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

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"