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The (housing recovery) beat goes on
The (housing recovery) beat goes on
At the start of 2013, it seemed as if only a handful of experts were beating the housing recovery drums. By the end of the year, just about everyone was upbeat - especially buyers and sellers. It has been a steady upward rebound, and it is obvious: The real estate market is improving.
Make your move
Make your move
Florida has a 5-month supply for new and existing single-family homes. Normal levels are 6.1 months for new homes, 7.3 months for existing homes. With mortgage interest rates on the rise, Realtors are working to get sellers to list and buyers to commit.
Price point
Price point
With housing prices on the rise, owners began to recoup some of the equity lost during the recession. In January, the median Florida single-family home sold for $145,000; in November, it sold for $169,900 - a 17.2% increase in only 10 months.
Higher but still low
Higher but still low
Long-term mortgage interest rates bottomed out last May at 3.35% when the Fed announced it might taper its long-term bond-buying program. Rates have slowly increased, and many economists predict rates of 5% in 2014 - still low by historic standards.
Cashing in
Cashing in
Institutional investors flush with cash fueled the recovery in 2013, as they picked up blocks of distressed properties - condos and single-family homes. Last January, more than 50% of Florida home sales were all-cash transactions. Economists cite the need for a loosening of lending standards and job certainty in order to lure first-time buyers into the market.
World piece
World piece
International sales remained strong in Florida, with Miami a notable hotspot in 2013. Canada continued to be a major source of buyers - accounting for about 30 percent of international transactions. Buyers from Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru and China also grew. At the same time, European buyers from the U.K., Germany and France figured less prominently.
Rules were made to be broken
Rules were made to be broken
A potential threat failed to materialize this year: To avoid another real estate meltdown, lawmakers forced federal agencies to create minimum loan terms and a "qualified mortgage" (QM). Some experts feared the new rules might require a mandatory 20% downpayment. However, the QM rule issued in February struck a balance that lowers risk yet still provides mortgage access for most consumers; a separate-yet-similar QRM rule issued in August did the same.
Then the floodgates opened
Then the floodgates opened
Initially heralded as a long-overdue relief measure for homeowners at risk of flooding, 2012's Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act extended the nation's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years and took steps to make the program financially self-sustaining. But initial relief turned to shock when insurance premium renewals arrived in the mail. For some homeowners, rates jumped as much as 800%, making some homes unaffordable and short-circuiting some sales under contract. Lawmakers, Realtors and homeowners are working on a number of fixes to ease the unexpected burden on homeowners and sellers.
When it's not good to be No. 1
When it's not good to be No. 1
Banks in Florida started aggressively clearing out the inventory of foreclosed homes, opening the door to a "normal" real estate market. Except for a brief drop to No. 2 status, Florida was the No. 1 U.S. foreclosure state in 2013. In the third quarter alone, the number of homes in some phase of foreclosure rose 22% over the previous quarter, with Florida hosting one in five U.S. foreclosure auctions. The trend is good for the state's long-term real estate health but not for the many Floridians losing a home.
Property insurance casualties
Property insurance casualties
The property insurance market shifted some in 2013. Florida-owned Citizens Property Insurance ramped up an aggressive push to cut its number of policies. Multiple changes raised some rates, bumped some owners to private carriers and nixed many hurricane mitigation insurance discounts.
Grease that oils the mortgage market
Grease that oils the mortgage market
How can the U.S. minimize the risk of another mortgage meltdown? Lawmakers and regulators wrestled with that question in 2013. FHA added fees and extended insurance on its mortgages, making those loans less desirable. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which free lenders to fund more homes by buying mortgages, are still government owned - but what should happen next? NAR wants continued government involvement; others, however, say Fannie and Freddie should go completely private. The discussion continues.
Just call me John.Doe.Realtor
Just call me John.Doe.Realtor
The hottest new Realtor marketing tool announced in 2013: A domain name issued by NAR will allow members to use a new ".realtor" in the URL for their personal websites. Many first-to-sign-up Realtors chose their name, giving them a powerful marketing tool, with a website URL customers can easily remember, such as "John.Doe.Realtor."
Giving back: We salute you
Giving back: We salute you
A proud moment for Florida Realtors: The gift of homeownership for a wounded warrior. The highlight of Great American Realtor Days 2013 was awarding a home to retired Army Sgt. Michael Burke of Port St. Lucie, his wife Nichole, and children Bryce and Layla.
100 and still going strong
100 and still going strong
Realtors' proudest celebration in 2013: The Code of Ethics - the outline of positive business behavior and best practices that separates Realtors from other real estate licensees - turned 100 years old. The Code of Ethics added new language this year to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.