Friday, August 12, 2011

How to pay less Property Tax than your neighbor.

Simple...even if you believe your Property Taxes are low, let an expert at the Property Tax Appeal Group look at it.  Even if you think your Property Taxes are assessed properly, you might be wrong.  Many of our clients are amazed by the reductions we are able to get them. 

This year, with the state of the economy, it is so important (as a property owner) to lock in your lowest rate possible.  In Florida, there are assessment caps such at the Homestead Exemption that  is available to anyone in Florida as long as they are a U.S. citizen and legally own the home.  This exemption also places an assessment cap on your property.

Assessment caps require that assessments not increase more than a set percentage each year.  With an assessment cap, properties that are increasing in values more rapidly than others could be under assessed.  This could be happen because the tax does not allow those properties to be assessed at their true value.

For example, let us say that there are homes in a high end neighborhood that are increasing in value more rapidly than older homes in a less desirable area.  The high end homes may be increasing in value at a rate of 12% each year and the older homes may be increasing at 3% per year.  Homestead properties caps limit any increases to a maximum of the cost of living or 3%. 

This cap would prevent the high end homes from being assessed at their true market value, while the older homes would be assessed at full market value.  This would leave the owners of the older homes holding the bag because the high end home owners would not be paying their fare share.  Of course this is not always the case, but it is a possible flaw with assessment caps.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Slow pace of foreclosures could delay housing recovery

Foreclosure filings across Broward and Palm Beach counties are down in July by more than 50 percent compared with a year ago, according to RealtyTrac Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based listing firm.

Nationally, foreclosure activity hit a 44-month low.

It’d be great if all this were a sign of an improving economy, but it’s not.

“This string of decreases was initially triggered by the robo-signing controversy back in October 2010, which forced lenders to substantially slow the pace of foreclosing, but the downward trend in foreclosure activity has now taken on a life of its own,” RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio said in a statement. “It appears that the foreclosure processing delays, combined with the smorgasbord of national and state-level foreclosure prevention efforts — including loan modifications, lender-borrower mediations and mortgage payment assistance for the unemployed — may be allowing more distressed homeowners to stave off foreclosure.”

While foreclosures heap pain on families and neighborhoods, they're necessary to help wipe the slate clean and help the market recover, experts say. Saccacio said these foreclosure delays are likely to extend our housing woes into 2012 and beyond.

Story Link

By Paul Owers

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How important is a Broker, creator of hires broker

Summary:  The creator of listed his apartment in New York for a few months with no luck.  He consulted a Real Estate Broker who listed the apartment for $150,000 more than the initial asking and sold it right away. 


A founder of a website dedicated to direct sales of homes by their owners has sold his two-bedroom apartment in Chelsea for $2.15 million—with the help of a real-estate broker and a standard 6% commission.
A do-it-yourself advocate enlisted a broker for his West 19th Street unit.  

Colby Sambrotto, a founder and former chief operating officer of, a large website for owner sales, spent six months trying to sell his condominium himself through online listings and classified ads, before turning over the listing of the 2,000-square-foot apartment to a broker at Bond New York in November.

The broker, Jesse Buckler, said he told Mr. Sambrotto the apartment in the Lion's Head building on West 19th Street near Sixth Avenue was priced too low and wasn't drawing the right buyers.
By May, it went into contract, he said, after attracting multiple offers. It closed in the last few days for $150,000 more than the original asking price.

"At first he wouldn't let me increase the price," Mr. Buckler said. "I told him I know what I am doing—the market is picking up."

The sale is likely to add some fuel to debate over whether direct for-sale-by-owner deals, known as FSBOs in the trade, are workable in the higher end of the Manhattan market, where many brokers try to hold the line on commissions and resist discounting.

There have been a handful of extremely expensive sales that closed in the last few years, without the help of broker. In 2007, Edgar Bronfman Jr., the chief executive of Warner Music Group, sold a townhouse on East 64th Street for $50 million without a broker. Last month, a townhouse on East 69th Street off Fifth Avenue was sold for $48 million, also without a broker commission. was founded in 1999 and sold to Tribune Co. in 2006 in the midst of the real-estate boom. Mr. Sambrotto left the company when it was sold, and in 2007 paid $2 million for a second-floor apartment at the Lion's Head, a successful condominium conversion where buyers lined up for a chance to buy in 2005.

Mr. Sambrotto confirmed the details of the transaction with Mr. Buckler as the broker. He said he is still active in real estate and still believed in owner sales and discounted commissions.

Looking to move his family to the suburbs, he said he carefully staged his apartment for sale himself, and put it on the market. But after using a mix of websites to publicize his apartment, he said he had only "middling success" and switched to a broker because many buyers were so reliant on brokers.

"The apartment market in Manhattan was tightly controlled by agents," he said. "So many buyers don't even bother to do a search online."

Now Mr. Sambrotto said he plans to use his condo-selling experience with a new sale-by-owner website,, that he plans to launch in a few weeks after a non-compete agreement expires. Owner-sellers on the site will have the option of offering commissions to brokers who bring in buyers.

Matt Brown, director of business development for, said selling without a broker "is definitely not for everybody."

"It is a time-intensive process that can save you a ton of money," he said. But even so, "In the high-end market the sellers might not have the time to dedicate to selling" their homes themselves, he said.

Bruno Ricciotti, a founder and principal broker at Bond, had a different perspective. "FSBOs are a significant source of leads for us," he said, since brokers are trained to use the owner listings to sign up new customers.
After looking for houses across the region, Mr. Sambrotto said he and his wife had decided to stay in the city, and to buy a second home on the East End of Long Island.

Write to Josh Barbanel at
Story link 

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Paper: Tax rates, biz success seem unrelated

Florida’s property tax rates seem to have no relation to the business climate in a given area, a new newspaper analysis has found, although economists caution that it is only based on one year of data.

An analysis of property tax rates and business revenue across Florida by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune found the economies in counties that raised property tax rates had about the same amount of success or failure as those in counties where rates stayed the same.

The story, published Sunday, found that two of the counties experiencing a big boom for local businesses – Miami-Dade and Collier – also saw some of the largest property tax rate increases in the state. Sales by businesses in Miami-Dade jumped 9 percent, while sales by businesses in Collier County were up 10 percent.

In other counties, however, the correlation was the opposite. In St. Lucie County, for example, which also raised taxes, the economy faltered.

The analysis pointed out that the increase in tax rates was offset somewhat by declining taxable values. Many counties in Florida have seen enormous drops in the assessed value of property, in some cases as much as 30 percent.

Source: News Service of Florida, SARASOTA, Fla.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

South Florida housing market stabilizing, Zillow says

As the housing bust moves through a sixth year, you find something to celebrate wherever you can.
Home values in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties rose 1.1 percent in the second quarter compared with the first quarter, according to data released Tuesday by

It was the first quarterly increase for the three-county region since June 2006.

“That’s good news,” said Svenja Gudell, senior economist for Zillow, a Seattle-based real estate website. “We’re seeing the first signs of stabilization in that market.”

Now, for the disclaimer: Zillow doesn’t expect a bottom for home prices until 2012 at the earliest, and any momentum might soon be wiped out by the lingering debt crisis, Gudell said.

And there’s more:

• Zillow's Home Value Index for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade is $140,900 -- that's down by more than 54 percent since the housing crash. Prices now are where they were in June 2002.

• Roughly 46 percent of homes with a mortgage in the three counties are “underwater” – worth less than what’s owed. That’s up from 43 percent from one year ago. Nationally, about 27 percent of homes with a mortgage are underwater.

• Finally, 44 percent of homes in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties were sold for a loss in the second quarter, though that’s down slightly from a year ago.

Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist, said in a statement that the nation's housing market still faces fluctuations in demand for homes and a pipeline of foreclosed properties that will continue to hold down prices.

“We expect a bumpy road ahead,” he said.

Zillow, created in 2006, is a popular site for homebuyers and sellers to track values of homes. It compiles data using public records.

Critics argue that Zillow’s market value estimates, called Zestimates, can be inaccurate, in part because the site doesn’t consider improvements made to the home. Zillow says homeowners must edit their home profiles on the site for it to factor renovations into home values.

To measure its accuracy, Zillow says it compares the historic Zestimates with the actual prices of homes that sold. Using a rating system of one to four stars, with four stars being the best Zestimate possible, the firm concludes that its home value estimates for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are worthy of two stars.

By Paul Owers August 9, 2011 To follow Paul Owers on Twitter, click here.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thieves target foreclosed properties

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Aug. 8, 2011 – Thieves are continuing to prey on foreclosed properties, removing copper, appliances and other fixtures, and leaving behind a mess for those who have to sell it. Foreclosures often become prime targets because they’re vacant.

The Memphis Area Association of Realtors® recently warned its members of scams involving thieves who remove “For Sale” signs from yards, and then park a truck in the garage, making it appear as if they’re moving into the home. Instead, however, they remove items such as AC systems, kitchen appliances, light and plumbing fixtures, and copper from the walls.

“We’ve had it where they took the cabinets, the sink, the toilet, the lights, everything,” real estate agent Mindy Creech of RE/MAX on Track, told the McClatchy-Tribune Regional News.

Thieves are leaving behind damage to the properties too. In one incident, for example, thieves broke into a vacant home and started cutting the copper in the wall while the water was still turned on. The water continued to run for four days, even flowing into the streets before a real estate agent discovered it.

Copper has become a prime target, with copper prices rising by more than a $1 per pound in the past year.

State laws and city ordinances are trying to make it more difficult for thieves looking to make a profit off of stolen appliances and metals they remove from foreclosed properties. For example, some states or local governments have made it illegal to sell air conditioner parts unless you have a valid HVAC license.

The Memphis Association of Realtors also worked with chambers of commerce, homebuilders and other groups to get local governments to impose a 10-day, tag-and-hold procedure for some types of copper, like pipe, so that when metal is sold locally, the seller must show an ID and have a thumbprint made.

Source: “Foreclosed Properties Become Magnets for Thieves,” McClatchy-Tribune Regional News (Aug. 4, 2011)

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