Florida Gulf Coast University recently released the January 2022 edition of the Southwest Florida Regional Economic Indicators. The report shares economic data for the region, including an update on the real estate market status across the coastal counties of Lee, Charlotte and Collier. Overall, the report indicates that the real estate market is leveling off after fairly dramatic swings brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Building Permits

Single-family building permits, the metric which indicates the number of new homes under construction, saw an increase of 40% from November 2020 to November 2021. Yet, while this growth indicates increases in new construction from earlier stages of the pandemic, a comparison of more recent numbers actually shows a slow decline over the latter half of 2021.

For example, at the peak of the pandemic housing boom in May 2021, approximately 1,100 new single-family permits were issued by Lee County. However, that number dropped over 18% to roughly 900 permits the County issued by November 2021. These numbers seem to indicate that in the early stage of the pandemic, new construction fell off, likely due to concerns over the economy, material and supply shortages, labor shortages, and a variety of other pandemic-related factors.

In 2021, Florida attracted thousands of new residents seeking to enjoy warmer weather and less stringent COVID restrictions. However, it appears now the population influx into the state may be beginning to slow, which in turn is resulting in a leveling off in new construction. Whether this pattern continues now that more seasonal residents are returning to the area remains to be seen.

Existing Single Family Home Sales & Active Listings

Continue Reading State of the SWFL Real Estate Market

vacation rentalBeginning January 3, 2022, Collier County will require registration of “short-term vacation rentals.” This includes any “habitable space . . . for a term of six months or less. . . . .” unless exempted under state law. To view the Ordinance, click here.

Some may recall that Collier County had a similar rental registration ordinance between 1996 and 2010. The old rental registration requirement was annual beginning in 1999, and a yearly fee was required. The new registration is a one-time requirement (although changes to ownership or the owner’s designated contact person must be reported to the County within ten days).

What do short-term property owners need to do to comply?

In most cases, to have a “code-compliant” rental in unincorporated Collier County, an owner must: Continue Reading New Collier County Short-Term Rental Registration Begins January 2022

construction defectFlorida’s construction industry has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it is newly constructed homes or renovations to existing homes, the construction industry has weathered the need for residential construction with surprising strength. However, the boom of new construction projects has accompanied an uptick in litigation concerning construction problems, such as design defects, poor workmanship and code violations.

What is a Chapter 558 Notice?

Florida’s Legislature enacted Chapter 558 (“Ch. 588”), known as the construction defect statute, to promote communication between the parties and potentially resolve disputes without the need for litigation to combat the marked increase in court filings.

A property owner alleging a construction defect must provide the contractor, subcontractor, supplier, design professional, and others with written notification of the alleged defect(s) at least 60 days before filing a lawsuit, describing that defect in “reasonable detail.”

Upon receipt of a Ch. 558 Notice, contractors may forward “downstream” notices to subcontractors, suppliers or design professionals whom it reasonably believes is responsible for each defect specified in the notice of claim, noting the specific defect and party responsible.

What qualifies as a construction defect?

A “construction defect” is defined by Florida Statute 558 as any deficiency arising from the construction of a property from the installation of defective material; the work performed results in building code violations; and/or the property’s design is flawed or deviates from the industry standards.

What happens after a contractor receives a Ch. 558 Notice?

Continue Reading FAQ: Construction Defects and Florida Statute 558

Real Estate Contracts Are you aware that the standard Florida Association of Realtors/Florida Bar Contract, often referred to as the “FAR/BAR Contract” has changed? Below is an overview of the revisions to the FAR/BAR Contract for Sale and Purchase, “AS IS” and other residential forms which were discussed earlier this year and have now become effective as of November 1, 2021.

Major Updates to the Standard Form

Section 8(b) – Loan Approval Period

Two tasks are to be completed during this period now. The first is that the buyer must obtain approval for financing as described in the section. This is consistent with the prior version of the contract. However, the new requirement is that the buyer’s lender must receive a satisfactory appraisal before the approval period expires.

Continue Reading Overview of Changes to “FAR/BAR” Contracts Effective November 1, 2021

wire fraudBuying a new home is meant to be an exciting time. In the past several years, especially with today’s sizzling housing market, real estate transactions have increasingly involved sending funds via wire transfer. In typical real estate transactions, buyers and mortgage lenders wire purchase funds to an escrow agent.

The very nature of real estate transactions — large amounts of money transferring between parties — makes them a prime target for criminals. Unfortunately, criminals are increasingly targeting the real estate industry with compromised emails containing fraudulent wire instructions turning any initial excitement into gloom.

A hacker’s playbook

Once hackers gain access to an email account of a real estate agent, a title company, or a consumer, they will monitor messages to find someone in the process of buying a home. If they can hack into a party’s email, they can monitor the communications and swoop in with their own “spoofed” email. The spoofed email address is often indistinguishable from the correct version, and the hacker and will duplicate email signatures, fonts, and other formatting specifications making it appear to look authentic. The hacker will then send fraudulent wire transfer instructions to unsuspecting buyers to steal closing costs or down payments.

Increased litigation

Continue Reading Buyer beware – wire fraud is on the rise!

Claim of LienA business trial lawyer may hear this question or something similar a number of times. The short answer is, “It depends.”

Most of the time, a person or business doesn’t have a right to record a claim of lien in the public records unless the person or business is a contractor, materialman, or supplier. In those circumstances, if the person or business meets other requirements of Florida’s lien law, then it may be appropriate to record a claim of lien.

It’s important to recognize that in most circumstances, however, there is no pre-judgment right to record a lien against real property just because the owner may owe money to a person or business.

A word of caution

Recording a claim of lien, in the absence of a valid basis to do so, can subject a person or business to a claim for attorneys’ fees or damages for slander of title. In the case of a fraudulent lien, the party against whom the lien was recorded has a complete defense to the foreclosure of the fraudulent lien. This can be decisive in a lawsuit against a debtor, as the creditor may have to compromise his or her total amount of damages sought in order to account for the damages or attorneys’ fees incurred in by the debtor defending against a fraudulent lien. The state attorney may even prosecute the filer of a fraudulent lien for a third degree felony.

While a minor mistake in preparing an otherwise valid claim of lien won’t render the lien fraudulent, the law of liens can be complicated. It’s important to consult your lawyer.

Legal options to collect a debt

Continue Reading “Can I put a lien on them?”

Henderson Franklin was proud to sponsor the real estate event Market Trends, which took place on Thursday, September 9, 2021, at the Caloosa Convention Center, downtown Fort Myers. The speakers included Randy Thibaut, CEO of LSI Companies, Denny Grimes, President of Denny Grimes & Team at Keller Williams, and Justin Thibaut, President of LSI. The presentation focused on the real estate market in Southwest Florida in 2021; and, more specifically, on three major areas of the market: new residential construction, the residential resale market, and commercial real estate. The following provides a brief recap of the presentations.

Continuing the trend from the second half of 2020, both the residential and commercial markets in Southwest Florida sustained their momentum. New homebuyers continue to flock to the region and developers are trying to keep up with demand.

New residential construction market

new constructionThe total number of new building permits for single-family and multi-family in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties has continued to increase. 2020 saw a total of 18,418 residential permits issued. The year-to-date total for residential permits issued in 2021 currently sits at 14,272, with the projected total by year’s end estimated to be 23,400 permits issued. The past 12 months have seen a double-digit percentage increase in new permits in all three counties. Lee County saw an 11% increase, Collier a 22% increase, and Charlotte with an astounding 50% increase.

As was the case in 2020, individual communities continued to see astounding growth. The top three communities were Ave Maria, Babcock Ranch and Isles of Collier Preserve. To showcase that the residential market continues to grow, look no further than Babcock Ranch, which in 2020 saw 533 new building permits issued to various builders. It currently stands at 691 residential permits issued to various builders in 2021.

While the big builders like Lennar, DR Horton, and Pulte continue to dominate the market, we have seen a comeback for the small builders, with over 6,000 permits issued to these builders. An interesting new trend taking place in Southwest Florida is the build-for-rent model. This model appears to be aimed at a younger generation looking for homes, but wanting more financial flexibility. It will be interesting to see how this trend continues over the coming years.

While at some stage the market will likely level off, demand in the residential market looks set to continue in 2021 and the foreseeable future in Southwest Florida. As homebuyers continue to move into the region, developers look to continue buying up land and building single-family and multi-family units.

Residential resale market

Continue Reading Experts address the current state of the Southwest Florida real estate market

Property TaxIt feels like tax season is always upon us, and this time of year is no different. The month of August, and specifically the second week of August, marks the typical time of year when the Property Appraiser’s office sends out TRIM Notices to all property owners in the county. TRIM Notices are sent out for all types of property, including residential and commercial.

What is a TRIM Notice?

A TRIM Notice stands for the “Truth in Millage” notice, and reflects the official notice of proposed property taxes as required by Florida law. The TRIM Notice is not your property tax bill, but is an estimate of your property taxes based on the proposed millage rates for that taxing year, your property values as of January 1 of that taxing year, and any applicable exemptions applied to your property, such as your homestead exemption.

If your TRIM notice isn’t a bill, then why is it important?

Continue Reading August Marks TRIM Notice Season

Lake Okeechobee For many residents of Florida, the local news over the past weeks focused on images of large scale fish die-offs and dark polluted water in the Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg areas. For those here in Southwest Florida, these images coming out of central Florida serve as a reminder of the summer of 2018, when toxic blue-green algae spilled out of Lake Okeechobee, down the Caloosahatchee, and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico causing similar fish-die offs and red tide events.

Coincidentally, at the same time the events in Tampa were making national news, the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a public meeting which resulted in the adoption of a revised Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, or “LOSOM” for short. The plan was last revised over a decade ago and governs the Army Corps’ management of the water levels in Lake Okeechobee.

The most important aspect of this management plan is the freshwater releases down the St. Lucie River, Caloosahatchee River and through the Everglades into Florida Bay. The Army Corps, as the executive arm in charge of these releases, drain and store water to assist with flood control, system ecology, and agricultural irrigation around the Lake. The adoption and modification of the LOSOM plan are governed by the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, codified as section 601 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000.

Alternative CC

Considering the Congressional mandate of the Everglades Restoration Plan, along with public input from numerous stakeholders across South Florida, the Army Corps at a July 15th meeting considered a number of revised management plans. The Army Corps ultimately decided on the plan known as Alternative CC, which was largely supported by conservation groups who viewed the plan as a more balanced approach to solving the water quality issues across South Florida.

How does this new plan impact Southwest Florida?

Continue Reading Army Corps of Engineers announce new Lake Okeechobee Management Plan

CondoThe devastating collapse of one of the Champlain Towers South 12-story beachfront residential condominium towers in Surfside, Florida, has prompted officials at the local, state, and federal level to assess what precautions should be taken – or mandated – to prevent similar tragedies. At present, the cause of the collapse is still unknown.

In the wake of the collapse, however, a past engineering report has resurfaced which indicates that the tower had “major structural damage” as of October 2018. The same report concluded that the necessary repair work would be extremely expensive and create a significant disruption for residents. Whether the association acted upon this information reasonably will, unfortunately, be the source of litigation for months and years to come and has caused many condominium associations throughout the state to look in the mirror.

What are associations required to do to avoid a tragedy like Champlain Towers? What should associations do, even if not required by law?

Florida’s Condominium Act addresses engineering reports and warranties to be made by developers of a residential condominium, generally at the time of building or at such time that control of the association transitions to the members. However, there are few, if any, mandates at the state level as to a continued obligation to inspect the structural integrity of buildings. Politicians and residents throughout Florida have called on the state to enact mandatory requirements for building recertification, but Governor Ron DeSantis has not committed to any state action to that effect.

Through the efforts of advocacy groups and industry leaders such as CAI and Florida’s Real Property, Probate, Trust and Litigation Section, which has appointed a Condominium Law & Policy Life Safety Advisory Task Force, it is possible that future legislative sessions will see proposed laws aimed to prevent or minimize the likelihood of similar tragedies. In the absence of such legislation, though, condominium associations are guided primarily by local ordinances (to the extent they exist), and the business judgment of the board of directors.

Continue Reading Condominium associations react to tragedy in Surfside, Florida