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Fla. home to almost 1 in 5 ‘best place to retire’ cities

Eighteen Florida cities were selected as top retirement destinations in the sixth edition of "America's 100 Best Places to Retire," a comprehensive guidebook of the country's most appealing retirement towns.

Editors and staff say that they spent 11 months researching more than 800 cities. The final selection represents 35 states and, in Florida, includes:

· Amelia Island

· Boynton Beach

· Cape Coral

· Dade City

· Destin

· Dunedin

· Jacksonville

· Leesburg

· Melbourne

· Naples

· Northern Palm Beach County

· Ocala

· Orlando

· Port St. Lucie

· Punta Gorda

· St. Augustine

· Sarasota

· Winter Haven

"This book allows readers to tap into the wisdom of hundreds of relocated retirees, including those who moved to Florida," says Where to Retire Editor Annette Fuller. "But the stories also bring you past wistful dreams and into the realm of real research, including information on weather, taxes, downtown attractions and even the caveats of each city."

The chosen cities vary in size, climate, amenities and lifestyle, and each falls into one of 10 categories that focuses on the city's defining feature, such as beaches, mountains, low costs, four seasons and appealing downtowns.

Some Florida cities also were considered top destinations based on defining features.

Best arts towns: Durango, CO; Greater Phoenix, AZ; Portland, OR; Richmond, VA; Santa Fe, NM; Sarasota, FL; Savannah, GA; Southwestern Oregon; Taos, NM; Verde Valley, AZ.
Best beach towns: Brunswick/Golden Isles, GA; Cape Cod, MA; Gulfport/Biloxi, MS; Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, AL; Hilton Head Island, SC; Myrtle Beach, SC; Northern Palm Beach County, FL; Port St. Lucie, FL; Southern Delaware; Wilmington, NC.
Best college towns: Auburn, AL; Baton Rouge, LA; Blacksburg, VA; Bloomington, IN; Boulder, CO; Knoxville, TN; Lawrence, KS; State College, PA; Tucson, AZ; Virginia College Trio.
Best four-season towns: Aiken, SC; Boise, ID; Door County, WI; Grand Junction, CO; Louisville, KY; Northwestern Arkansas; St. George, UT; Springfield, MO; Winston-Salem, NC; Yakima, WA.
Best lake towns: Branson, MO; Edmonds, WA; Gainesville, GA; Leesburg, FL; Ogden, UT; St. Tammany Parish, LA; Sandpoint, ID; Waco, TX; Walla Walla, WA; Winter Haven, FL.
Best low-cost towns: Albuquerque, NM; Charlotte, NC; Durham, NC; Jacksonville, FL; Kerrville, TX; Melbourne, FL; Mobile, AL; Ocala, FL; Orlando, FL; Tupelo, MS.
Best main street towns: Annapolis, MD; Cape Coral, FL; Charleston, SC; Dade City, FL; Frederick, MD; Glenwood Springs, CO; Greenville, SC; Lexington, KY; Naples, FL; St. Augustine, FL.
Best mountain towns: Boone/Blowing Rock, NC; Greater Denver, CO; Gatlinburg, TN; Henderson, NV; Hendersonville, NC; Jackson Hole, WY; Missoula, MT; Nevada City/Grass Valley, CA; Prescott, AZ; Sylva, NC. Best small towns: Amelia Island, FL; Beaufort, SC; Boynton Beach, FL; Cape May, NJ; Destin, FL; New Bern, NC; Punta Gorda, FL; Redmond, OR; Sierra Vista, AZ; Traverse City, MI.
Best undiscovered towns: Black Hills, SD; Carson City, NV; Cookeville, TN; Dunedin, FL; Florence/Muscle Shoals, AL; Pocatello, ID; Portland, ME; Sheridan, WY; Tyler, TX; Vicksburg, MS.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®


 Fla. senators’ bill would extend Canadian visitor stays

U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio introduced legislation that would allow retired Canadian citizens older than 50 to spend up to eight months a year vacationing in the U.S. – two months longer than they may stay now.

In announcing the bill, the senators cite figures form the Canadian embassy claiming that Canadians visiting Florida contribute more than $4 billion each year to the state's economy.

To change the law, Congress would need to pass the bill and the president must sign it. If that happens, the bill would allow Canadian citizens over the age of 50 who either own or rent a residence in the U.S. to remain in the country for up to 240 days each year. The bill expressly prohibits these visitors from working for American employers or seeking public assistance while in the U.S.

"The millions of Canadian snowbirds who visit our state each year play an important role in our state's tourism-driven economy," says Nelson. "Allowing them to stay even longer is a win for them and for the local economies they visit."

Current immigration laws allow Canadians to visit the United States for up to six months each year. Canadian citizens who stay in the U.S. for more than six months in a given year are considered U.S. residents for tax purposes that year and, under current law, are required to pay U.S. federal income taxes on any and all income they earn that year – regardless of what country they earned it in.

According to VISIT Florida, approximately 3.2 million Canadians visited Florida in 2016.

The legislation is endorsed by VISIT Florida and the Canadian Snowbird Association. ©

2018 Florida Realtors®


Because your home may well be your largest asset, selling it is probably one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. To better understand the homeselling process, Realtor Gayana Karian has prepared a guide from current industry insider reports. Through these 27 tips you will discover how to protect and capitalize on your most important investment, reduce stress, be in control of your situation, and make the most profit possible. Enjoy the reading

1. Understand Why You Are Selling

Your Home Your motivation to sell is the determining factor as to how you will approach the process. It affects everything from what you set your asking price at to how much time, money and effort you’re willing to invest in order to prepare your home for sale. For example, if your goal is for a quick sale, this would determine one approach. Gayana Karian suggest that if you want to maximize your profit, the sales process might take longer thus determining a different approach.

2. Keep the Reason(s) You are Selling to Yourself

The reason(s) you are selling your home will affect the way you negotiate its sale. By keeping this to yourself you don’t provide ammunition to your prospective buyers. For example, should they learn that you must move quickly, you could be placed at a disadvantage in the negotiation process. When asked, simply say that your housing needs have changed. Remember, the reason( s) you are selling is only for you to know .

3. Before Setting a Price – Do Your Homework

When you set your price, you make buyers aware of the absolute maximum they have to pay for your home. As a seller, you will want to get a selling price as close to the list price as possible. If you start out by pricing too high you run the risk of not being taken seriously by buyers and their agents. If you are pricing too low it can result in selling for much less than you were hoping for. Setting Your Home’s Sale Price If You Live in a Subdivision – If your home is comprised of similar or identical floor plans, built in the same period, simply look at recent sales in your neighborhood subdivision to give you a good idea of what your home is worth. If You Live in An Older Neighborhood – As neighborhoods change over time each home may be different in minor or substantial ways and you will probably find that there aren’t many homes truly comparable to yourown. In this case you may want to consider seeking a Realtor ® to help you with the pricing process. If You Decide to Sell On Your Own – A good way to establish a value is to look at homes that have sold in your neighborhood within the past 6 months, including those now on the market. This is how prospective buyers will assess the worth of your home. Also a trip to City Hall can provide you with home sale information in its public records, for most communities.

4. Do Some “Home Shopping” Yourself

The best way to learn about your competition and discover what turns buyers off is to check out other open houses. Note floor plans, condition, appearance, size of lot, location and other features. Particularly note, not only the asking prices but what they are actually selling for. Remember, if you’re serious about getting your home sold fast, don’t price it higher than your neighbor’s.

5. When Getting an Appraisal is a Benefit

Sometimes a good appraisal can be a benefit in marketing your home. Getting an appraisal is a good way to let prospective buyers know that your home can be financed. However, an appraisal does cost money, has a limited life, and there’s no guarantee you’ll like the figure you hear.

6. Tax Assessments – What They Really Mean

Some people think that tax assessments are a way of evaluating a home. The difficulty here is that assessments are based on a number of criteria that may not be related to property values, so they may not necessarily reflect your home’s true value.

7. Deciding Upon a Realtor®

According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly two-thirds of the people surveyed who sell their own homes say they wouldn’t do it again themselves. Primary reasons included setting a price, marketing handicaps, liability concerns, and time constraints. When deciding upon a Realtor® , consider two or three. Be as wary of quotes that are too low as those that are too high. All Realtors® are not the same! A professional Realtor® like Gayana Karian knows the market and has information on past sales, current listings, a marketing plan, and will provide their background and references. Evaluate each candidate carefully on the basis of their experience, qualifications, enthusiasm and personality. Be sure you choose someone that you trust and feel confident that they will do a good job on your behalf. If you choose to sell on your own, you can still talk to a Realtor®. Many are more than willing to help do-it-your-selfers with paperwork, contracts, etc. and should problems arise, you now have someone you can readily call upon.

8. Ensure You Have Room to Negotiate

Before settling on your asking price make sure you leave yourself enough room in which to bargain. For example, set your lowest and highest selling price. Then check your priorities to know if you’ll price high to maximize your profit or price closer to market value if you want sell quickly.

9. Appearances Do Matter – Make them Count!

Appearance is so critical that it would be unwise to ignore this when selling your home. The look and “feel” of your home will generate a greater emotional response than any other factor. Prospective buyers react to what they see, hear, feel, and smell even though you may have priced your home to sell.

10. Invite the Honest Opinions of Others

The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to rely solely on your own judgment. Don’t be shy about seeking the honest opinions of others. You need to be objective about your home’s good points as well as bad. Fortunately, your Realtor® Gayana Karian will be unabashed about discussing what should be done to make your home more marketable.

11. Get it Spic n’ Span Clean and Fix Everything, Even If It Seems Insignificant

Scrub, scour, tidy up, straighten, get rid of the clutter, declare war on dust, repair squeaks, the light switch that doesn’t work, and the tiny crack in the bathroom mirror because these can be deal-killers and you’ll never know what turns buyers off. Remember, you’re not just competing with other resale homes, but brand-new ones as well.

12. Allow Prospective Buyers to Visualize Themselves in Your Home

The last thing you want prospective buyers to feel when viewing your home is that they may be intruding into someone’s life. Avoid clutter such as too many knick-knacks, etc. Decorate in neutral colors, like white or beige and place a few carefully chosen items to add warmth and character. You can enhance the attractiveness of your home with a well-placed vase of flowers or potpourri in the bathroom. Home-decor magazines are great for tips.

13. Deal Killer Odors – Must Go!

You may not realize but odd smells like traces of food, pets and smoking odors can kill deals quickly. If prospective buyers know you have a dog, or that you smoke, they’ll start being aware of odors and seeing stains that may not even exist. Don’t leave any clues.

14. Be a Smart Seller – Disclose Everything

Smart sellers are proactive in disclosing all known defects to their buyers in writing. This can reduce liability and prevent lawsuits later on.

15. It’s Better With More Prospects

When you maximize your home’s marketability, you will most likely attract more than one prospective buyer. It is much better to have several buyers because they will compete with each other. And as Gayana Karian put it: “a single buyer will end up competing with you.”

16. Keep Emotions in Check During Negotiations

Let go of the emotion you’ve invested in your home. Be detached, using a business-like manner in your negotiations. You’ll definitely have an advantage over those who get caught up emotionally in the situation.

17. Learn Why Your Buyer is Motivated

The better you know your buyers the better you can use the negotiation process to your advantage. This allows you to control the pace and duration of the process. As a rule, buyers are looking to purchase the best affordable property for the least amount of money. Knowing what motivates them enables you to negotiate more effectively. For example, does your buyer need to move quickly. Armed with this information you are in a better position to bargain.

18. What the Buyer Can Really Pay

As soon as possible, try to learn the amount of mortgage the buyer is qualified to carry and how much his/her down payment is. If their offer is low have Gayana Karian, ask their Realtor® about the buyer’s ability to pay what your home is worth.

19. When the Buyer Would Like to Close

Quite often, when buyers would “like” to close is when they need to close. Knowledge of their deadlines for completing negotiations again creates a negotiating advantage for you.

20. Never Sign a Deal on Your Next Home Until You Sell Your Current Home

Beware of closing on your new home while you’re still making mortgage payments on the old one or you might end up becoming a seller who is eager (even desperate) for the first deal that comes along.

21. Moving Out Before You Sell Can Put You at a Disadvantage

It has been proven that it’s more difficult to sell a home that is vacant because it becomes forlorn looking, forgotten, no longer an appealing sight. Buyers start getting the message that you have a another home and are probably motivated to sell. As Gayana Karian put it: This could cost you thousands of dollars.

22. Deadlines Create A Serious Disadvantage

Don’t try to sell by a certain date. This adds unnecessary pressure and is a serious disadvantage in negotiations.

23. A Low Offer – Don’t Take It Personally

Invariably the initial offer is below what both you and the buyer knows he’ll pay for your property. Don’t be upset, evaluate the offer objectively. Ensure it spells out the offering price, sufficient deposit, amount of down payment, mortgage amount, a closing date and any special requests. This can simply provide a starting point from which you can negotiate.

24. Turn That Low Offer Around

You can counter a low offer or even an offer that’s just under your asking price. This lets the buyer know that the first offer isn’t seen as being a serious one. Now you’ll be negotiating only with buyers with serious offers.

25. Maybe the Buyer’s Not Qualified

If you feel an offer is inadequate, now is the time to make sure the buyer is qualified to carry the size of mortgage the deal requires. Have Gayana Karian inquire how they arrived at their figure, and suggest they compare your price to the prices of homes for sale in your neighborhood.

26. Ensure the Contract is Complete

To avoid problems, ensure that all terms, costs and responsibilities are spelled out in the contract of sale. It should include such items as the date it was made, names of parties involved, address of property being sold, purchase price, where deposit monies will be held, date for loan approval, date and place of closing, type of deed, including any contingencies that remain to be settled and what personal property is included (or not) in the sale.

27. Resist Deviating From the Contract

For example, if the buyer requests a move-in prior to closing, Gayana Karian advice to just say no and that you’ve been advised against it. Now is not the time to take any chances of the deal falling through.

Fla. housing market: Median prices continue to rise in March 2018 ORLANDO, Fla., April 23, 2018 –

Not enough homes for sale continues to influence Florida's housing market, as March's tight inventory constrained sales and put upward pressure on median prices, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $250,800, up 8.2 percent from the previous year, while the statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties was $183,000, up 7 percent over the year-ago figure. "As the ongoing supply of for-sale homes continues to tighten, it can create a cycle of frustration for homebuyers, especially those trying to become a first-time homeowner," said 2018 Florida Realtors President Christine Hansen, broker-owner with Century 21 Hansen Realty in Fort Lauderdale. "If move-up buyers can't find a home in their desired price range, then they aren't likely to leave their current home, which in turn makes entry-level properties even more scarce. Buyer demand is high, but the shortfall of inventory – particularly around $250,000 and under – is impacting affordability in many areas. "Having a Realtor on your side, who knows your local area, can make all the difference when it comes to dealing with today's complex market conditions." March was the 75th consecutive month that the statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and townhouse-condo properties rose year-over-year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. March was the 75th consecutive month that the statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and townhouse-condo properties rose year-over-year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 25,020 last month, down 3.5 percent compared to March 2017, while statewide closed sales in Florida's townhouse-condo market totaled 10,997 last month, down 1.8 percent compared to a year ago. Closed sales data reflected fewer short sales and foreclosures last month: Short sales for single-family homes dropped 49.3 percent and foreclosures fell 53 percent year-to-year; short sales for townhouse-condo properties declined 51.7 percent and foreclosures fell 41.4 percent year-to-year. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written. "Single-family home sales were down 3.5 percent year-over-year in March, the largest such drop in over a year – excluding, of course, last September when Irma briefly shut down the housing market," said Florida Realtors®Chief Economist Dr. Brad O'Connor"Still, year-to-date, single-family home sales are down a little under 1 percent, so it will be important to watch the April numbers very closely when they come out next month. At that point, we'll have a better idea if March was just a blip, or perhaps whether it was the beginning of a very gradual slowdown in sales growth that appears to become more inevitable the longer our statewide housing shortage persists." March's for-sale inventory tightened even more with a 3.8-months' supply for single-family homes and a 5.9-months' supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors. According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.44 percent in March 2018, up from the 4.20 percent averaged during the same month a year earlier. To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to the Florida Realtors Research & Statistics section on floridarealtors.org. Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors' website. © 2018 Florida Realtors®

Source: Florida Sun Magazine - 04-13-18

How to claim Florida as your state of residence to save on taxes
Copyright © 2017, Sandra Block, Senior Associate Editor
Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, The Kiplinger Washington Editors.
Source: FL Realtor News – June 14th, 2017
© 2017 Florida Realtors®

NEW YORK – June 13, 2017
Question: I live in New York. If I buy a second home in Florida, can I count Florida as my residence for state tax purposes?

Answer: Maybe, and claiming the Sunshine State as your permanent residence could save you a lot of money. Florida has no state income tax, whereas New York has a top income tax rate of 8.92%. But you can't just tap your heels together to make it happen. And tax officials in states that are home to a lot of snowbirds – New York and Minnesota in particular – have become more aggressive about going after people they consider taxpaying residents.

State laws vary, but in general, you need to be able to prove that you intend to make the low-tax state your permanent home, says Rocky Mengle, a senior analyst for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. The easiest way to do that is to sell your place up north and move down south. Of course, for many retirees, it's not that simple. You may want to keep the northern home in your family or return there during the summer months. If that's your plan, be prepared to keep meticulous records that will demonstrate your devotion to your new state. Prove it.

First, you'll need to show that you spend more than half the year – 183 days – in the state you claim as your domicile (that is, the place you consider your permanent home). That's the basis for most state definitions of residency for tax purposes. But don't expect state tax auditors to take your word for it. Keep a diary or log showing the number of days you spend in each state during the year, says Tim Steffen, director of financial planning for Robert W. Baird.
In the past, snowbirds could use plane tickets to show they were gone more than six months, but that may no longer suffice, says Terry LaBant, senior wealth strategist for Calamos Wealth Management in Naperville, Ill. State tax auditors may claim that such tickets only show where you were the day you left New York for Florida and the day you returned, but not all of the days in between, he says.
Next, take steps to show that you're committed to your new state. Register to vote and, if you receive a jury summons, perform your civic duty. Apply for a library card, and change your driver's license and car registration. You'll strengthen your case if you hook up with health care providers in your new location. Open an account at a local bank, and keep receipts of ATM withdrawals, LaBant says. Shopping locally is also a good idea: State tax auditors sometimes review credit card records to determine where you were during the year. One of LaBant's clients, who had homes in New Jersey and Florida, was questioned by New Jersey tax auditors about purchases his wife made from a retailer in New Jersey. Fortunately, the client was able to produce records that showed the items had been ordered and shipped to the couple's Florida home. In some cases, your adopted state will help you prove residency. You can show your intent to live in Florida, for example, by filing a Declaration of Domicile with your local county court. As you take steps to establish residency in a new state, you should also start to cut ties with the old one. Avoid taking advantage of benefits that are limited to state residents. For example, if you claim a homestead exemption for property taxes on your first home, state tax officials could use that to show that you're still a resident and thus owe state taxes. Even checking the "resident" box on a state fishing license could be used as proof that you didn't really intend to leave your northern home for good.

Fla.’s housing market: Median prices rise in Dec. 2016
Existing-home sales slide in December, but 2016 hits 10-year high.

FL Realtor News – January 24th, 2017
© 2017 Florida Realtors®

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jan. 24, 2017 – Florida's housing market had higher median prices and fewer all-cash sales in December, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 22,332 last month, up 0.8 percent from December 2015.
"The trend of tight housing supply continued to have an impact on Florida's housing market in December," says 2017 Florida Realtors President Maria Wells, broker-owner with Lifestyle Realty Group in Stuart. "Last month, statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and townhouse-condo properties rose year-over-year for 61 months in row. While that's good news for sellers, it's continuing to put pressure on inventory for first-time homebuyers and those who may be looking for their next 'move-up' home. "And that's where your local Realtor comes in – he or she will put their expertise to work for you to successfully navigate the complexities of finding the right property in your local real estate market and will make sure you get to the closing table."
Home sellers continued to get more of their original asking price at the closing table in December: Sellers of existing single-family homes received 96 percent (median percentage) of their original listing price, while those selling townhouse-condo properties received 94.7 percent (median percentage). The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $226,000, up 9.2 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors research department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in December was $166,900, up 7.7 percent over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in November 2016 was $236,500, up 6.8 percent from the previous yearthe national median existing condo price was $222,600.In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in November was $501,710; in Massachusetts, it was $365,000; in Maryland, it was $266,164; and in New York, it was $240,000. Looking at Florida's townhouse-condo market, statewide closed sales totaled 8,673 last month, down 5.2 percent compared to December 2015. Closed sales data reflected fewer short sales and cash-only sales last month: Short sales for townhouse-condo properties declined 45 percent while short sales for single-family homes dropped 39.2 percent. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.
"Florida's markets for existing homes closed out the year in December with a performance very much in line with what we saw over the previous 11 months of 2016," says Florida Realtor Chief Economist Brad O'Connor. "At the local level, single family home sales increased in 15 of Florida's 22 metro areas, while condo and townhouse sales rose in only five of these markets. And, as has been the case all year, the lack of significant sales growth in much of the state has had a lot more to do with a shortfall of supply in key price tiers than with demand." Inventory dipped to a 3.9-months' supply in December for single-family homes and was at a 6-months' supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors. According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.20 percent in December 2016, up significantly from the 3.96 percent average recorded during the same month a year earlier. For the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Research and Statistics on floridarealtors.org. Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors' website.
Breakout: NAR: Existing-home sales slide in Dec. but 2016 hits 10-year high


Lee County News: Fort Myers – Cape Coral market hot on Trulia’s list
News-press.com – January 8, 2017
Laura Layden (USA Today Network)

Naples didn’t make the cut on Trulia’s list of the top 10 real estate markets poised for growth in 2017. But, Fort Myers and Cape Coral did, with the metro area coming in at No. 2 as one of the “hottest real estate markets to watch” this year. The story that goes with the ranking, lauded the area for its weather, high job growth and sharp drop in vacancy rates over the past year “And then Fort Myers, Florida is home to baseball’s Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins during spring training every year, which boosts the economy even more every spring,” said Pat Eberle of RASO Realty in Cape Coral. Four other Florida markets made the list: Jacksonville (No. 1); Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach (No. 3); Tampa-St. Petersburg (No. 5) and North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton (No. 10). The list is based on five key metrics: high affordability, strong job growth, low vacancy rates, home searches on Trulia - and a big population of Republicans (because of Donald Trump’s surprise win in the presidential election). Naples’s absence from the rankings doesn’t seem to be all that concerning to area Realtors and brokers. RSW airport to calm pre-security lines with contracted help “I’m OK with not being on this list. We saw in 2005, when we were one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, that it was not necessarily a good thing. Our market over corrected downward in 2006 and 2007,” said Mike Hughes, vice president of Downing-Frye Realty Inc. in Naples. Hughes hopes to never see that kind of correction again. “In a red-hot market, you get a lot of investor money rolling in,” he said. “Flipping properties at higher prices becomes more common. Some properties get treated almost like a stock as they are bought and sold multiple times.” Dominic Pallini, president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors and broker/owner of Vanderbilt Realty of Naples, said he’s not surprised Naples didn’t make the cut. Naples is more of a vacation/tourist area and more of a second-home market than other areas on the list, he said. “The median home price in Naples is a bit higher than in other parts of the state and Naples doesn’t offer the number of employment opportunities of a large city. I believe that those are the reasons why Naples did not meet the criteria of the top ten.” Out of reach: Many workers can't afford a home in Southwest Florida as area booms Phil Wood, president of John R. Wood Realtors in Naples, said it’s logical there would be more real estate searches on Trulia in larger metro areas, giving them an upper hand in the rankings. He expects 2017 to be a great year. “In 2016, the Naples market was not as hot as the year before,” he said. “However, things heated up in the last two months of the year and we expect 2017 to be one of the best ever, especially if the stock market continues to rise.” Hughes hopes to see a “nice steadily climbing real estate market throughout the year.” “We had a good year in 2016,” he said. “I think most of the local real estate community feels that 2017 will be even better.” Pallini said he’s looking forward to a great 2017 with “many transactions.” “The consumer confidence level has risen since the election and the economy has responded positively, as shown by the stock market, which is at an all-time high,” he said. Pending and closed sales in the greater Naples housing market continue to increase as high season kicks into gear, indicating a “robust real estate market in our future,” Pallini said. NABOR expects to release its final market report for 2016 on Jan. 20. The report tracks housing trends and sales made by its members in Collier County, excluding Marco Island. It does not include new home sales. Trulia’s Hot Real Estate Markets to Watch in 2017:

01. Jacksonville
02. Cape Coral-Fort Myers
03. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach
04. Grand Rapids, Mich.
05. Tampa-St. Petersburg
06. Colorado Springs, Colo.
07. Charleston, S.C.
08. San Antonio, Texas
09. Phoenix, Ariz.
10. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton

For Sale By Owner Sales at All-Time Low
Brett Ellis, Keller Williams Realty – posted November 15th, 2016
Source: blog.topagent.com (excerpt)

Only 8% of recent home sales were FSBO sales which indicates for sale by owner sales at all-time low for the 2nd straight year. Most for sale by owners want to try and see if they can save the commission, and who could blame them.  Everyone wants to save money. What matters most is how much is in your pocket at closing. The average FSBO gives up after 2-3 weeks when they get no showings or so many showings and no offers that they get tired of the process.  They don’t know who they are letting in their home and what their motivation is.  If it’s risky for real estate agents’ security, just imagine how risky it is for a sale by owner. We know that 92% of all sales go through an agent.  Most sellers don’t realize that only 4% of buyers viewing their home are qualified to buy it.  Some don’t have the income.  Others don’t have the credit necessary to purchase.  A large percentage has locked equity, meaning they must sell something before they can purchase.  This requires an agent to solve that problem.  It is very frightening to sell and buy simultaneously and to coordinate financing on both properties and all the closing details when you don’t know what you’re doing. Buyers and sellers have fears and all these must be met.  A for sale by owner can’t do it.  Buyers don’t trust sellers because they have fears, just like the seller does.  Somebody with knowledge and people skills must manage all this. Quite often we get sellers who contact us telling us they’ll pay us a certain percent to sell their home.  They mistakenly believe they’ll save part of the commission doing this, essentially becoming their own listing agent. First off, they won’t have an agent representing them.  Secondly, they won’t have an agent marketing their home.  We go out and create buyers for each of our listings.  We target buyers online by the inventory we have.  When we don’t have the sale by owner in inventory, we aren’t out creating buyers for that home. Real estate today isn’t like the old days where you put up a sign, placed it in MLS, maybe took out a generic ad in paper, and hoped someone else would sell it. Reaching buyers today is more sophisticated.  We buy the data and target the buyers.  We have the ability to search for buyers based upon their income, age group, lifestyle, whether they’re likely to make a move, etc. Let’s say we list a property in a 55+ community.  It would do no good to target 30 year olds when they can’t live there.  We can target 55+ yr old buyers.  Or perhaps we list a property with tennis courts.  We can target buyers who are interested in playing tennis.  The same is true for waterfront homes, golf course homes, gated communities, etc. We go out and find buyers based upon our seller’s needs.  If a for sale by owner thinks they’re going to save part of the commission by offering all agents a fee to sell their home, they’ll be missing  on the prime benefit of listing with an agent. For Sale By Owner Sales at All-Time Low. Two separate studies show for sale by owners receive 16% less than properties sold with an agent.  By giving away 16% are they really saving anything?  No, it’s costing them not to use an agent....


5 Florida cities rank in top 30 for economic growth
FL Realtor News - October 4th, 2016
© 2016 Florida Realtors®
LEHIGH ACRES, October 3rd, 2016 – With the economy rebounding since the Great Recession, WalletHub, a personal-finance website, attempted to identify the U.S. cities that grew the most rapidly between 2009 and 2015. To do that, it considered 14 metrics, ranging from "population growth rate" to "college-educated population growth" to "unemployment rate decrease." WalletHub broke down the results by city size and also by specific metric. Overall, however, five Florida cities made the top 30: Lehigh Acres (No. 3), Fort Myers (14), Brandon (16), Miramar (17) and Palm Coast (28). "Experts might not agree on the 'best' or the 'right' recipe for rapid economic growth, but some cities have figured out the key ingredients and how to stir the pot just right to sustain long-term prosperity," WalletHub said in the study. "Patterns emerge within those cities, allowing us to identify the contributing factors that perpetuate a lasting cycle of growth."
Top 5 Florida cities by key index:

  • Large cities with the most growth: Miami ranked second
  • Highest population growth: Lehigh Acres tied for second
  • Highest job growth: Fort Myers ranked third and Cape Coral ranked fifth
  • Highest poverty rate decrease: Boca Raton ranked third

Full study

WalletHub: Florida has 4 of top 10 retirement cities
FL Realtor News - August 25th, 2016
© 2016 Florida Realtors®

NEW YORK – Aug. 24, 2016 – The financial website rated 150 U.S. cities on affordability, health care, activities and quality of life. Of 11 Fla. cities in the study, all ranked above average. According to WalletHub, its analysts compared the affordability, quality of life, health care and availability of recreational activities in the 150 largest U.S. cities. They used a data set of 31 key metrics that ranged from "cost of living" to "public-hospital rankings" and "percentage of the 65 and older population."

Top 10 retirement cities in the U.S.
1. Orlando
2. Tampa
3. Scottsdale, Ariz.
4. Miami
5. Sioux Falls, S.D.
6. Las Vegas
7. Cape Coral
8. Atlanta, Ga.
9. Minneapolis
10. Los Angeles

Full study


Expert: Local waters 'ripe' for algae blooms

News Press - July 12, 2016

Mickey Ferry knows the issues: there are too many people sending too much freshwater to the oceans. Green algae? He's seen it. Brown water? Try black. "We all admit that there's problems there and it started a very long time ago," said Ferry, general manager of the Boat House Tiki Bar and Grill in Cape Coral. "Ultimately it's going to trickle down to people canceling their rentals and there are less rentals and that does affect all of the entertainment and tourism businesses, any aspect of them. From restaurants to boat rentals and grocery stores, the impact is tremendous and it comes down to the fact that no one has done anything." Ferry says he's seen algae blooms come and go over the past 20 years or so while working at various Fort Myers Beach restaurants. And every time the algae-tainted waters flow, Southwest Florida businesses feel it.

Read more


10 Best Cities To Live In Florida
Bryan Dickey

From swampland to white sand beaches, Florida has a very diverse living area. Although the weather is unpredictable, exotic animals roam neighborhoods and majority of the people are absolutely insane, Florida is a pretty great place to live. That statement is proven by the thousands of ortherners that flock to The Sunshine State every year. Although these snowbirds reside in the land of paradise for only a few weeks per year, there are actually some great cities in Florida to live full time. In fact, 20 million Floridians call this unique state their home. Here is a list of the 10 best cities to live in Florida.

1. Deerfield Beach

Located a few miles North of Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach is dissected by Interstate 95 creating and east and west section. Low crime, coastal weather and beautiful beaches make Deerfield a top choice city to live in Florida. Deerfield Beach is named after the wild deer that once inhabited the local area.
2. Boca Raton
You can’t argue the allure landscaping and serenity South Florida has to offer. Boca Raton is a strong representation of Florida’s culture. Miles of palm trees and coastal water ways lead to the powder sand beaches of Boca. This area is home to countless celebrities and affluent residents, where Mercedes’ and Jaguar’s are the common daily driver. Often compared to the retirement home of Florida, life can be a little slower in this area filled with senior citizens and snowbirds.
3. Cape Coral
Directly west from Boca Raton lies Cape Coral on the Gulf Coast. Cape Coral is as close to a Utopia as one will find in Florida. Developed in 1957, Cape Coral was pre-planned and built to plans of a man-made community, creating a “perfect” city. With more canals than any city in the world, 400 miles to be exact, Cape Coral is known as the “Waterfront Wonderland”. If you like boats, low crime rates and quality education, Cape Coral is your city.
4. Clearwater
Wedged between Tampa Bay and The Gulf of Mexico you’ll find Clearwater, Florida. Home to one of Florida’s most notable beaches, Clearwater Beach, this coastal town is a popular vacation spot. Though this paradise vacation spot is a top choice for out of state visitors, many residents call Clearwater home. Close to the University of Tampa, the University of South Florida and the city of Tampa, Clearwater is a great suburban area without the big city feel of Tampa. Spend one day on the coast of Clearwater and the salty air will persuade you how great of a city this area is.
5. Sanibel
Love the Florida beaches, but hate the crowds of people? Sanibel is your answer. Sanibel is a small island community located due west of Fort Meyers, across the Gulf of Mexico. Sand dollars and unique shells are so abundant they could be the currency of this serene city. There are so many shells littered on the beaches, that if Sally were to sell sea shells by the sea shore, she would go bankrupt. Known for it’s beautiful beaches, low population and near perfect weather, Sanibel, Florida is the dream beach town.
6. Key West
The Caribbean city stuck in America. Key West is the furthest south city in the continental United States, and really is a tropical land like no other. If you were to travel 13 hours from Key West to the Panhandle, you would experience every aspect the state of Florida has to offer. Once you reach mile marker 0 on the highway, you are likely to pass biker gangs sporting pastel painted 50cc scooters and Hawaiian print shirts. If you’ve never seen the landscape of Key West, press play on a Jimmy Buffet track and close your eyes- what you vision is exactly that of Key West. Blue water, sandy streets and bright colored buildings inhabit this tropical town. The residents of Key West fit the profile of “beach bum” to a picture perfect definition, and they embrace it. The island locals are an extremely tight-knit community with living in paradise personalities, and they make Key West a very unique place.
7. Lake Mary
The cookie-cutter suburban city. There isn’t much to say about this area rather than it’s the typical American town. The school system and neighborhoods are equally superior to the typical city. Home to some of Central Florida’s most notable athletes, the golf courses and sport facilities in the surrounding areas are top notch. A synergistic city of low crime and high standards of living, Lake Mary is prime choice when it comes to living in the greater Orlando area. A quick drive south (unless it’s rush hour) on I-4 and you’re in the heart of Central Florida. Travel north on the interstate and you’re in Daytona Beach around the same time. Lake Mary is the ideal suburb for Floridians to inhabit.
8. Venice
Heading back down to the south Tampa area, you run into another coastal town of Venice, Florida. Though it is not as cultured as it’s similarly named city across the pond in Italy, Venice is home to exceptional real estate. This city is the epitome of outdoor Florida life, golf courses and lucrative fishing spots are the main attractions in Venice. If the city’s reputation of being the Shark Tooth Capital Of The World doesn’t give away it’s Florida-like culture, the close proximity to the beach will. Venice is rich in white sand beaches, deep blue water and bright green landscaping.
9. Dunedin
Interested in the Clearwater area, but don’t have the patience for out of state license plates and weekend visitors? Dunedin, Florida should be the next place you call home. This city is majority residential neighborhoods and waterfront homes, with little interruption from tourists. With minimal resorts or tall buildings to block the sea breeze, Dunedin is a premier coastal city. The residents enjoy low crime rates, and high employment opportunities. Housing is not the cheapest, but the local communities definitely get what they pay for. Remember, beauty is priceless.
10. Fort Myers
Whether you are interested in relaxing by the pool, digging your toes in the sand or spending some time on the boat, Fort Myers is your city. Sunshine and salt air run through the veins of the local residents. Fort Myers is a large tourist area and widely accepted as a boating community. Interstate 75 runs through the middle of the city known as the gateway to the Southwest Florida area. With a historic downtown district and environmental conservation areas, Fort Myers is rich in culture and original pieces of Florida.
It is no surprise that majority of the best places to live in Florida are located near the coast. In a state that is blessed with an abundance of Vitamin C and beautiful beaches, Florida natives embrace the culture of our serene land. There is a reason Florida has coined the term “We live where you vacation”. Did your city make the list?

Lee County Hot Spots- Cape Coral

Source: Florida Trend June 2016

Ranked among the best places to live and do business, and located in the tax-friendly state of Florida, Cape Coral is a top contender for corporate relocations and business expansions for companies worldwide. As the 10th largest city in Florida, Cape Coral offers investment zones, industrial parks, and an abundance of commercial sites. For the second year running, Forbes reports Cape Coral is one of the top ten U.S. areas for future job growth. Cape Coral is dotted with more than 400 miles of canals, a feature that helped convince some Hertz employees and new residents to purchase homes there. With a population of about 170,000 it’s only 45% built out with potential to increase to more than 400,000 residents. A classic bedroom community, Cape Coral is growing its commercial sector, commercial building permits increased 183% from 2013 to 2015. While there’s been growth in the retail and restaurant sector, the city also is targeting other commercial sectors like medical, back office, technology and light industrial. “We’ve got land and a lot of people willing to go to work,” says Dana Brunett, economic development manager for the city of Cape Coral. The city’s median age has dropped from 62 in 1990 to 44 now, illustrating its appeal to families and working professionals locking for affordable housing. The north part of the city is primed for growth, with spots like the Veterans Investment Zone surrounding the new Lee County VA Healthcare Center and Cape Coral Army Reserve Center and the Seven Islands development, a 48-acre site along Burnt Store Road going through a planning effort to determine its best purpose.

Investors should look beyond REITs

Copyright © 2016 Albawaba.com, Saudi Press Agency. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).
NEW YORK – April 22, 2016

The portfolio manager of the Baron Real Estate fund says investors should look at cruise-line companies, cell-tower operators, casinos and real estate infrastructure firms.

The real estate market, in general, still has plenty of potential for growth, but investors should start thinking beyond just real estate investment trusts (REITs) to gain exposure. "Given where we are right now in the cycle, we advocate a broader more inclusive approach to real estate investing," said Jeffrey Kolitch, portfolio manager of the $1.5 billion Baron Real Estate fund. Speaking Monday in Orlando at the IMCA annual conference, Mr. Kolitch addressed a common investing mistake of being overly concentrated in REITs and not considering the myriad other ways to gain exposure to the asset class. Since most financial advisers rarely allocate more than 10 percent of a client's portfolio to real estate, REITs are often used as a quick and easy way to get a diversified portfolio of real estate. But, according to Mr. Kolitch, the real estate market can be sliced in so many ways that even a diversified REIT portfolio might be too concentrated into a single subcategory of the asset class.
"I think REITs are fairly valued, but pricey right now," he said. "And a REIT-only approach has more possibilities of vulnerability." While it takes a little more work to build your own diversified real estate allocation, Mr. Kolitch said the key is thinking beyond traditional residential and commercial properties. Real estate companies, home builders and land developers usually come to mind first when considering individual real estate allocations, but Mr. Kolitch said exposure to the asset class can also be gained through cruise-line companies, cell-tower operators, casinos and companies involved in real estate infrastructure. Despite a start to the year that Mr. Kolitch described as the worst three weeks for real estate since the Great Depression, he maintains a favorable outlook for the asset class. The ingredients that fueled the real estate recovery are still in place, including low interest rates and demand outstripping supply in many areas, he said. While he doesn't believe a recession is imminent, Mr. Kolitch did advise investors to dial back their expectations for the kind of mid-teen compound returns that real estate has seen since 2009. "I think the returns going forward will be more moderate," he said. "Some segments are overheated, or dealing with too much supply, but a broad downturn is unlikely." The main reason he believes real estate will avoid a broad downturn is because of the imbedded backstop in the form of billions of dollars in cash on the sidelines from large investors like private equity giant The Blackstone Group. Blackstone is essentially the landlord of the economy across every category, and they're still sitting on billions, and they're able to step in and buy, he said. Another sign of support for real estate comes from a dearth of new residential housing. "We're building too few homes to shelter the growing population," he said. "Right now housing is growing at 1.5 million units a year, which is low relative to our needs. We need about a million more new homes, and that bodes well for housing because it means prices are going up."

Southwest Florida is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, with Lee and Charlotte counties ranking in the top 10 of the fastest-growing metro areas, according to the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Source: News Press – March 24th, 2016

Lee County grew from 679,233 in July 1, 2014 to 701,982 in July 1, 2015. The 22,749 new residents translated into a 3.3 percent increase. That ties Lee for the third-largest increase in the nation, along with Midland and Odessa, Texas, and is almost double Florida's 1.8 percent growth rate over that same time span. In 2013-14, Lee was ranked sixth, adding 18,177 people for a 2.7 percent population increase. "This growth has been in the works for a long time," said Chris Westley, associate director of FGCU's Regional Economic Research Institute. "We are seeing a significant number of Midwestern baby boomers who had been planning to retire here for 30 or 40 years who are now finally doing it. They were delayed by the recession for a while, but that seems to be in the past. Now they are making the move."

Read more: News Press


Cape Coral, Fort Myers – Rent rate increase tops nation

Florida Realtor News -   March 3, 2016
© 2016 Florida Realtors®
PATRICIA BORNS, News-Press, February 29, 2016

Cape Coral-Fort Myers area rent rates for single-family homes outpaced the nation’s top metro areas in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared with the same period last year, according to a report by RentRange, a data provider to real estate investors.

The rents on homes here grew 25.4 percent for the period -- almost double the rate for the No. 2 urban area, and outpacing big cities like San Francisco and Dallas. The increase – the average three-bedroom home now rents for more than $1,500 a month, by RentRange's count  – is sudden and unprecedented. It was $830/month in the second quarter of 2014, and $810 the year before, a federal housing study shows.
Although bad news for area renters, this is good news for investors, RentRange says.
Not everyone agrees, however.

Read more: News Press article


© 2016 Florida Realtors® - NEW YORK – 02/03/2016

Source: Forbes (01/27/16) Carlyle, Erin / © Copyright 2016 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Forbes lists top investment cities – 7 are in Florida: Where should real estate investors put their money in 2016? Forbes teamed up with North Carolina-based data company Local Market Monitor to produce its list of 2016 Best Buy Cities – the top 20 housing markets to invest in this year – and Florida dominates the list. According to Forbes, Florida offers good values "where investors get the best bang for their housing buck, and where aspiring homeowners have the best prospects of making an economically sound purchase." Orlando took second place and was followed by six other Sunshine State cities. Among them, average home prices are highest in West Palm Beach (No. 19) at $285,000 and lowest in Tampa (No. 14) at $193,000. The averages, though, have been accelerating at a rate of 9 percent to 14 percent in all the Florida cities.
Florida's domination of the list makes a lot of sense in light of the national economic recovery, says Ingo Winzer, founder and president of Local Market Monitor. "Since the national economy has stabilized and is growing again, the factors that prompt people to go to Florida have recovered," he reasons. "Best-buy" markets for 2016 housing: Forbes' full list is also posted online.
1. Grand Rapids
2. Orlando, Florida
3. San Antonio, Texas
4. Charlotte, North Carolina
5. Salt Lake City
6. Dallas
7. Austin, Texas
8. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
9. Seattle
10. Cape Coral, Florida
11. Indianapolis
12. North Port, Florida

© 2016 Florida Realtors - WASHINGTON - 01/19/2016
Foreign sellers - FIRPTA withholding increases to 15%: Congress recently made changes to the U.S. Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA). While two changes should benefit the real estate community, a third will impact foreign sellers of certain properties. On the positive side, new FIRPTA rules will make U.S. commercial property more attractive to foreign investors, according to Ralph W. Holmen, associate general counsel for the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). The law doubles the maximum amount of stock ownership a foreign investor may have in a U.S. publicly-traded real estate investment trust (REIT), bumping it up from the current 5 percent to 10 percent. It also permits certain foreign pension funds to invest in real estate investment trusts (REITs) without having FIRPTA treatment apply. On the other hand, the new FIRPTA rules increase the withholding tax paid by foreign sellers of certain properties effective Feb. 17, 2016. "The recently enacted Protecting American Taxpayers from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act (H.R. 2029) includes two very positive FIRPTA provisions that are conservatively estimated to boost foreign investment in U.S. commercial real estate by $20-$30 billion per year," writes Holmen. "However, as part of a package of tax changes to 'pay for' the two provisions, Congress also included an increase in the FIRPTA withholding rate from 10 percent to 15 percent."

How new withholding works
The law considers three levels of property purchases: A personal residence of $300,000 or less; a personal residence worth more than $300,000 but less than $1 million; and properties valued at $1 million or more:

  • $300,000: Foreign sellers currently pay no FIRPTA tax, and this doesn't change under the new rule, providing the property will be used as a residence
  • $300,000-$1 million: The current 10 percent FIRPTA tax does not change under the new rule, providing the property will be used as a residence
  • $1 million-plus: The FIRPTA tax goes up from the current 10 percent to 15 percent after Feb. 16. In this $1 million-plus category, it doesn't matter whether the property will be used as a residence or not

What is FIRPTA?
Congress created FIRPTA based on reports that foreign investors were purchasing U.S. real estate and then selling it at a profit without paying any U.S. taxes. Consequently, FIRPTA created a requirement forcing buyers to withhold 10 percent of the purchase price and remit it to the Internal Revenue Service at the time of closing, subject to a few exceptions. "Usually, the settlement agent is the party that withholds and remits the funds to the IRS, but the buyer is legally responsible," writes Holmen. "In certain circumstances, the buyer's agent can also be held liable."

Please visit the IRS webpage for more details.

© 2016 Florida Realtors – Orlando, FL - 01/04/2016

Excerpt - Florida home sales, prices up in November
Positive trends continued for Florida's housing market in November, with more closed sales, higher median prices, more new listings and fewer days on the market, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes rose last month with a total of 18,102, an increase of 1.9 percent over November 2014............
The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $200,000, up 13.6 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in November was $150,000, up 7.1 percent over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. November marked 48 months in a row month that statewide median sales prices increased year-over-year for both single-family homes and townhouse-condo properties. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in October 2015 was $221,200, up 6.3 percent from the previous year. In Florida's townhouse-condo market, statewide closed sales last month totaled 7,638, up 5.7 percent compared to November 2014. The closed sales data reflected fewer short sales in November: Short sales for townhouse-condo properties declined 35.8 percent while short sales for single-family homes dropped 34.3 percent. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written. "We are ending the year on a high note, but the market is definitely tightening in Florida," says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. "Both single-family sales and condo-townhouse sales increased in November, but inventories continue to fall.........
Inventory continues to be tight, with a 4.5-months' supply in November for single-family homes and a 5.5-months' supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors. Most analysts consider a 6-month supply of inventory as the benchmark for a balanced market between buyers and sellers.........

© 2015 Florida Realtors® IRVINE, California – 12/17/2015

Another reason to live in Florida: Clean cities - RealtyTrac's second annual Manmade Environmental Hazards Housing Risk Report finds 25 million U.S. homes in zip codes that are at high risk or very high risk for manmade environmental hazards – 38 percent of the 64 million homes in all zip codes analyzed.
However, most sections of Florida fall into the very-low, low or medium category for risk based on the prevalence of five manmade environmental hazards: air quality, superfund sites, polluters, brownfields and former drug labs. For the report, RealtyTrac analyzed 7,751 zip codes with sufficient home price and appreciation data nationwide. In most Florida metro areas, a zip code or two landed in the high or very high category for environmental hazards, but the majority did not. An overall county-by-county view finds that only four Florida counties are considered high risk – and none are considered very high risk. More than half the state's acreage at the county level falls into the low or very low categories. RealtyTrac posted a map online showing the county-by-county levels of environmental hazard. RealtyTrac broke down the zip codes by metro area, and of the 12 major U.S. markets cited by RealtyTrac with "no high-risk zip codes," three are in Florida: Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Naples and Palm Bay. "Buying a home in an area with low risk of manmade environmental hazards may not just be a good idea for health and safety reasons; it may also be good for financial reasons," says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. "Across the country, home prices in high risk zip codes were lower on average, and appreciation over the last 10 years slower when compared to home prices and 10-year appreciation in low risk zip codes." "Miami is a 21st century city, with most of our development post World War II, with no real environmental baggage from the past," says Mike Pappas, CEO and president of the Keyes Company, covering the South Florida market, where only 3 percent of zip codes were rated very-high or high risk for manmade environmental hazards. "We have clean air, blue skies, clean water and clean industry."

© 2015 Florida Realtors® Orlando - 12/14/2015

Florida home sales to rise 8-10% in 2016:
"For most of 2015, the Florida real estate market has outperformed the nation as a whole," says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. In recent months, however, the Florida market rise has eased off a bit – "catching its breath after a very hectic late summer and early fall," says Tuccillo.
"For 2016, we expect this settling down to continue," he continues. "Against the backdrop of an expanding state economy with growing employment, home sales should increase by 8-10 percent over 2015 (numbers) and home prices (measured as actual value) should rise by about 5 percent.
Tuccillo notes that a few conditions could impact 2016's outlook. "The biggest potential snag to this forecast at the state level is the growing shortage of workforce housing in the more populated areas of the state," he says. "Florida is attracting jobs, and we need to do a better job creating housing options for the workers we are attracting from out of state." National issues could also influence Florida real estate sales in 2016. "On a national level, rising interest rates may cause a dent in the market, but it will not have a significant effect," Tuccillo says. "The new closing rules (TRID or Truth in Lending Disclosure) could cause delays in processing and may (affect) a significant number of sales." International issues could also have an impact since the Sunshine State real estate market relies on foreign buyers. "Looking a bit farther afield, weak economic growth in other countries will dampen international demand for Florida real estate – but foreign buyers will remain a noticeable presence in the market," Tuccillo predicts.

News-Press.com - Naples ranked fourth happiest city in the U.S

Whatever the reason, Naples is bubbling over with happiness. The University of British Columbia recently ranked Naples as the fourth-happiest place in the U.S. No other Florida city made the study's top 10 as America's happiest city after surveying respondents about their life satisfaction. Read more

The News-Press - MARK BICKEL, 11/05/2015

To determine America’s best cities to live in, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the 550 U.S. cities with populations of 65,000 or more as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau. Based on a range of variables, including crime rates, employment growth, access to restaurants and attractions, educational attainment, and housing affordability, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s 50 Best Cities to Live.
According to 24/7 Wall St.:
Cape Coral, a city on Florida’s Gulf coast, is one of the best places to live in the country. One of the biggest draws to the city of roughly 170,000 people — apart from the beach-lined coast — is the city’s economic expansion. Between 2012 and 2014, employment grew by more than 10%, the fifth-largest growth of any U.S. city. Cape Coral’s violent crime rate is also half that of the national average violent crime rate of 366 incidents per 100,000 people. Though the cost of living is about 3% higher that it is nationally, the city’s poverty rate of 12.5% is lower than the national rate of 15.5%.

Herald Tribune - John Hielscher 10/25/2015
Florida remains the most popular state for international buyers of U.S. residential real estate.
But rising home prices and less favorable exchange rates reduced the number of sales to foreigners in the Sunshine State over the past year.
Foreigners purchased 44,000 existing residential properties in Florida during the 12-month period ended in June, down by 8,300, or 16 percent, from the previous year, according to a new study by the National Association of Realtors.
That was off 33 percent from the peak of 66,100 international sales recorded in the July 2009-June 2010 year. Read more

© 2015 Florida Realtors® - MCLEAN, Va. – 09/25/2015
Florida real estate rebound strongest in nation: Florida has some of the most improving housing markets in the country, largely a reflection of more borrowers becoming current on their mortgage payments as the local employment picture improves and house prices rebound," says Freddie Mac Deputy Chief Economist Len Kiefer.
Florida comparisons
Month-over-month, Florida's index score rose 2.0 percent. It was followed by Colorado (+1.99%), New Jersey (+1.83%), Connecticut (+1.80%) and Nevada (+1.48%). Year-over-year, Florida's index grew by 14.35 percent. It was followed by Oregon (+13.45%), Nevada (12.18%), Colorado (+11.65%), and Washington (+10.18%).
Florida metro comparisons
Orlando topped all city lists from Freddie Mac. Month-to-month, Orlando improved 2.6 percent, followed by Greenville, S.C. (+2.55%), Cape Coral (+2.51%), Tampa (+2.19%) and Jacksonville (+2.12%).
Year-to-year, Orlando improved 18.27 percent, followed by Cape Coral (+17.75%), Tampa (+15.99%), Palm Bay (+14.98%) and North Port (+14.77%).