 61 million, 24th most in the world.

4. France

> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 190.0%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 
2.8% (6th highest)
> GDP per capita: 
$35,680 (24th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 

4,490 (9th highest)

Interest in the United States from French residents has soared recently. Searches for homes on RealtyTrac from France nearly tripled from 2009 to 2013, and rose by nearly 60% last year alone. One reason for this may be that France had nearly 4,500 ultra high net worth residents as of last year, more than in all but eight other countries globally. However, France’s economy has also flatlined in recent years, which can often prevent foreigners from buying U.S. property. Simultaneously, many observers and residents have criticized President Francois Hollande’s socialist policy decisions and the resulting high taxes. A number of reports indicate that residents may be leaving the country due to high taxes and tough regulations.

3. Hong Kong and China 

> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 254.2%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 
4.1% (4th highest)
> GDP per capita: 
$52,687 (7th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 

13,855 (4th highest)

China’s residents are a major source of international interest in U.S. real estate. China and Hong Kong, collectively, accounted for 4.1% of all international searches on RealtyTrac, more than any other non-English speaking country. One factor that may contribute to this demand is the high number of ultra wealthy residents in mainland China and Hong Kong, where a total of 13,855 such individuals live – more than in all developed nations but the United States, Germany and Japan. In recent years, many wealthy Chinese citizens have considered, or expressed interest in, moving to the United States. Additionally, while China’s economy remains one of the fastest growing in the world, concerns about slowing economic growth and rampant shadow banking activity in the country are considerable. A relatively wealthy population, and concerns about wealth protection, may encourage Chinese residents to consider U.S. property.

2. Switzerland

> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 269.7%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 
2.1% (8th highest)
> GDP per capita: 
$45,999 (8th highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 

6,330 (7th highest)

The number of Swiss residents interested in U.S. property has risen dramatically in recent years. Only the United Arab Emirates had a larger increase in the number of prospective homebuyers than the small Alpine nation. Swiss residents accounted for 2% of all international searches despite a population of just roughly 8 million – smaller than New York City. Despite its size, Switzerland was also home to more than 6,300 ultra wealthy residents last year – more than all but a handful of countries. Also helping to make U.S. properties more appealing, or at least more affordable, is the considerable appreciation of the Swiss franc against the dollar over the past five years, up nearly 27% in that time. 

1. United Arab Emirates

> Growth in prospective homebuyers: 352.2%
> Share of int’l prospective buyers: 
1.1% (12th highest)
> GDP per capita: 
$29,877 (31st highest)
> Ultra high net worth population: 

1,050 (26th highest)

While UAE residents accounted for just 1.1% of RealtyTrac’s international searches, interest in U.S. property from the country has boomed. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of UAE subscribers rose by 352%, the largest percentage increase of any country. One reason may be the relatively high number of residents who can afford international property ownership. While the country has just 9 million residents, it had more than 1,000 ultra high net worth residents last year. Much of this wealth is likely connected to the country’s oil industry. Roughly 40% of the emirates’ GDP was tied to oil and natural gas output, according to OPEC, and oil prices have risen considerably in recent years.

Best!

Bill Cowie
BRITISH HOMES GROUP Florida

April 13, 2014

How to make big money from your vacation home 

It’s a common script for travelers: Fall in love with a place you’re visiting, start looking at real estate listings in a Main Street window, dream about living the good life.

Then you do the math, and the reality of second-home ownership sinks in. Maintenance, real estate taxes and condo fees can add up quickly, and suddenly your summer place looks like a year-round burden. But what if you could offset the cost by making it a part-time vacation rental?

Thousands of second-home owners do just that, and according to data from vacation rental site FlipKey, some of them make a bundle. The site has revealed its ten most lucrative properties, and the owner of a condo in London stands as the site’s champion earner, with a yearly haul of $90,000 to $95,000. Property owners in Maui, Newport Beach, Calif., and Jerusalem also made more than $75,000 in rental income in the past year (see slideshow above for the complete list)

According to FlipKey, the average homeowner in its network earns $26,000 a year.

If you already have the property and are considering putting it on the rental market, FlipKey’s Eric Horndahl has some tips to make it a success:

1. Take great photos to make your property stand out by removing unnecessary clutter, staging your shots, and using a high quality camera. If you’re renting your place often, a professional photographer is more affordable than you may realize and well worth the investment.

2. When setting rates, research other rental properties in your area online and adjust your rates based on seasonal demand.

3. Provide for your guests’ basic needs, which include cable, Wi-Fi, kitchen items, and paper products. Flipkey also recommends having multiple sets of linens to minimize time needed between check-out and check-in. 

4. Install a keyless entry system (such as Lockitron) and hire a great cleaning service to make the check-in and check-out faster and easier for you and the guest. 

5. Guest reviews build credibility with future guests. After your guest checks out, send them a personal e-mail to ask them about their stay and encourage them to review your property online.

 Happy Holiday Home Hunting (and Letting) this year!

Best!  

Bill Cowie
Orlando Florida 

407 620 7777  

 

BRITISH HOMES GROUP FLORIDA

April 9, 2014

More Good News for Florida Villa owners!

From World Property Channel

Orlando Home Prices Up 19 Percent in February!

According to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association (ORRA), Orlando’s housing Inventory increased by 42 percent in February, in advance of the spring selling season.
But despite tremendous gains in inventory over the last months, demand has continued to fuel the ongoing rise in Orlando’s median price. The overall median price (all sales types and all home types combined) for the month of February is $158,000, an 18.80 percent increase compared to the $133,000 median price in February 2013.
“As prices continue to rise, non-distressed homeowners are entering the market and giving inventory a much-needed boost,” says Orlando Regional Realtor Association Chairman Zola Szerencses, RE/MAX 200 Realty. “Even so, inventory still remains tight. Desirable homes are selling very fast and often receiving multiple offers.”
Orlando’s overall median price (all sales types and all home types combined) has recorded year-to-year gains for 31 consecutive months and has risen 36.80 percent since July 2011.
In addition to the year-to-year gain, the February median price is 5.69 percent higher than the January 2014 median price of $149,500.
Each individual sales type and home type saw a median price increase in February. “Normal” sales experienced a 12.23 percent jump, while the median price of short sales increased 18.30 percent and foreclosures increased 0.67 percent.
The median price of single-family homes increased 17.69 percent when compared to February of last year, and the median price of condos increased 16.40 percent.
Completed Sales
Members of ORRA participated in the sales of 1,917 homes (all home types and all sale types combined) that closed in February 2014, a decrease of 17.26 percent compared to February 2013. However, it is an increase of 1.48 percent compared to January 2014.
Szerencses explains that the pace of home sales has slowed as some would-be buyers — especially first-time buyers — face the challenge of higher prices, higher mortgage rates, and tight credit.
“Normal” home sales increased by 0.72 percent when compared to February 2013. Closings of short sales decreased by 63.53 percent while closings of foreclosures decreased 15.29 percent.
In February, short sales and foreclosures made up 34.27 percent of the entire sales pie, while normal sales made up 65.73 percent. Last year in February, those percentages were 46.01 percent and 53.99 percent, respectively.
Single-family home sales decreased 16.71 percent in February 2014 compared to February 2013, while condo sales decreased 18.40 percent. Compared to last month, single-family home sales increased 2.81 percent and condo sales increased 0.36 percent.
Homes of all types spent an average of 76 days on the market before coming under contract in February 2014, and the average home sold for 96.63 percent of its listing price. In February 2013 those numbers were 84 days and 96.22 percent, respectively.
The average interest rate paid by Orlando homebuyers in February decreased to 4.37 percent. Last month, homebuyers paid an average interest rate of 4.47 percent; this month last year, homebuyers paid an average interest rate of 3.21 percent.
Pending Sales
Pending sales – those under contract and awaiting closing – are currently at 7,085. The number of pending sales in February 2014 is 19.72 percent lower than it was in February 2013 (8,825), but 9.67 percent higher than it was in January 2014 (6,460).
Short sales made up 45.42 percent of pending sales in February 2014. Normal properties accounted for 35.67 percent of pendings, while bank-owned properties accounted for 18.91 percent.
Inventory
The number of existing homes (all sales types and all home types combined) that were available for purchase in February is 41.78 percent above that of February 2013 and now rests at 10,184. Inventory increased in number by 257 properties over last month.
The inventory of single-family homes is up by up by 44.01 percent when compared to February of 2013, while condo inventory is up by 34.29 percent. The inventory of duplexes, townhomes, and villas is up by 35.39 percent.
Current inventory combined with the current pace of sales created a 5.31-month supply of homes in Orlando for February. There was a 3.10-month supply in February 2013 and a 5.26-month supply last month.
Affordability
The February affordability index is 183.65 percent, a decrease from January’s index of 191.09. (An affordability index of 99 percent means that buyers earning the state-reported median income are 1 percent short of the income necessary to purchase a median-priced home. Conversely, an affordability index that is over 100 means that median-income earners make more than is necessary to qualify for a median-priced home.)
Buyers who earn the reported median income of $55,613 can qualify to purchase one of 5,117 homes in Orange and Seminole counties currently listed in the local multiple listing service for $290,169 or less.
First-time homebuyer affordability in February decreased to 130.60 percent from last month’s 135.89 percent. First-time buyers who earn the reported median income of $37,817 can qualify to purchase one of the 3,107 homes in Orange and Seminole counties currently listed in the local multiple listing service for $175,391 or less.
Condos and Town Homes/Duplexes/Villas
The sales of condos in the Orlando area were down 18.40 percent in February, with 275 sales recorded in February 2014 compared to 337 in February 2013.
 
Orlando homebuyers purchased 177 duplexes, town homes, and villas in February 2014, which is a 19.91 percent decrease over the 221 purchased in February 2013.
 
___________
 

Even More Good News for Florida Villa owners! 

U.S. Market Still Top Pick 

Among Global Home Buyers  

According to the California Association of Realtors (CAR) “2013 International Clients Survey”, international home buyers preferred purchasing properties in the United States over all other countries. These foreign buyers still view the U.S. as a safe place to put their money.
The vast majority (85 percent) of international buyers said they only considered purchasing a home in the U.S., citing that the stable government and financial system would guarantee their home investment. Fifteen percent considered investing in other countries, with Canada, Germany, Mexico, China, Singapore, Sweden, and France cited as other countries most considered.
Over $68.2 billion in residential property transactions occurred in the U.S. during 2013, down from $82.5 billion in 2012 according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
International buyers also chose to purchase in the U.S. for its desirable location and climate (20 percent), to be closer to family and friends (20 percent), investment opportunities (9 percent), changes in work and employment (9 percent), educational opportunities (6 percent), and affordable prices (4 percent).
International buyers purchased a property in the U.S. primarily for investment purposes or tax advantages (18 percent) or to rent out (14 percent), contrary to traditional home buyers, who purchased primarily because they were tired of renting (23 percent).
While Florida received the most foreign buyer activity in 2013, looking at California specifically, Los Angeles County was the top location where international buyers purchased properties (35 percent).  International buyers also purchased homes in Orange (22 percent), San Diego (20 percent), Riverside (14 percent), Contra Costa (7 percent), and Santa Clara (7 percent) counties.
The top four states in terms of number of international buyers:
  • Florida: 23% of U.S. total
  • California: 17% of U.S. total
  • Arizona: 9% of U.S. total
  • Texas: 9% of U.S. total
Additional findings from C.A.R.’s 2013 International Clients Survey include:
  • Sixty-nine percent of international buyers paid all cash for their properties, compared to 27 percent of traditional buyers who paid all cash.
  • Thirty-two percent of international buyers purchased the home as a primary residence, compared to 75 percent for traditional buyers, and 33 percent purchased the home as an investment or a rental property, compared to 19 percent of traditional buyers.
  • The primary language of many international buyers was Chinese (36 percent), yet 70 percent communicated in English, illustrating a highly educated international clientele.
  • International buyers typically spent five weeks looking for properties, compared to 10 weeks for traditional buyers.
  • Forty-four percent of international home buyers purchased homes with designer kitchens, 26 percent purchased homes with a wine cellar, and 9 percent purchased homes with a sauna.  Other home amenities that international buyers wanted include private beach, putting green, heated floors, and outdoor kitchens. 
Bill’s Bit:
Its still not too late to catch Orlando’s long-awaited property market resurgence – and grab your dream place in the sun at the same time!

 

Best!

 Bill Cowie

4 Bedroom, 3 Bathroom, Fully Furnished, Pool Home.

S4724850_101_12     S4724850_201_19 S4724850_G01_13

$189,000

Four bedroom, three bathroom fully furnished house in a gated golf community. This home is situated in the very popular Southern Dunes golf community and is currently used for short term holiday rentals, future bookings will convey if required. The home also benefits from a screen enclosed heated pool and is a true turnkey home. There is a bedroom on the first floor and a further three bedrooms including the master bedroom on the second floor.  The community is just minutes away from shops and restaurants and convenient for all of Central Florida’s attractions. The community also has tennis courts, community swimming pools, clubhouse and restaurant.
________________________________________________________________________________

From today’s WALL STREET JOURNAL:  

U.K. house prices hit record high in March

 

LONDON–U.K. house prices hit a fresh record high in March, as buyers continued to outnumber sellers, while an ongoing lack of supply of new homes looks set to push up prices further over the coming months.

The recovery in the U.K.’s mortgage market–which was kick started by government programs–is now in full swing and is adding to the upward pressure on house prices caused by a shortage of homes to meet a growing population.

However, while further buoyancy in house prices suggest fears of a house price bubble remain, policy makers continue to express confidence in stricter mortgage lending practices, which they say will help the country avoid a bubble.

Online estate agency Rightmove Monday said the average asking price for homes advertised for sale on its website rose 1.6%, or 4,000 pounds ($6,649) in one month to a fresh record high of GBP255,962. Compared with March 2013, prices were 6.8%, or around GBP16,000 higher. 

In February, Rightmove reported a 3.3% monthly gain and an annual increase of 6.9% in average asking prices on its property portal. 

The results of the survey are in line with news from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors last week that said house price inflation had eased, but that prices are expected to keep on rising due to a chronic lack of new and old property for sale.
  

House prices are expected to keep on rising for some time, fueled by more confident would-be buyers. However, Rightmove said that an increase in home-movers rather than first-time buyers and investors, will help remedy at least some of the lack of supply of homes for sale.

“With prices on the up and set to increase more, there is a greater sense of urgency among buyers, and as an increasing number of them are existing home-owners, the supply of property for sale is starting to increase to meet growing buyer demand,” said Rightmove’s director and housing market analyst Miles Shipside. “The mass property market is starting to unlock after years of being handcuffed by fragile consumer confidence and a lack of low-deposit mortgages.” 

Bank of England governor Mark Carney along with other policy makers and economists have continued to allay fears of a fresh house price bubble with reassurances that the mortgage market is operating much stricter lending rules and that the central bank is monitoring the housing market closely.

Details of the survey show that Wales and the West Midlands region of England led the monthly price gains, as the wet weather saw activity in the South West and South East of England slow. 

And, despite some signs of slower activity in the South of the country, Rightmove also reported a fresh record high average asking price for London property of GBP552,530 in March. The 2.1% monthly gain from February was mainly a result of prices rising in Greater London, while prime London suffered a slowdown.

Of London’s four most expensive boroughs–Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Camden and Hammersmith and Fulham, where the average asking price tops GBP1 million–three registered a month-to-month drop in asking prices. The strongest gains in March from February were reported in Haringey, Barnet and Hounslow.

“The slack caused by prime London’s slowdown has been taken up by London boroughs further out,” Mr. Shipside said. “While the top-end locations remain sought after and highly valued, the slow-down in the pace of their rises was bound to happen after some very heady increases.”

Write to Ilona Billington at ilona.billington@wsj.com    

 
Bill’s Bit: Might be a good time to “release some equity” from your UK home to invest in a Florida income property? Just a thought! If you like it – please tell your friends!
 
Best!

 

Bill Cowie
Orlando Florida 

407 620 7777  

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Orlando tourism industry expects strong spring

By Jim Stratton, Orlando Sentinel

5:10 p.m. EDT, March 13, 2014

To understand why Central Florida may see an unusually heavy crush of visitors during the next several weeks, consider this:

In January, Pittsburgh had 14 days when the temperature dipped below 10 degrees. Detroit recorded 15 days, and Chicago experienced 16 days. That’s enough to send penguins in search of sun and sand.

The beneficiary is Florida’s — and Orlando’s — tourism industry, which has already racked up strong figures through the first two months of the year. Now, as the spring-travel season moves into full swing, industry leaders are predicting big numbers, courtesy of Northerners desperate to leave chilly temperatures behind.

“I think you’re going to see a record year,” said Paul Phipps, chief marketing officer of Visit Florida. “And certainly Orlando is right in the middle of that.”

During the winter, Phipps’ agency pushed a “Flock to Florida” media campaign in parts of the country gripped by a deep freeze. Featuring tourists flying like birds through a bright Florida sky, it included television, radio, print and online components.

In Chicago, Visit Florida wrapped commuter trains in Florida’s sunny message. In New York, the agency put mannequins — dressed in shorts and T-shirts — on top of taxis caked with road salt and slush.

“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity,” Phipps said. “And this winter really gave us a nice push.”

Phipps cites figures showing that from Feb. 10 to 28, the number of rooms booked in Florida rose 17 percent versus the same period last year. Statewide room occupancy, said Phipps, was up about 80 percent.

Locally, Visit Orlando figures show occupancy rates at Orlando hotels rose to almost 73 percent in January, up 4.3 percentage points from a year earlier. Revenue was up 5.1 percent, according to the region’s tourism-marketing agency. The figures aren’t in yet for February, but officials said it, too, appeared to be a solid month.

On the coast, bikers roared into Daytona Beach earlier this month, and spring breakers spread out on the sand in Cocoa Beach.

In South Florida, too, resorts are expecting big spring-break crowds and growth in the cruise industry.

“Demand into Fort Lauderdale has been very strong in January and February, and we expect that trend to continue through Easter,” said Donald Reilly, sales manager of the 360-room Embassy Suites Fort Lauderdale.

Looking ahead to the rest of March and April, industry officials said bookings are running ahead of last year’s, even though the Easter break will come late this year. Easter falls on April 20.

“We’re pretty optimistic,” said Daryl Cronk, Visit Orlando’s senior director of marketing research and insight. “This winter has been a bear.”

AAA‘s Jessica Brady said that’s reflected in travel packages sold by the auto club. Those are up “substantially,” Brady said, though she could not quantify by how much. Many members are taking weekend getaways, she said, just to get a break from the cold — including visitors from Georgia and other Southern states slammed by unusually bad winter weather.

Neither Walt Disney World nor SeaWorld Orlando would discuss their expectations for spring travel. A spokesman for Universal Orlando, which will open its Cabana Bay Beach Resort in stages starting March 31, said only that “we feel good about where spring is headed.”

Steve Garner, though, was happy to weigh in. He’s director of sales and marketing at the Buena Vista Palace, a 1,000-room-plus resort near Walt Disney World.

He said the resort has seen “a huge uptick” in leisure travel heading into spring. There’s “no doubt,” he said, the numbers will top last year.

“We’ll be well into 90 percent [occupancy] through a big portion of March,” Garner said. “This is where Orlando should be.”

Brand new Town Homes – Pricing from $155,000

building-front-photo_2 green-world-kitchen_living-area_2 pool_2

Serenity Townhomes located in Clermont are a hidden gem in the short term rental market priced from $155,000. The prices here are amazing and well below the current townhouse pricing in the vacation/short term market near Disney. Rare opportunity to purchase a luxury, eco-friendly, resort town home with pool at the very first price release. This is an eco-friendly, short term rental zoned, community. The homes come with interior finishes that you would normally associate with million dollar properties.Spray foam insulation in the walls and roof, tinted double glazed windows, porcelain tile, custom European style kitchens, solar powered street lights, three panel 8 1/2 ft. high sliding doors and heated plunge pools are just a few of the features that set these incredibly low priced, new build, properties apart from the competition.Not only are they priced significantly below comparable properties; the energy savings from our superior build quality and environmentally conscious solar street lighting and resort facilities result in lower running costs than other vacation homes on the market.

Included Features

  • Granite Kitchens
  • Upgraded top of the line SS Appliances, Refrigerator, Range, Mivrowave and Dishwasher
  • Tile back splash in the kitchen
  • 18″ tile extended upgraded tile entire first level
  • Granite bathrooms
  • Deco shower, Garden Tub
  • Splash pool in the Screened Lanai
  • Washer/Dryer
  • Sun deck off master bedroom!

To schedule your FREE VIP Tour or to request more information, please contact us today by calling us at 407-900-2188.

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International travelers to move more quickly through OIA

By Dan Tracy
Orlando SentinelPeople flying into Orlando International Airport from out of the country will be able to get through U.S. Customs more quickly thanks to a new $400,000 system unveiled to the media on Wednesday.

Ten electronic kiosks were put into operation that allow travelers to enter information such as the size of their party, the purpose of their visit and other administrative data and have it electronically transmitted to Customs officers rather than show them paperwork.

Airport and Customs officials estimate the kiosks could cut the time dealing with an agent from 2-and-a-half minutes to as little as 30 seconds.

“This is a pretty historic day for us,” said Phil Brown, executive director of Orlando International.

Brown said Orlando International is the first airport to offer the service, which is available to American and Canadian citizens, as well as visitors from 37 countries who do not need a visa to enter the United States. That would include the United Kingdom and much of Europe, along with Japan and South Korea.

Other airports, among them Chicago, Miami and Houston, employ similar kiosks, but only for Americans and Canadians.

Airport officials are constantly looking for ways to get travelers through Customs more quickly because the federal agency typically does not have enough officers on staff to handle the flow of international passengers, the fastest-growing segment of visitors at Orlando International.

The paucity of officers has lead to complaints about long, tedious waits at Customs that can exceed an hour for passengers getting off international flights.

John Wagner, the acting deputy assistant Customs commissioner, said his agency would like to place more officers in Orlando, but he lacks the resources.Congress recently agreed to add 2,000 more officers to the 21,000-member force, but Wagner said there is no way to know if any of them will end up in Orlando.

Orlando Grand Prix fulfills need for speed with 50 mph karts

By Jon Busdeker
Orlando Sentinel

Who knew a go-kart could go so freakin’ fast?

In what looks like a cluster of boring warehouses in south Orange County, there’s one 70,000 square-foot attraction that puts the pedal to the metal.

Orlando Grand Prix is an indoor go-karting facility with two European-style tracks built for karts that can go up to 50 mph.

For my latest ‘Central Florida Adventure”, I threw on my racing gloves, put on a helmet and got behind the wheel an electric kart.

Like anyone who’s lived in Orlando long enough, I’ve driven my fair share of go-karts. But Orlando Grand Prix isn’t even in the same league as some of the rinky-dink karting tracks in Central Florida.

The entire experience is much more life-like with lap times recorded to the thousandth of a second, karts that drift when taking sharp turns and a track marshal who waves a checkered flag at the end.

Racers even receive a printout of personalized race results.

If you go:

Orlando Grand Prix

Where: 9550 Parksouth Court, Orlando, FL

How much: Adults are $16 for 14 laps; Kids $12 for 10 laps (An annual $5 license is also required)

Tip for Locals: If you can sneak away at lunchtime, Orlando Grand Prix offers a lunch hour special of 12 laps for $12.

Info: www.orlandogp.com or 407-434-7500

Orlando near top for home-price gains in Florida

Orlando Sentinel

Homes prices grew more throughout Central Florida than prices statewide during 2013, according to a new report released by Florida Realtors.

In the Orlando Metropolitan area, which includes Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties, the median home price rose 20 percent to a median price of $165,000 – exceeding the 15.9 percent statewide increase and edging the region closer to the statewide median home sales price of $168,000, according to a report released Tuesday by Florida Realtors.

Nearby Orlando, home sales prices in both Volusia and Polk counties outpaced statewide gains for the year. In Volusia, the median price rose 17.2 percent to $124,250. And in Polk County, sales prices rose 16.2 percent to a midpoint of $122,000.

Throughout Orlando and its surrounding areas, only Brevard County showed nominal growth. Prices in the area, which has been hard hit with NASA closings, increased only 6.8 percent and reach a median of $125,000 for the year.

Of about 20 metropolitan areas throughout the state, only Punta Gorda and Destin/Fort Walton Beach showed greater gains in sales prices than Orlando. Price in both of those coastal areas grew about 21 percent during 2013.

The pace of sales was actually slower in Metropolitan Orlando than throughout the state. The four-county area had 27,381 sales of single-family homes last year, a 6.4 percent increase from a year earlier. Statewide, the number of sales increased at double that pace.

Metropolitan Orlando’s condominium and townhome sales prices showed even greater gains than the area’s home prices. The prices for multi-family homes in the metro area rose 25 percent during the year to reach a median of $95,000. Statewide, condo prices increased 20 percent to a midpoint of $128,000 last year.

About five years ago, Orlando condo prices were the lowest in the state. By the end of 2013, about a half dozen other metro areas in the state had condominium prices equal to or lesser than Orlando’s.

mshanklin@tribune.com or 407-420-5538

Copyright © 2014, Orlando Sentinel

 

BRITISH HOMES GROUP Florida
From today’s ORLANDO SENTINEL

House-flip profits edge up in Orlando

The gross profit from flipping a house in the four-county Orlando metropolitan area edged up to an average of $37,615 in 2013 from $36,518 in 2012, a new report shows.

 Investors purchasing houses and reselling them within six months realized the increase in profits during a year in which home prices increased about 20 percent in the Orlando metro market, according to real estate research group RealtyTrac. The profits do not reflect the improvements and repairs investors made.

“Strong home price appreciation in many markets boosted profits for flippers in 2013 despite a shrinking inventory of lower-priced foreclosure homes to purchase,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac.

The number of Orlando-area houses trading hands within six months increased in from 924 homes in 2011, to 1,831 properties in 2012, to 2,219 homes last year. Flipped sales have become a greater share of the houses trading hands in Metropolitan Orlando, increasing from 3.41 percent of all single-family sales in 2011 to 6 percent of sales last year.

 Nationally, flips accounted for 4.6 percent of sales in 2013, up from 4.2 percent in 2012, and 2.6 percent in 2011. The average gross profit nationally was $58,081 in 2013, up from $45,759 in 2012.

 Happy (and profitable) flipping – but BE CAREFUL!!

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Florida Featured Property: February 2014

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$219,000 

5 Bedroom, 3.5 Bathrooms.

This fabulous 5 bed 3.5 bath courtyard villa is priced for a quick sale!  Stellar rental history and future bookings convey, if current management is retained.

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