Friday, September 28, 2012

Orlando Economic Indicators - Promising

My interest was peaked yesterday by an article on the current unemployment rate and how the rates this week are lower then expected - always great news. 

As an attorney specializing in Residental and Commercial Real Estate, I am further encouraged by a recent report from Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.  The Commission studies and reports on economic indicators each month.  The September 2012 Economic Indicators for Metro Orlando show a 26.1% increase on building permits in the past year.  Excellent news for our real estate buyers, builders, and bankers.

You can download its overview of September 2012 Economic Indicators for Metro Orlando online for free.

For those interested in commercial real estate, the web site also provides things like this:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Florida Hospital - $270 million expansion

Florida Hospital announced their second-largest capital investment of its 100-year history this week.  The capital investment is expected to total $270 million and to include three new health-care towers - all dedicated to women's health. 

The first tower will be located at Florida Hospital Orlando's campus.  The 12-story Florida Hospital Orlando Women's Pavilion will occupy 400,000 square feet on the main Florida Hospital campus. It is the only one of the towers that will have patient rooms. The $233 million tower will have 332 licensed beds and a neonatal intensive-care unit. It is expected to open in early 2015.

The second building will be a four-story Celebration Health Women's Institute located at Florida Hospital Celebration Health and will occupy 80,000 square feet and house physician offices in addition to women's health services.  The $19 million tower is scheduled to open next fall.

The third building will be on the campus of Winter Park Memorial Hospital.  The smallest of the three buildings, at 22,000 square feet and two stories, the Winter Park Women's Health Pavilion will offer services related to heart conditions, digestive disorders and menopause management. The $15 million facility is slated to open next summer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Florida Bottomed in 2009

A new home sales measure says Florida prices hit a soft bottom in 2009, years earlier than what some experts have declared as the low point for real estate.

The measure, similar to the respected national Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller price index, was created by Florida Realtors Chief Economist John Tuccillo to be a more accurate reflection of sale prices in the state.

Tuccillo said he was surprised that the index pointed to 2009 as a bottom, but said that was also a time when investors began eyeing Florida for real estate deals.

“Since then we’ve been sort of rocking along on a bumpy road,” said Tuccillo, who developed the index over about a year’s time. “It’s essentially been flat, but in this context flat is probably good news after the large run-up and drop.”

According to the index, Florida sales prices increased 152 percent from January 2000 to the peak of the market in November 2006. They fell 43 percent from the peak to mid-2009.
Realtors have long complained that the current method of reporting monthly median home sales prices doesn’t offer a true measure of increasing and decreasing values. The median, which means half of homes sold above the price and half below, can be greatly influenced if a large number of either distressed properties or luxury homes sell in one month.

A report on August’s sales of existing homes will be released today using the median price measure.

Florida’s new index is considered a “repeat sales index.” It combines Florida Department of Revenue data with prices of the same individual properties sold over time. The index is expected to be released quarterly but because of a lag in some statewide data, the first index runs only through August 2011.

Like Case-Shiller, the Florida home price index measures sales as compared with January 2000 when the index was set at 100. Case-Shiller’s Florida data include Tampa and South Florida, which combines Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

National Association of Realtors spokesman Walter Moloney said he’s not aware of another state that has its own price index. California releases an “affordability index” that measures the percentage of all households that can afford to purchase a single-family home, but its sale prices are reported as a median.

While the public may prefer a median sales price that reports an actual dollar figure over an index, the index is considered more accurate.

Still, Palm Beach County Realtors said a statewide index doesn’t always reflect regional specifics.

Kevin Kent, a broker-associate with Platinum Properties, which has offices in Jupiter, Juno Beach and Stuart, said South Florida’s home sale prices probably hit a bottom later than 2009.

“When you step back and look at the entire state, that’s probably accurate,” Kent said. “But when you break it down into pockets and certain areas that were hit the hardest, the numbers wouldn’t be the same.”

In April, analysts at the online real estate database Zillow said South Florida sale prices hit bottom at the end of 2011. Case-Shiller’s index shows a bottom in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties in April 2011, but that prices had stabilized some before that.
Florida International University real estate professor Ken H. Johnson agrees that 2011 marked the bottom.

“Back in November, I thought it was pretty clear we had bottomed and housing was as affordable as it’s been in 40 years,” he said. “I said that was the turn, and we’ve not seen prices go down.”

This article can be found at the following link:
Florida home prices bottomed earlier than previously thought,...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Business and Florida Lawsuit Climate

As a Floridian and an attorney, I can honestly say that the following Press Release was not a surprise.  It feels like Florida can not stay out of the media lately.  It is disappointing that businesses may not be expanding into our state due to our state's lawsuit climate. 

September 10, 2012
Seven in 10 business leaders say lawsuit climate ‘significant factor’ in determining where to expand, grow

WASHINGTON, D.C.— A new national survey released today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) finds that Florida’s lawsuit climate is among the worst in the country, coming in at number 41 out of 50. The significance of a state’s legal climate on business expansion decisions has steadily increased over the last five years.

Seven out of ten respondents say a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, such as where to locate or expand their businesses, a 13 percent increase from the survey results just five years ago.

“As our economic downturn has continued, a growing percentage of business leaders have identified a state’s lawsuit climate as a significant factor in determining their growth and expansion plans, and the jobs that come along with them,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. “That makes the consequences of this survey even more significant to the economic growth of Florida.”

According to the study Creating Conditions for Economic Growth: The Role of the Legal Environment, completed for ILR by NERA Economic Consulting in 2011, Florida could save $2.8 billion in tort costs and increase employment by between .73-1.98% by improving its legal climate. “Florida’s litigation climate can be attributed in large part to its notorious reputation for exorbitant jury awards,” said Rickard.

Harris Interactive conducted the survey Lawsuit Climate 2012: Ranking the States by telephone and online between March and June 2012. The respondents—general counsels and senior attorneys or leaders in companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million—were asked to rank states for their overall treatment of tort, contract, and class action litigation. Among other elements, respondents also ranked states for the impartiality and competence of their judges and the fairness of their juries.

See the entire 50-state list and read a full copy of Lawsuit Climate 2012: Ranking the States online at:

For all media information, video clips and press releases on the Lawsuit Climate 2012: Ranking the States survey, go to: ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.
Contact: Mike Lepage
Contact Phone: 202-463-5554

Thursday, September 6, 2012

National Foreclosure Settlement and the Big Banks

The unprecedented foreclosure crisis has hit the State of Florida hard.  There are not many people who have not felt the effect of the crisis. The State of Florida, with Attorney General Pam Bondi acting on behalf of the citizens of the Florida, joined in with all the state attorneys general across the country in a suit against the five biggest banks.

In February 2012, the settlement was entered and the money has now been forwarded by the banks to the states in accordance with the agreement.  In a press release issued by Attorney General Bondi's office, it appears 23,000 Floridians will recieve an excess of $1.7 billion in relief. The press release comes after Joseph A. Smith, Jr., Monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement, released a report that outlines details about the settlement, steps his office has taken to implement it and progress made by the five banks that are parties to the settlement to date.
Read the actual report online here or read Joseph Smith's news release here.

Monitor Issues Interim Report on Relief Provided to Homeowners Under the National Mortgage Settlement

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –Today, Joseph Smith, Jr., the national mortgage settlement monitor, released an interim report on homeowner relief that the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers have provided as of June 30.

Based upon figures voluntarily provided by the servicers, but not yet verified by the monitor, more than 23,000 Floridians have received an excess of $1.7 billion in relief under the settlement. The relief provided thus far includes first and second lien principal forgiveness, forgiveness of past forbearance, refinancing, and deficiency waivers.

The report also details the servicers' progress on reforming their servicing practices as required by the settlement agreement. The interim report includes a timetable for future reports with the monitor’s first audited report expected in April 2013.

“I am pleased to see that progress is being made under the settlement as the mortgage servicers begin to implement procedures designed to fulfill their obligations to Florida's homeowners,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “I will continue to work with the monitor to ensure that the mortgage servicers fulfill their obligations under the settlement agreement.”

In February, Attorney General Bondi entered a landmark $25 billion joint federal-state agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses and unacceptable nationwide mortgage servicing practices. In addition to the terms of the national settlement agreement, Attorney General Bondi separately negotiated an agreement with the nation’s three largest mortgage servicers to ensure that a guaranteed portion of the overall settlement funds goes to Florida borrowers.

Attorney General Pam Bondi News Release
August 29, 2012
Media Contact: Jenn Meale Phone: (850) 245-0150

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Guide for when a loved one dies

Many of our clients do not know what immediate steps to take when a loved one dies. A recent Consumer Reports article provided a great checklist.

What to do when a loved one dies
Our advice can keep a sad event from becoming even more painful
Consumer Reports magazine: October 2012
When Jeanne Kiefer’s mother died at 93 under hospice care, the nurse knew whom to call and what to do, so the death and its immediate aftermath were, in Kiefer’s words, “peaceful” and “seamless.” She and her sister had discussed end-of-life arrangements—the hospice nurse and counselor “bring it up and encourage you to kind of deal with it,” said Kiefer, a research consultant in Cave Creek, Ariz.—and could focus on being with their mother.
Compare that with the experience of Kiefer’s relative, whose 97-year-old mother died at home attended by a nurse’s aide and children who hadn’t discussed end-of-life plans. The aide couldn’t legally declare the mother’s death, so the family called 911. The police came, began CPR, and investigated the scene as a potential crime, questioning the family to rule out elder abuse. Only when paramedics arrived could the body be removed and resuscitation attempts stopped.
File this checklist to use when needed to keep a sad event from becoming even more painful. Responsibility for the various actions can be divided among family members and close friends of the deceased.

1. Get a legal pronouncement of death. If no doctor is present, you’ll need to contact someone to do this:
  • If the person dies at home under hospice care, call the hospice nurse, who can declare the death and help facilitate the transport of the body.
  • If the person dies at home without hospice care, call 911, and have in hand a do-not-resuscitate document if it exists. Without one, paramedics will generally start emergency procedures and, except where permitted to pronounce death, take the person to an emergency room for a doctor to make the declaration.
2. Arrange for transportation of the body. If no autopsy is needed, the body can be picked up by a mortuary (by law, a mortuary must provide price info over the phone) or crematorium.
3. Notify the person’s doctor or the county coroner.
4. Notify close family and friends. (Ask some to contact others.)
5. Handle care of dependents and pets.
6. Call the person’s employer, if he or she was working. Request info about benefits and any pay due. Ask whether there was a life-insurance policy through the company.

Within a few days after death
7. Arrange for funeral and burial or cremation. Search the person’s documents to find out whether there was a prepaid burial plan. Ask a friend or family member to go with you to the mortuary. Prepare an obituary.
8. If the person was in the military or belonged to a fraternal or religious group, contact that organization. It may have burial benefits or conduct funeral services.
9. Ask a friend or relative to keep an eye on the person’s home, answer the phone, collect mail, throw food out, and water plants.
Up to 10 days after death
10. Obtain death certificates (usually from the funeral home). Get multiple copies; you’ll need them for financial institutions, government agencies, and insurers.
11. Take the will to the appropriate county or city office to have it accepted for probate.
12. If necessary, the estate’s executor should open a bank account for the deceased’s estate.
13. Contact:
  • A trust and estates attorney, to learn how to transfer assets and assist with probate issues.
  • Police, to have them periodically check the deceased’s house if vacant.
  • Accountant or tax preparer, to find out whether an estate-tax return or final income-tax return should be filed.
  • The person’s investment adviser, for information on holdings.
  • Bank, to find accounts and safe deposit box.
  • Life insurance agent, to get claim forms.
  • Social Security (800-772-1213; and other agencies from which the deceased received benefits, such as Veterans Affairs (800-827-1000;, to stop payments and ask about applicable survivor benefits.
  • Agency providing pension services, to stop monthly check and get claim forms.
  • Utility companies, to change or stop service, and postal service, to stop or forward mail.