2010 a ‘Challenging’ Year With Slowly Improving Economy

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dec. 21, 2010 – The state of the economy remains the top story of 2010, and many of this year’s real estate issues relate to the recovery’s ups and downs. Here’s a recap of this year’s top real estate stories, as determined by editors of Florida Realtors’ News:

Amendment 4: We came, we saw, we conquered
Amendment 4’s defeat at the ballot box in November gave Florida Realtors a stunning victory. The group that introduced the amendment hoped it would short circuit state growth management laws, but it would have done so with a sledgehammer. Had Amendment 4 passed, it would have burdened the courts with a series of lawsuits, and convinced companies to steer clear of The Sunshine State because it was anti-business and anti-growth. At the state level, Florida Realtors fought hard in partnership with The “Vote No on 4” coalition; at the grassroots level, Realtors called lawmakers, posted signs, and explained the reasons to vote no on 4 to neighbors and clients.

We see a light at the end of the tunnelThe real estate market is cyclical and will once again thrive – but when? In 2010, more than supply and demand influenced the market. Each time the market received a bit of good news, something happened. Tax credits ended, banks pulled back on lending and foreclosures stopped closing. But signs continue to point to a stabilizing and slowly improving economy. The market remains solid if not stellar, and most economists predict a positive trend in 2011.

Going, going, gone – homebuyer tax credit
To boost home sales and bolster the economy, Congress created a first-time homebuyer tax credit and extended it three times, tinkering with the rules each time. But the final tax credit – which included more than just first-time buyers – drew to a close on April 30, 2010, for clients under contract. (Note: Military buyers still qualify.) Florida saw a groundswell of signed contracts in April but a drop-off by mid-summer as interested shoppers hurried to take advantage of the contract deadline. By the end of 2010, however, falling home prices and record-low interest rates made homebuying a bargain even without the tax credit, and the Florida housing sector seemed to be tentatively and warily stabilizing.

Florida Open House Weekend – A celebration of homebuyingAs the homebuyer tax credit drew to a close, Florida Realtors introduced the state’s first-ever “Florida Open House Weekend” to highlight all the buying opportunities from Pensacola to Key West, and as a way to help potential buyers sign a contract early enough to take advantage of the homebuyer tax credit. More than 15,000 houses opened their doors to buyers in the largest single open house event across the state, and the largest open housing event of the year.

Those robo-signing, disorganized lenders made mistakesAs the number of foreclosures grew, Realtors took them on and turned them into business opportunities. However, sales in some cities ground to a halt for awhile as more people facing a foreclosure asked a simple question: Who owns my mortgage? As the inner workings of some lenders unraveled, the public found out that banks blindly signed foreclosure docs, called a pseudo-mortgage owner (MERS – Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems) the mortgage owner, and turned a blind eye to legitimate complaints, such as “I don’t have a mortgage on my house – I don’t even have a checking account with you.” Paperwork problems cancelled or delayed a number of closings in the fall of 2010, and some buyer’s agents who specialized in foreclosures found their business at a standstill. By the end of 2010, the paperwork problem seemed mostly resolved, but as more foreclosures roll onto the market, 2011 could hold a few more surprises.

Don’t touch our sugar sand beachesThe economy and lending problems hit Florida real estate sales with a one-two punch, but an environmental disaster kicked the sector when it was down. An oil rig owned by BP exploded on April 10, 2010, and it took three months to cap the flow. In the meantime, millions of gallons of oil tainted the Gulf, with some of it ending up as tar balls on Florida’s famous sugar sand beaches. Eventually BP ceded control of damage payouts to the federal government. As part of that package, Florida Realtors convinced the fund administrator, Kenneth Feinberg, that Realtors’ livelihoods were hurt and, along with other Gulf states, received control of a special fund to reimburse Realtors in Florida who suffered a business loss.

Little interest in mortgage interest deduction?By the end of 2010, a philosophical shift started to occur among U.S. lawmakers. The highest branches of government started to question the value of homeownership for Americans. Many thought the federal push to put as many people as possible into a home – done in part by tax incentives – played a role in the economic slowdown and housing collapse. However, the U.S. tax structure rewards homeownership by allowing taxpayers to deduct mortgage interest paid as well as property taxes – a reward for homeowners. Should that benefit be dropped? Does it even work? Only a handful of people propose a complete negation of the benefit, but expect a fight to water it down heading into 2011, with a tax credit for second homeowners and equity lines of credit in the crosshairs.

© 2010 Florida Realtors®

Althea Garner
Preferred Realty Executives (Florida and California)
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817
772-626-1768

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:
http://www.houseofhomesonline@gmail.com

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
President-Elect – 2011 (Saint Lucie County)
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009

REALTORS(R) Association of Saint Lucie
Vice Chair, Global Business – 2011

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