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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

real estate news

Why Hire An EXCLUSIVE Buyer’s Agent

An exclusive buyer’s agent (EBA)is hired to help you with a big monetary decision, which is also a big personal decision. There is a wide variety in the quality of that fiduciary (financial) advice you will get, depending on the agent you choose.

An EBA is required to help their client get the best price and the best terms for the property that they want to buy. They are bound to help protect their client’s financial interests throughout the buying process.

How does buyer brokerage work? 

The company – traditional offices:

An agent who works with a buyer — and has a contract to give that buyer representation — is a buyer’s agent. The vast majority of buyer’s agents work in companies alongside other agents who represent sellers. In those companies, most work with both buyers and sellers. Whenever a buyer puts in an offer for a house listed by that company, the head of that office is a dual agent. Both agents want the highest price for the Seller …they are sub-agents of the Seller.

The company – exclusive buyer brokerage:

That’s why exclusive buyer brokerages are different. They are a small number of companies who don’t help sellers get the highest price for their house or condo. Instead, exclusive buyer’s agents (EBAs) work in firms that only help buyers buy properties. Exclusive buyer’s agents have no colleagues in the office who are trying to sell any particular house or condo. They are not invested in you buying any particular home; they want you to use your money to get what works best for you.

How do exclusive buyers agents help buyers?

Because EBAs don’t list properties for sale, they become buyer experts. They work only in the financial interests of buyers, so they can think clearly about how to get the best place for the best price.

They become experts in what are typical good points and bad points of local housing stock and neighborhoods. They can tell you whether the house you like is typical in your price range or if it is really special. They are free to share negatives, too, to help you avoid problems later.

In order to be fiduciary advisors, EBAs provide a buyer-centered view of the current value of a property you might want to buy. EBAs provide a comparative market analysis to give you an idea of what the property is worth before you decide on a price. Based on the market analysis, and the potential competition for the property, and how much you like it, an EBA will help you decide on a negotiation plan.

Because EBAs work only with buyers, they develop a reputation in the real estate market for having exceptionally prepared buyers.

Because EBAs work with buyers only, they develop a network of lenders who get your mortgage done on time at a competitive price, inspectors who look long and hard for defects in the property, and attorneys who will protect your rights.

What should a buyer ask an agent before hiring them?

  • In the past year, how many sellers have you represented? How many buyers have you represented?
  • If you run into an unusual situation, who do you go to for advice?
  • Tell me about a recent success.
  • Tell me about a recent problem with a house and how you handled it.
  • Can I have three references?

Summer Home Safety Tips

home safety

Have big plans for this summer? Many families across Florida and the nation will spend time away from home during the summer months.

To fully enjoy those activities and other summertime pursuits spent away from home, homeowners should take precautions to protect their residences when they’re not around. Crime rates across the country often start to peak as temperatures rise during the warm weather months – the same time that many families leave their homes unoccupied and unprotected.

Homeowners can take these simple precautions to make their homes less of a target for criminals:

No “Home Alone”: Before leaving your home during the day, make it look as if someone is still at home by using timers on lights in various rooms. Even though daylight hours are longer during the summer, it may still get dark faster than you expect or you may return home later than anticipated, and taking this step ensures that your home appears occupied at all times.

No Sharing on Social Media: Sharing your vacation plans on social media sites isn’t wise. That’s the same as announcing to the world you’ll be gone and the house will be empty – a perfect target for burglars or vandals. The same goes for phone messages.

No Open-Door Policy: Ensure that all doors leading to the home and garage are locked, even when leaving for short periods of time. The typical burglary takes less than five minutes and unlocked doors, combined with an empty home, put out the “welcome mat” for crime. Make sure windows are locked, too.

Someone to Watch Over Me: Be landscape smart. Shrubbery and other plants can grow very rapidly during the warm, wet summer months. Keep them trimmed so neighbors can easily see your home. Also, a burglar could see an unkempt yard as a sign of an empty home.

A Key Reminder: When leaving home, take your house keys along or leave a spare set with a trusted neighbor. Never leave a key under a welcome mat, in a mailbox or other hiding spots – most burglars know where to look.

Crime Doesn’t Take a Vacation: If you’re planning to be away from home for more than a day or two, ask a neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers – or arrange to cancel the paper and hold the mail. Disable your garage door opener and manually lock it from the inside, and don’t forget to check that the door leading from the garage to the home is locked, too.

What Recent NAR Settlement Means for Home Buyers

The Department of Justice, in its regulatory capacity, has recently intervened to reshape commission structures, a move that will trigger a multitude of changes, especially for home buyers.

The National Association of Realtors ( NAR) settlement has not yet been accepted. It is proposed to go into effect at the end of June to mid-July.

The results of the NAR Settlement means that:

1.    NAR owned multiple listing services ( MLS) are prohibited from sharing offers of compensation to Buyers.

2.   MLS members are required to enter into written agreements with the buyers disclosing how they will be paid and by whom before showing a property.

What are Multiple Listing Services (MLS)? They are database platforms that agents and brokers pay to subscribe to. The agents and brokers use it to share information about properties for sale. Subscribers agree to rules about cooperating with and compensating all brokers who subscribe to it. If you are seeing listings on other sites (like Zillow), chances are, those sites are getting a feed from their local MLS.

Since the beginning of buyer agency, the buyer broker’s commission has been built into the sale price of the property. The buyer paid for the house and the seller paid outstanding bills, then collected their profit. Responsible seller’s brokers used a form called a “net sheet” to show sellers what their final profit was. Broker fees were deducted from the sale price along with taxes, water bills, or other costs of the sale.

The MLS system built commissions into the price. The seller, through their broker, published their offered commission to buyer’s broker on the MLS.

If the settlement is accepted and all offers of compensation are removed from the MLS system, we need ways that buyers can continue to pay our fees without undo burden.

1.   Include the Buyer Broker Fee in the Offer and request that it be included in the Sales price. This creates a way that the buyer broker commission is paid for in a mortgage, as part of the house purchase. Functionally, this is exactly the same as it has been. The buyer pays for the house, and the buyer’s broker fee is subtracted from the seller’s profit at closing.

2.   Lenders are seeking ways to create financing options for buyers, so that they can finance the buyer broker commission, if it is not included in the sale price.

3.   Buyers to pay the Buyer Broker fee outside of Closing or as a disbursement at Closing, though not reflected in the sales price. This is de minimis for cash Buyer but requires that a Buyer getting a loan have more cash to close.

Home Buyers will no longer have representation costs built into the real estate transaction when a property is listed through the MLS system and represents a property for sale by a licensed real estate agent, but Sellers will.

Buyers or their agents will have to approach Seller and ask permission to include the cost of representation within the transaction. Sellers have all the power to withhold their permission for the Buyer to do so. Seller’s representation costs, however, will continue to be included in the transaction, using the Buyer’s funds to pay for them.

Every Buyer will be obligated to sign an Exclusive Buyer Agreement in advance of being shown homes that specifies payment terms when seeing a home that is listed by a real estate agent, EVEN IF THE REAL ESTATE AGENT SHOWING THE HOME IS THE LISTING AGENT. THIS IS DUAL AGENCY!

Payment can be made directly by the buyer outside of the transaction, included in an offer to the seller requesting a credit to cover the expense, or through a commission offered by the listing agent. However, commissions won’t be advertised as part of the transaction on the Multiple Listing. Fee arrangements with the client may include an hourly fee, a lump sum fee, or a percentage-based commission.

This is a particular disservice to homebuyers requiring a loan. Buyers will have to pay their own agent out of pocket, on top of a down payment and other closing costs. Finding thousands of dollars to pay an agent could be a challenge, especially for first-time buyers, who typically have limited funds and also the greatest need for an agent’s guidance. VA Loans currently prohit paying a Buyers Agent directly by the Buyer.

The trickle effect resulting from this barrier to entry for first time homebuyers or move up home buyers will likely affect the economy negatively in the near term. Home buying and construction drives jobs, manufacturing, retail and more.

Removing the buyer’s representation cost from the transaction but leaving the seller’s representation cost in is extremely one sided and unfair.

Florida has more real estate agents than any state in the US and over 99.9% of agents in Florida are transactional agents who don’t represent the buyer or seller in a fiduciary capacity. According to Florida statutes, unless an agent establishes a single agent or no brokerage relationship with a customer in writing, they are by default considered transaction brokers.

The Florida Legislature some time back rewrote a law to say that if you’re a fiduciary agent, you have to disclose that, but if you’re transactional broker, you don’t have to. Why is transactional brokerage so attractive to the agents? It is because you don’t have the legal liability, you don’t have the responsibility that a fiduciary agent has.”

Optima Properties is a member of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents

(NAEBA.org) and never represent Sellers. Optima Properties does not list or sell houses and never practice Dual agency. Optima Properties will never ask homebuyers (clients) to sign a “consent form” asking them to switch to another “Designated Buyers Agent or Dual Agent” within the team or same real estate brokerage in the middle of a real estate transaction because the buyer is interested in making an offer on one of their company’s real estate listings.

Click Here for a list of

“100 Services Provided to Home Buyers”

by Optima Properties

Florida Is Not Headed For A Housing Crash

Florida is now America’s fast growing state. According to recent census data, the Sunshine State added over 400,000 additional people between July 2021 to July 2022. It was a growth of 1.9%, bringing the total population to 22,244,823. That makes it faster-growing than Texas, which has the second-largest population in the United States, trailing only California. Florida is a popular destination for retirees, second-home buyers, and investors which is driving up demand for housing.

Florida has consistently maintained one of the highest rates of job growth in the U.S., making it an appealing destination for those seeking employment opportunities and a vibrant lifestyle. This influx of residents contributes to the demand for housing in the state, stimulating the real estate market.

Key Market Indicators:

·      For Sale Inventory: As of December 31, 2023, there are 133,691 properties listed for sale, showcasing a diverse range of options for potential buyers.

·      New Listings: In the same period, 32,615 new listings have entered the market, providing fresh opportunities for those in pursuit of their dream homes.

·      Median Sale to List Ratio: The median sale to list ratio, a key metric indicating market competitiveness, stands at 0.977 as of November 30, 2023.

·      Percent of Sales Over List Price: Notably, 14.5% of sales in November 30, 2023, exceeded the list price, indicating a competitive environment.

·      Percent of Sales Under List Price: On the other hand, 67.9% of sales during the same period were below the list price, providing insights into negotiation dynamics.

Florida’s strong population growth, diverse job market, tourist attractions, affordable property prices, tax benefits, and diversified economy all contribute to making it a hot spot for real estate investment.

Termite Awareness Week- March 10-16, 2024

Florida is home to over twenty different species of termites with the most damaging and common species are subterranean and drywood termites. These termites cause billions of dollars of damage annually in the United States and correct termite identification is pivotal to successful prevention, control, and protection of your home.

Subterranean termites live and invade from underground, and a single colony can cover one acre underneath
homes. They typically live in dark, moist, hidden environments underground but will create and live in carton
nests aboveground. These can be found in walls and attics of structures and in nearby trees. To move above the
ground, these termites build mud tubes on foundations, walls, and nearby trees. These mud tubes are a sign
of termite activity and used for detection.

Drywood termites live and forage in dry wood. There are many different species of drywood termites in Florida,
and these are located throughout the state. They enter structures through swarming from infested trees, stored
wood, or other structures near your home. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termite colonies grow
slowly and thus do not cause as much damage as subterranean termites. A tell-tale sign of drywood termites are
sawdust-like piles near the infestation, these piles are hexagonal shaped pellets or waste of the termite.

Actions you can take to keep air home termite free are:

  • Eliminate sources of standing water in or near the home.
  • Be wary of areas in the home where wood is in contact with soil.
  • Keep piles of lumber or firewood away from your home.
  • Regularly inspect your deck, patio, or outdoor furniture for signs of damage.
  • Remove decaying trees and branches from areas surrounding your yard.
  • Use pine needles, pea gravel, rubber, or other non-organic material as mulch.

Part of your Inspections before purchasing a home should include Wood Destroying Organisms ( WDO) Inspection. Unlike most states, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) requires the licensed WDO Inspector to report on Wood Destroying Organisms.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recommends that you hire a licensed pest control company for correct termite identification and protection for your home. You can find out if a company is licensed in Florida at: https://www.fdacs.gov/Business-Services/Pest-Control. For more info and tips: https://www.fdacs.gov/Consumer-Resources/Health-and-Safety/Protect-Your-Home-from-Pests/Termites.

Benefits of Energy Efficient Homes

A recent survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that energy-efficient features are among the most sought-after “must-haves” among homebuyers. Among those surveyed, 83% desired Energy Star-rated windows, 81% wanted Energy Star-rated appliances and 80% preferred energy-efficient lighting.

Though eco-conscious sensibilities compel millions of homeowners to make their homes more energy-efficient, that’s not the only reason to upgrade your home. The following are a handful of the many benefits of energy-efficient homes.

Save money: The U.S. Department of Energy indicates upgrading to energy efficient appliances products can help homeowners reduce their energy costs by as much as 30%. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates you can save 11% on average on your total energy costs by air sealing your home and adding insulation in the attic and crawl spaces.

Improve resale value: Being able to market your home as energy-efficient when it comes time to sell it may help your resale value, especially as energy-efficient homes become better-known and more in-demand.

According to several studies, energy-efficient homes and apartments garner anywhere from 2% to 8% more in sales prices than their traditional counterparts. Research from the mortgage lender Freddie Mac found that homes with energy-efficient ratings sold for nearly 3% more on average than homes without such ratings.

Live healthier: The benefits of energy-efficient homes aren’t just economic, though health-related benefits certainly produce an economic incentive as well.

Energy-efficient homes boost your comfort level by also enhancing the indoor air quality by reducing pollen, dust, insects, and humidity, which leads to better quality of life.

Energy-efficient appliances are typically quieter than traditional models, as well, making their operation less intrusive to your daily life.

To learn more and find out how to perform some of these improvements yourself, visit DOE’s Energy Saver website.

Tools and Calculators for Homes:

Information, tools, and resource to help consumers seal and insulate their homes, including a DIY Guide to Sealing and Insulating with ENERGY STAR.

Information, tools, and resources to help consumers assess their home’s energy use, including the ENERGY STAR Home Advisor and the ENERGY STAR Home Energy Yardstick.

List of building energy software packages, some of which are available for free or a small fee.

A tool that allows a consumer to determine energy savings and costs associated with replacing non-ENERGY STAR-rated refrigerators.

Information, tools, and resources to help consumers increase the efficiency of their home’s heating and cooling system.

A tool developed as an industry-consensus roof savings calculator for residential and commercial buildings using whole-building energy simulations.

Home Buying Strategies for 2024

For now, economic signals suggest more positive news for buyers in 2024 though no experts are forecasting a return to 3% rates anytime soon. More likely, we will see the 30-year mortgage rate decline closer to 6% according to forecasts from the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors.

Mortgage rates and housing prices are both high while the housing supply is running low. The current market has a 3.6-month supply of unsold home inventory. A balanced market has a supply of five to six months. Despite larger shortages, 92% of markets have seen modest inventory growth over the last three months, according to a November 2023 report from ICE Mortgage Technology.

Until supply catches up to demand, prices are unlikely to fall. Realtor.com estimates prices will fall less than 2% next year and that is a nationwide forecast. Prices in the South are not expected to fall with over 2000 people a month moving to Florida.

More than one in four homes are still selling for above list price, according to October 2023 data from the NAR: 28% of homes sold for above list price that month. Homes for sale spent a median of 23 days on the market and saw an average of 2.5 offers, a sign that competition remains tough.

Don’t let high rates keep you on the sidelines for too long. When rates go down, competition goes up — another reason there’s no time like the present to start house hunting.

How do you compete in this market?

1.    Adjust your criteria and expectations. No one gets 100% of what they want in a home. Decide the features that are your top priority and compromise on the rest. Plan on adding or changing features you can control in the future and shop for those you cannot such as location, community amenities, school districts, and more.

2.    Consider the option to refinance in the future if rates do fall significantly. Nothing in the economy is suggesting that this will happen anytime soon. Waiting around for rates to drop only means that there will be more competition for the homes you can afford while home prices continue to rise. Consider getting into a home that you can afford and leave open the option to refinance in the future to ease your monthly expenditures and invest in home improvements. Should rates not fall, then you are already building equity and are way ahead of where you would be if you waited.

3.    Consider new construction, some developers are offering below market mortgage rates if you use their financing company and often include incentives towards closing costs. You start off with a brand-new roof, appliances, a home warranty, and more so the future expenditures you need for a resale can be applied to your down payment or décor.

2024 Real Estate Forecast

2024 Real Estate Forecast

NAR economist Yun predicts home sales will begin to rise next year – by 13.5% compared to 2023, and the median home price will reach $389,500 – an increase of 0.9% from this year. “Metro markets in southern states will likely outperform others due to faster job increases, while markets in the Midwest will experience gains from being in the most affordable region.”

Yun expects rent prices to calm down further in 2024, which will hold down the consumer price index. He predicts foreclosure rates will stay at historically low levels in 2024, comprising less than 1% of all mortgages.

Yun forecasts the U.S. GDP will grow by 1.5%, avoiding a recession, with net new job additions slowing to 1.7 million in 2024 compared to 2.7 million in 2023, and 4.8 million in 2022. After eclipsing 8% in late 2023, he expects the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to average 6.3% and for the Fed to cut rates four times – calming inflationary conditions – in response to slower economic activity.

Yun also foresees 1.48 million housing starts in 2024, including 1.04 million single-family and 440,000 multifamily.

Florida is home to over 22+ million people—a number that is growing every day. In fact, Florida is the fastest-growing state in the country, adding an average of 1,000 people per day. These new residents are congregated in just a handful of counties. According to an analysis by the Tampa Bay Times, a third of Florida’s new residents wound up in just five counties: Orange, Hillsborough, Lee, Polk, and Palm Beach. These five counties are all located in the state’s southeastern region, known for its warm weather and beaches.

Florida’s growth is largely fueled by migration. Over the last two years, 616,000 new residents have come to Florida from other parts of the country, and 175,000 from other countries. In fact, without migration, Florida would not have grown at all. Its 567,881 deaths exceeded its 478,834 births. And according to projections, by 2030 Florida will have more than 25 million residents.

Florida’s statistics will be greatly influenced by available inventory for sale. The South Florida real estate market still has a significant shortfall or inventory relative the the migration to the area and demand for housing.  Southeast Florida’s housing market is poised for a rebound in sales and sustained price appreciation in 2024.

Should You Buy A House Now Or Wait Until 2024?

Many prospective homebuyers have been left wondering when the time will be right for them to enter the housing market. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate hit 8% this week, the highest level since 2000 but a very moderate rate to the 16.5% I paid for my first home in 1980.
Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist, said waiting for rates to fall before entering the housing market could be a mistake. “The second that happens, buyers will rush back into the market, and we will see a return of bidding wars,” she said.
For homebuyers who are financially prepared to buy a home, locking in a high interest rate now — and refinancing at a lower rate down the road — could be a wise move, Lawrence Yun, stated chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.
Over the next 12 to 18 months, Yun expects mortgage rates to fall from the near-8% they’re at now to below 7%, perhaps even close to 6%, he said. Remember, the real estate adage of  ‘Marry the house and date the rate.’ To put it another way, you can always refinance later. I always advise my buyers to plan on staying in the home for five or more years if you plan on owning a home. If your short term situation involves  moving, then perhaps it is best to rent for the time being.
Many factors will change rates in the future and the housing market is directly influenced by mortgage rates. Many of these factors are unknown at this time. Inflation, world unrest and economic conditions, GDP, and more.
The volume of existing home sales was down more than 15 percent from August 2022 to August of this year, according to the National Association of Realtors.  However in South Florida though the volume of sales where down homes prices have continued to increase month to month due to a lack of inventory with both resale and new construction.
Cash Buyers should get into the market sooner than later since there are no forecasts that predict that home prices will be lower in South Florida in 2024, just the opposite.
No matter which way the real estate market is leaning, though, buying now means you can start building equity immediately. It also means avoiding the potential for additional mortgage rate increases later.
The decision to buy a house in 2023 or wait till 2024 is multifaceted, depending on market conditions, economic forecasts, personal finances, and lifestyle factors. While it’s essential to consider all these elements, remember that a home is not just an investment—it’s a place to live, grow, and create memories. Whether you choose to buy now or wait, ensure it aligns with both your financial goals and personal needs.

Government Shutdown’s Effect on Real Estate Market

While a government shutdown won’t stop people from buying and selling homes, the ripple effects across the economy could be disruptive, especially if it drags on.

Some expect to see delays around mortgage loans, particularly if the shutdown isn’t resolved quickly. Zillow estimates around 2,500 originated loans would be delayed per working day. Homebuyers applying for a government-backed mortgage from the Federal Housing Administration would face processing delays.

A government shutdown could also delay mortgage loan approval for other reasons. In areas where flood insurance is required, for example, buyers could be stalled if the National Flood Insurance Program were to pause operations.

  • Delayed Loan Processing- Some federal agencies, such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), may operate with reduced staffing or close entirely. This can lead to delays in loan approvals and processing, affecting both homebuyers and sellers. It’s essential to inform your clients about the possibility of extended timelines.
  • Verification and Documentation- Many mortgage applications require verification of income, tax returns, and other documentation from government agencies. If these agencies are affected by a shutdown, obtaining necessary documents may become more challenging, further slowing down the mortgage approval process.
  • National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)– The NFIP is vital for many homeowners in flood-prone areas, as lenders often require flood insurance for mortgage approval. A government shutdown could impact the availability of NFIP policies and affect property transactions in flood-prone regions.
  • IRS and Tax TranscriptsThe Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides tax transcripts required for mortgage applications. The IRS would remain funded through the Inflation Reduction Act, but obtaining these transcripts may become difficult, potentially leading to delays in loan processing and closing.
  • Appraisals and Inspections- Government shutdowns may disrupt the scheduling of appraisals and inspections, as federal agencies oversee certain aspects of these processes. Delays in these areas can lead to extended closing times and may affect contract deadlines.
  • Market Uncertainty- A prolonged government shutdown can create uncertainty in the real estate market, causing some buyers and sellers to delay their transactions until stability is restored. This could result in slower market activity and potential fluctuations in home prices.
  • Economic Confidence- Government shutdowns can erode consumer and investor confidence in the economy. If potential buyers and investors become hesitant due to political uncertainty, it may impact the overall demand and stability of the real estate market.