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Census Says
Flagler County Leads U.S. Housing Growth

For the second year in a row, Flagler County had the highest growth rate in the number of housing units of any county in the nation, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The estimates cover July 1, 2004, to July 1, 2005, and show that Flagler’s housing stock increased by 14.8 percent, or more than 5,000 units.

Three other Florida counties made the top 10 in the category of highest growth rate in housing stock: Sumter (No. 2), Osceola (No. 4) and St. Lucie (No. 9). Rounding out the top 10 are Pinal, Ariz. (No. 3); Franklin, Wash. (No. 5); Culpeper, Va. (No. 6); Washington, Utah (No. 7); Kendall, Ill. (No. 8); and Rockwall, Texas (No. 10).

The United States had an estimated 124.5 million housing units as of July 1, 2005, representing an increase of 1.8 million, or 1.5 percent, since July 1, 2004.

Florida topped the list of the states adding the highest number of housing units, gaining 247,000 homes over the period—over 35 percent more than second-place California, which added 182,000 units. The other top five include Texas (179,000), Georgia (98,000) and Arizona (87,000).

At the state level, the five states with the most rapid housing growth rate are: Nevada (first, with a growth rate of 4.4 percent), Arizona (second, at 3.5 percent), Florida (third, at 3.1 percent), Idaho (fourth, at 2.9 percent) and Utah (fifth, at 2.9 percent).

For more information, go to www.census.gov/popest/estimates.php.

South of the Border
In its first international joint venture, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) signed an agreement with La Asociación Mexicana de Profesionales Inmobiliarios to create more uniform real estate business standards between the United States and Mexico.

As a result, all members of the Mexican association will become dues-paying international members of NAR, allowing them to use the Realtor logo, registration mark and limited international membership benefits. Mexico is also the No. 1 foreign destination for retirees from the United States, with more than 1 million Americans living there.

Commercial
Commercial Goes Its Own Way

Commercial brokers in Central Florida are planning to establish a new organization separate from the Orlando Regional Realtor® Association (ORRA) in order to offer more specialized programs and services to commercial practitioners. If all goes as planned, the new group, tentatively called the Central Florida Commercial Association of Realtors® (CFCAR), could be up and running soon.

Work on a separate entity for commercial brokers began late last year, according to Tom Hankins, president of Realty Capital Hankins Group and of the Central Florida Commercial Real Estate Society (CFCRES), currently a subgroup of ORRA. About 450 commercial brokers now belong to ORRA, which has an overall membership of about 13,000.

Hankins said the new commercial association would include members from nine Central Florida counties: Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia. If approved by all concerned Realtor organizations, the new group will be only the second stand-alone commercial Realtor association in the state, according to organizers. The Florida Gulf Coast Commercial Association of Realtors® was formed in the Tampa Bay area about 10 years ago.

Survey Says
Newspaper Ads Ineffective?

Newspaper ads may not be sales associates’ first choice anymore. Although real estate practitioners continue to buy newspaper advertising to meet client expectations, an increasing number don’t feel they produce results, according to a new report from Classified Intelligence LLC and Realty Times.

While real estate professionals are spending more money on advertising this year than last, they’re actively using free-classified Internet sites like Craigslist and Google Base, and are planning to steadily reduce their advertising in newspapers, the report shows. More than half the real estate sales associates (51 percent) who participated in a Classified Intelligence survey said they were advertising on free classified sites.

The highest percentage of ad spending by sales associates was to support their own Web sites, the report found. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) said they didn’t advertise on local newspaper Web sites, while another third said they were spending up to 20 percent of their ad budgets on local online newspapers. Use of local search was about the same: 58 percent said they weren’t using local-search advertising while one-quarter said they put up to 20 percent of their budgets there.

The Newspaper Association of America reports that real estate advertisers spent $4.6 billion in U.S. daily newspapers in 2005, up 9.9 percent from 2004. The category showed substantial increase in the first quarter of 2006, but newspapers and newspaper companies have reported sharp declines during the second quarter.

The 74-page Classified Intelligence report, “Real Estate Advertising 2006,” was based on a survey of more than 100 real estate agents conducted in conjunction with Realty Times, an industry news site.

The report provides overviews of the real estate industry in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, India, Northern Europe and the United Kingdom. For more information, go to www.classifiedintelligence.com.

It'll Cost You
Closing costs average more than $3,024 nationwide, according to a new survey by North Palm Beach–based Bankrate.com.
Miami ranked as the city with the fifth-highest closing costs at $3,349. The other top four are: Buffalo, N.Y., $3,887; Houston, $3,578; Honolulu, $3,407; and Cleveland, $3,354.

The study looked at the closing costs charged by lenders in major cities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
For more information, go to www.bankrate.com.

St. Joe Will Go Slow
Florida’s biggest private landowner, the St. Joe Co., recently reorganized its corporate structure and is cutting jobs companywide. Instead of its divisions focusing on residential, commercial and land sales, they will now focus on geographic sections of the state.

“Our opportunities now consist of multiuse projects with a range of real estate product types planned to function in concert with each other,” says Chairman and Chief Executive Peter S. Rummell.