Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Florida Passes Tax Reform Amendment

As of 11:40 p.m. the precincts are still reporting, but it looks like Amendment 1 (Florida's Property Tax Reform Amendment) has passed by a pretty wide margin. So, let's recap again what this Amendment means:

  • "Doubles" the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000. However, the 2nd $25k does not apply to school taxes (~30% of most property tax bills), so it's more like an additonal $15,000 exemption. (Assuming a 2% tax rate thats about $300).
  • Portability of Save Our Homes. SOH is Florida's cap on how much your property taxes can go up in a year. Previous to this amendment passing, once you sold your home and moved, you lost your built up savings and had to start again in your new home. Now, take a good portion of it with you.
  • Snowbird only living in Florida part time (non-homesteaded)? Your property tax increases will now be capped at 10% per year. Big whup now you say... but if there's ever a time like 2003-2006 when property taxes nearly doubled for some folks, you'll be happy with this change.
Time will tell if this is *the* spark that the Florida real estate market needs. Those on the fence don't have too many excuses left to wait now.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Find Arizona Retirement Communities On Our New Site

In the last couple of years, as Florida has fallen out of favor a little bit because of high prices, high taxes, high insurance, and hurricanes, more and more boomers have been thinking about Arizona for their new retirement community.

I've talked to several boomers who have made the move from the Northeast to Arizona, and even some who went to Florida first, and they all love the climate and the Arizona retirement communities they found.

If you are also considering Arizona for your retirement plans, I've got great news. The next edition of the for Boomers book series will be Arizona for Boomers: Guide to Retirement Communities.

Feel free to click the link and check out the site. It's a work in progress, and we'll be adding more articles and resources each day to help you find an Arizona retirement community. I don't have an ETA on the book yet, but rest assured we'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Florida and Allstate Insurance Toe-to-Toe

My advice to people moving to Florida and shopping for homeowners insurance is to always check with your current carrier (assuming you're happy with the rates and service you receive) to see if they offer policies in Florida.

Well, for the time being, if your current insurer is Allstate, you're out of luck. Allstate is locked in a battle with Florida's Insurance Commissioner over documents regarding the rates Allstate charges for hurricane insurance.

Florida's Insurance Commisioner originally ordered Allstate to stop selling homeowner's policies until the matter was resolved, but has now gone a step further and has ordered Allstate to stop writing ALL new policies, including automobile policies.

I don't expect this little tif to last too long...I can't see how the citizen's of Florida come out a winner in having one of the largest insurers not being able to write new policies. Granted, this does not effect policies currently in place or their renewals. But in my mind, healthy competition is about the only thing that ever seems to keep prices down.

Update 1: That was fast...by order of the 1st District Court of Appeals, Allstate is back open for business.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Two Weeks Until Florida Property Tax Vote

Two weeks from today on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 Floridians will step into the voting booths... hanging chads and all... and decide on an important property tax measure.

If approved, the measure, among other things, will serve two main purposes:

1) It will "double" the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 (Uh, not really double...read what I'm talking about here) and

2) It will also provide portability of the Save Our Homes Tax (Not sure what that is? Learn more here)

You can read more about the property tax bill at http://www.yeson1florida.com/amendment_1.php

Also, this past weekend I read a good (good meaning funny) column in a local paper which "answers some questions" about this whole Florida property tax issue. Think you'll enjoy it!

My favorite question and its "brilliant" answer:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sun City Center FL: A Complete Guide

Do you know what one of Florida’s first retirement communities was? Sun City Center, located near Tampa Florida began in the early 1960’s and is still under development today. The internet is loaded with information about Sun City Center but sometimes the information is very outdated, and searching online can just get overwhelming.

To solve this problem, and as a follow-up to my first e-book about The Villages, I've put together a complete 117 page guide for Sun City Center at: SunCityCenterFloridaBook.com

You'll find a ton of great information including a complete detailed community overview, useful links, information about buying a home in Sun City Center, what it costs to live there, golf in Sun City Center, and much more. Check it out.

Be sure to watch this space for announcements on guides to other Sun City communities around the country.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Bankrupt Home Builders Break Dreams

What a scary time to be a buyer in the real estate market right now. While everyone knows it's a buyers market, the deals are great, and prices are falling faster than a rock, you still have to be careful about taking that final leap and putting a contract on a new home someplace warm.

In November 2007, a popular builder of active adult retirement communities throughout the SunBelt, Levitt and Sons, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This has left buyers stranded with partially or wholly unfinished homes, not to mention unfinished community amenities. Deposits as high as $50k per, are also presumed lost.

Levitt and Sons is a "wholly owned subsidiary of Levitt Corporation (NYSE: LEV) whose other divisions include Core Communities and bluegreen Vacation Resorts. Levitt Corp. is apparently trying to sever its ties all together with Levitt and Sons so that they won't have to pick up the tab for the unfinished homes, communities, and lost deposits. Merry Christmas have a nice day!

If it can happen to a development company the size of Levitt and Sons, assume that it can happen to anyone. What can be done to protect yourself, your money, and your dreams of owning a (completely finished) new home?

Thats a tough question to answer. To avoid having to put up such a large deposit (most new home builders require 10-20% or more) you could go the construction loan route where you will essentially pay the builder in different phases tied to the construction of the home. But as I've written before, this is not without it's troubles.

Another option that this article says to try is to get the builder to agree to place your deposit in an escrow account held by a third party. If something happens, you'd at least be able to get your money back.

In my experience, I'd say good luck to this. While you might get the smallest of builders and developers to agree to this, most will not. Look...these guys have in-house counsel, out-house counsel, and every other which way of counsel you could think of protecting their (ass)ets first. They're going to make sure that they are covered and protected before you are.

The best solution I can come up with? For now, in today's real estate environment, buy a house that's already built or almost complete (trust me...there's plenty out there) and buy it in a community that is already somewhat established with completed amenities you are happy with. This way if something happens and the second community swimming pool you as a buyer were promised never gets built, you've got the amenities already there to fall back on.