Tuesday, August 8, 2006


As I alluded to in the previous post, I wanted to discuss the topic of Insurance and specifically Condo Association Insurance. Again, as I've stated while writing the Market Trends post, this also has been a topic in the news that is of great concern to many of us.

Insurance in itself has gotten out of control in the State of Florida. I won't deny that I am not sure as to the rest of the nation, but in Florida we are probably pushing toward an epidemic of sorts.

If you are not aware of what is occurring, than let me recap for a moment. Firstly, the cost of most housing insurance has skyrocketed in the State of Florida. I started becoming more aware of this situation while helping a client who was relocating to the western side of the State much earlier this year. Now, granted, we expected the insurance to be higher because there was a pool involved, but when quoted that the least expensive would cost $2300/year, we were totally astonished. Couldn't believe that we were getting rates upwards of $2800.

Anyway, we've most likely heard about people being dropped by their insurer, therefore, not being renewed and having to search out other options. In Florida, we have a state insurance fund of last resort, Citizens Insurance. Unfortunately, we've heard the debacle that they are in. Oh by the way, we are all paying for that with surcharges on our policies, whether you are with Citizens or another carrier.

Citizens actually has to have higher rates so that they are not in direct competition with the other insurers that wish to do business in Florida and write policies. Citizen has also become the largest insurer in the State of Florida due to others pulling out. This has put all of us in a precarious position.

OK, enough of that doom & gloom. Now to another aspect of the insurance industry that is also quite scary and will affect so many lives & unfortunately be devasting to quite a few. When you purchase a condo, you should get homeowners insurance. Now the condo association also has a master policy covering the association, buildings, common grounds, etc.

Here's the first part of the sad part. There are fewer & fewer insurers that are wishing to provide this for these associations. Many are just dropping these assocations, while many others are in some instances quadrupling the association rates. I know of one community where I've been told that because of the rate increase they are going to have to raise the monthly maintenance fees that the condo owners pay at least $100. In the Orlando Sentinel, it was mentioned last week, that Lake Villas in Altamonte Springs off of Maitland Ave. has their rates increasing from approximately $33K/year to $197K. This in turn is requiring them to increase the monthly maintenance fee by $200/month.

Can you believe that? Do you understand how this will effect the owners there, many probably on fixed incomes. This will force people from their homes into uncertainty. This for many is like an additional mortgage payment.

Unbelievable, but what really gets me are the insurance companies. All of a sudden we are hearing of their supposed wows. Bunk!! How dare they! Do they give us breaks when they are making lots of money? I don't think so! But, we surely do hear them complain when they have to pay out large sums for the natural catastrophes that we've experienced in the last couple of years.

But & this is what really gets me, they have actuaries. An actuary's job is that of a statistician to compute risks & therefore premiums. So, they had a few years where they had to pay out. How about all of those years in which they didn't have to pay out so much? Again, did they give us a refund? Anyway, we all know that the weather is cyclical. We've gone through periods of this before. This is not something new. But the insurers are asking for increases & getting them, royally.

Where does this put us all? Unfortunately, like I stated at the outset, insurance in the State of the Florida is heading toward epidemic proportions. The state needs to do something and quickly. That means NOW!! Do you think they are listening?

Until next time...Marc It Sold!

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Market Trends

My original intention with this blog, was to include more tips on caring for your home & to tell you more about me. But it seems that the slant has been more towards market trends. To some this may be boring & I apologize for that. But it is very important to us. Real Estate has become a much published topic. We read about it in the newspapers & on the net. We hear about it on the evening news. We've seen it & it's effect in our daily lives.

Granted, a lot of what I've written is my educated opinion, obviously derived from my experience; sources that I've read; and, speaking with other real estate professionals. I've mentioned before that I really like numbers. They don't tell the whole picture, but do give us a great insight into what is happening. This is why I've tried to back up my opinions with facts & numbers, so it doesn't seem as if I'm just spouting off at the mouth. Goodness, knows I can do that also.

But the reason that I've written more about the market trends, is that this effects us all and is very important. With all that we've seen & heard in the real estate market, I think that it is something that needs to be addressed. We've all seen the doom & gloom articles & editorials and a lot of what I've read is pure bunk. My intentions are to try to give you a balanced account of the state of real estate. Yes, I do have my prejudices & biases, but I do try to keep those to a minimum when writing an opinion.

Sometimes, it is difficult for me to decide what to write about. There has been so much in the news that is of great concern. So, today, I am going to discuss the annual housing report released by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies - "The State of the Nation's Housing 2006." http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/publications/markets/son2006/index.htm

The report overall is positive on the housing market - that "the housing sector continues to benefit from solid job & household growth, recovering rental markets, & strong home price appreciation," and as long as these remain in place, "the current slowdown should be moderate."

Households are expected to accelerate from about 12.6 million over the past years, to 14.6 million over the next ten which combined with projected income gains and a "rising tide of wealth" should "lift housing production and investment to new highs."

However, affordability will also intensify, as the economy is generating many low-wage jobs and land use restrictions are driving up housing costs. Incomes are rising much faster in the top ranges than in the bottom ranges for homebuyers. The number of households paying more than half of their income for housing has shot up & will continue to increase.

We've seen & heard about affordable rental housing disappearing. Just look at all of the condo conversions that we've seen around.

The report also goes into financing in that we've seen a shift from fixed-rate mortgages to adjustable-rate mortgages & other products. In just 2 years, the interest-only loan shot from relative obscurity to 20% of the dollar value of all loans & 37% of all adjustable rate loans in 2005. Payment option loans accounted for nearly 10% in 2005.

As bad as that sounds, the report says that only 3% of owners had equity less than 5% in their homes & 87% had a 20% or higher equity in 2004.

Housing gains are continuing even while home sales are softening. Driving housing will be the baby boomers who will boost markets for senior housing & second home.

Until next time when I plan to discuss the rising insurance rates & condo associations - Marc It Sold!