Large Lender to Offer In-House Appraisal Option

On Oct. 1, United Wholesale Mortgage plans to roll out Appraisal Direct, a new option to work directly with appraisers. It will oversee the entire appraisal process.

PONTIAC, Mich. – United Wholesale Mortgage has announced that it will offer an option to work directly with appraisers, a change from the typical use of an independent appraisal management company.

UWM is rolling out the program, called Appraisal Direct, nationwide on Oct. 1. Appraisal Direct will oversee the entire appraisal process, from scheduling the appraisal to its execution and delivery.

Lenders can choose whether they use Appraisal Direct or order an appraisal through an appraisal management company.

AMCs “have a lot of value in our industry, but we are offering new options,” said Mat Ishbia, CEO and president of UWM.

UWM will hire more than 100 people to work on the new program. Appraisers will be selected for an appraisal based on a scorecard that reflects their knowledge of a geographic area and past performance, Housingwire reported.

The appraisal industry has grappled with concerns over appraiser shortages in many areas of the country. With a booming housing market, some lenders have complained of delays in getting appraisals returned promptly.

However, Kimber White, president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, said she doesn’t think UWM’s program is the solution to the appraisal shortage.

“I think it’s okay for them right away, but I think it’s better for us all to work together to find a solution for the entire industry,” White said. “Is this really the way we want to go and allow all wholesalers to enter the appraisal business?” White said many lenders have increased their use of AMCs as an intermediary between appraisers and mortgage brokers to avoid past evaluation issues that were blamed for triggering the housing crisis.

Source: “United Wholesale Mortgage to Offer In-House Appraisal Option,” National Mortgage News (Sept. 9, 2021); and “UWM Launches AMC-Free Appraisal Program” Housingwire (Sept. 9, 2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

I’m Calling it! The Market has changed.

Listing continue to increase and the gap between the number of listings and the number of under contract/pending is shrinking which means the market is returning to normal. We still have to double our listings to get back to where we normally are, but it’s making the move.

Click the below link to check out the chart and see the trends.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1AKzj3ZXQhDfVQA80YkZqZS744o5vIwSmAyrvF4WMXHo/edit?usp=drivesdk

Are Realtors Really Going Back to the Office?? If Covid taught Realtors anything it’s that an Office isn’t needed and Office fees may not be the way to go. Interesting Story.

Real Estate Firms, COVID and Returning to the Office

By Bendix Anderson

As in firms nationwide, real estate companies vary greatly in return-to-the-office policies. A handful mandate vaccines for everyone; others say they never closed.

NEW YORK – The current spike caused by the Delta variant has thrown a wrench into many firms’ return to office plans. Companies, including Apple and Google, that had slated full-scale returns to the office this fall have been forced to readjust those timelines, with some now delaying until 2022. What’s more, the FDA’s recent approval of the Pfizer vaccine has led many firms to implement vaccine mandates for employees.

In the current wave, daily cases are back above 150,000 and deaths have risen to more than 1,100 per day, according to the latest figures from The New York Times. The spike has been especially acute in Southern states like Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. It’s gotten so bad that Florida’s current wave has now reached daily case and death counts surpassing its previous peak and yet many of those states’ governors have banned policies (such as mask mandates) that could help stem the tide.

The real estate industry is smack dab in the center of these rapid shifts in the pandemic terrain. As landlords and investors, real estate companies have felt the effects of their tenants’ decisions. But companies are occupiers themselves and are continuing to assess their own remote work policies, return-to-office timelines and vaccine mandates.

In two notable examples, New York City-based Related Companies implemented a vaccine mandate for its employees earlier this month. Similarly, the Durst Organization said its non-union workers that remained unvaccinated by Labor Day would be fired.

Meanwhile, large real estate services firms including CBRE and JLL and others have also tried to pave the way in setting return-to-office policies.

“We had planned to have our corporate team members return to their offices after Labor Day this year,” says Patrick Appleby, president of WinnResidential, a real estate firm based in Boston. “With the new threat posed by the Delta variant, we have now pushed that date into early October 2021.”

Overall, the number of office workers showing up in person is less than a third (31.3%) of what it was before the pandemic, according to an analysis of workers entering buildings in 10 cities by Kastle Systems, based in Falls Church, Va. Kastle creates lobby security systems used in thousands of office buildings. That’s 19.2% in San Francisco, 22.9% in New York City and 28.2% in Los Angeles. More workers are showing up in person in Texas cities like Austin (45.9%), Dallas (46.0%) and Houston (46.8%), according to Kastle.

The corporate offices of many real estate firms have been partly open since the pandemic began in March 2020.

“We never formally closed our corporate offices because our company is considered part of the nation’s critical infrastructure,” says Appleby. “All our team members are essential employees.”

But at the same time, many companies like Winn never fully reopened its office either. Instead some of Winn’s workers come in to work at their desks a few days a week. Others work entirely from home. Supervisors establish staggered arrival times in cases where there are personal circumstances involving family or health needs.

“About 30% of our employees are in our corporate offices on any given day,” says Appleby. “We are encouraging people to work three days in the office and two days at home.”

Winn manages more than 600 apartment properties across the U.S., including many locations considered to be hot spots for coronavirus infections. “Our work health practices always default to most conservative restrictions in place for the local, county or state market where an apartment community is located,” says Appleby.

A few real estate companies have asked more of their employees to return to the office – especially once vaccines against the coronavirus became widely available.

“All of our corporate teams have been back in the physical office since April of this year,” says Yvette Stewart, senior vice president of property management for Post Brothers Apartments, based in Philadelphia.

Post’s workers returned to its offices and construction without any rise in infection rates among its employees and subcontractors, says Stewart.

To fight the spread of the virus, Post employed a long list of safety procedures along with cleaning and social distancing protocols. Post also encouraged its employees to get vaccinated.

“We established a lottery for our employees to incentivize vaccinations and we reimbursed some of our key subcontractors for bonuses to get the vaccine as well,” says Stewart. “We also paid for leave and hotels for those who became exposed, in order to reduce the risk to their families and co-workers.”

Philadelphia city officials asked Post to conduct webinars for other industry groups and builders in the city to share its model for safety. “Many of our recommendations were then actually imposed as requirements by the City for other contractors to re-mobilize on their own construction sites.”

Post also “decentralized operations” by creating “pocket” offices on construction job sites – which allow for onsite collaboration and improved quality reviews of the construction process. “We have actually seen a positive impact on quality and reaction time to issues, and even faster design decisions and product improvements,” says Stewart.

© 2021 Penton Media

Fla. Landlord Mandating Vaccines for Tenants. But Is It Legal?

In eight S. Fla. apartment complexes, the unvaccinated need not apply – or try to renew their lease. But the rule might conflict with Fla.’s vaccine passport ban.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – If you’re not vaccinated for COVID-19, you can forget about moving into any of eight apartment complexes in Broward and Miami-Dade counties owned by Santiago A. Alvarez and his family.

And if you’re still unvaccinated when it comes time to renew your lease, you’ll have to find someplace else to live.

Alvarez, who controls 1,200 units in the two counties, is the first large-scale landlord known to national housing experts to impose a vaccine requirement not only for employees, but also for tenants. They’ll be required to produce documentation that they’ve received at least an initial vaccine dose.

The policy, which took effect Aug. 15, could set Alvarez’s company on a collision course with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ vaccine passport ban, which prohibits businesses from requiring that customers be vaccinated.

And yet the landlord might have exposed a loophole in the governor’s ban, forcing courts to decide whether a tenant is equivalent to a customer.

Alvarez says he’s not backing down. Signs posted at the leasing offices of his apartment complexes spell out the policy along with the words “Zero Tolerance.”

“We have to be concerned about our tenants and our employees,” Alvarez said in an interview. “All of these are private properties. We’re just trying to keep people safe and healthy. It’s going to cost us money, but we’re very firm on that.”

Alvarez said 12 to 15 of his tenants, most of whom lived at his properties in Hialeah, have died of COVID-19 and a larger number have gotten sick. “We don’t want that happening to [any more of] our tenants,” he said.

In Broward County, Alvarez owns three complexes in Lauderhill – Royal Palms at Lauderhill and Inverrary Village on Northwest 56th Avenue, just south of West Oakland Park Boulevard, and Parkwest Apartments on Northwest 46th Avenue.

Outside of Royal Palms at Lauderhill, tenants voiced differing opinions about the policy. “I think people should get the shot,” said a young woman who declined to give her name.

But a man who said he was vaccinated said Alvarez is overstepping his bounds. “That should be illegal,” he said of the policy. “You can’t force people to do what they don’t want to do.”

After they learned about the new policy, two tenants who don’t plan to get vaccinated contacted local eviction defense attorneys about potentially challenging the policy in court.

Looming clash with DeSantis?

Under the DeSantis-backed ban on “vaccine passports,” landlords could be subject to a $5,000 fine every time they ask a prospective tenant for documentation, said DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, after conferring with the governor’s legal counsel. Pushaw said she hadn’t previously heard of any Florida landlords requiring proof of vaccinations.

“Our counsel thinks that would be a violation of the vaccine passport ban,” Pushaw said in an email.

On Thursday, the Florida Department of Health stated that it would start enforcing the vaccine passport ban – which was enacted as state law after DeSantis issued it in March as an executive order – on Sept. 16. DeSantis has said that requiring proof of vaccinations violates citizens’ civil liberties and rights to keep their medical information private.

Whether Alvarez’s policy stands up to scrutiny from a legal or public health perspective figures to be a subject of debate.

Alvarez’s attorney, Juan C. Zorrilla of the Fort Lauderdale-based firm Fowler White Burnett, recently responded to a letter from a tenant’s attorney by asserting that the policy does not violate DeSantis’ executive order banning vaccine passports, nor does it violate laws barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, familial status or religion.

DeSantis’ order and subsequent state law say that a business entity may not require “patrons or customers” to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery “to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business.”

Zorrilla asserted that Alvarez’s policy does not violate DeSantis’ ban because a tenant is not a “patron” or “customer.”

“We believe that there is a clear distinction between someone who is an occupant of a dwelling and physically on the premises for an extended duration of time versus someone who is a patron or customer and simply visiting for a short duration,” Zorrilla wrote. “By only identifying two categories of people who are transient, we do not believe the Order would be interpreted by a court to include tenants or residents of a business or property.”

Dawn Meyers, a partner with the government and regulatory team at Miami-based Berger Singerman, says the court system will likely have to decide whether residency can be equated with a “good” or a “service.”

“I suspect the governor would view it as a violation of his prohibition, but that may end up needing a judicial determination,” she said.

Lauren Einhorn, who specializes in real estate contracting law for Davie-based Kelley Kronenberg, said she expects courts will ultimately find that landlords can require vaccines. That’s because unlike restaurants, stores or other businesses open to the public, a landlord-tenant relationship is contractually based, she said.

Courts have consistently upheld landlords’ rights to enforce a wide range of provisions, she said, particularly if they are intended to protect other tenants, such as bans on firing guns or manufacturing methamphetamine inside apartments.

But Brian Korte, a West Palm Beach-based eviction defense attorney who was alerted to Alvarez’s policy by a tenant, said the policy “discriminates against people who are healthy and who don’t have a disease.” That’s ironic, he said, considering that the Americans with Disabilities Act would likely bar a landlord from refusing to rent to someone infected with COVID-19.

Korte said Alvarez’s policy reminds him of businesses that refused to serve gay men in the 1980s and early 1990s because they suspected all could be carrying HIV/AIDS.

Alvarez, asked whether he was aware that he might be fined over his policy, pointed to a recent federal court injunction prohibiting the state from fining Norwegian Cruise Line for requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination. The injunction will remain in effect while Norwegian pursues its lawsuit challenging the passport ban, though DeSantis is seeking to have it overturned.

Is it good for public health?

Setting aside the question of whether Alvarez’s policy will be upheld in court, experts are divided over the question of whether it serves the broader interest of protecting public health.

Korte says allowing landlords to bar unvaccinated applicants – and refuse to renew leases of existing tenants who won’t get vaccinated – undermines the goals of keeping people in their homes and off of the streets where they would be more likely to spread the virus. That was the justification provided by federal, state and local officials for eviction moratoriums imposed as the pandemic began, he said.

Korte also said that Black people, because they are more likely to resist getting vaccinated, could be denied housing in disproportionate numbers if Alvarez’s policy becomes standard practice everywhere. Courts have found that some housing policies, such as a blanket ban on convicted felons, can be discriminatory if they are more likely to affect people of certain races, sexes, religions or other protected classes.

“Where does it end?” Korte said. “Where will non-vaccinated people live? A slum?”

David Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, a nonprofit organization that promotes affordable housing, said Alvarez’s policy is the first – and hopefully the last – of its kind that he’s heard about.

“When requiring vaccinations for employment, there’s a broad agreement that it serves the health and safety of workers,” Dworkin said. “But in the case of people’s homes, when the rise of the delta variant requires people to both work from home and stay at home more, putting people at risk of losing their home or doubling up with others or becoming homeless is not a responsible public health approach.”

A more effective tool, Dworkin said, would be to strictly enforce masking and social distancing in common areas of apartment complexes. Threatening people’s homes, he said, “seems just cruel and ineffective.”

Alvarez said masks are required in common areas at his properties.

An official of the National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade organization of large- and mid-sized apartment complex owners, said they know of no other large landlord with a similar policy.

Still, Paula Cino, the council’s vice president for construction, development and land-use policy, disputed the notion that Alvarez’s vaccine requirement runs counter to goals of eviction moratoriums.

“I don’t see it that way. I would go the other way, from our perspective,” she said. “If a housing environment could lead to infection risk, it makes sense for providers to take steps to mitigate that risk.” Ultimately, she said, landlords must decide whether a vaccine requirement makes sense for them and their residents, as long as whatever policy they choose is “evenly applied” and does not violate fair housing laws.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando area Democrat known for supporting policies aimed at helping low-income Floridians, said landlords considering vaccine mandates should provide a reasonable amount of time for existing tenants to get vaccinated and ensure potential tenants can get access to vaccines.

Windows at the leasing office of Alvarez’s Inverrary Village property display COVID-19 fact sheets as well as locations where tenants can get vaccinated.

“Not all vaccine hesitancy is politically motivated,” Eskamani said in an emailed statement. “It can also be based on lack of information and a distrust of medical institutions, which we need to find ways to combat, together.”

Attorney Dawn Meyers points out that Alvarez’s policy “is not an eviction” because “there is a route for people to stay in their homes.”

Meyers added, “Keep in mind that there are multiple goals and priorities at play, and preventing the spread of COVID versus permitting unvaccinated people to lease apartments in specific complexes seems, at least to the owner of these complexes, to be an easy call.

© 2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Fla.’s Housing Market: Median Price, New Listings Rise in July

Florida Realtors’ data: Median prices for single-family existing homes rose 20.3% year-over-year to $355,000; up 20.5% to $253,000 for condos/townhomes. Chief Economist O’Connor says July data shows signs Fla.’s housing market is heading on a steady path toward normalcy.

By Marla Martin

ORLANDO, Fla. – In July, Florida’s housing market reported higher median prices, more new listings and a rise in all-cash sales compared to a year ago, according to Florida Realtors® latest housing data.

MARKET SHOWS SIGNS OF NORMALCY ON THE HORIZON

July’s housing numbers show signs that the state’s residential real estate market may be returning to normal. While selling remains red-hot, slight inventory growth may lead to some sales slowing.

“In a positive sign for Florida’s housing market, new listings rose year-over-year in July for both single-family homes, up 12.1%, and for condo-townhouse properties, up 4.6%,” says 2021 Florida Realtors President Cheryl Lambert, broker-owner with Only Way Realty Citrus in Inverness. “Our economic experts also report that active listings (inventory) of single-family homes continued to rise throughout July (from its lowest level), which eventually could be good news for buyers who have been sidelined by the shortage of homes for sale. However, any rebound in inventory is going to be slow, and it will take a long while to get back to the levels we had pre-pandemic.”

Closed sales of single-family homes statewide in July totaled 30,740, a slight decrease of 2.1% year-over-year, while existing condo-townhouse sales totaled 13,481, up 21.1% over July 2020. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in July was $355,000, up 20.3% 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 $253,000, up 20.5% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor, the data revealed signs that the state’s housing market is heading on a steady path toward normalcy, at least in some respects.

“The 2.1% drop in closed single-family home sales marks the first time that sales in this category have been down year-over-year at the statewide level since May of 2020, near the beginning of the pandemic,” he says. “But remember, last year’s spring buying season was effectively postponed until the summer and fall by the pandemic, so the second half of 2020 ended up being the strongest second half for sales in at least 15 years. It’s not too surprising if sales counts over the next few months fail to surpass their totals from one year ago.

“However, looking at 2019 – the last full year of anything resembling a normal market due to COVID-19 – we find that July 2021 single-family home sales were over 9% higher compared to July 2019.”

Dr. O’Connor notes that, in a continuing trend, the share of closed sales that were all-cash purchases rose in July compared to the previous year. In July, single-family existing home sales paid in all cash increased by 49.9% year-over-year, while all-cash sales of condo-townhouse units rose by 44%.

On the supply side of the market, inventory (active listings) remained extremely tight in July. Single-family existing homes continued at a very low 1.2-months’ supply while condo-townhouse inventory was at a 1.8-months’ supply.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.87% in July 2021, down from the 3.02% averaged during the same month a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to the Florida Realtors’ Newsroom and look under Latest Releases or download the July 2021 data report PDFs under Market Data on the site.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®

Realtors Relief Foundation Celebrates 20th Anniversary

By Kerry Smith

Realtors, through RRF, help restore communities after natural disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires. RRF celebrates 20 years this Fri. with a special livestream event.

WASHINGTON – “What can we do to help rebuild communities?” leaders at the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) asked following the tragic events of 9/11. The answer became the Realtors® Relief Foundation (RRF), a charitable organization that provides housing-related assistance to victims of disasters.

Twenty years later, RRF continues to restore and rebuild communities affected by disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes. It’s supported by the generosity of individual Realtors, Realtor associations and affiliated organizations. RRF has helped over 17,000 families remain in their homes.

On Friday, Sept. 10, at 12 P.M. Eastern time, NAR President Charlie Oppler is hosting a special commemorative event, called “Hope Rising” to honor the occasion. It’s dedicated to the Realtors who have helped RRF “continue to aid those in need during times of crisis.”

“The 20th Anniversary Campaign got off to an electric start this year due to the enthusiasm and commitment of state and local associations,” says Michael Ford, president of the Realtors Relief Foundation. “We are ecstatic to share $6.9 million has been raised to date from Realtors, state and local associations, and industry.”

All donations go directly to RRF and will be used to provide housing-related financial support to victims of disasters. For more information about the Foundation, visit NAR’s Realtors Relief Foundation webpage.

Also see: Florida Realtors Donates $500K to NAR’s Realtor Relief Foundation.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®

NAR: Pending Home Sales Drop 1.8% in July

Year-to-year contract signings declined 8.5%. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says the market may be cooling a bit, but there’s still not enough supply to match demand – yet “inventory is slowly increasing” and buyers should “see more options in the coming months.”

By Kerry Smith

WASHINGTON – Pending home sales dipped modestly in July for two consecutive months of declines, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Only the West region registered a month-over-month gain in contract activity; the other three U.S. regions in the study saw drops. Year-to-year, all four regions decreased.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) – a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings – declined 1.8% to 110.7 in July. Year-over-year, signings fell 8.5%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“The market may be starting to cool slightly, but at the moment there is not enough supply to match the demand from would-be buyers,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

“That said, inventory is slowly increasing and home shoppers should begin to see more options in the coming months,” Yun adds. “Homes listed for sale are still garnering great interest, but the multiple, frenzied offers – sometimes double-digit bids on one property – have dissipated in most regions.” However, “even in a somewhat calmer market, a number of potential buyers are still choosing to waive appraisals and inspections.”

As of July, 27% of buyers bypassed appraisal and inspection contingencies, in most cases to accelerate the homebuying process, Yun says.

July pending home sales regional breakdown: Month-over-month, the Northeast PHSI fell 6.6% to 92.0 in July, a 16.9% decrease from a year ago. In the Midwest, the index dropped 3.3% to 104.6 last month, down 8.5% from July 2020.

Pending home sales transactions in the South declined 0.9% to an index of 130.9 in July, down 6.7% from July 2020. The index in the West rose 1.9% in July to 99.8, but it’s still down 5.7% year-to-year.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®

Lumber Prices Plummet – But Other Building Costs Soar

The all-time high cost of $1,700 for a thousand board feet has dropped to $500, but steel products are up 10.8% and gypsum (for drywall) is up almost 16% this year.

NEW YORK – Doug Yearley, CEO of the luxury home builder Toll Brothers, told CNBC that a recent drop in lumber prices promped some significant savings on home building costs – but homebuyers shouldn’t expect to see those savings. While lumber prices are falling, other material costs are surging.

Lumber prices reached a record high of more than $1,700 per thousand board feet in May. But on Wednesday, it averaged about $500. Yearley says that translates to about a $40,000 savings in building a home.

But steel mill product prices increased 10.8% in July following a 6.2% increase in June, the National Association of Home Builders reports. It blames tariffs on steel imports for adding to building costs. Also, prices for gypsum products, which are used for drywall, rose 2.5% in July and are up nearly 16% in 2021. Copper has also been in short supply.

“The tailwind of lumber coming down is very comforting,” Yearley told CNBC’s Jim Cramer. “It’s going to help us. It’s going to drive some margin. But I think it’s going to offset some of the other cost increases that we’re feeling.”

Yearley says it’s also taking longer to build homes with recent supply chain and labor issues. “It took about two weeks longer in our third quarter to deliver a home,” Yearley says. “We expect that to continue for a couple more quarters as we manage through it.”

The median sales price of a new home in July was $390,500, an 18.4% increase compared to a year earlier, the Commerce Department reported this week.

“New residential construction remains strong, but building material pricing and availability are likely to remain significant headwinds,” Charlie Dougherty, an economist at Wells Fargo, told NBC News earlier this month.

Source: “Toll Brothers CEO Says the Drop in ‘Crazy High’ Lumber Prices Will Save $40,000 Per Home,” CNBC (Aug. 25, 2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

FAU Economist Says Homes ‘Less Overpriced’ in July

Interesting-Economist says housing is “less overpriced”. Did they forget basic economics of Supply and Demand? Supply is low, Demand is high = increase in pricing not “overpricing”. If housing was overpriced they would not sell and they are selling in record time.

By Amber Randall

The overheated market may be slowly cooling. Even if July numbers just reflect the usual summer slowdown, it could mean traditional patterns are starting to return.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Homes in South Florida are a little less overvalued than they were a month ago, a positive sign after a year of insane pricing.

Homes in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties sold for 13% above their long-term pricing trends in July, a slight decline from the month before, when homes were overvalued by 16%, according to researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

“I’m excited about these numbers,” FAU economist Ken H. Johnson said. “I would like to see prices with a premium that is not so large, but we are going in the right direction.”

The slight dip from last month’s index could signal a slight slowdown in the market, as mortgage applications have fallen. Or it could be the typical summer slowdown as families go on vacation.

It’s still a good sign if it’s only a summer slowdown, as it would show that the real estate market could be headed to more traditional seasonal patterns, Johnson said.

Jonson and Florida International University professor Eli Beracha analyzed over 100 metro areas, using 25 years of data from Zillow on single-family homes, townhomes and condos. Out of nine metros in Florida, the South Florida area ranked last in overpricing. Lakeland and the Tampa Bay area were the most overpriced in Florida, both at a little more than 31% above where they should be.

Housing values either fell or remained level from one month to the next, the researchers found.

“While we’re almost certainly nearing the peak of the current housing cycle, it’s nowhere near as serious as it was more than a decade ago, when Florida homes were overvalued by 60% or more,” Johnson said. “Prices eventually will level off or fall, and recent buyers who want to sell would be hard-pressed to earn their money back.

Median sales prices leveled out for the most part in South Florida in July, according to data from the Broward, Palm Beaches & St. Lucie Realtors. The median price stood at $500,000 in Palm Beach County for the second month in a row. It was $495,000 in Broward County, down slightly from June, and $515,000 in Miami-Dade, a slight increase.

“Because the summer months tend to be slower, many buyers I have been working with have taken advantage of this relatively quieter time and have been able to strike deals on homes that may have had more buyer demand in busier months,” said Bonnie Heatzig, executive director of luxury sales at Douglas Elliman in Boca Raton.

© 2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Appeals Court Overturns Beach Access Ruling

The decision overturns an earlier ruling that backed waterfront property owners. The issue focused on dry-sand parts of the beach, “customary use” rules and a 2018 law.

By Jim Saunders

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A federal appeals court overturned a ruling that backed waterfront property owners in a battle with a Pinellas County town about public beach access. The decision by a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals focused, in part, on a 2018 Florida law that put restrictions on what is known as “customary use” of beaches.

The panel said U.S. District Judge James S. Moody should not have granted summary judgment to a group of property owners in Redington Beach who argued that an ordinance allowing public access to certain parts of the beach violated the 2018 law. The Atlanta-based appeals court also tossed out Moody’s conclusion that the ordinance resulted in a “taking” of property.

Friday’s decision sent the case back to district court for “further determination” about whether the town had properly established customary use of the disputed portions of the beach. Summary judgments are issued without full trials.

The Florida Constitution ensures public access to portions of beaches “below mean high water lines,” often described as wet areas of beaches. But the lawsuit and the 2018 state law focused on dry-sand portions of beaches closer to homes.

Customary use is a legal concept that involves people having access to property “based on longstanding customs,” the appeals court said Friday. The 2018 law put in place an extensive process for local governments that want to have ordinances aimed at ensuring customary use of beach areas above the mean high-water line, including requiring them to receive judicial approval.

The law took effect July 1, 2018, but Redington Beach approved an ordinance on June 6, 2018, designed to allow the public to continue the customary use of dry-sand areas of the beach.

In 2019, seven beachfront property owners filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance, saying their lot lines included dry-sand portions of the beach. In a brief filed at the appeals court, attorneys for the property owners said the ordinance violated the state law and that Moody’s ruling in 2020 should be upheld.

“The district court properly declared the town’s customary use ordinance was void as violating (the state law),” the brief said. “There is simply no way to read (the state law) as authorizing the town’s decision to keep its customary use ordinance in effect beyond July 1, 2018.”

But the appeals court disagreed with the property owners’ reading of the law and said Moody erred in discounting evidence “supporting customary use.” It pointed to evidence dating back to Charles Redington, who founded the town in 1935 and donated beach-access points.

“As such, the town provided evidence suggesting that residents and nonresidents alike use the dry sand beaches, including residents who do not own beachfront property,” said the 24-page decision, written by Judge Beverly Martin and joined by Judges Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher. “This overview of the evidence is not exhaustive. Nevertheless, it reflects competent evidence put forward by the town in support of its customary use defense.”

Source: News Service of Florida