Sarasota Area Real Estate Blog

WASHINGTON – Feb. 27, 2014 – Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives postponed a bill to roll back flood insurance rate increases that had been scheduled for a vote this week.

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act is now expected to go to the House floor next week after members hash out possible changes that may include protections for small business properties.

The revised House legislation released by GOP leadership last week was praised by Democrats such as Tampa Rep. Kathy Castor for permanently stopping many of the premium hikes that an earlier Senate bill would have merely delayed.

On the other hand, a growing chorus of fiscal conservatives and some environmental groups has come out against the legislation for overturning sweeping

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Feb. 26, 2014 – A report from Black Knight Financial Services (formerly Lender Processing Services) finds that December home values in the U.S. are within 13.9 percent of the peak reached in 2006.

Black Knight’s Home Price Index (HPI) found nationally that home values rose 0.1 percent month-to-month (compared to November 2012 numbers) and 8.4 percent year-to-year. The high point for U.S. home prices was $270,000 in June 2006. In December, the HPI found a median of $232,000.

From Black Knight’s analysis, it appears most U.S. cities saw their biggest price spike last year, and their dramatic price increases have begun to slow to a more balanced level.

Florida, however, seems to buck that trend a bit, with home prices still climbing

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WASHINGTON – Feb. 25, 2014 – Mortgage servicers who play “shell games” with homeowners and fail to follow new rules on how to help borrowers in default or facing foreclosure will pay for their actions, a top government consumer watchdog warned last week.

Steve Antonakes, deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, made the statements at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s national mortgage-servicing conference in Florida.

“My message to you today is a tough one,” he told the conference. “We have raised the bar in favor of American consumers, and we are ready, willing and able to vigorously enforce that bar.”

The warning came the same week as a New York Times report that consumers around the nation are having difficulties dealing with

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WASHINGTON – Feb. 25, 2014 – Florida Gov. Rick Scott pressed for help in high places on flood insurance in a meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday, but the issue may be decided in the GOP-controlled U.S. House.

The issue has split some Republicans in coastal states like Florida from GOP hard-liners who say some folks need to pay significantly more to help the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) get out of $24 billion in debt and discourage building in flood-prone areas.

Congressional Democrats said there is no deal yet but one lawmaker said conversations with GOP leaders have been “productive.”

A new House version of a bill to address the problem could be considered as early as this week. It eliminates, not just delays, certain triggers for a

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ST. LOUIS – Feb. 24, 2014 – Just as Jane Fraser was named CEO of CitiMortgage nine months ago, the mortgage industry was undergoing a seismic shift as refinancing activity began its free fall.

The O’Fallon, Mo.-based unit of Citigroup, the country’s third-largest bank by assets, relied on mortgage refinancings to account for a bulk of its business for several years. But as interest rates began to rise last year, refinancings fell, prompting changes in business models and layoffs for many companies, including CitiMortgage.

“The day I started at CitiMortgage was the day the market started responding to the Fed, and inevitably was the end of the refi boom,” Fraser, who became CEO in May 2013, said in an interview with the Post-Dispatch.

The change has been

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Feb. 21, 2014 – Florida’s housing market reported more closed sales, higher median prices, more new listings, fewer days on the market and the continued stabilization of inventory in January, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 15,000 last month, up 10.2 percent over the January 2013 figure.

“Price increases are continuing to improve home equity in areas across the state, and combined with still-low interest rates, it’s creating a great opportunity for sellers,” says 2014 Florida Realtors President Sherri Meadows, CEO and team leader, Keller Williams, with market centers in Gainesville, Ocala and the Villages. “We’re seeing homeowners ready to take

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New listings in Sarasota County were up substantially in January 2014, sending the total inventory to a 32-month high level, up 10.6 percent from December 2013 and yet another sign of a market in a strong recovery period.

In a recovering market, new listings and the overall inventory generally rise as sellers raise their estimation of a property's value, but the increase normally occurs only after the market has turned up. Inventory levels are now 30 percent above the recent low in July 2013, only six months ago.

In addition, the Sarasota County market continues to witness strong price appreciation, comparing January 2014 to the previous January numbers. The median sale price for single family homes was up 21.3 percent and for condos was up 17.1

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – Feb. 20, 2014 – Despite severe weather conditions across much of the country, the 2014 homebuying season has begun on one positive note, showing an uptick in inventory a month earlier than last year, according to’s National Housing Trend Report for January 2014.

Data from reveals the median list price for January 2014 is 8.3 percent above levels observed in January 2013. The number of properties for sale is up 3.1 percent and the median age of inventory is essentially unchanged, indicating a transition to a less frenzied market compared to January 2013.

“January’s start compared to year-ago levels is an encouraging sign of sellers’ interest, particularly given the adverse conditions brought on by the polar

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NEW YORK – Feb. 19, 2014 – Many housing experts predicted a slowdown in investor activity this year, but investors don’t appear to be fading from the market – they appear to simply be shifting their focus to different types of properties as distressed inventories dry up.

“There has been a clear rebound in investor participation in the housing market,” says Thomas Popik, research director for the Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey, which showed strong activity among investors in December 2013. “The statistics for the housing market, particularly the non-distressed segment, remain generally strong, but investors still are increasing their activity.”

Investors are increasingly targeting non-distressed properties.

In November,

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NEW YORK – Feb. 17, 2014 – Jumbo mortgages are providing the housing market recovery with a boost, according to industry experts. Buyers looking at luxury properties currently can obtain jumbo mortgages with interest rates that are on par with – and sometimes even lower than – conventional loans.

Moreover, the new qualified mortgage regulations (QM) don’t apply to jumbos, which makes them a more flexible option for buyers who want things like interest-only loans or who have a high net worth but complicated finances.

Jumbo mortgages can make sense for financing a home purchase even when buyers have enough cash, says Denise Andres, a real estate agent with ERA Landmark in Bozeman, Mt., who recently helped a client who downsized with a jumbo loan rather

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