Real Estate Insider Blog

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How April 2015 Program Changes Will Affect Flood Insurance Premiums

     The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is in the process of implementing Congressionally mandated reforms required by the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA) that repeal and modify the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (Biggert-Waters). The new law slows some flood insurance rate increases and offers relief to some policyholders who experienced steep flood insurance premium increases in 2013 and early 2014. Flood insurance rates and other charges will be revised for new or existing policies beginning on April 1, 2015.

     In addition to insurance rates, other changes resulting from Biggert-Waters and HFIAA will be implemented that will affect the total amount a policyholder pays for a flood insurance policy. Highlights of some of those changes follow. For full explanations and guidance, see WYO Bulletin (W-14053) and the Flood Insurance Manual.

     The changes taking place in April include an increase in the Reserve Fund Assessment, the implementation of an annual surcharge on all new and renewed policies, an additional deductible option, an increase in the Federal Policy Fee, and rate increases for most policies.

Key changes include:

• Implementing annual rate changes that set rates using rate-increase limitations set by HFIAA for individual premiums and rate classes:

    1) Limiting increases for individual premiums to 18...

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New Service Alerts Pinellas Property Owners to Possible Fraud

By Susan Taylor Martin, Senior Times Correspondent
Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pinellas County property owners can now get alerts about possibly fraudulent activity involving deeds, affidavits or other official records.

The Pinellas Clerk of Court Office is the first in Florida and among the few in the nation to offer the new property fraud alert system for free to those who sign up.

"This is a wonderful tool,'' said Vanessa Castrogiovanni, the office's communications coordinator. "A lot of people don't really check filings in official records so if somebody is recording something under your name you are alerted right away.''

Since the service began in April, 1,200 individual and corporate property owners have subscribed. So far, no one has reported fraudulent activity though the service is designed to catch situations like that last year in which a convicted robber used forged quit claim deeds and other documents to transfer property to himself.

Among the houses that Patrick "Pastor" Banks tried to acquire was a $1 million bayfront home in St. Petersburg's Venetian Isles neighborhood. Banks is in jail awaiting trial on numerous fraud and grand theft charges.

According to the FBI, property and mortgage fraud is the fastest growing white-collar crime. Although the alert system does not prevent the actual fraudulent activity from taking place, it provides an early warning of fraud that otherwise might have gone undetected.

Anyone who owns property in Pinellas County may sign...

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Cash Propels Property Sales

The cheapest and priciest properties are the big draw here.

By Susan Taylor Martin
Times Senior Correspondent


At both the low and high ends of Tampa Bay's real estate market, cash still talks. In March, a retired executive and his wife paid $2.55 million in cash for an Indian Shores condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The same month all but six of the 134 homes and condos that changed hands for $50,000 or less in Hillsborough County were cash deals.

Even as it becomes slightly easier to get a mortgage, cash continues to fuel the housing recovery Tampa Bay, a report released Thursday by the data provider Core Logic shows. In March, cash sales account for 51.5% of all bay area home sales, a 5.6 percentage point decrease in the same time last year, but far higher than the 34.6% national rate. So who's paying cash these days? "It's diverse," said Harvey Petty, a Keller Williams agent in Tampa. "It could be empty-nesters, it could be people coming down from out-of-state. It really is a set person defines a cash deal anymore." Petty was the listing agent on a two bedroom, 2 1/2 bath bungalow in Hyde Park, a south Tampa area in high demand, which sold March 31 for 1.01 million in cash, $11,000 more than the asking price. It was on the market for just one day before going under contract. Another south Tampa home that they listed is due to close this month for even more, also in cash.

At the lowest end of the market, the vast majority of sales in March were cash and ...

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Consumers were more optimistic toward the economy than they've been at any point in the last five years, according to Fannie Mae's most recent 2015 National Housing Survey.

The percentage of respondents who said they believe the economy is on the right track increased by 3 percentage points since January's survey up to 47 percent, an all-time high since the survey began nearly five years ago. The rise in consumer optimism is largely attributed to recent employment gains, which totaled nearly 300,000 for February and averaged 266,000 per month in the last 12 months, according to the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In that same BLS report, the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent, its lowest level in nearly seven years.

Also hitting an all-time high for Fannie Mae's housing survey was the percentage of respondents who said they believe it is easier to get a mortgage today (54 percent). The share of respondents who said they believe it would be difficult to get a mortgage dropped by 4 percentage points to an all-time survey low of 43 percent.

"Continuing improvements in consumer attitudes in this month's National Housing Survey lend support to our expectation that 2015 will be a year of the economy dragging housing upward," said Doug Duncan, SVP and chief economist at Fannie Mae. "The share of consumers who think the economy is on the right track rose to a record high since the inception of the survey...

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