It is the end of another glorious week of sunny weather on Sanibel. Traffic has subsided and the islands are thinning out, but surprisingly, business again was brisk for us this week. Here are a few news items, followed the Sanibel and Captiva Islands Multiple Listing Service activity over the past seven days.
Here are some favorite island flowers to illustrate that with our Southwest Florida tropical weather, the islands of Sanibel and Captiva are colorful year-’round. Hope you like the one with the turtle.
No Realtor® Caravan This Week
Usually it is local “off season” signal when our Realtor® Caravans change from every Thursday to every other week. That off-season schedule began this week and probably will continue until November, or until business picks up again. Interestingly, for us at SanibelSusan Realty, however, this was another busy week.
I sold one of our lot listings to some European visitors, while an off-island Realtor® sold one of our condo listings. An offer on another condo is in the works, while our other two sales transactions (ready to close soon) are progressing well. All-in-all, it was another productive week, though unusual for this time of the year. All we can say is “keep it coming”.
Visit CROW’s New Visitor Center
On Monday evening, CROW (Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc.) held an open house for island Realtors® at their new Healing Winds Visitor Center. Though I have been a long-time CROW member and supporter of this wonderful facility, it was my first opportunity to leisurely check out their new exhibits and talk to the new Hospital Director, Dr. Heather Barron. Dr. Heather joined their staff in January.
This special event was a follow-up to CROW Executive Director Steve Greenstein’s recent presentation to our Association membership. If you also have not recently visited CROW, please put it on your “do list”. I have some free passes to the Visitors Center and their daily (Tues through Sat) programs at 11 a.m. are continually changing as are the exhibits in the Center. Geared to educate adults and children alike, CROW’s offerings have greatly expanded during my 20 years on Sanibel as has their number of patients. If you plan to visit CROW during one of these 11 a.m. programs, consider a Friday, when they often have live animals in their cooperative presentation with partners from the Calusa Nature Center.
Is Florida’s Shadow Inventory a Rebound Threat?
This article was posted on Florida Realtors® on Tuesday. Note, the full report – The Distressed Property Market and Shadow Inventory in Florida: Estimates and Analysis – is available online.
“The term “shadow inventory” hangs over the real estate market, suggesting a thinly veiled catastrophe seen through the mist, just as the passengers of the Titanic watched an iceberg draw closer. However, a white paper written by Florida Realtors® Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo finds the fear of a shadow inventory overrated.
““The fear…is that the inventory of delinquent and foreclosed loans (will be released onto) an already weakened market,” says Tuccillo. “(But) the reality, even in Florida where distressed properties make up a significant portion of the market, appears to be different.” Tuccillo says lenders have no reason to flood the real estate market with more homes if doing so would drive prices down and impact the lender’s profit. While some observers worry that lenders were holding back on purpose, Tuccillo says that’s not so – that the large number of distressed properties on hold was “largely the result of confusion over the rules of the game, and thus missteps by the lenders.”
“In conducting an analysis, Florida Realtors® Research looked at data from MLSs around the state and data provided by CoreLogic, a statistical analysis company. “We looked at the recent history of distressed property listings and transactions relative to normal market data, as well as estimates for the shadow inventory, and came to some conclusions about the likely course (for the) future,” says Tuccillo.
• Florida remains one of the nation’s hardest hit states for distressed property sales.
• Distressed property sales and listings have declined since late 2010, except for single-family-home short sales.
• Average prices for distressed and normal property sales have been stabilizing.
• In general, Realtors and lenders have learned how to cope with distressed properties in a way that stabilizes the market.
• Florida’s highest percentage of distressed property (compared to total listings) occurs in the I-4 corridor and Southeast Florida; the lowest percentages occur in Northwest Florida.
• Currently, Florida’s shadow inventory was 550,000 units at the end of 2011, a decline of about 9% from its peak in the first quarter of 2010.
• Currently, the flow of new seriously delinquent (90 days or more) loans moving into the shadow inventory is offset by the roughly equal flow of distressed sales (short sales and REOs).
• The number of foreclosures and REOs was significantly lower in February of 2012 than one year earlier, suggesting slower shadow inventory growth.
“Tuccillo predicts that distressed properties will be a significant feature of the Florida real estate market over the next ten years, but it will be considered just one property type a buyer can consider – one that has its own unique sales techniques and documentation.”
Update on Citizens (Wind) Property Insurance
An article in the Miami Herald on Tuesday offered the following:
“Citizens Seeks Fewer Customers, Higher Premiums – Citizens Property Insurance has some new ambitious goals: Move as many as 678,000 policyholders out of state-run insurance and once again become the “insurer of last resort.” Its strategy: Enact a flurry of policy changes that will undoubtedly raise premiums and reduce coverage for thousands. Citizens which unveiled the aggressive “depopulation” plan this month in a revised budget proposal, says it is doing so to prevent statewide financial havoc in the wake of a major hurricane. “Citizens has the ability to levy assessments (hurricane taxes) on almost all Florida policyholders in the event of a deficit after a storm,” spokeswoman Christine Ashburn said in an email. “The long term goal will continue to be returning policies to the private market, which is ultimately how we can reduce the reliance on assessments.”
“But some homeowners have already been impacted by the first wave of Citizens’ campaign to drastically reduce its size and shore up its finances. Patricia Temple, of Coral Gables, is bracing for a $2,150 premium increase this year, after Citizens sent an inspector to her home and decided her payments were too low. “I have to do what I have to do because I (can) not be without insurance,” said Temple, who is 79 and retired. “But I don’t understand how they can do this if the Legislature put in a 10% cap on rate increases.” Temple became a Citizens client after Liberty Mutual, her insurer of 50 years, dropped her. Though she says she has not made a property insurance claim in five decades, Citizens raised her rates by 50%.
“Stories like Temple’s are echoed by thousands of policyholders who say they’ve seen costs suddenly spike despite never making a claim or experiencing hurricane damage. Under a sweeping re-inspection program, Citizens has sent inspectors to 158,000 buildings in the last two years. As inspectors check roofs and windows, more often than not, they find something that translates into higher premiums, with an average increase of nearly $900. Another 209,000 inspections are scheduled for this year, and Citizens recently proposed a new $50,000 contract for a new study of wind mitigation credits. The study is likely to lead to premium increases, and Citizens board member John Rollins indicated the return on investment for the study would be measured in millions of dollars.
“Sean Shaw, founder of Policyholders of Florida, said that money will ultimately come out of the pocket of hard-working homeowners, who are paying more for less coverage. “People are at such a disadvantage when Citizens does this,” he said. “It’s like they’re treating people like data points.”
“Despite recent moves to reduce wind mitigation credits and raise rates on sinkhole coverage, Citizens has not experienced any significant reduction in size (the insurer swelled from 800,000 policies in 2007 to more than 1.4 million today). Citizens’ depopulation push will soon go into overdrive, with several hard-charging coverage changes set to kick in over the next 18 months. Ideally, Citizens would like to shrink by 45% to 794,308 policies in the very near future.
“With private insurers still wary about the Florida market, it’s not clear where 678,000 current policyholders will go for coverage when contracts end with Citizens. Citizens’ theory is that its artificially low rates discourage private insurers by making the market uncompetitive. It’s banking on more private insurers picking up the slack as it depopulates.
“Here are a few of the changes that begin Tuesday for Citizens policyholders:
• Homeowners who need to join Citizens will have to submit written proof that there is no private insurer able to provide affordable coverage for their home.
• Citizens will no longer offer Builders’ risk insurance for new homes.
• Coverage for carports, screened enclosures and fences will end for renewal policies.
• The personal liability coverage limit will decline from $300,000 to $100,000.
“The push to depopulate is set to intensify in the months ahead, and those with Citizens coverage can expect to be impacted by at least one of several policy changes being proposed. Among them:
• Uncapping rates for new policies, causing new policyholders to pay as much as 50% more than existing customers for similar coverage.
• Requiring new electrical and plumbing inspections for older homes.
• Requiring new inspections and likely higher premiums in sinkhole-prone counties.
• Increasing deductibles for “all other perils” coverage.
“Most of the changes are being enacted without the Legislature, which this year declined to pass major property insurance reform. With hurricane season set to begin in a month, Citizens says it must tamp down its level of risk in order to avoid financial calamity for all consumers. While the company has been able to build up a surplus of more than $6 billion during a 6-year streak without a major storm, financial models show that a large hurricane this year could wipe out those funds and other resources. That would lead to assessments for Citizens’ customers and potentially for all insurance policyholders in the state. That’s why the Citizens board of directors, with the support of Gov. Rick Scott, is trying to attract private insurers back into the market by shrinking Citizens as quickly as possible.
““It is important that Citizens work towards having adequate rates to reduce the likelihood of assessments on all Florida policyholders,” said Ashburn. Some say those private insurers are never coming back, particularly in the state’s high-risk areas where it doesn’t make financial sense to underwrite homes. “We’d all love to see the depopulation of Citizens, but guess what? The private companies are not coming back to this area,” Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, told Citizens’ executives last week. “Please, please, leave the people alone that are struggling.””
Sanibel & Captiva Multiple Listing Service Activity April 27- May 4
Nothing to report.
This representation is based in whole or in part on data supplied by the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Association of Realtors or its Multiple Listing Service. Neither the association nor its MLS guarantees or is in any way responsible for its accuracy. Data maintained by the association or its MLS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market. The information provided represents the general real estate activity in the community and does not imply that SanibelSusan Realty Associates is participating or participated in these transactions. If your property currently is listed with another broker, this is not intended as a solicitation of that listing.