Monthly Archives: February 2020

Real Estate Q&A: Inherited Home Sales Can Get Tricky

Three siblings inherited their sister’s house upon her death, and then one of the brothers died without a will. Can the remaining two siblings still sell the house?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: My sister passed away and left her house to me and our two brothers. The three of us decided to sell the house, but before we could, one of my brothers also passed away. He was single with no children and did not have a will. Can we still sell the house? – Richard

Answer: You will be able to sell the house eventually, but there will be some work to do.

After a person passes away, “probate” is the court process of gathering and distributing their property. When you probated your sister’s estate, her home was transferred to the three brothers.

You each owned a third equally. All three of you needed to work together to sell the house, which is now impossible.

Even though your brother did not have a wife or children, his estate will still need to be probated.

When someone who has a will dies, their probate is called “testate,” and the will is used as instructions to control how their possessions will be distributed.

When there is no valid will, the estate will be “intestate,” and the law will provide default instructions.

In certain situations, it can be complicated to determine who will inherit, but the decedent’s spouse will inherit, followed by the children, and then to the grandchildren. If none of these people are available to inherit, the decedent’s parents are next in line, followed by the siblings, and the list will go on.

Your next step is to retain an attorney and file a probate case. Unlike most areas of law where people can file a lawsuit themselves, probate requires using an attorney.

Within a few months, you will be able to sell the house with the help of the estate’s representative. The money from the sale will still get split three ways, with your deceased brother’s share being distributed through the probate process.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

© 2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. This article will be available for 30 days following publication.

Can AI Match Luxury Agents With Well-Heeled Buyers?

Until recently, RE technology focused on the middle market, but the luxury market could soon see some disruption as AI helps agents connect with high-net-worth buyers.

NEW YORK – Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise, augmenting or changing how industries like real estate and others operate.

Until recently, real estate technology firms focused on the middle market where comparable, median-priced homes offer ample data points to feed algorithms that underline new tools and churn novel market insights in real time. However, the luxury market could see disruption as well, as some say AI can help real estate agents connect with high net worth buyers.

AI can be used to create custom ads that target sole neighborhoods or client preferences; it can automate messages and make them instant and personal. AI can also help agents expand their high-net-worth networks.

Andy Barkett, chief technology officer of AI-powered brokerage REX, says its AI tools can reach individuals across countries and cultures, placing luxury homes for sale in front of diverse shoppers. That can be a big benefit to the high-end luxury market since not many people in the world that can afford multi-million-dollar homes, which can sometimes spend years searching for a new owner, he says.

Beyond insights for high-end buyers, technology can also help agents get to know their customers – perhaps before they ever meet in person.

Source: Forbes (02/21/20) Williams, Dima

© Copyright 2020 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Top Goal for Remote Workers? Feeling Like Part of the Team

While “Are they really working?” worries bosses with off-site staff, a big one should be retention: “How do I build team spirit when we’re never in the same room?”

NEW YORK (AP) – Nicolas Vandenberghe’s company has 42 staffers scattered among 36 cities in 15 countries. As technology makes it possible for people to be in constant touch while working remotely, businesses like Chili Piper are becoming the norm.

“We have Zoom, Slack, and a myriad of other collaborative tools – do we really need the in-person water cooler meetings?” asks Vandenberghe, whose business makes software to help companies manage meetings. Vandenberghe himself is continually remote, splitting his time between New York, Los Angeles and France.

Whether it means a parent working from home while caring for a sick child, a staffer who logs into a company computer daily from a coffee shop or an entire law firm that operates online, remote working is gaining momentum at small businesses. Technology that makes communication and meetings easy is a big factor in the growth of remote working, but so is the shrinking labor pool that accompanies an unemployment rate below 4% for over a year. Many companies no longer look for help close to their home base.

It’s hard to find definitive statistics on how many people work remotely. Gallup’s most recent survey in 2016 showed that 43% of employees worked remotely in at least some capacity; that was up 4 percentage points from 2012.

But even as remote working grows, business owners find managing offsite staffers involves more than giving them the latest technology. Communication, for example, can’t be left solely to videoconferencing and messaging apps like Slack. Three of Jazmine Valencia’s seven staffers are in her Los Angeles office, three are in New York and one is in Chicago. Her company, JV Agency, does marketing for the music industry. Valencia’s remote staffers can feel left out when the onsite team discusses issues.

“I have to over-communicate and make sure everyone is on the same page. This might mean more one-on-ones, more calls and sometimes just being constantly emailing or private messaging the remote team,” Valencia says. “I need to give them a sense of security.”

Owners say a remote operation can’t work without trust between a boss and staffers, especially because it can be difficult for an owner to know what an employee is doing during a workday. Tyler Forte recalls that when he first managed staffers remotely, “it was me checking on them probably too frequently.” He worried about staffers at his real estate brokerage spending time on social media.

But, “over time, you develop trust with the employee, that we’re all working toward the same goal,” says Forte, CEO of Felix Homes, based in Nashville, Tennessee. The company has staffers in Los Angeles. “Even if I’m not overseeing every move, I believe they are doing their best to advance the goals of the company.”

Forte has found project management software, an aid many owners use, helps him keep track of what everyone is doing.

Sometimes the problem is very different from staffers goofing off.

“People have this idea that if you have a remote team, they won’t work,” says Emma Rose Cohen, CEO of Final Straw, a maker of reusable straws that has a hub in Seattle. “It’s the opposite – if you hire the right people, they’re self-starters, and self-starters are often people who work too much.”

She’s alert to signs that any of her 15 staffers are spending too much time on the job, and when they tell her they feel burned out, tired, or stressed, Cohen says it’s time to take a break. And she’s very public about the fact she blocks off time for non-work things she needs to do.

One reason why employees take remote jobs is their bosses give them flextime; they can make their own hours, take time off for children’s activities or to go to the gym or walk the dog. That perk can help a small business attract and retain staffers.

But remote work is a bad fit for some employees because it often is isolating; staffers can feel disconnected and even alienated from co-workers. That can be countered to some extent through messaging channels that allow everyone to chime in on a fun discussion. Cohen has gone further, creating channels devoted to specific topics like pets or podcasts.

When Andrew DeBell hires remote staffers, he flies them to his company’s home base for interviews; that’s one way to increase the odds they’ll work well with the team at Water Bear Learning, a Ventura, California-based company that creates educational materials.

Some owners find remote work can have a stifling effect on a team’s creativity – there’s no light-bulb moments as staffers pass each other in the hallway, no riffing in a meeting, no break room chats that are unexpectedly productive.

“You’re able to feed off each other and brainstorm ideas better in person than when you’ve got several people on the phone,” DeBell says. His company has one staffer in Denver and two in Ventura. It also has a network of freelancers in the eastern U.S.

Vandenberghe encourages staffers to go to coworking spaces so they can avoid isolation. When he needs a brainstorming session, he flies staffers to where he is so they can meet in person.

Saili Gosula has a remote administrative staffer and several onsite employees at her Synergy HomeCare franchise in San Mateo, California, and all of her caregivers work out in the field. Gosula has some of the same issues as owners whose work is computer-based; she does a lot of communicating and informing, trying to be sure that all her office staff is on the same page.

As it turns out, Gosula uses some of the same skills with her caregivers, who are all working in sensitive, emotional situations as they care for elderly or sick people.

“We talk to them often, ask them how it’s going,” Gosula says. “We ask them questions every time we interact with them.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press, Joyce M. Rosenberg. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission. This article will be available for 30 days following publication.

NAR Calls 2019 Advocacy Its ‘Best Year in Washington’

The association created a list of 19 advocacy “wins” last year – a diverse array of accomplishments from the environment to condo loans and even cannabis banking.

WASHINGTON – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) called 2019 its “best year in Washington” based on successful advocacy programs. According to Senior Vice President of NAR Government Affairs Shannon McGahn, “look behind all the political news, and you will find one of NAR’s best years for federal advocacy in a long time – maybe ever.”

She says NAR compiled a list of 19 federal policy accomplishments from 2019 that “should give every one of our 1.4 million members reason to cheer.” She says those 19 issues aren’t the entire story, but it “showcases how hard our brilliant and talented team of advocates fought for your business last year.”

The entire list – 2019 NAR Advocacy Success – is posted online.

NAR helped secure a one-year extension for flood insurance and a seven-year extension for terrorism risk insurance, for example. It got an extension for excluding forgiven mortgage debt from federal taxes. And, after a 10-year fight, NAR helped secure new FHA condo-loan policies that should lead to more condo sales – a major benefit for Florida, notably its first-time buyers.

“NAR was busy in the courts, too, filing amicus briefs in cases surrounding both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Association Health Plans,” McGahn adds.

NAR says it also has high expectations for 2020. In January, NAR leadership stood alongside President Donald Trump to unveil new environmental reforms, and later to attend a bill signing ceremony for the USMCA trade agreement (the new NAFTA).

“NAR strongly supported these efforts, and in the case of USMCA, we even partnered with the Canadian and Mexican Realtors to help get the deal across the finish line,” McGahn says.

Realtors can help boost the advocacy efforts of Florida Realtors and NAR by giving to Florida Realtors PAC.

“And speaking of support – thanks again to all our members!” McGahn adds. “Because of your support, our voice is one of the loudest and most respected in Washington. And the results show!”

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

People without REAL ID Can’t Board Airplanes After Oct. 1

If your driver’s license isn’t REAL ID compliant, you’ll be grounded – banned from flying internationally to pursue real estate deals or see grandkids in Ohio.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The federal REAL ID Act of 2005 updated the standards for driver’s licenses and ID cards. It created new safety standards for forms of identification and rolled out enforcement in a series of phases.

After Oct. 1, 2020, any U.S. citizen hoping to board an airplane must produce an acceptable form of ID under the new standards. If using a driver’s license, it must be REAL ID compliant as outlined in the Act. In general, REAL ID complaint licenses have a gold star near the upper right corner.

The change largely applies only to IDs required to board a plane. All Florida drivers licenses issued within the past few years are REAL ID compliant, but some residents who haven’t renewed a driver’s license lately will still have non-REAL ID ones. Those will remain legal for driving until their expiration date; however, they won’t be valid for boarding an airplane.

For more information on REAL ID licensing, visit the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Coronavirus Fears Could Have a Market Impact

Fla. has no coronavirus victims and may never have one, but fear of the virus may have a greater impact than the actual disease. World outbreaks could slow international home sales, and stock market declines could convince some Americans to sit tight and wait it out.

NEW YORK – Global stock markets plunged further Friday on spreading fears over the impact of the new coronavirus, with some indexes set to close out their worst week since the depths of the financial crisis in 2008.

Germany’s DAX skidded as much as 5% before stabilizing, Tokyo and Shanghai closed 3.7% lower. Wall Street looked set for more losses a day after enduring its biggest one-day drop in nine years. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 were down 0.4%.

Investors had been growing confident the disease that emerged in China in December might be under control. But outbreaks in Italy, South Korea, Japan and Iran have fueled fears the virus is turning into a global threat that might derail trade and industry.

Anxiety intensified Thursday when the United States reported its first virus case in someone who hadn’t traveled abroad or been in contact with anyone who had.

Virus fears “have become full-blown across the globe as cases outside China climb,” Chang Wei Liang and Eugene Leow of DBS said in a report.

In Europe, London’s FTSE 100 sank 2.9% to 6,599 and Frankfurt’s DAX tumbled 3.3% to 11,955. France’s CAC 40 lost 2.7% to 5,346. The Stoxx Europe 600 index is heading for its sharpest weekly drop since October 2008.

Markets in China and Hong Kong had been doing relatively well despite virus fears. Mainland markets were flooded with credit by authorities to shore up prices after trading resumed following an extended Lunar New Year holiday. Chinese investor sentiment also has been buoyed by promises of lower interest rates, tax breaks and other aid to help revive manufacturing and other industries.

But now, major companies are issuing profit warnings, saying factory shutdowns in China are disrupting supply chains. They say travel bans and other anti-disease measures are hurting sales in China, an increasingly vital consumer market.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 fell 4.4% to 2,978.76. The index is down 12% from its all-time high a week ago, putting the market into what traders call a correction.

Some analysts have said that was overdue in a record-setting bull market, though Mizuho Bank noted hitting that status in just six days was “the fastest correction since the Great Depression” in the 1930s.

Investors came into 2020 feeling confident the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates at low levels and the U.S.-China trade war posed less of a threat to company profits after the two sides signed a truce in January.

The market’s sharp drop this week partly reflects increasing fears among many economists that the U.S. and global economies could take a bigger hit from the coronavirus than previously thought, weakening consumer confidence and depressing spending.

The Dow shed 1,190.95 points on Thursday, its largest one-day point drop in history, bringing its loss for the week to 3,225.77 points, or 11.1%. To put that in perspective, the Dow’s 508-point loss on Oct. 19, 1987, was equal to 22.6%.

“It is a race to the bottom for U.S. indices,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a report. “It may still be too early to call a bottom given the uncertainty around the matter of the coronavirus impact.”

U.S. bond prices soared Thursday as investors fled to safe investments. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, or the difference between the market price and what an investor will be paid if the bond is held to maturity, fell to a record low of 1.16%.

A shrinking yield caused by investors shifting money into the relative safety of bonds and pushing up their market price is a sign of weakening confidence in the economy.

Most access to the city of Wuhan, a manufacturing hub of 11 million people at the center of the outbreak, was suspended Jan. 23. The Lunar New Year holiday was extended to keep factories and offices closed. The government told the public to stay home.

China has begun trying to reopen factories and other businesses in areas with low risk after shutting down much of its economy to stem the spread of the infection. Travel controls remain in effect in many areas and elsewhere governments are tightening anti-disease controls as new cases mount.

Japan is preparing to close schools nationwide and officials on the northern island of Hokkaido, where there are more than 60 confirmed cases of the virus, declared a state of emergency and asked residents to stay home over the weekend if possible. Saudi Arabia has banned foreign pilgrims from entering the kingdom to visit Islam’s holiest sites. Italy has become the center of the outbreak in Europe.

“The more countries that are faced with fighting a pandemic, the wider the potential for economic disruption and potential for increased recessionary risks,” said Tai Hui of J.P. Morgan Asset Management in a report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press, Joe McDonald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. This article will be available for 30 days following publication.

NAR: Pending Home Sales Rise 5.2% in January

Economist Yun: “Solid activity – the second-highest monthly figure in over two years – is due to the good economic backdrop and exceptionally low mortgage rates.”

WASHINGTON – Pending home sales rebounded in January following a decline in December, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Only the West region reported a minor drop in month-over-month contract activity, as the other three major regions saw pending home sales grow.

Year-over-year pending home sales activity was up in all four regions and up nationally compared to one year ago.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) – a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings – grew 5.2% to 108.8 in January. Year-over-year contract signings increased 5.7%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“This month’s solid activity – the second-highest monthly figure in over two years – is due to the good economic backdrop and exceptionally low mortgage rates,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

“We are still lacking in inventory,” he adds, noting December’s and January’s combined supply was at the lowest level since 1999. “Inventory availability will be the key to consistent future gains.”

Pointing to data from active listings at, Yun says the year-over-year increases show a strong desire for homeownership. Markets drawing some of the most significant buyer attention include Fort Wayne, Ind.; San Francisco, Calif.; Sacramento, Calif.; Lafayette, Ind.; and San Jose, Calif.

“With housing starts hovering at 1.6 million in December and January, along with the favorable mortgage rates, among other factors, 2020 has so far presented a very positive sales climate,” Yun says. “Moreover, the latest stock market correction could provide exceptional, even lower mortgage rates for a few weeks, and that would help bring about a noticeable upturn in the coming months.”

Regional breakdown: The Northeast PHSI rose 1.3% to 92.9 in January, 1.2% higher than a year ago. In the Midwest, the index increased 7.3% to 105.3 last month, 6.5% higher than in January 2019.

Pending home sales in the South grew 8.7% to an index of 129.4 in January, a 7.1% increase from January 2019. The index in the West declined 1.1% in January 2020 to 92.6, still a jump of 5.5% from a year ago.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Mortgage Rates Decline; 30-Year Loan at 3.45%

The coronavirus outbreak spooked markets and investors’ move to bonds pushed long-term mortgage rates lower this week. One year ago, the average FRM was 4.35%.

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. long-term mortgage rates declined this week as growing concern over the economic impact of China’s viral outbreak spurred a steep downturn in global stock markets.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.45% from 3.49% last week. Rates are far below year-ago levels: the benchmark 30-year loan averaged 4.35% a year ago.

The average rate on a 15-year fixed mortgage slipped to 2.95% from 2.99% last week. The slide in stock prices pushed investors to buy up U.S. Treasury securities, viewed as a safe haven in the event of an economic downturn.

The rush of investors toward U.S. government securities pushed the yield on the 10-year Treasury note sharply lower. It marked a record low of 1.28% Thursday morning. Long-term mortgage rates usually follow the yield on the 10-year note.

The decline in mortgage rates in recent months and the solid economy have pushed up demand for housing. Americans signing contracts to buy homes jumped 5.2% in January from the previous month, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday.

Real estate brokerage firm Redfin said its agents are seeing an escalation in competition and bidding wars among would-be homebuyers. “As buyers snatch up available homes, we see more competition and higher prices on the horizon,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac surveys lenders nationwide between Monday and Wednesday each week to compile its mortgage rate figures. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was unchanged from last week at 0.7 point. The average fee for the 15-year mortgage also was steady, at 0.8 point.

The average rate for a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 3.20% from 3.25% last week. The fee remained at 0.2 point.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

What Do Homeowners Fear Most? Unexpected Major Repairs

A survey of 1,500 Americans found that only 18% “don’t have any housing worries.” 1 in 3 worry about major unexpected repairs; 17% fear home prices will go down.

NEW YORK – Homeowners are sitting on a record amount of equity, so what has them so worried about housing? A new study by LendingTree surveyed more than 1,500 Americans to gauge their expectations of homeownership.

Their No. 1 worry? Upcoming repairs needed on their home. Nearly one-third of respondents (32%) cited major home repairs as their top housing-related worry.

More than half of respondents surveyed say that homes are becoming less affordable in their neighborhoods. As a result of those higher prices, they plan to stay put longer. And as a result of staying longer, nearly three out of four respondents are considering renovations.

Of those considering renovations this year, 53% said they were motivated by a desire to increase their home’s value. Other reasons were to give the home an updated look (24%), make the home easier to sell (22%) and add more space (9%).

While rising home prices have some homeowners concerned, they’re still upbeat about the housing market overall – and they’re upbeat about their equity: 55% of respondents said they believe their home’s value will improve this year; and 68% said they believe homeownership is a good investment.

But rising home prices do spur concerns for them about affordability: 53% predict housing will be less affordable over the next decade. Gen Xers and baby boomers – at 53% and 57%, respectively – are the most pessimistic about housing affordability.

Overall, about 1 in 5 homeowners (18%) have no housing worries. Of those who do, the following tops their list:

  1. Will have to make major repairs: 32%
  2. Home value will go down: 17%
  3. Mortgage payment will increase: 13%
  4. It will be hard to find a new house: 8%
  5. Won’t be able to sell the house: 6%
  6. Will become underwater on their mortgage: 4%
  7. Other: 2%

Source: “LendingTree Survey: More Than Half of Homeowners Expect Home Values to Rise in 2020,” LendingTree (Feb. 24, 2020)

© Copyright 2020 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

What’s the Fastest Way to Improve a Credit Score?

Buyers may be able to boost their credit scores by 15-20 points in only a few months by paying bills on time and lowering their credit card balance.

NEW YORK – The higher your credit score, the better your chance to snag a lower mortgage rate and potentially save tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a loan. But one missed payment or a default can instantly bring a credit score down.

“Depending on your credit history, a 15- or 20-point shift could mean the difference between being approved or declined – or better terms or higher costs,” says Rod Griffin, the director of public education at Experian.

The top way to increase your credit score: Pay your bills on time and reduce your credit card balance. That habit alone can improve a score as quickly as within a few billing cycles.

“As a rule of thumb, you could see an appreciable difference in six months,” says Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at

However, “if a missed payment has dragged your score down, your score could rebound in a month or two; a series of late payments will take longer to make a full recovery,” Griffin adds.

The recovery for a late mortgage payment can take about nine months for a credit score to recover. Filing for bankruptcy could take as long as five to 10 years.

The overall credit history of the borrower plays a significant role in how fast they can recover from financial mishaps, says Griffin. But “the better your scores are to start with, the more difficult it is to improve them.”

A lower credit score reflects a pattern of missed payments, so adding one more missed payment isn’t as significant. But a person with a clean credit report who misses a payment will see a bigger impact, Miron Lulic, founder and CEO of SuperMoney, told CNBC.

However, the goal needn’t be a perfect score, but “the goal is to have a score that qualifies you for the best terms of rates, generally 750 or above,” Griffin says.

Overall, credit scores recently have been at an all-time high, according to FICO. FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850.

Source: “Here’s How to Improve Your Credit Score Right Away,” CNBC (Feb. 25, 2020)

© Copyright 2020 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

3 Fla. Cities in iBuyer Top 20 – but Still Not That Many

Study: About 1% of homes sold in 2019 went to an iBuyer, but while Orlando ranked 13th nationally (No. 1 in Fla.), only 2.2% of its home sales involved an iBuyer – and it was one of the few cities to see a decline compared to its 2018 iBuyer sales (2.6%).

SEATTLE – Raleigh, N.C., led the nation with the highest market share of iBuying activity in 2019, followed by Phoenix, Charlotte and Atlanta, according to new study on iBuyers released by Redfin. Redfin used MLS and public records data on home purchases and sales to track national iBuyer purchases from firms like Opendoor, Zillow, Offerpad and RedfinNow.

iBuyers are a growing group of companies that use technology to pitch instant offers to home sellers. They’ll purchase homes in all-cash transactions, allowing sellers to pick the closing date and bypassing selling publicly on the MLS. iBuyers tend to charge sellers a higher fee than a traditional real estate agent for the convenience.

A growing group of Wall Street-backed iBuying firms are competing for home sellers, but brokerages – like Keller Williams, Redfin, and Coldwell Banker – are jumping in with their own spin on instant offers as well.

While iBuyers present a new and growing element of the real estate market, however, they didn’t play a big factor in overall 2019 sales. In the 200 metro areas of the study, iBuyers purchased only one out of every 100 homes (1%). However, that’s almost double their market share in 2018.

Raleigh had the highest iBuyer market share in the country with 7.3% of homes purchased by an instant offer (up from 3.9% in 2018). Phoenix had 5.9% of its housing inventory purchased by an iBuyer, followed by Charlotte. N.C., and Atlanta (5.2% each) and Las Vegas at 4.1%.

Florida had three cities in the iBuyer top 20: No. 13, Orlando, had iBuyers involved in 2.2% of its 2019 home purchases (a decline from 2.6% in 2018). At No. 16, Jacksonville had 1.9% (0% in 2018). And at No. 18, Tampa had 1.5% (1.2% in 2018).

By numbers alone, Phoenix had the largest number of homes purchased by an iBuyer in 2019 at more than 5,200, followed by Atlanta at more than 4,300 and Houston at 2,100.

“It’s no surprise Raleigh and Phoenix led the nation in iBuyer share because those housing markets are iBuyer sweet spots and are poised for price growth in 2020,” says Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist. “These markets work well for iBuyers, which tend to purchase homes that are relatively affordable, were built within the last few decades and are easy to price accurately because they are located in tract neighborhoods with largely homogenous housing stock. iBuyers also try to buy homes that will likely retain or increase in value over the short period between purchase and sale. Our forecasts indicate that both Phoenix and Raleigh will have strong price growth in 2020.”

Fairweather predicts that those metros experiencing strong iBuyer activity will also likely see a 2020 growth in home sales.

“It’s a seller’s market right now, but this can be a double-edged sword for sellers who also are looking to buy,” Fairweather says. “iBuyers are a big help for folks who need the equity from their current home to buy the next, and who want the flexibility of lining up their sale with the purchase of their new home. Homeowners who may have been reluctant to sell because they were concerned about carrying two mortgages or worried about the stress of choreographing two transactions may be persuaded by the convenience of an iBuyer sale.”

Source: “Raleigh Led the Nation in iBuyer Market Share in 2019, Followed by Phoenix, Charlotte and Atlanta,” Redfin Blog (Feb. 25, 2020)

© Copyright 2020 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

When is a closing agent not an escrow agent?

It’s not a trick question. An escrow agent oversees just that – escrow – and a closing agent oversees closings. It’s still confusing for a few Realtors, however, because the same person often does both tasks. After a while, these Realtors start thinking they’re the same thing.

ORLANDO, Fla. – In completing one of the Florida Realtors contracts, there are spaces for the escrow agent’s information, including name, address, and telephone number. Not only is this information required per 61J2 14.008(2)(b) of the Florida Administrative Code, aka your FREC rules, but it lets the buyer know where to place the deposit once due under the contract.

Separate and apart from that section of a contract, there is another section that addresses who chooses the closing agent.

The key: These are two separate roles.

Pragmatically, however, the same entity often performs both functions – and that’s why the escrow vs. closing agent issue becomes confusing – and an assumption those roles are interchangeable isn’t a good one.

An example of what can go wrong

Let’s say the buyer wants his attorney to hold the deposit and has put the attorney’s information in the appropriate escrow-agent spot in the contract. The seller wants to choose the closing agent and has checked the corresponding box for him to do so.

The contract says the deposit is due three days after the effective date, and the buyer sends the money to his attorney as specified in the contract. The seller, however, contacts the title company to confirm the deposit and is told that the buyer’s money isn’t there. The upset seller contacts the buyer and asks where the funds are. The buyer tells the seller that they were sent to his attorney, per the contract.

The seller is upset. He believes the money should be with the title company he chose as the closing agent. Is the buyer in default? Can the seller demand the funds be placed immediately with the title company?

In short, the answer to both questions is no. Of course, the buyer needs to make sure the deposit is sent to the closing agent in an appropriate amount of time before closing, but the buyer isn’t in default. If the seller wanted to have the money with his chosen closing agent, he should have changed the information in the escrow agent section of the contract since the two are not one and the same.

As always, careful reading of any contract can often avoid confusion later.

For more information on confirming that an escrow deposit has been received, see “Agents Must Send Copies of Escrow Checks – Right?” in the July 17, 2019, issue of Florida Realtors Legal News.

Meredith Caruso is Associate General Counsel for Florida Realtors

© 2019 Florida Realtor®

Rules vs. Access When Screening for Assistance Animals

A 1988 amendment to the Fair Housing Act added disability as a protected class, and the change continues to spark a lot of Legal Hotline questions. In general, however, accommodation should be the goal rather than searching for a reason to deny.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 added disability as a protected class when it comes to fair housing. Simply put, that means that housing providers (definition includes owners and rental agents, among others) cannot refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, and services to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity to occupy and enjoy full use of a dwelling.

Although discrimination can take many forms, the most common ways the disabled person would be protected is by being entitled to a waiver of no-pet policies, not having to make a pet deposit, and being free from any other burdens placed on them because of the assistance animal.

Here’s a recent case that helps illustrate why respectful, interactive discussion should be the correct tone any time a request is received. It also shows how accommodation should be the goal as opposed to searching for a reason to deny.

A Florida condominium association was faced with a request for a waiver of the pet weight limit contained in its rules. The request included this note from a health care professional:

Due to mental illness, [unit owner] has certain limitations regarding social interaction and coping with stress and anxiety. In order to help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance his ability to live independently and to fully use and enjoy the dwelling unit, I am prescribing an emotional support animal that will assist [unit owner] in coping with his disability.

This was followed up a few days later with a second note clarifying that the unit owner already has a therapeutic relationship with a specific dog that was over the association’s weight limit for pets.

Rather than accommodate the request, the association sent the following letter:

1. What is the exact nature of your impairment? How does it substantially limit a major life activity?

2. How long have you been receiving treatment for this specific impairment?

3. How many sessions have you had with [the doctor who wrote the note]?

4. What specific training has your dog received?

5. Why does it require a dog over 25 pounds to afford you an equal opportunity to use and enjoy your dwelling?

The unit owner provided a third brief note from the doctor responding to these questions. The association sent two additional lists of questions, each more detailed than the last, but the unit owner stopped responding after providing the third doctor’s note.

Complaints were filed with HUD and the Florida Commission on Human Relations, and a lawsuit was filed against the association. This resulted in a lengthy court battle, which included a jury trial and an appeal. What was the ultimate outcome for the association? The association had to waive its pet restriction. Additionally, it owed $5,000 to the unit owner, as well as $127,512 in attorney fees.

Although there may be bad actors out there abusing the broad definition of disability currently in place, this case illustrates the dangers an aggressive tone can present. It’s also a reminder that the definition is broad and can cover many types of health issues that may not be readily apparent. A respectful, interactive conversation is crucial so that housing providers can meet the burden of making reasonable accommodation for all persons who are disabled.

For more information on best practices in assistance animal screening, refer to a new 19-page memo issued on Jan. 28, 2020.

Joel Maxson is Associate General Counsel

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

Dear Anne: I Lost My Arbitration – Now What?

Most commission disputes involve two agents who are absolutely certain they deserve the money – but one must lose out. What happens next? Can a local board ask for the funds? Does a procedural review give the losing agent a do-over and new chance to keep the money?  

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dear Anne: I sat through a four-hour arbitration with my broker and, to my shock, the arbitration panel found in favor of the cooperating agent. I was the listing agent on this deal, and I am the procuring cause of the sale.

You would think a panel of five experienced real estate agents could get it right. But apparently not. It should have been a slam-dunk decision in my favor.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I found it offensive when I learned my local board is helping the so-called “winners” collect their commission. My broker received an email from board staff reminding him to deposit my commission into the board’s escrow account so they can hold the money while I decide if I want to file a procedural review or take this thing to court. If I don’t do either, they will disperse the money to the complainant.

I’m going to file a procedural review that I understand is an appeal of sorts for arbitration because the board needs to be put on notice their arbitration panel got it wrong. But one thing is for sure: Neither the board nor the complainant will see a dime of my commission under any circumstance. I earned it, it’s spent, end of the story.

There is nothing they can do to me. So, what do you think of this escrow debacle? Signed, It’s My Money

Dear, It’s My Money: Apparently you like using “I” and “my” a lot. You’re right there is nothing they can do to you, assuming the “they” you are referring to is your local board. Here’s an overview of the process:

  • Arbitration is between brokers because compensation is offered and accepted by brokers; therefore, your broker is the one on the proverbial hook – not you. And yes, you participated in the arbitration hearing only because you have a financial interest in the outcome, but you are not a party to the arbitration. Filing for arbitration and procedural reviews must be done by your broker.
  • Your broker has 10 days from the transmittal of the award to pay the prevailing party or deposit the disputed funds into the board’s escrow account for safekeeping. Absent a request for a procedural review or notice of intent to initiate a legal challenge within the timeframes specified under the National Association of Realtors®’ (NAR) Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, the award becomes final and the board releases the money to the prevailing party.
  • Failure to deposit the funds into the board’s escrow account will result in your broker receiving an invitation to appear before the board of directors to explain why they did not comply with this policy, which means your broker could be found in violation of a membership duty and the Board of Directors may impose disciplinary sanctions or be given more time on the clock to pay the award or deposit it into the Board’s escrow account. If the deposit isn’t paid within the time set by the Directors, discipline may be imposed automatically. If you don’t believe me, click here to learn more.

A lot of folks seem to think a procedural review is a second chance to have their case heard all over again before a new panel. It is not.

Quite the contrary, the purpose of the procedural review is to address alleged procedural deficiencies or irregularities that could constitute a deprivation of due process. The question is: Did something go wrong that resulted in depriving your broker of his due process rights? The laundry list of procedural deficiencies or irregularities could include:

  • Fraud
  • Coercion
  • Bias
  • Prejudice
  • Evident partiality and more

For example, your broker is entitled to have his case heard before an impartial panel. If a panelist’s manner of questioning appeared to bias in nature, the board of directors could overturn the award and send the matter to a new hearing panel or release the parties to go to court. Another possible flaw: The arbitration hearing officer didn’t allow your broker enough time to review and prepare for evidence he was not aware of prior to the hearing.

When your broker files for a procedural review, the board president or his/her designee will review the request to see if there is a legitimate basis (procedural deficiencies) for the review, like those I have already identified. If the request for a procedural review is based on the undesired outcome of the arbitration, it will be returned to your broker because it’s not a legitimate basis for the procedural review.

Hint: A procedural review is just that – a review of procedures and not a review of the decision itself.

However, if your broker insists that the request goes as written, the matter will be forwarded to the board of directors anyway. Why? Because it is the broker’s due process right to appear before the board of directors. If the board of directors concludes that there was no significant deprivation of due process, the arbitration panel’s award will more than likely be upheld.

The board is not trying to be difficult or take sides. It’s simply following NAR’s policies of enforcement. I suspect, if the tables were turned and you were on the side of the prevailing party, you would be in favor of the board having an escrow account.

Your comments about those who sat on the arbitration tribunal are unfair. These members take time away from their businesses to serve on tribunals. They attend annual training and want to make a positive difference by making the best decision possible based on the facts, testimony and evidence you presented to them.

The quality of your presentation before a panel falls on your doorstep, not the panel’s. And who knows what the outcome of the arbitration will be. One thing that is sure: The panel didn’t see this as a slam-dunk case in your favor.

If you go in believing you’ve got a win in the bag, you’re likely doing yourself a disservice. It’s an attitude that could end up getting you where you are today.

Anne Cockayne is Director of Local Association Services for Florida Realtors

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Fla. Legislature Bill Would Regulate Local Impact Fees

If passed and signed by the governor, House and Senate bills would create new oversight for the money local governments charge developers to boost infrastructure.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Companion bills currently in the Florida Legislature’s House and Senate could create new regulations overseeing the impact fees charged by local governments for new real estate developments. Both houses still need to pass the bills and Gov. Ron DeSantis must sign them before they become law. If that happens, they would become effective on July 1, 2020.

Impact fees are imposed to fund the local infrastructure needed to meet the demands of the population growth caused by a development.

A staff analysis of the House bill, HB 637, says local impact fee ordinances must meet certain minimum statutory criteria: The calculation of an amount due must have a “rational nexus both to the need for additional capital facilities and to the expenditures of funds collected and the benefits accruing to the new construction”; and fee collection must occur after issuance of the building permit.

However, the imposition of various types of impact fees – ones targeted for different infrastructure needs – is currently at the discretion of each local government. The related bill in the Senate is SB 1066.

The bill requires counties, municipalities and special districts that adopt, collect or administer an impact fee to calculate the amount based on the most recent and localized data collected within the last 36 months and exclude any cost that doesn’t meet the definition of “infrastructure,” according to the staff analysis.

A local government must segregate revenues and expenditures of any impact fee that addresses the infrastructure needs in a separate impact fee trust fund. New or increased impact fees may not apply to current or pending permit applications submitted before the effective date of an ordinance imposing a new or increased impact fee.

The bill makes impact fee credits assignable and transferable from one development or parcel to another, providing they’re within the same impact fee jurisdiction and the same type of public facility to which the fee applies.

A local government must provide impact fee credits or other forms of compensation where a contribution is greater in value than the applicable impact fee.

The bill requires each county or municipality assessing impact fees to establish an Impact Fee Review Committee composed of seven full-time members and three alternate members. The Committee shall:

  • Establish policy and methodology for determining impact fees on new developments
  • Review proposed impact fees on each new development before the fee becomes final
  • Submit recommendations to the county or city commission
  • The recommendations must be presented at the meeting at which the impact fee on the new development will be discussed and voted
  • Review all proposed expenditures of the impact fee after adoption by the local government to ensure that the fee is used for capital projects within the jurisdiction

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

The Big Question: What Are Boomers Going to Do?

Boomers’ choices will impact the housing market. Will most hunker down in their current home? Will their kids’ demand more multi-gen homes? No one knows yet.

NEW YORK – The octogenarian population in the U.S. is projected to double over the next two decades, and that could change what households are looking for in their next home.

A large portion of the 80-something population will likely end up in senior housing or assisted living, but their first choice tends to be moving in with family. That will likely spark greater interest in homes with an “in-law unit” or garage apartment.

Investors and homebuilders are putting more focus on multigenerational living in single-family housing, believing it will be a bigger trend as the so-called “silver tsunami” strikes the housing market.

National Association of Realtors®’ data found that 12% of multigenerational home purchases were made with the intention of moving in aging parents, and a lot more shoppers may already have multi-gen households on their minds: Research from John Burns Real Estate Consulting suggests that more than 40% of Americans are shopping for a home with their older relatives in mind.

That number of multigenerational households is expected to grow as baby boomers get older. From 2011 to 2016, the number of households headed by baby boomers age 65 to 74 increased to more than 17 million – a 26% increase. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies’ data also showed that the number of head-of-households 80 or older rose by 71% in that time.

But many seniors don’t really want to move.

“Interestingly, the option that may contribute most to the affordable housing crisis is ‘aging in place’ – where seniors simply stay put in the homes they bought 40 or 50 years ago, even though they can’t use the space anymore,” The Motley Fool reports. “It’s the status quo, but it’s a problem for millennials struggling to gain a foothold.”

These staying-in-place seniors, however, may be more willing to move in with their family; and, as a result, more buyers may be looking for a home that can accommodate multiple ages under one roof.

Source: “Will Your Next Home Have Room for an Aging Parent?” The Motley Fool (Feb. 17, 2020)

© Copyright 2020 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

RE ‘Micro Investing’ May Grow New Crop of Investors

A real estate investment trust (REIT) helps investors buy a share of large operations. Micro-investing costs less and could be a share of just a single condo unit.

NEW YORK – Real estate investing may still feel out of reach to many consumers, but a new trend growing from startups is a push toward “micro-investing,” which helps a new wave of investors jump in – sometimes for as little as $5.

“The best portfolios are diversified, and real estate performs very uniquely in a way that is uncorrelated to the stock market and bonds … We want to offer the same asset at a lower price point,” says Janine Yorio, founder and CEO of Compound, a real estate micro-investment startup offering an app that allows micro-investors to purchase shares of properties the company hopes to sell at a profit for investors.

Micro-investing follows a model similar to real estate investment trusts (REITs) by offering investors a chance to become part owners of a property rather than a company that usually invests in multiple properties.

“REITs are just like owning stock, subject to stock market volatility and other unrelated factors to the actual performance of a property,” says Darren Powderly, co-founder of CrowdStreet Inc., a micro-investment company that allows investors to buy shares of commercial real estate nationwide. “So in addition to REITs, savvy individual investors add private real estate to their portfolios for greater diversification and returns.”

The startup Compound says it intends to raise $10 billion a year to purchase properties and make them available as micro-investments. To date, the company has raised $2 million. Compound currently allows people to invest in a share of a luxury apartment in Miami Beach’s “Billionaire Bunker” island for $260. After three to five years, Compound will sell the properties and then distribute the profits to the investors.

“We’re looking to give people access to properties they would want to own for themselves and are proud to say they own a part of – but that also makes a great long-term investment,” Yorio told Yahoo Finance.

Source: “Startups Bring Micro Investing to Real Estate,” Yahoo Finance (Feb. 18, 2020)

© Copyright 2020 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

NAR: Jan. Home Sales Drop 1.3% but Are Up 9.6% Year-to-Year

Economist Yun says existing-home sales are off to a strong start, and the “trend line for housing starts is increasing … which should ultimately lead to more home sales.”

WASHINGTON – Existing-home sales declined in January, continuing a fluctuating pattern of monthly increases and declines, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Significant declines in the West region dragged down nationwide numbers, with the other three major U.S. regions reporting marginal – or no – changes last month.

Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – decreased 1.3% from December to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.46 million in January. However, for the second straight month, overall sales substantially increased year-over-year – up 9.6% from a year ago (4.98 million in January 2019).

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, finds the outlook for 2020 home sales promising despite the drop in January.

“Existing-home sales are off to a strong start at 5.46 million.” Yun says. “The trend line for housing starts is increasing and showing steady improvement, which should ultimately lead to more home sales.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in January was $266,300, up 6.8% over January 2019 ($249,400), as prices increased in every region. December’s price increase marks 95 straight months of year-over-year gains.

“Mortgage rates have helped with affordability, but it is supply conditions that are driving price growth,” Yun says.

Total housing inventory at the end of January totaled 1.42 million units – up 2.2% from December but down 10.7% year-to-year (1.59 million). The housing inventory level for January is at its lowest level since 1999. Unsold inventory is at a 3.1-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 3.0-month figure recorded in December and down from a 3.8-month figure recorded in January 2019.

Properties typically remained on the market for 43 days in January, seasonally up from 41 days in December but down from 49 days in January 2019 – and 42% of homes January home sales were on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers were responsible for 32% of sales in January, up from 31% in December and 29% one year earlier.

“It is good to see first-time buyers slowly stepping into the market,” Yun says. “The rise in the homeownership rate among the younger adults, under 35, and minority households means an increasing number of Americans can build wealth by owning real estate. Still, in order to further expand opportunities, significantly more inventory and home construction are needed at the affordable price points.”

Individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 17% of homes in January. That’s unchanged compared to the previous month and up slightly from 16% in January 2019. All-cash sales accounted for 21% of transactions in January, up from 20% in December but down from 23% in January 2019.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – represented 2% of sales in January, unchanged both month-to-month and year-to-year.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 3.62% in January, down from 3.72% in December. One year ago, the commitment rate was 4.46%.

“We are hopeful and also confident that home sales will improve this year,” says NAR President Vince Malta. “NAR has and will continue to do its part in the industry, reiterating the social and economic benefits of homeownership and advancing conversations surrounding housing affordability concerns.”

Single-family and condo/co-op sales: Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.85 million in January, down from 4.91 million in December but up 9.7% year-to-year. The median existing single-family home price was $268,600 in January 2020, up 6.9% from January 2019.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 units in January, down 1.6% from December but 8.9% higher than a year ago. The median existing condo price was $248,100 in January, an increase of 5.7% from a year ago.

Regional breakdown: Compared to December, January sales increased in the Midwest and the South, while year-over-year sales rose in each of the four regions. Median home prices in all regions increased from one year ago, with the Northeast region showing the strongest price gain.

January 2020 existing-home sales in the Northeast saw no movement, recording an annual rate of 730,000, which is up 7.4% year-to-year. The median price in the Northeast was $312,100, up 11.5% from January 2019.

Existing-home sales increased 2.4% in the Midwest to an annual rate of 1.29 million, up 8.4% year-to-year. The median price in the Midwest was $200,000, a 5.4% increase from last January.

Existing-home sales in the South grew 0.4% to an annual rate of 2.38 million in January, up 11.7% from a year ago. The median price in the South was $229,900, a 6.3% increase from this time last year.

Existing-home sales in the West fell 9.4% to an annual rate of 1.06 million in January, an 8.2% increase from a year ago. The median price in the West was $393,800, up 5.2% from January 2019.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Florida Realtors: Jan. Single-Family Sales Up 17.9%

Fla. condo-townhouse sales were up 14.5% year-to-year. The statewide median price for single-family homes rose 6% to $265K, and condo-townhouse prices up 9.6% to $200K. New pending sales and pending inventory also rose statewide in both property categories.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida’s housing market started the year off on a positive track, with more closed sales, higher median prices, more pending sales and higher pending inventory in January 2020 compared to a year ago, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 18,298 last month, up 17.9% from January 2019.

“Many of the same market conditions we saw over the past few months – like favorable mortgage rates, buyer demand and low inventories – have continued into 2020,” says 2020 Florida Realtors President Barry Grooms, a Realtor and co-owner of Florida Suncoast Real Estate Inc. in Bradenton. “Lack of inventory continues to put pressure on home prices. However, new pending sales increased 12.4% for single-family existing homes last month and new pending sales for condo-townhouse units rose 14.3%.

“Buying or selling a home often is a complex process, but a local Realtor who understands the market area can offer guidance and peace of mind.”

Statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and condo-townhouse properties in January rose year-over-year for 97 consecutive months. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $265,000, up 6% from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Last month’s statewide median price for condo-townhouse units was $200,000, up 9.6% 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®, the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in December 2019 was $276,900, up 8% from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $255,400. In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in December was $615,090; in Massachusetts, it was $412,250; in Maryland, it was $300,000; and in New York, it was $290,000.

Looking at Florida’s condo-townhouse market in January, statewide closed sales totaled 7,714, up 14.5% from its level a year ago. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

Florida’s housing market in January looked similar to the data trends shown in the previous month, according to Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor.

“Market conditions – particularly interest rates – have been very favorable for home sales over the past several months,” he says. “Remember, however, that part of these January year-over-year increases is due to January 2019 being fairly weak in terms of sales. Back then the stock market had been undergoing some major fluctuations and we were in the midst of a federal government shutdown. Mortgage rates were only really beginning to fall at that point, so they were not yet benefiting buyers who were closing at that time.”

Still, January’s gains in closed sales and median prices in both the single-family homes and condo-townhouse categories continues positive trends for the state’s housing sector, O’Connor says.

“Coupled with the median sale price gains we saw in December, this is some of the hottest price growth we’ve seen in either property type category in quite a while,” he adds. “Statewide inventory levels are up a bit from last month, which is normal for January, but they continue to trend downward overall. Single-family inventory at the end of January was down 16.4% year-over-year, while condo and townhouse inventory was down 11.7%.”

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.62% in January 2020, down from the 4.46% averaged during the same month a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors’ Statistics and Research section on Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors’ website.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Fla. House Moves Forward on Vacation Rental Bill

The effort to bring short-term rentals under state control could help ensure that advertised rentals on sites like Airbnb are licensed and collect and remit taxes.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the first time, online platforms such as Airbnb would have to collect and remit taxes on vacation rental properties, ensure that only properly licensed rentals are advertised and provide the state with specific information about the rentals, under a proposal headed to the House floor.

In exchange, short-term rental regulation would be “pre-empted” to the state, largely preventing local governments from regulating vacation rentals. Local governments could only regulate the rentals in the same way as other properties in neighborhoods, a restriction that cities and counties oppose.

The House Commerce Committee on Thursday approved the proposal (HB 1011), with Democrats objecting that decisions about vacation rentals – which have sparked backlash from some homeowners who complain about raucous parties, parking issues and a steady stream of strangers in neighborhoods – are best left up to local officials.

Despite the objections of local government officials, House and Senate leaders brought together a host of affected parties, including Realtors®, hotel operators and advertising platforms, to strike a deal that has eluded the Legislature for years.

“This feels like groundhog day,” Florida Association of Counties legislative director Eric Poole told the committee before Thursday’s vote. Florida already has “a very broad and very deep pre-emption on vacation rentals,” he said.

Poole cited one report that found the vacation-rental industry generated $1.2 billion in revenue through rentals to 6.6 million guests in Florida last year. The numbers demonstrate that “the local and state regulatory environment remains friendly to short-term rentals” and that local regulations have “helped the industry flourish,” he added. “We are not stifling commerce. We are pro-vacation rentals. We just would like to have a little bit of home rule authority to address some of the local needs,” Poole said.

Under current law, cities and counties cannot prohibit vacation rentals, or regulate the duration or frequency of the rentals. But local governments are allowed to license and inspect properties.

While the proposed changes would ban ordinances that specifically target vacation rentals, cities and counties would still be allowed to pass ordinances dealing with noise, parking and trash, so long as they apply to all residential properties, the bill’s supporters stressed Thursday.

Much of the debate on the proposal focused on the property rights of people and businesses that own the vacation rentals and the property rights of neighboring homeowners.

“Everybody who owns their property has rights to the property that they purchased,” Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, said. “This debate comes not from the use of property but the nuisance that results from the use of the property.”

Donalds said there aren’t enough hotel beds to accommodate all of the visitors to Naples. The vacation-rental industry “has been a boon to Southwest Florida,” he said.

But Rep. Javier Fernández, D-South Miami, said that, while he was “heartened” by some of the provisions in the measure, he still had concerns. For example, the proposal would carve out condominium and homeowner associations, but not “single-family neighborhoods.”

“Those owners have property-rights expectations related to their quiet enjoyment of their own property,” Fernández said.

But bill sponsor Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, said the bill “doesn’t prevent local governments from dealing with issues,” such as “the party house” and noise issues.

“Nothing in this bill encourages the situation of a party house. Nothing in here would stop local governments from passing, I don’t know, noise ordinances and enforcing those noise ordinances,” Fischer said. “Make no mistake, this bill doesn’t do anything to change the power of local governments when it comes to dealing with good-neighbor policies that affect the neighborhood.

Fischer said the measure was based on “common-sense” feedback from numerous “stakeholders.”

The House plan is now headed to the floor for a vote. A Senate version (SB 1128), sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, needs to clear one more committee before a full vote in the Senate.

The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association has opposed vacation-rental legislation in the past, but Carol Dover, the group’s president and chief executive officer, told The News Service of Florida on Thursday that she’s backing the proposals.

Dover praised House and Senate leaders for their work on the effort this year. While the measure does not address all of the association’s concerns about vacation rentals, she said she supports “the middle ground that’s been struck” with the proposal.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s a huge leap in the right direction,” Dover said.

Source: News Service of Florida, Dara Kam

Buyers Have Love-Hate Relationship with ‘Right-Sizing’

It’s not just retirees – millennials also like the idea of smaller spaces. But even those who think it’s a wise move fear their loss of storage space might be a mistake.

CHICAGO – Moving to a smaller space isn’t just for empty nesters and retirees anymore, says Sheri Koones, author of Downsize: Living Large in a Small House (2019, The Taunton Press). Younger people are embracing a smaller footprint as well.

Younger couples who are both working and having children later “want to be active and they don’t want to be doing maintenance on the weekends,” Koones told the Associated Press. “They don’t want to be tied down to mowing lawns and doing all the other chores that come with living in a big house.”

A recent article at BUILDER called “smaller, more efficient designs” a rising trend that will continue through this year.

To downsize living spaces, certain home areas are getting nixed to accommodate the lower square footage. For example, more builders are removing the front room off the entryway that rarely gets used.

“Right-sized homes have been trending upward for a few years now,” Richard Less, owner of custom builder Lee Brothers Construction in Huntsville, Texas, told BUILDER. “Families are becoming increasingly aware of wasted square footage in their home.”

But the idea of moving to a smaller space can scare people at first, Koones acknowledges. Once they do, “time and again, people used the word ‘liberated’ to describe their move to a smaller space, with homes requiring far less time and money to maintain,” she says.

Plus, small homes can be made to feel more spacious, she says. Koones points to several architectural features that can open up a smaller home, such as raised ceilings, fewer hallways and well-positioned windows that let more natural light flow in. Also, flexible rooms can take on other uses, whether it’s a home office, bedroom or hobby room.

The growth of multifunctional furniture can also help maximize space in smaller homes, she adds. For example, a tiny kitchen table might be expandable to accommodate dinner guests.

“The key is to have a home that is efficiently designed, both in terms of energy use and in terms of space,” she says. “I refer to it as ‘downsizing,’ but a better word for it might be ‘right-sizing.’ For most of history, houses were more modestly proportioned, and we lived quite comfortably in those smaller homes. Over time, houses got too big. Now the trend is heading toward smaller again.”

Source: “Small Home Living: Not ‘Downsizing’ But ‘Right-Sizing,’” The Associated Press (Jan. 28, 2020) and “Six Industry Trends That Will Shape 2020 and the New Decade,” BUILDER (Feb. 13, 2020)

© Copyright 2020 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Soldier’s Widow Wins Property Tax Dispute

A Fla. constitutional amendment passed in 2012 gave tax relief to deceased soldiers’ families. Lawmakers decided they must be residents, but an appeals court disagreed.

TALLAHASSEE – Siding with the widow of a soldier killed in Iraq, an appeals court said Florida lawmakers improperly carried out a constitutional amendment designed to provide tax relief to spouses of military members who die in the line of duty.

The case stems from a 2012 constitutional amendment, overwhelmingly approved by voters, that authorized the Legislature to provide homestead property-tax relief to surviving spouses of military members who are killed.

The House and Senate subsequently passed a law to carry out the amendment. While that law provided a property-tax exemption to surviving spouses, it also included a condition that the “veteran was a permanent resident of this state on January 1 of the year in which the veteran died.”

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Teri Ann Bell, sought a property-tax exemption in 2013 in Hillsborough County. She is the widow of an Army member who died in 2007 while serving in Iraq.

The Hillsborough County property appraiser’s office, however, denied the exemption because Bell’s husband was not a Florida resident on Jan. 1, 2007 – as required in the law carrying out the constitutional amendment.

A circuit judge backed Bell’s request for a tax exemption, finding that the condition placed on it was “invalid and unenforceable,” according to Wednesday’s ruling by a three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

The state took the issue to the appeals court, which weighed the language in the constitutional amendment against the subsequent law passed by the Legislature. It said the “text of the constitutional provision does not limit this benefit to surviving spouses whose spouse was a Florida resident on January 1 of the year of death.”

“The people of this state said that, to be eligible for this benefit, the recipient must be the surviving spouse of a veteran who died from service-connected causes while on active duty as a member of the United States Armed Forces,” said the eight-page ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Darryl Casanueva and joined by judges Stevan Northcutt and John Badalamenti. “It is undisputed that Ms. Bell meets the requirements set forth in the constitutional provision, and the Legislature was without authority to divest her of that benefit by narrowing the class of individuals eligible for the tax relief.”

Lawmakers and Florida voters have taken numerous steps in recent years to provide benefits to veterans and their families. In 2012, for example, voters also passed a constitutional amendment that expanded a property-tax break for disabled veterans.

The Legislature placed both of those amendments on the 2012 ballot.

Source: News Service of Florida, Jim Saunders

Mortgage Rates Change Little This Week, Rise to 3.49%

The average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose from last week’s 3.47% in Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, though the 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 3.25%.

WASHINGTON – The average 30-year, fixed mortgage rate remained fairly steady in this week’s survey from Freddie Mac, rising to 3.49% from last week’s 3.47%. Rates have remained close to record-low territory since last fall.

“The low mortgage rate environment continues to spur homebuying activity, with applications to purchase a home up 15% from a year ago,” Freddie Mac said in its release. “We’ve seen new residential construction surge over the last few months, on pace to reach the highest level in more than a decade. This is a good sign for the inventory-starved housing market and is a promising indication for the spring homebuying season.”

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose a bit to 2.99% this week with an average 0.8 point. The 30-year FRM had an average 0.7 point.

The average 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.25% this week with a 0.2 point.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Study: Presidential Elections Can Sway Home Sales

If the current election unfolds similar to earlier ones, the process will impact home sales more than the policies of the person who actually wins. If so, home sales will slip in June and rebound in Nov., with pent-up demand driving a strong real estate market through spring.

NEW YORK – The months leading up to a presidential election are often lackluster for home sales, which then tend to rebound right after the election regardless of the results, finds a new analysis produced for The Real Deal by Miller Samuel CEO Jonathan Miller.

Between June and October, home sales have been 12.7% weaker in presidential election years compared with non-election years, the study shows. Home sales then recover in November and December, catching up to and even passing levels not seen since the beginning of the year.

“Election years are always the toughest years because people are hesitant,” says Stephen Kliegerman of Halstead Property Development Marketing. “They’re waiting to see an outcome.”

For the analysis, Miller tracked co-op purchases in New York over three presidential election years and compared them to non-presidential years. Through June to October during presidential election years, he found that home sales were weaker compared to non-election years. September tended to show the biggest difference.

Then, “beginning in November during an election year, sales overpower their non-election year counterpart, with the release of pent-up demand occurring well into the spring,” Miller says.

Source: “This Is How Presidential Elections Really Affect Home Sales,” The Real Deal (Feb. 17, 2020)

© Copyright 2020 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Home Values Rising Faster in 47% of Opportunity Zones

Opportunity Zones study: 47% had housing price gains higher than the national increase of 9.4%, though they’re also “among the most vulnerable to economic downturns.”

IRVINE, Calif. – ATTOM Data Solutions released its third special report analyzing the qualified Opportunity Zones established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In the latest report, ATTOM looked at about 3,700 zones with sufficient sales data to analyze, meaning they had at least five home sales in each quarter from 2005 through the fourth quarter of 2019.

 About half the zones included in the report saw median home prices rise more than the national increase of 9.4% in a year-to-year comparison of the fourth quarter of 2019.

 The report also found that 78% of the zones had median home prices in the fourth quarter of 2019 that were less than the national median of $257,000 – almost the same percentage as in the third quarter of 2019. About 48% of the zones had median prices less than $150,000.

 “Home prices in thousands of Opportunity Zone neighborhoods targeted for revival across the United States continued to ride the tide of the national housing market boom in the fourth quarter of 2019, marching along with broad trends and even doing better in many areas,” says Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions.

However, Teta says the “areas are among the most vulnerable to economic downturns. As a result, the recent upswing could change on a dime if the broader housing market flattens out or sags. But for now, the price gains are a crucial measure that neighborhoods designated as Opportunity Zone tax breaks hold significant allure for potential residents.”

Report findings 

  • Median prices rose from the fourth quarter of 2018 to the fourth quarter of 2019 in 66% of the Opportunity Zones with sufficient data to analyze. In 34% of the zones, prices declined or stayed the same.
  • Median prices in 47% of Opportunity Zones rose year-over-year more than values increased nationally. The national increase from the fourth quarter of 2018 to the fourth quarter of 2019 was 9.4%.
  • In 20 states, year-over-year median price increases in at least half their Opportunity Zones beat the national 9.4% figure. Those with the most such zones were Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, Ohio and New Jersey.
  • Among the Opportunity Zones with sufficient data to analyze, California had the most, with 465, followed by Florida (332), Texas (234), Pennsylvania (166) and North Carolina (165).
  • Of the zones analyzed, 1,776 (48%) had a median price of less than $150,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019, and 594 (16%) had medians ranging from $150,000 to $199,999. Another 529 (14%) ranged from $200,000 up to the national median price of $257,000, while 817 (22%) were more than $257,000.
  • In Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) with sufficient sales data to analyze, 84% of Opportunity Zones had median fourth quarter sales prices less than the median values in their surrounding MSAs. Among those, 25% had median sales prices that were less than half the figure for the MSAs. At the same time, 16% of the zones had median sales prices that were equal to or above the median sales price of their broader MSAs.
  • The Midwest continued to have the highest rate of Opportunity Zone tracts with a median home price of less than $150,000 (73%), followed by the South (58%), the Northeast (51%) and the West (12%).
  • States with the highest percentage of census tracts meeting Opportunity Zone requirements included Wyoming (17%), Mississippi (15%), Alabama (13%), North Dakota (12%) and New Mexico (12%). Washington, DC, was also among the leaders (14%). Nationwide, 10% of all tracts qualify.

 © 2020 Florida Realtors®

Fla. Will Offer Vets Housing Assistance Via $8M Program

A program under the Florida Housing Finance Corporation will offer down payment and closing cost assistance programs, coupled with low-interest-rate first mortgages.

PENSACOLA, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a “Salute Our Soldiers” Military Loan Program (SOS) for veterans and active duty military personnel throughout the state following a roundtable to discuss ongoing issues and initiatives that involve Florida’s military and veteran population.

Administered by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing), the program is offering up to $8 million in a variety of down payment and closing cost assistance programs, coupled with low-interest-rate first mortgages. There will be down payment and closing cost assistance options that are forgivable after five years. The program will be available starting March 2, 2020.

“Florida Housing will set aside funds to assist over 1,000 veterans and active duty military members by making the homebuying process easier and more affordable,” DeSantis said when he unveiled the program. “More veterans calling Florida home is a great thing for all involved, and we look forward to the positive impacts this program will have on the lives of our veterans and the communities in which they live.”

“Florida Housing is grateful to our veterans and active duty military members for their service and sacrifice to this country,” said Florida Housing Executive Director Trey Price. “To show our appreciation, we, along with Gov. DeSantis, wanted to provide them with an incentive to put down roots and call Florida home.”

“Salute Our Soldiers” Military Loan Program details

  • It will offer a variety of down payment and closing cost assistance products with little or no interest charged
  • Florida Assist down payment assistance – $7,500 at 0% interest with no payments for 30 years but due upon sale or refinance
  • Salute Our Soldiers PLUS forgivable down payment assistance – choice of 3%, 4% or 5% of the purchase price forgiven at 20% per year over five years. Active duty military members who receive official orders to relocate will have any remaining balance forgiven upon sale of the home
  • Homebuyer Loan Program (HLP) down payment assistance – $10,000 at 3% interest over 15 years
  • Reduced costs (no documentary stamp taxes or intangible taxes on the notes and mortgages) and fees to the military homebuyer
  • Veterans are exempt from the first-time homebuyer requirement. Active duty military members cannot have owned a primary residence in the last three years.

For more information, visit Florida Housing’s Homebuyer Loan Program Wizard.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Analysis: It’s Easier for Buyers to Find a Home in Fla.

A study compared active home listings per 1,000 residents and found that Fla. homebuyers have it easier than other areas of the U.S. Cape Coral, Miami and Daytona Beach led the “easiest markets to find a home” list with seven Fla. metros in the top 20.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The inventory of for-sale homes has hit a record low, but many Florida metros aren’t suffering as much as other areas of the U.S. When mortgage rates dropped in late 2019, some buyers scrambled to secure a home before rates rose again, sending an already tight inventory into an evener tighter inventory, according to a analysis.

However, no Florida city made’s “20 toughest markets to find a home” list, and seven Florida metros are on the “easiest markets to find a home” list. Sunshine State metros are in the top three spots and four of the top five spots.

“Buyers searching in easier markets generally benefit from a combination of strong availability of homes for sale and, with some exceptions, healthy, yet more moderate price growth,” says Danielle Hale,’s chief economist.

The average median listing price for the top 20 easiest markets was $356,345 in January, which is 3% higher than the average median price of the nation’s 100 largest markets.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers led’s easy list, suggesting that homebuyers in this Southwest Florida metro area have the largest selection of available listings in the U.S.

20 “easiest to find a home” metro areas

  1. Cape Coral-Fort Myers – 37.9 listings per 1,000 households
  2. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach – 31.8 listings
  3. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach – 30.9 listings
  4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn. – 29.7 listings
  5. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton – 25.8 listings
  6. Jacksonville – 21.8 listings
  7. Charleston-North Charleston, S.C. – 21.7 listings
  8. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.-N.C. – 20.9 listings
  9. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev. – 19.9 listings
  10. New York-Newark-Jersey City – 19.5 listings
  11. Baton Rouge, La. – 19.2 listings
  12. Des Moines-West Des Moines – 19.1 listings
  13. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas – 18.4 listings
  14. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas – 18.4 listings
  15. Lakeland-Winter Haven – 17.6 listings
  16. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn. – 17.4 listings
  17. New Haven-Milford, Conn. – 16.8 listings
  18. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii – 16.7 listings
  19. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville – 16.5 listings
  20. Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, S.C. – 16.4 listings

Toughest markets to find a home

The housing shortage is hitting markets across the country, making places like Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; and Salt Lake City feel more like the competitive housing markets and tech hubs of San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Seattle, reports.

San Jose, Calif., topped the list as toughest housing market in the country, with just four listings per 1,000 homeowner households. Markets like San Francisco and Rochester and Buffalo, N.Y., followed. Overall, California led the nation with six of the top 20 toughest markets to find housing, but Ohio followed with three markets – Columbus, Cincinnati and Akron.

“While the nation’s housing supply continues to hit new lows just in time for the spring homebuying season, local market differences remain,” says Hale. “Although the toughest list is sprinkled with some of the markets you’d expect, others may be a surprise – they represent markets where housing is still affordable, but quality of life makes them attractive markets, especially for first-time buyers.”

The average median listing price for the top 20 toughest markets was $480,830 in January, which is 40% higher than the average median price of the top 100 largest markets across the country. Further, 17 of the top 20 toughest markets began the year 2020 with double-digit annual declines in available inventory, meaning housing shortages are only worsening, reports.


© Copyright 2020 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

‘That’s Who We R’ Shows Clients Who You Are

NAR’s ad campaign gets creative by melding everyday objects into the Realtor “R”, offering members videos and other materials they can use in personal marketing.

CHICAGO – Award-winning director Brett Foraker has made visually arresting short films and commercials for big brands, such as Sony, Samsung and Lexus. Now, he’s creating 15- and 30-second commercials for the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

For year two of the “That’s Who We R” consumer ad campaign, NAR and its creative agency, Havas Chicago, envisioned vignettes that would bring the Realtor “R” into focus within the context of a real estate transaction – on an urban street, in a commercial office space, in a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Many of the materials can be used by individual Realtors in their marketing efforts.

“In 2019, we told consumers who Realtors are, and we made it clear that “R” equals Realtor,” said Karen Bebart, director of consumer brand advertising for NAR, in a behind-the-scenes video. “This year we’re really going to show them who we are and have consumers look for the ‘R’.”

The ads employ the use of parallax, a film technique that creates a sense of movement in static objects: As the camera pans, ordinary elements like pipes, lamps and roads combine to form the rectangle, semicircle and triangle in the Realtor membership mark.

Foraker is a master of the parallax technique. In fact, when Havas requested bids from production companies, it included a commercial Foraker had produced for a UK television channel as a reference for this type of visual effect.

“We were surprised and honored to get a proposal from Brett himself,” says Bebart. “Not only that, he included a personal note about the relationship he had with his Realtor. He really understood that bond.”

In addition to the new ad spots, the 2020 campaign is extended through social media, streaming services, radio, digital audio and through content partnerships coming in the second and third quarter.

Realtors are encouraged to use campaign logos, ads and banners – some are in Spanish – found at In addition, a new free NAR+Photofy mobile phone app allows members to personalize preloaded “That’s Who We R” campaign assets and share them on social media accounts.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Gen Z Is Up Against Millennials for Housing

Many millennials are entering homeownership later in life, leaving both generations looking to buy in a market largely devoid of entry-level options, analysts say.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The oldest members of Generation Z are entering their homebuying years, but they’re finding steep competition from millennials for a dwindling supply of entry-level homes.

“Gen Z is entering the housing market under the radar, but at a projected 65 million strong, they are going to begin making some major waves,” says George Ratiu,’s senior economist. “However, as the young generation launches into homeownership, it is facing strong headwinds, including competition from millennials, many of whom are entering homeownership later in life, and a marketplace largely devoid of entry-level options.”

Forty percent of Gen Z members surveyed in 2018 said they wanted to own a home by age 25, according to research from They are starting to enter the marketplace: The median price of a home purchased by Gen Z buyers is $160,600, lower than $256,500 for millennials, but it is growing more quickly, notes in its Fourth Quarter 2019 Generation Propensity Report.

However, the inventory of homes priced below $200,000 has plummeted by 18.1% annually, according to’s data. Gen Z has increased their median purchase price by 11% over the past year.

Gen Z is targeting smaller Midwestern and Southern markets that tend to be known as being more affordable. For example, the top three metros where Gen Z had the largest share of homeownership are Toledo, Ohio; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Wichita, Kan.

Nevertheless, “with major generational transitions taking place across a housing landscape clouded by lack of new construction and a shortage of inventory, young Americans’ preference for homeownership is a ray of sunshine,” Ratiu says. “It stands in contrast to the rhetoric of the past decade, cataloging young people as the ‘renter generation,’ and provides ample evidence that a significant ramp-up in affordable new home building is needed to meet the growing demand.”


© Copyright 2019 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

RE Q&A: How Can My Daughter Keep My House After I Die?

Planning now to deal with financial and property issues will save effort and money at a difficult time later. But there’s no one-size-fits all estate plan.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: I want to make sure that my daughter keeps my house after I pass. Can I add her to my title now without any problems? Can I give a deed to hold and record later? What is the easiest way? – James

Answer: Dealing with financial and property issues shortly after a loved one passes away is difficult. You are kind to seek to spare your daughter this chore while she is grieving your loss. Properly planning your estate will save effort and money at a difficult time.

However, it is crucial to get it right because planning poorly can make matters worse. The maxim that you get have it fast, good, or cheap – but not all three – holds true when it comes to estate planning.

The best solution for your family will depend on your personal situation. There is no one-size-fits-all estate plan.

Adding your daughter to the title of your house may be a great solution, but it might cause you to lose certain tax advantages, open your home to her creditors or restrict your future decision-making about the property. In my experience, it is rarely the best solution.

Signing a deed and holding it to be recorded later, called a “pocket-deed,” seems like an easy way to retain control of the property and avoid probate, but rarely works out according to plan. Deeds filed after the owner dies are viewed with suspicion and are often invalidated when challenged.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

© 2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.