Real Estate, Community News & More from My Desk to Yours

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What’s the next big home feature buyers want?

Homeowners are showing a bigger appetite for smart home technology. Nearly half of consumers – 46% – say it's important their current home or the next home they purchase have smart home technology, according to a survey of nearly 2,500 consumers, conducted by ERA Real Estate and HGTV.

Survey respondents had recently participated in an HGTV national focus group on smart home technology. Homeowners and buyers say they see the value in smart home technology for comfort, safety, and cost savings, and 51% surveyed say they would consider installing smart home technology in their home to make their home more marketable to future home buyers.

The younger segment of the millennial generation is the most likely age group to spend money on smart home technology – 10 times more likely than the percentage of generation X members who say they'd consider adding smart home technology to their homes, the survey reported.

"While still a growing trend, smart home enhancements have the potential to increase savings, safety, and resale value," says Charlie Young, president and CEO of ERA Real Estate. "As we have seen through this survey and our one-on-one interactions with buyers and sellers, a smart home is one that is well positioned for the future and aligns with a growing reliance on mobile technology."

Miami One of Nation’s Top 10 Construction Markets

Through September of 2014, Miami had the No. 8 new construction market in the country.

According to fresh numbers from Dodge Data & Analytics, Miami’s construction starts for the first nine months of 2014 totaled $6 billion, an strong 19 percent increase over the same period in 2013.
Indeed, such numbers are consistent with what we constantly hear from real estate professionals.

As Claudio Stivelman, the CEO of S2 Development, explained to us, “Unlike 2007, this development cycle is being carefully guarded by the development industry. Builders and lenders alike have learned to avoid speculation by vetting projects and making sure they are financially sound and secure prior to breaking ground … the demand and strength of the domestic and foreign economies continue to allow Miami to become one of the most sought after markets in the country.”

Read more at Miami Agent magazine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Join Us for a Discussion of Education Feform in Florida's Public Schools


 Join Us for a Discussion of Education Feform in Florida's Public Schools

What is Common Core? 
How about the Sunshine State Standards? 

Join the Good Government Initiative as we discuss the pros and cons of the latest attempt at education reform in Florida's public schools - the benefits, the politics, and what the future holds.

Featuring: Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent
Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade County Public Schools teacher and Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard, Miami-Dade Public Schools Board Member Raquel Regalado, and University of Miami's School of Education and Human Development Senior Associate Dean Walter Secada. Moderated by President and CEO of the Good Government Initiative Katy Sorenson.
11:30 am registration, 12 noon lunch and 12:30 pm conversation
Register Now!
$35 Individual Ticket
$50 GGI Contributor
$20 ECOB (Engaged Citizen on a Budget)
$10 Student (with valid I.D.)


Monday November 24, 2014 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM EST

BankUnited Center, Hurricane 100 Room
1245 Dauer Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146




Thursday, November 6, 2014

Florida leads the nation in all-cash sales

Florida had more cash sales in the third quarter of 2014 than any other U.S. state, and a closer look at metro areas finds five Florida cities in the top five – and eight in the top 10. The data includes both single-family homes and condos.

According to RealtyTrac'sQ3 2014 U.S. Institutional Investor & Cash Sales Report, the state also has four of the top 10 cities for cash sales by institutional investors – buyers who purchase 10 or more homes per year.

In the third quarter (July-September), over half of all Florida sales (53.5 percent) were all-cash. Only Maine came close with 50.0 percent, followed by Alabama with 42.2 percent. Still, the percentage of all-cash Florida sales has declined over time. In the second quarter it was 57.6 percent; a year earlier, it was 56.2 percent.

Drilling down by metro area, Florida is also home to the U.S. leader: In Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, two out of three sales are all-cash (59.1 percent), though in both the quarter and a year earlier, the percentage was above 63 percent. The following Florida cities round out RealtyTrac's top five for all-cash sales:
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers (55.8%)
  • Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice (54.5%)
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (51.1%)
  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville (50.9%)
Two other Florida metro areas are added if looking at the top 10 all-cash list: Orlando-Kissimmee (47.6 percent) at No. 7 and Jacksonville (47.1 percent) and No. 9.

RealtyTrac also broke down the all-cash sales for a look at institutional investors. While national cities landed the top four spots, Florida metro areas ranked for the next four spots – five through eight. Cities and percent of institutional investor activity include:
  • No. 5 Orlando-Kissimmee (11.0% in 3Q, up from 9.4% year-to-year)
  • No. 6 Jacksonville (10.9%, down from 12.6% year-to-year)
  • No. 7 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach (8.6%, up from 6.3% year-to-year)
  • No. 8 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (8.6%, up from 7.5% year-to-year)
National all-cash sales
In the U.S., all-cash sales accounted for 33.9 percent of all single-family and condo sales in the third quarter, down from 36.9 percent in the second quarter. It's unchanged from a year ago.

Cash sales helped "drive up U.S. median home prices 38 percent over the last two and half years," says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. "As institutional investors and other cash buyers slow down their purchasing … more traditional buyers – including first-time homebuyers and move-up buyers – will need to increasingly fill in the missing puzzle pieces to maintain the momentum of the housing recovery.

"Institutional investors are still actively purchasing single family rentals, but continue to gravitate toward markets where lower-end inventory is still available," Blomquist adds.

The share of institutional investor sales increased from a year ago in eight states, including Florida. The share of cash sales increased from a year ago in 22 states. Cash sales represented 54.6 percent of distressed sales in the foreclosure process or bank-owned.

Source: Florida Realtors®

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Florida Population Surging Again

People from other countries and other states are pouring into Florida again, a sign of the state's recovery from a long period of economic doldrums and slow growth.

Recently released U.S. Census numbers show that Florida's foreign-born population increased by 140,000 from 2010 through last year. And movement within the United States left Florida with a net gain of 105,000 residents last year and 109,000 in 2012 — 84% more than in the previous two years.

The population surge has accelerated this year, according to state estimates, growing at a rate of about 700 new residents a day. That's a healthy increase, though still less than the big migrations during the Sunbelt boom of past decades.

For many job seekers, South Florida has become a hip beachside destination with a nexus of entrepreneurs, investors, a big consumer market and a gateway to Latin America.

Read more at Sun-Sentinel.com



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Home Sales BOOM on Horizon?

With 8,000 baby boomers expected to retire daily for the next several years in the U.S., Southwest Florida stands to benefit from a massive influx of home buyers, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors believes.

Lawrence Yun said the baby boom influx will not be just from the U.S. states, because the phenomenon was not limited to America.

"After the war, servicemen came home and started having babies," Yun told an audience of 200 Wednesday at the annual Sarasota International Real Estate Conference.

"The same thing happened all over the world."

Already, half of all foreigners who buy real estate in Florida are retired.

In all, foreign buyers make up about 10% of the state's buyers, Yun noted, though locally that figure may be higher.

While German buyers tend to acquire property in Naples—partly because there's a direct flight from Dusseldorf to Southwest Florida International Airport outside Fort Myers—Sarasota attracts a more diverse international buyer, led by Canadians and residents from Great Britain, Yun said.

Chinese buyers may become a greater presence here, too, because that country's economy continues to "turn out millionaires right and left," Yun said. Economic growth there is roughly 8 to 9%annually, on par with America's growth in the 1950s.

"We have seen a surge of Chinese buyers coming into the U.S., primarily on the West Coast," Yun told the conference, which was sponsored by the Sarasota Association of Realtors' Global Business Council. "But they will begin to see that other parts of the country are attractive."

Yun said he expects interest rates to rise to 5% in 2015, but that the rate hike will likely have little effect on foreign buyers, because 80% pay cash for Florida homes.

Although the national real estate market has cooled after two years of recovery—the result of rising interest rates and low inventory—the Sarasota region remains strong.

Yun expects increases in the number of homes sold and the prices for which they sell, in part because a long period of "pent-up demand" has not yet been satisfied by home construction.

The market's "solid fundamentals," Yun said, will make this a multi-year recovery. Those fundamentals include a large number of cash purchases, larger down payments, better credit scores among buyers and an improving employment picture.

"Four of the next five years will be strong because of solid fundamentals," Yun said.

"The factors that support growth are evident in the Sarasota region, while the international market is always a wild card," he added. "There could be a sudden surge, there could be a steady trickle—it depends on situations globally with visas and what is happening in foreign economies. The economies are strong in Germany and the U.K.; people there have the cash necessary to come over here."

Source:  Herald-Tribune

New Hours for Coral Gables Public Library

Starting October 5th, the Coral Gables branch of Miami-Dade County Public Libraries will be open: Monday-Friday, and Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Tuesday and Wednesday 12:00 noon - 8 p.m.
Closed on Thursdays

3443 Segovia Street
Coral Gables, FL
305 442 8706

Housing Market Starts to Soften

Although sales and inventory are up in the state of Florida, nationally home sales are down, 1.8%, and investors have retreated because inventory of distressed properties has gone down. From The Washington Post article:  "Cash buyers retreat from housing market, cooling home sales":

Sales of previously built homes dropped last month in part because investors paying all cash to buy foreclosures retreated once the supply of distressed properties shrank, a real estate industry group reported Monday.

The National Association of Realtors said that existing-home sales fell 1.8% in August from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million. The performance — which captures sales completed last month — is also down 5.3% from a year earlier.

The results signal yet another stumble in the housing market’s stilted housing recovery, though Realtors tried to put a positive spin on the development. The group said that having investors retreat from the market opens up opportunities for the all-important first-time home buyers, who often lost out to all-cash offers from deep-pocketed investors when bidding on foreclosures and other troubled properties.

All-cash sales made up 23% of transactions in August, down from 29% in July and the lowest overall share since December 2009. But it’s unclear if  first-time buyers will step in to fill the void. After all,  home prices are still high and access to credit remains tight for all but the most pristine of borrowers.

The median price for all previously-built homes – including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – was $219,800 in August. That’s 4.8% above the year ago, and marks the 30th month in a row of year-over year price gains, the Realtor group said. Many experts who track home values say price gains have been moderating, but in many areas they remain above year-ago levels.

Meanwhile, the younger adults who tend to make up the lion’s share of first-time buyers have several factors working against them. Many are struggling to cope with a tight job market and juggling student loan debt at a time when lenders are shying away from extending mortgages to people without top-notch credit.  In the aftermath of the housing crisis, lenders got hit with record financial penalties and lawsuits. They responded by demanding higher credit scores and pristine credit profiles from potential borrowers seeking government-backed mortgages – exceeding the standards set by the government itself.

Read more . . .

Florida Sales up 4.2% year-to-year, prices up 3.4% in August

Florida's housing market saw higher median prices and a rising inventory in August, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

Closed Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 21,742 last month, up 4.9% over the August 2013 figure.

"For several months now, stability and consistency are key trends we're seeing in Florida's housing market, as the state's jobs outlook remains steady and the economy continues to grow," says 2014 Florida Realtors President Sherri Meadows, CEO (and team leader, Keller Williams, with market centers in Gainesville, Ocala and The Villages). "The statewide inventory (active listings) for single-family homes last month rose 13% year-over-year, while the townhouse-condo inventory of active listings rose 8.9%."

Read more at FloridaRealtors.org

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Home Sales Fall in August


Fewer Americans bought homes in August, as investors retreated from real estate and first-time buyers remained scarce. Sales of existing homes (as opposed to new construction) fell 1.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. That snapped a four-month streak of gains. August sales were down from a July rate of 5.14 million, a figure that was also revised slightly downward.
 
Much of the decline came from the exodus of investors, who had been buying properties in the aftermath of the housing bust and recession. Investors accounted for just 12% of August purchases, compared to 17% a year earlier.
 
Overall, the pace of home sales has dropped 5.3% year-over-year.
 
The August figures show that real estate recovery has depended largely on investors and all-cash sales, instead of families looking to purchasing a house.  "It is apparent that much of the juice in the existing-home sales market remains centered in all-cash purchases by speculative buyers," said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at the consulting firm MFR.
 
The rebound from the housing bust that triggered the recession has been painfully slow. The share of Americans who own homes has trended downward over the course of the five-year recovery, as more Americans are becoming renters. The ownership rate fell to 64.7% through the middle of this year, down from a peak of 69.2% toward the end of 2004, according to the Census Bureau.
 
Sales were curbed by winter storms earlier in the year, but began to accelerate through the summer as mortgage rates eased back from 52-week highs. However, the combination of rising home prices last year and sluggish wage growth has limited sales.
 
Rising prices through much of 2013 and weak income growth priced out many would-be buyers. Only 29% of purchases in August came from first-time buyers, well below the historical average of 40%.
 
The median sales price has risen 4.8% over the past 12 months to $219,800, but it slipped slightly in August compared to prices in July and June.
 
Sales of existing homes continue to lag last year's pace of 5.1 million. Annual sales of 5.5 million are consistent with a healthy housing market, according to analysts.
 
There is a 5.5 month supply of homes listed for sale. The supply has increased over the past year, yet it remains below the standard level of six months.
 
Sales tumbled 5.1% in the West and 4.2% in the South last month compared to July. Part of that decline was offset by rising sales in the Northeast and Midwest.
 
Many consider home sales to be the missing link in a solid economic recovery. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen recently told Congress that housing has proven to be disappointing this year.
 
Indicators heading into the fall and winter are mixed for real estate, however.New home construction plunged 14.4% in August compared with the prior month, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Much of that decline was due to a drop-off in building apartment complexes, but single-family-home construction also fell 2.4%.
 
 
 
Via FLORIDA TREND and AP read more here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Chopin FREE Concert Series Piano Recital by Ivan Moshchuk

Southern Wine and Spirits of America’s Chopin for All  FREE Concert Series presents a Piano Recital by Young American Pianist, Ivan Moshchuk



The Chopin Foundation of the U.S. opens the new season of Chopin for All FREE Concerts  on October 11 & 12, 2014, with young outstanding American pianist, Ivan Moshchuk, in an all-Chopin program.   Each concert in the Chopin for All series is presented twice:

On Saturday at Broward County Main Library in Fort Lauderdale,
and on the following Sunday at Granada Presbyterian Church in Coral Gables.

FREE ADMISSION No Tickets Required

Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 3:00 PM, Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave, Ft. Lauderdale

Sunday, October 12, 2014 at 3:00 PM, Granada Presbyterian Church, 950 University Drive, Coral Gables

Twenty-three-year-old Ivan Moshchuk is among the most promising young artists of his generation, aiming to redefine the limits of classical music in the context of the 21st century. When asked about the purpose of his art, he turns to the words of Robert Schumann - “to send light into the darkness of men's hearts - such is the duty of the artist.”

A recipient of the 2010 Gilmore Young Artist Award, 2011 Peabody Career Development Grant, and 2012 Rosamond P. Haeberle Memorial Piano Award, Mr. Moshchuk has been praised for possessing a “rare combination of breathtaking technique and genuine musicality” (Kalamazoo Gazette), leaving audiences stating that it was “impossible not to be impressed” (Baltimore Sun), and creating “a density that lets you feel the spiritual aspects of the music ... the best of the best” (Zofinger Zeitung).

Highlights from his past season included a debut with the Kharkiv Philharmonic in Ukraine, a debut with the Lublin Chamber Orchestra in Poland, as well as solo recitals in the USA, Italy, and France. In October of 2012, Mr. Moshchuk stepped in on short notice to perform with the Birmingham-Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra to a great critical acclaim.

Recent concerts include a five-concert solo tour of the Netherlands in May of 2014, including Mr. Moshchuk’s Concertgebouw debut in Amsterdam, as part of the International Holland Music Sessions New Masters on Tour. Additional performances include return engagements in the Ukraine, Poland, and France, his Slovak Philharmonic solo debut in Bratislava, and chamber music appearances with the Attacca Quartet for the American Music Festival and Chamber Music Wilmington in North Carolina.

Mr. Moshchuk’s live performances have been broadcast internationally on TV and radio, including NPR’s Performance Today. He has had solo and concerto appearances at the Gilmore Intl. Keyboard Festival (2010), Verbier Festival (2010), BANFF Intl. Music Festival (2011), and worked with leading artists such as Ivan Moravec, Mikhail Voskresensky, Klaus Helwig, Menahem Pressler, Sergei Babayan, Gábor Takács-Nagy, and John O’Conor.

Mr. Moshchuk also conducts independent research in music theory. In 2011, he was invited to present his theoretical work, “Episodic aspects of form in the music of Chopin and Rachmaninoff” at the 8th Intl. Scientific-Theoretical Symposium “Rachmaninoff: On the Break of Centuries,” as part of the 13th Intl. Rachmaninoff Festival in Kharkiv, Ukraine. His article has been published in the proceedings of the conference in 2012.

Mr. Moshchuk holds a Bachelor of Music in piano performance from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. He currently divides his time between his home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and Paris, as a resident of the Cité Internationale des Arts, where he is researching the concept of “image” and the genre of l’imaginaire as it relates to the aesthetic, formal, and performance-related issues that connect musical expression with the domain of the visual.

For more information, contact:

Jadwiga Viga Gewert, Executive Director
Chopin Foundation of the U.S.
1440 79th Street Cswy, Suite 117
Miami, FL 33141
ph. 305/868-0624 fax 305/865-5150
www.chopin.org

Stock Gains Lift U.S. Household Wealth of Top 10% to a Record High

Strong stock market gains and higher home prices boosted Americans' net worth in the 2014 April-June quarter to a record high, a trend that could encourage more spending.

U.S. households also took on the most new debt in five years, driven mostly by student and auto loans. More borrowing can be a sign of confidence, although greater student debt can pose a burden for younger households.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that household wealth rose 1.7% in the second quarter of 2014 to $81.5 trillion. Americans' stock and mutual fund portfolios gained $1 trillion. The value of their homes increased $230 billion.

Greater wealth can make people feel more financially secure and encourage them to spend more. This "wealth effect" could boost the economy, although analysts note that it may not produce as much benefit as it did before the Great Recession. That's because most of the wealth gains over the past five years have occurred in the stock market, rather than in home values. Financial wealth is more volatile and doesn't spark as much spending as housing wealth typically does, research shows.

The Fed's figures aren't adjusted for population growth or inflation. Household wealth, or net worth, reflects the value of homes, stocks, and other assets minus mortgages, credit cards, and other debts.
U.S. net worth has rebounded dramatically since the depths of the recession. During the first quarter of 2009, as the stock market's losses deepened, net worth fell as low as $55.6 trillion — 19% below its pre-recession peak of $68.8 trillion.

But the wealth gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans. Broad stock market averages have jumped more than 150% from their trough in the spring of 2009. But roughly 10% of households own about 80% of stocks.

Middle-income Americans rely mainly on home equity to build wealth, and housing prices nationwide are still below their 2006 peak.

A separate Fed report released last week illustrates the gap: Median household net worth at the end of last year was $81,200, a drop of 2% from 2010. The median is the halfway point between the highest and lowest figure.

But average net worth, which is inflated by extremely large fortunes at the top, was $534,600 in 2013, roughly the same as in 2010. Those figures are drawn from the Fed's Survey of Consumer Finances, which is done every three years.

Average net worth for the top 10% of households by income was $3.3 million in 2013, the survey found. That's more than five times the average wealth of the next 10% of households: $631,400.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen highlighted the dearth of assets for lower- and middle-income families in a speech Thursday. She noted that the bottom fifth (20%) of American households had a median net worth of just $6,400 in 2013. Many had no or negative net worth. The next 20% had a median net worth of just $27,900.

"The financial crisis and the Great Recession demonstrated, in a dramatic and unmistakable manner, how extraordinarily vulnerable are the large share of American families with few assets to fall back on," Yellen said.

The Fed's report Thursday included some other signs that Americans are still slowly repairing their finances. The ratio of household debt to income dipped to 107% from 108% in the previous quarter. That figure is down from 135% in 2007, just before the Great Recession began. The ratio of household debt to income was below 100% in the 1990s, before the housing bubble began in the next decade.

SOURCE:  Associated Press

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Florida remains cruise capital of the world

 
The number of people boarding cruise ships within the nation dropped last year for the first time since the recession, but passenger counts increased globally and in Florida, according to a new report from the Cruise Lines International Association.

Last year, 9.96 million people embarked on cruises from U.S. ports, a 1.3% drop compared to 2012. Though, globally, the number of passengers taking cruises on North American cruise lines increased nearly 4% to 17.6 million, according to the Miami Herald.

Florida remains a cruise industry powerhouse, with the number of embarking passengers increasing 1.3% to 6.15 million in 2013. Miami led the growth with more than 2 million passengers boarding ships, a 6.8% increase; Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale saw a 2.7% increase to more than 1.8 million embarking passengers.

Read more here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How the Recession Beefed Up Sister City Relationships


U.S. cities traditionally develop relationships with foreign cities for diplomatic, cultural or educational purposes. But more and more are looking to them for economic development.

 Sister Cities International reports that in the past several years more and more cities have been approaching the organization asking for help to expand their existing partnership toward economic development. 

The shift began following the Great Recession, when many local governments began an earnest push to expand economic development and business opportunities beyond not just their immediate borders, but across international borders, said Adam Kaplan, membership director at Sister Cities International. Cities that already had sister city relationships began asking if those relationships could be used to stimulate trade and whether they could do so on their own, without the federal government’s help.) 

Read the full article at Governing.com . . .

Florida's revenue collections could surpass pre-recession high

When the 2015 Legislature convenes in Tallahassee, it is expected to have nearly $30 billion in General Revenue to create the state budget for FY 2015-16, according to a Budget Watch from Florida TaxWatch, the privately supported think tank examining government spending. However, after this month's GR Estimating Conference, the new General Revenue projection is $141.6 million less than previously thought.

The state's estimators attribute the scaled back projections to normal fluctuations, not any underlying weaknesses in the economy. The final estimate for next year's budget won't be announced until March.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, actual GR collections fell short of projections made last March by $106 million. The revenue collection estimates for the current fiscal year (2014-15) were increased by $49.2 million, but the estimates for the next year (2015-16) were lowered by $84.1 million.


Estimates for the sales tax, the largest source of General Revenue, were increased. However, the estimates for corporate income taxes and real estate taxes (documentary stamp and intangibles taxes) were all revised lower.

"Florida is now in the middle of its largest ever state budget, which is expected to grow even larger next year," said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, the independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute. "Florida is experiencing steady recovery and growth and our revenues have finally recovered from the recession."

Read More at Florida Trend . . .

This Florida TaxWatch report is available in PDF format:  "Budget Watch: Total Collections Expected to Surpass Pre-Recession High"

Monday, August 25, 2014

Existing condos challenged by new condo competition



MIAMI – Aug. 25, 2014  Three years into South Florida's impressive housing recovery, demand for existing condos is showing signs of sputtering, even as single-family home sales chalk up new highs.
Blame the condo headwinds on stiff competition from a wave of glittering new-condo construction that is remaking the skyline and cementing South Florida's place as a magnet for foreign money.

Meanwhile, prices on existing condos have skyrocketed, making them less attractive to investors. And traditional home hunters face tough mortgage guidelines even more stringent for condos than for houses.

In Miami-Dade County, the volume of existing condo sales fell 8.8 percent in July to 1,403 units from 1,538 a year earlier; and they were down 2.8 percent from June, the Miami Association of Realtors said.

Year-over-year sales of existing condos in Miami-Dade have declined every month since February, though sometimes by small amounts.

Read more

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

First-Time Buyers Shut Out of Expanding U.S. Home Supply

An inventory crunch for entry-level houses has only worsened during the past year as discounted foreclosures become scarce and cash-paying investors snap up affordable listings to convert to rentals. Properties at the lower end of the market are also the most likely to have underwater mortgages, keeping would-be sellers from moving.

Read more at Bloomberg.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Florida finances expected to remain in good shape


Florida economists are projecting that the state's economy will continue to remain in good shape over the next few years.

State economists met Thursday to predict how much the state is expected to collect in taxes. Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders rely on these forecasts to determine whether the state has a budget surplus.

Preliminary forecasts show that the state's main budget account could grow nearly 4 percent during the fiscal year that started in July. The preliminary estimates show a roughly 4 percent growth in the fiscal year that starts in July 2015.

That's a slight dip from March forecasts. One big reason is there has been a drop in corporate income taxes.

SOURCE:  See more at TALLAHASSEE (Associated Press)
      

Miami's High Line? A Ten-Mile "Linear Park" Could Come to South Florida

If a South Florida group has their way, Miami is about to get a whole lot greener. The Greenlink Project would create the largest linear park ever, one that would stretch 10 miles long from Brickell to Dadeland right underneath the Metrorail.

"The vision is to connect eight transit stations to one linear park," Meg Daly, Greenlink Park's founder, tells CBS Miami.



The proposed park, which has been described as Miami's answer to NYC's High Line, has already drawn about $2 million in commitments so far, Daly says. The High Line, to be fair, cost about $180 million to build. In turn, it's generated an estimated $3 billion in real estate investment for the New York area.

Beyond funding, others have raised worries that an FPL plan for 100-foot new towers along U.S. 1 could also imperil the idea, though FPL says the two projects aren't necessarily incompatible.

"I know some people have suggested that the transmission line would basically rule out the park being there," FPL spokesman Peter Robbins told the Miami Herald earlier this year. "That's just flat out wrong. Whoever suggested that, unfortunately is misinformed or they are spreading information that's wrong. Projects just like the GreenLink make sense."

Daly says that in a best-case scenario the project could potentially break ground later this year and finish be done in five-to-ten years.

By Ryan Yousefi  Published Wed., Aug. 6 2014: 

Friday, August 1, 2014

20% of Florida Home Shoppers Could Enter the Market Soon

CHICAGO – July 30, 2014 – A conducted by Pollara survey and released by BMO Harris Bank found that 68% of Florida homeowners believe the value of their home will go up over the next 12 months, and 13% expect the value of their home to go down.

Over the past year, 61% of Floridians felt their home's value had increased, and 24% thought it had gone down.

"Market prices overall continue to indicate that we are in a recovery, and this was reflected in our survey results with buyer optimism," says Sheila Blom, head of Florida mortgage sales for BMO Harris Bank. "We've seen this reinforced by an increase in home buying activity this year."



Florida homebuyers
30% of those planning to buy say market activity caused them to delay a purchase.  20% say current market activity will likely cause them to buy a new home sooner than they otherwise would.

Read more

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Little-Known Libertarian Could Decide Florida Governor’s Race

 The nation’s most closely watched governor’s race, the battle for the Florida governor’s mansion, just got even more interesting.

It turns out that the bitter fight between Republican incumbent Rick Scott and his predecessor, Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist, may be doing more than causing voters to turn off their TV sets to avoid the omnipresent and nasty TV ads from both sides.

The negative air war has created an opening for a third-party candidate who is unknown to more than nine in 10 voters and is scoring in the polls because Mr. Scott and Mr. Crist have so turned off parts of the electorate.



It’s not that Libertarian Adrian Wyllie has a serious chance to win the governorship, but a Quinnipiac Poll of registered Florida voters out this morning shows that he could decide which of the major party candidates emerges as the winner.

In a two-way race, Mr. Crist leads Mr. Scott 45%-40%, down from a 10-point lead three months ago when Quinnipiac last polled there. But when voters are asked about a three-way race that included Mr. Wyllie, the election is a statistical dead heat with Mr. Crist at 39%, Mr. Scott at 37% and Mr. Wyllie at 9%.

History shows that candidates who throw lots of mud often get some on themselves. That appears to be what’s happening. Two pieces of evidence: Both Messrs. Scott and Crist are viewed net negatively by the electorate and Mr. Wyllie is getting twice as many people who are voting for him (9%)  than have a positive opinion of him (4%).

SOURCE:  The Wall St. Journal

Gables bat enthusiasts get a rare glimpse

Bright beams pierced the banyan trees peppered throughout Coral Gables’ Granada Golf Course last Sunday night as hundreds of visitors flashed the night sky searching for a quick glimpse of the recently discovered bonneted bats.

Calls from crickets and other insects camouflaged the their high-pitched squeaks as two of the bats swiftly swooped and fluttered above the multitude of guests.

The bat watch was organized by a Florida International University biologist, Kristen “Kisi” Bohn, who discovered the bats in late 2012 when she moved three blocks away from the course.
“We put this together pretty quickly because I wanted to take advantage of the momentum. Tonight was really an info session for the public,” Bohn said.

As the bat news began to go viral around the Coral Gables community, Bohn’s email began to flood.
For Bohn, who believes there might be around 20 to 40 bonneted bats living in the area, the most important goal for this event was twofold. Not only was it aimed as a way to foster awareness about the bats but also to help gather support from the community to further study them.
Some members of the enthusiastic crowd Sunday used their smart devices to transform the bats’ low-frequency echolocation signals into a visualization with the help of a free iOS app called SpectrumView.

With an iPad in hand, volunteer Juan Escorcia came out to survey the bats with his wife Gloria.
“We came out here to get informed on how and what we can do to help the doctors,” said Escorcia, who was amazed there were bats in Miami. “It’s crazy, but they’re in our backyards.”
According to Bohn, the bats – also known as Eumops floridanus – are one of the most critically endangered mammals in North America.

“I feel bad for them and I don’t want them to be extinct,” said Elisa Chong, 10, who came to the event with her dad Hernando and 8-year-old sister Gabriella. “Before I got here I thought that we would just be able to hear the bats, but when we got to see them that was really awesome and I couldn’t believe it.”

Among the organizers for the event, was Don Slesnick, former mayor of Coral Gables, who lives in front of the golf course and had never met Bohn.



As a community effort, Slesnick donated the front property of his house to allow the events sponsor, Bacardi, to host a free beverage booth for those in attendance.

“I hope that whatever has happened tonight and whatever happens in the future because of tonight will help protect these bats,” said Slesnick, who was overwhelmed by the amount of visitors he saw.
“I think it’s great to have a situation where there was great camaraderie and interaction. These people came out for the right reasons and the right cause.”

Currently, Bohn is looking for more volunteers who can help her conduct further studies.

For information, email Bohn at batcomlab@gmail.com.
Original story here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/22/4249485/gables-bat-enthusiasts-get-a-rare.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This is what global warming looks like

WASHINGTON (AP) — The globe is on a hot streak, setting a heat record in June. That's after the world broke a record in May.
 
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that last month's average global temperature was 61.2 degrees, which is 1.3 degrees higher than the 20th century average. It beat 2010's old record by one-twentieth of a degree.

While one-twentieth of a degree doesn't sound like much, in temperature records it's like winning a horse race by several lengths, said NOAA climate monitoring chief Derek Arndt.

"We are living in the steroid era of the climate system," Arndt said.

Arndt said both the June and May records were driven by unusually hot oceans, especially the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Heat records in June broke on every continent but Antarctica, especially in New Zealand, northern South America, Greenland, central Africa and southern Asia.

The United States had only its 33rd hottest June.

All 12 of the world's monthly heat records have been set after 1997, more than half in the last decade. All the global cold monthly records were set before 1917.

And with a likely El Nino this year — the warming of the tropical Pacific which influences the world's weather and increases global temperatures — it is starting to look like another extra warm year, said University of Arizona climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck.

The first six months of the year are the third warmest first six months on record, coming behind 2010 and 1998, according to NOAA.

Global temperature records go back to 1880 and this is the 352nd hotter than average month in a row.

"This is what global warming looks like," Overpeck said in an email. "Not record hot everywhere all the time, but certainly a reflection that the odds of record hot are going up everywhere around the planet."
___

NOAA on June tempertures: http://1.usa.gov/1yQQQqb

Why Doesn't The Sunshine State Use More Solar Energy?

As far as solar energy goes, the Sunshine State is third in the country for potential -- and 18th in actual installation.

In Florida, there’s no financial assistance for installing solar panels on your roof. Solar energy users can only take a federal tax credit.

Florida Power and Light powers the state using mostly natural gas. Out of all the energy FPL provides, only 0.06 percent comes from solar energy.

The only way to get solar panels installed on your roof is to call an independent contractor.
Read more at wlrn.org

Monday, July 21, 2014

Solar Leading Energy Growth Sector in USA

In case you missed it, two recent developments clearly demonstrate why America remains “bullish” on solar energy. But they’re also vivid reminders of why we need to remain vigilant. As an organization, and as an industry, too much is at stake for us to become complacent. As the old saying goes on Capitol Hill: “What Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away.”

This week, a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that most new electric generation capacity in the United States through 2040 will come from natural gas and renewable energy. Of the 83 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity additions being forecast, nearly half is expected to come from photovoltaic (PV) systems.

Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America – and, as this report bears out, it will continue to be for years and years to come. The rapid deployment of solar nationwide will create thousands of new American jobs, pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy and help to significantly reduce pollution. Just as importantly, it will also provide Americans with the freedom to decide how to power their homes, businesses, schools and government facilities in the future. This report predicts that 60 percent of all new PV installations in the years ahead will be rooftop solar, creating significant savings when it comes to future energy costs.

And there’s more good news. In a setback to the utility monopoly model, the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that a power purchase agreement (PPA) between the city of Dubuque and Eagle Point Solar does not violate state law. Regulated utility companies had fought the arrangement, claiming to have exclusive rights to sell to customers in their service areas. Iowa’s high court disagreed.

This is an important milestone for solar energy in Iowa. It undoubtedly will help to jumpstart solar installations across the state, creating new jobs, pumping money into the economy and reducing pollution. But just as importantly, this is a victory for freedom of choice, affirming the right of Iowans to decide how they want to power their homes and businesses in the future. We commend the court for doing the right thing.

SOURCE:  Roy Wasson's Renewable Energy Fund Weekly Update #423

BMW Invests Heavily in Electric Vehicles

BMW agreed to spend billions of euros increasing its orders of Samsung batteries as the world’s largest maker of luxury cars expands its line of electric vehicles.

BMW is planning to increase its purchases of SDI battery cells for the electric i3 city car and the plug-in hybrid i8 sports car as well as for “additional hybrid models” in the coming years. 

“The battery is a key component in every electric vehicle—since it basically determines the range and performance capabilities of the car,” Klaus Draeger, BMW’s purchasing chief, said in the statement. “In Samsung SDI, we have chosen a supplier that offers us the best-available technology with future-oriented Korean battery expertise.”

The deal paves the way for BMW to secure supply of batteries—the most expensive part of an electric vehicle—as it rolls out the i8 and i3 to counter inroads by Tesla Motors into the luxury-car segment. For Samsung SDI, which supplies batteries to Apple Inc., the order builds on the company’s plans to expand its automotive business months after agreeing to acquire Cheil Industries Inc. for $3.4 billion to add its chemicals and materials expertise.

BMW plans to add more models as part of its electric “i” sub-brand, Ian Robertson, BMW’s head of sales and marketing, said last month, as the company started deliveries of the i8.

“We spent a lot of money on this and are definitely thinking long term,” Robertson said. “There are going to be others in the BMW i lineup.”

The supply deal is worth “multi billions of euros,” Gyeonggi, South Korea-based Samsung SDI said in a separate statement, without giving details such as the exact value. A battery can account for as much as 40 percent of an electric vehicle’s manufacturing cost, Samsung SDI’s spokesman David Kim said by phone. BMW’s i3 starts at $41,350.

Sales of hybrids and electric vehicles are projected to grow steadily to reach 5.2 million units by 2020, or 7.3 percent of all passenger vehicles, according to a November 2010 report by J.D. Power & Associates. BMW said it sold 5,400 i3 cars in the first half of 2014 and demand for the i8 is “significantly higher” than initial production plans.

According to Japanese research firm B3, the global market for automotive lithium-ion batteries will increase to $21.3 billion in 2020 from $4.4 billion in 2014.

SOURCE:  Roy Wasson's Renewable Energy Fund Weekly Update #423

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Realtor Report: Foreign Homebuyers Favor Florida

For the fifth year in a row, Florida was the favored destination of international homebuyers, according to a report Tuesday from the National Association of Realtors.
The Sunshine State accounted for 23 percent of all deals from foreigners. California was second at 14 percent, while Texas was third at 12 percent.
The report is based on sales from April 2013 through March 2014. NAR has issued the report since 2010, and Florida has been the top choice each year.
Nationwide, there were $92.2 billion in sales from international buyers, up from $68.2 billion the prior year.
Nearly 60 percent of all U.S. sales from foreigners went for cash. Only a third of domestic buyers didn’t take out a mortgage.   
Full story at Sun-Sentinel . . .

Florida Real Estate Market Draws an Influx of Agents

"With housing markets across the state picking back up, the trend is being mirrored throughout Florida.
Membership in Florida Realtors, the statewide trade group, rose by nearly 12,000 members — or 10 percent — to 127,430 at the end of last year from the recent trough in 2011.
But that is still down 42,000 from a recent peak in 2006."
Read the full story at Sarasota Herald Tribune . . .

Friday, June 27, 2014

RealtyTrac: Home prices up 13% due to high-end sales

 In RealtyTrac's May 2014 Residential & Foreclosure Sales Report, U.S. residential properties (single family homes, condominiums, and townhomes) sold at roughly the same rate as they did one month earlier, and less than 1% higher year-to-year.

However, total sales include a lot more "normal" sales than in recent months, causing, in part, a median sales price ($180,000) rise of 6%  month-to-month and 13% year-to-year.

May's year-over-year increase was the second consecutive month with a double-digit annual increase in U.S. home prices, and the biggest annual increase since U.S. home prices bottomed out in March 2012.

In May U.S. distressed sales and short sales combined accounted for 14.3% of all residential sales—a drop from 15.6% of sales in April and down 15.9% in May 2013.

"Distressed sales continue to represent a smaller share of the overall sales pie nationwide, helping to boost median home prices higher given that distressed sales tend to be in lower price ranges," says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

"When broken down by average price range, U.S. sales are clearly shifting away from the lower end," he says. "Properties selling below $200,000 represented 50 percent of all sales in May, but that was down from a 55 percent share a year ago. Meanwhile, the share of homes selling above $200,000 increased from a 45 percent a year ago to a 50 percent in May 2014."

Florida ranked fifth nationwide for a sales decline year-to-year (3%), though top-ranked California saw a 15% drop. Only one Florida city, Orlando, ranked in the top five for metro areas with declining sales, coming in at No. 3 with an 18% drop. No. 1 ranked Boston sale a 23% sales decline.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

50% of all Agents Failed to Close a Single Deal in 2013! Why . . . ?


 

Applying @SimonSinek's "Start With Why", Inman News looks at tapping into your clients’ reptilian brain to learn what they really want in a house. 

Read more at Inman News . . .

Apartment occupancy hits 95% as rents keep rising


National apartment occupancy hit 95% during May -- a level not seen since at least 2006, when the real estate market was still booming, according to an apartment data and research company.

[Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]

International Buyers Bolster Florida’s Housing Market

The report "Buying In: An Analysis of International Homebuyers in Floridaprojects that Florida will sell an estimated 60,000-plus homes to international buyers through 2016.

Most international investment in the Florida housing market comes from Latin America and the Caribbean, Canada, and Europe—nearly 90 percent of Florida home purchases by international buyers.

"International homebuyers not only bolster Florida's housing market, they also impact Florida's economy as a whole," says Jerry D. Parrish, Ph.D., Florida TaxWatch Chief Economist. "The sale of Florida homes to international investors increases tax revenue, provides the opportunity to expand tourism, and diversifies the state economy with global exposure."

Read more at Florida Realtors.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Brazilians make their mark on Florida and beyond . . .



MIAMI (AP) – June 12, 2014 – As all eyes turn to Brazil for the World Cup, Brazilians in the U.S. are also gaining notice. According to the U.S. Census, more than 325,000 people of Brazilian ancestry now call the United States home, but experts put the numbers higher.

Most have come since the late 1980s, first landing in the nation's traditional Portuguese-speaking enclaves around Boston and more recently congregating in central and South Florida.

Read the full story at FloridaRealtors.com

Retirement moves make a comeback!

Retirement moves, which dropped sharply during the worst of the recession, are making a comeback.

Florida, the top draw for movers 55 and older, is gaining about 55,000 older movers each year, more than twice the growth it saw after the housing bubble burst in the middle of the last decade, according to a Stateline analysis of Census Bureau numbers. Florida's annual growth for this age group is 138 percent.

Read more at Florida Realtors . . .

Monday, June 9, 2014

Looking for a Luxury Home? So is Everyone Else in Miami

Miami had a pretty good 2013. From one end of the price spectrum to the next, home sales were on the rise. Sales of the priciest homes, designated by their $2.9 million and above price tag, were up 26 percent and the other 99 percent were up seven percent.

Source:  Miami Agent Magazine (read more: http://miamiagentmagazine.com/looking-luxury-home-everyone-else-miami/#sthash.0yYWst61.dpuf)

The Real Reason Construction Activity is Up

Overall construction spending in the U.S. economy rose 0.2% from March to April and 8.6% from April 2013, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $953.5 billion.

That was the big finding in the Census Bureau’s latest construction report, which also found that for the first four months of 2014, construction spending has amounted to $274.5 billion, or 8.9% above where it was during the same period in 2013.

On the surface, those are all great stats, especially given how shaky construction has been so far this year; however, as with all things construction in the post-bubble marketplace, things are not quite what they seem with the Census Bureau’s report, and we have multifamily housing to thank for that.

The Overwhelming Effect of Multifamily
We may seem a bit obsessed with multifamily housing, considering how often it pops up in our construction-related stories, but it really is at the center of the new construction marketplace right now, and April’s numbers only offered further proof of that.

Consider this: though single-family home construction rose by 14% year-over-year in April, and though remodeling rose 19% year-over-year, new construction for the multifamily marketplace rose an incredible 31%.

So once again, we have to reconcile with the fact that though construction continues to recover, it’s doing so at the pace of the industry’s soaring multifamily sector–and the fact that the majority of those multifamily units are being planned and constructed as rentals, rather than condos.

The Steady Improvement of Residential Construction
Still, we can’t completely disregard the progress that has been made in residential construction. At $378.5 billion in April, residential construction was pretty much flat from March, though it was up by 17% from last year, according to Bill McBride’s computations at Calculated Risk.

Also, though residential is down 44% from its early 2006 peak, it’s up 66% from the post-bubble low of 2009/2010, and is only expected to grow further as the market continues

Source: http://miamiagentmagazine.com/real-reason-construction-activity/#sthash.RQ5EsK93.dpuf


http://miamiagentmagazine.com/real-reason-construction-activity/

Monday, June 2, 2014

Has Florida found the secret to saving the economy?



Ask your kids: Harry Potter’s magic can save the world. Or you can ask Rick Scott: Harry Potter has recently done more than a little to create the mini-boom that has turned Florida into one of the nation’s three fastest-growing states, giving Scott a fighting chance to hold on the to governorship this fall.

Smart investors, and citizens, should think about the minus-sized magician today when they look at the government’s new estimates of first-quarter gross domestic product . Because what went right in Florida, which has built an investment boom around the reported $260 million that Universal spent on the now four-year-old Wizarding World of Harry Potter , is the flip side of what’s wrong with the national economy.

Florida is surging because . . .Read more at Market Watch

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Population Estimates Highlight Nation's Fastest-Growing Cities

Compare growth from 2012 to 2013 for top 300 fastest-growing cities:

Miami ranks 168th up 0.8% 3,429 more people 2012: 414,221 2013: 417,650

Read more at governing.com.

Fla.'s housing market: Prices, listings rise in April

Florida's housing market reported higher median prices, more new listings and a slight rise in inventory in April, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 21,385 last month, up 4.1% over the April 2013 figure.

"Florida's strengthening economy and increased jobs outlook are positive signs for continued growth in the state's housing market," said 2014 Florida Realtors®President Sherri Meadows, CEO and team leader, Keller Williams, with market centers in Gainesville, Ocala and The Villages. "Statewide, new listings for single-family homes in April rose 9.2% year-over-year, while new townhouse-condo listings rose 1.4%. This increase in listings shows many Florida homeowners are continuing to regain equity in their homes. Potential sellers who were on the sidelines now believe the time is right to put their residences on the market.

Read more at floridarealtors.org

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The United Arab Emirates: A Rising Star in E-Government

Once considered a backwater in the Middle East, the UAE today is highly developed. Dubai, one of the UAE’s seven states, hosts some of the world’s tallest and most impressive buildings. Governed by a Supreme Council made up of seven emirs who appoint a prime minister and cabinet, the UAE started down the e-government path in 2001 when it launched an electronic card to collect service fees. Since then, the kingdom of 9 million has continued to build its e-government reputation, which was solidified earlier this year when the tech giant Accenture placed it third in its annual roundup of leading digital governments.

A lot of UAE’s success has to do with its management style. It’s taken an approach that states and their local partners might find interesting: Government departments in the UAE’s principalities can create any new online services they want, while the central authority focuses on building the common parts that all departments need, like payment and customer support. This hybrid approach results in standardization, best-practice sharing, cost savings and fast deployment.

Read the full article at TECH TALK at Governing.com . . .

Real Estate Agents Less Critical of Appraisers

 In 2010, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) conducted surveys that found more than 40% of respondents saying they had problems with appraisals. But today, May 19, 2014, realty agents say the appraisal landscape has improved somewhat.

In 2010, Realtors said appraisers too often used bargain-priced foreclosures and short sales as "comparables" for valuing houses that were not in financial distress. In addition, NAR membership complained in 2010 that some appraisers traveled far beyond their area of geographic competence and, when they did, were out of touch with local market conditions. Worst of all, critics said too many poorly trained appraisers that had flooded the industry during the boom years were getting the bulk of the valuation assignments from appraisal management firms.

In the most recent survey, however, NAR pollsters found that the share of members reporting major issues with appraisal results was down to 24%. While that is still almost a quarter of all agents in the sample, it's a substantial drop from just a few years ago.

Pat Turner, an appraiser in the Richmond, Va., metro area, said "the sheer number of appraisers has plummeted in the past few years and a lot of the less-competent, poorly trained [ones] have left the business in the wake of the Great Recession."

Source: Florida Realtors

How Early Should We Teach Financial Literacy?

What’s the difference between saving money and investing it? How do you create a budget? To Chicago Treasurer Stephanie Neely, these basic financial questions are best addressed first not with adults -- they should be asked of kids.

“If you get to them in high school, by then it’s too late to change behaviors,” she said during an interview in her City Hall office earlier this month. “With financial literacy, it really is never too early.”

Neely, who is in the middle of her second four-year term, has recently launched her push to make financial literacy a regular piece of the curriculum for Chicago’s grade schoolers. She has imported a program created by the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education in partnership with BMO Financial Group called Talk With Our Kids About Money Day, or “Two-Kam,” as Neely and her staff call it. On April 30, Chicago became the first U.S. city to implement the program, which is starting in about 100 city schools.


Read More at Governing.com . . .

Monday, May 12, 2014

Coral Gables plans to spend $1M on two Sculptures for Traffic Circles

Letter to the Editor MIAMI HERALD May 9th, 2014
The recent departure of our last city manager hopefully heralds the end of an autocratic style of government which minimized the flow of information and marginalized the input of citizens. While optimistically wishing that I am correct, I am concerned. In the City’s “E-News” of May 7, there is another “announcement” about expensive public art pieces being planned for the two “Segovia Circles” at Biltmore Way and Coral Way.
 
 
This is a project conjured up by the departed manager without broad-based input. In fact, it appears that someone in the city has narrowed the list of “artists” to five “semi-finalists.” This is reportedly a $1 million-plus project which has never had a public airing with the citizens who live in the area. The circle at Coral Way it the main entrance to the Greenway Drives – one of our classic historic neighborhoods bordering Granada Golf Course. One would think that the residents should have a voice in determining if (1) they desire to have large art work in the circles and (2) if so, what type of art work. After all, this will impact the vision and value of our homes.
Those of us who live on the Greenways already host one of the City’s most active outdoor centers in our front yards. We have golfers, joggers, skate-boarders, bikers, walkers, walkers with pets (large and small), excessive on-street parking caused by catering events at the Country Club as well as overflow rush hour-traffic (morning and evening) from Coral Way. The homeowners take this activity in stride seven days a week from before dawn to well into the evening.
You would think that the City government might consider that it would be appropriate to give us the courtesy of weighing in on “nice-to-have” but certainly not essential projects which will impact our quality of life. I strongly support art in public places, but I might suggest that the city focus, instead, on solving the crime problems which greatly impact our standard of living.
Isn’t it time to go back to the days of open, participative government with a warm, embracing administration where citizens can be heard?
Jeannett Slesnick, Coral Gables

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/09/4108016/letter-coral-gables-management.html#storylink=cpy