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One Of Florida’s Biggest Real Estate Investors Says Market Is Headed For Correction



Governor Florida Democrats

Just before a power lunch at Sant Ambroeus in Palm Beach, real estate billionaire Jeff Greene picks up the phone to discuss the past year’s “huge migration” to Southern Florida. “People have realized that they can get a much higher quality life and still make the same amount of income,” he says. “I’ll see more interesting people at Sant Ambroeus in Palm Beach than I would at Sant Ambroeus in Manhattan.” 

But Greene—who owns more than $2 billion worth of property, roughly half of it in Florida, Forbes estimates (he says it’s worth more)—thinks the frenzy is nearing a peak. “Prices have just gone higher than anyone ever could have imagined,” he says. Come autumn, he believes, many families will return to their original homes in New York, Los Angeles and other cities, causing prices to moderate.

It’s a cooling effect Greene expects to see far outside of Palm Beach. “My view on all the markets is that we’re in somewhat of an omni-bubble in every category,” he says. “Between central banks around the world and the government’s fiscal and monetary stimulus we have trillions and trillions of dollars of extra money that wasn’t around before….At some point you can’t keep printing.”

Florida’s real estate market has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic, beckoning wealthy Americans with low taxes, warm weather and a relative lack of crowds. “It’s been a seven-day-a-week work week, from the time you get up until the time you go to bed,” says Nathan Zeder, a broker-associate at the Jills Zeder Group, which is based in Miami Beach and Coral Gables. The firm sold about $800 million worth of property in the second half of 2020, he says, more than it did in all of 2019.

One of the largest purchases of the pandemic closed on Thursday, when Larry Ellison reportedly acquired an $80 million megamansion in North Palm Beach, just above the original asking price. (Chris Leavitt, Ashley McIntosh and Tonja Garamella of Douglas Elliman, who handled the sale for the buyer and seller, declined to comment.) 

An even larger deal closed in February, a newly completed mansion at 535 N. County Road in Palm Beach that went for more than $120 million, setting a record for the region and likely the state, according to the Palm Beach Daily News.

Overall, properties in Palm Beach have appreciated nearly 8% in the last year, according to Zillow data, though some areas are seeing an even larger boost. Such figures are even more striking considering the shift in buyers. Almost half of the Miami real estate sales market is ordinarily composed of foreign individuals, Zeder says. During the pandemic that number has fallen close to zero. “Generally if we were a 100% domestic market, the market would go down. But it’s done the exact opposite.”

The climb is partly attributable to the arrival of so many wealthy New Yorkers. According to, a data analytics firm, the two most popular destinations outside of the Northeast for those fleeing New York County between January of 2020 and 2021 were Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade County.

Frederick Peters, CEO of Warburg Realty in New York, says it’s a trend stretching back years. “People, especially in the top .01%, just find the tax advantages such that they’re looking at becoming Florida residents,” he says. “That probably accelerated during the pandemic… But it didn’t start during the pandemic.”

As for Greene, he plans to stick it out in Palm Beach no matter how quickly the trend slows. “I have deep roots in this community,” he says. Greene’s parents moved to Florida when he was in high school, and he continued to visit on breaks from Johns Hopkins University; during winter vacations he worked as a waiter and busboy at the famed Breakers Hotel.  

Greene, who is worth $3.9 billion overall, first got into real estate while at Harvard Business School, when he bought a house and rented out rooms to earn extra cash. By the time he graduated he owned 18 properties. It was decades later, though, that he became a billionaire, thanks to credit default swaps he bought in the run-up to the housing market collapse that ignited the financial crisis. 

“I moved here in December of 2009,” he says, of Palm Beach, at which point he started buying up properties, including the Tideline Hotel and dozens of condominiums. “I really felt it was very undervalued.

Today Greene is continuing to bet on Florida’s long-term vitality, despite his muted predictions for the fall. He is building two 30-story towers in Palm Beach at a reported cost of $250 million—on a 3.3 acre site he bought in 2014—and which sparked headlines last year over construction delays due to zoning issues.  

“I’m a long-term believer in this area,” he says. “I hope I have a long life and can enjoy the fruits of my labor.”


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Real Estate

A Monument To Catalan Modernism Asks $5.9 Million In Barcelona



Palau de la Musica

The distinct architecture of Barcelona, with its curved shapes, floral motifs and ornamentation, is defined by its Catalan Modernism. The aesthetically pleasing style was a major force in the larger Modernisme movement, which also permeated art, theater and literature at the end of the 19th century.

This recently refurbished Modernist house is located in the area of Tibidabo Mountain, the tallest hill in Collserola Natural Park, an expansive green space within Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia.

Villa Paula, as it is known, was designed in 1912 by Spanish architect Jerome Granell Manresa. He is known for creating the stained-glass windows of Barcelona’s famed concert hall, Palau de la Música Catalana. Other examples of the stained-glass maker’s work can be found locally in the landmark Navàs House and the Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul.

Manresa’s use of sgraffito on stucco exteriors—to create contrasting color designs by scratching through the facade to reveal the layer below—remains in evidence on select residential buildings today.

The more than 8,200-square-foot home retains such original and restored Modernist features as the facade, the mosaic tilework, the high ceilings with moldings, the stained-glass windows and the Arabic-style roof crowned with green tiles. The four floors are accessed by a marble staircase and an elevator. The watchtower can serve as a guest house, an office or a studio.

The light-filled rooms have hardwood, marble or mosaic-tile floors, air-conditioning and in-floor heating. There are eight bedrooms, a conservatory, a home theater, a gym, a wine cellar and eight bathrooms.

The 10 acres of grounds contain gardens, terraces and mature trees. A gently curved staircase off the house leads to a terracotta veranda surrounding an infinity pool. A wooden deck below the pool level creates another outdoor lounging space. Views take in Barcelona and the coastline along the Mediterranean Sea. 

A two-car garage and a workshop complete the gated property.

Cristina Martinez of Immobiliaria Rimontgo is the listing agent for the estate, priced at approximately $5.93 million (EUR 4.95 million).

Villa Paula is located about five kilometers, or three miles, from Barcelona’s city center. International flights are available from Barcelona–El Prat Airport, about a 20-minute drive away.

Immobiliaria Rimontgo is a founding member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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Real Estate

Here’s Where Property Taxes Are The Highest And Lowest



Mansion in San Francisco

Buying a home is exciting, but it’s also a huge commitment. And one of the responsibilities of homeownership is paying real estate taxes. How much you will end up paying can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors — from how much your home is worth to where you live.

To illustrate just how much variance there is in the amount of property taxes people pay, LendingTree looked at the median amount of real estate taxes paid in each of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. In doing so, the online lending marketplace found that homeowners in some metros can expect to pay thousands of dollars more per year than homeowners in other parts of the country.

“Different county and state governments assess property value in different ways, which can contribute to why tax amounts vary so significantly across the country,” says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree, explaining that individual areas also have different tax rates and offer different tax breaks to homeowners, which can also affect how much people are paying in real estate taxes.

Revenue generated from property taxes is generally used to fund local projects and services such as fire departments, law enforcement, local public recreation, education, street maintenance and sanitation.

The median real estate tax amount in Las Vegas — where homeowners pay the least in property taxes — is about $7,700 cheaper than in New York, where real estate taxes are highest.

Las Vegas and Birmingham, Alabama are the only two metros where median real estate taxes amount to less than $1,000 a year. The median property tax amount paid by homeowners is $696 in Las Vegas and $892 in Birmingham.

Besides New York, homeowners pay the most in property taxes in expensive cities like San Jose, California and San Francisco. The median amount paid is $8,400 in New York, $7,051 in San Jose and $6,181 in San Francisco.

“Despite these regional differences, how much homes are selling for in a given area is usually the most important factor in determining an individual home’s value, regardless of where you live,” says Kapfidze. “As a result, places where home prices are higher like New York and San Francisco are more likely to pay higher real estate taxes than other parts of the country, even adjusting for variations in tax rate or appraisal practices.”

Real estate taxes are an average of $641 lower on homes without mortgages. Because property taxes are based in large part on home value and homes without mortgages tend to be worth less than those with mortgages, it makes sense why this is the case. Nonetheless, real estate taxes on homes without a mortgage can still be pricey, especially in areas like Salt Lake City and Seattle.

“I think it’s fair to say that knowing how much you’ll pay in property taxes is about as important as knowing how much your mortgage payment will be,” says Kapfidze. “After all, both are things you have to pay in order to keep your home, and both can be significant expenses.”

Many lenders will roll your property taxes into your monthly mortgage payments, and then use that money to pay your tax bill for you when it’s due to the government.

“As a result, while you should always double check to be sure you’re paying what you owe in taxes, you might only need to keep track of one payment a month,” explains Kapfidze. “If you’ve paid off your mortgage, then you definitely have to keep a closer eye on property taxes as you’ll likely no longer be able to count on your lender to keep track of them for you.”

Here’s the LendingTree report, including the methodology, and full list of cities where real estate taxes are highest and lowest.

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Real Estate

How Digital Technology Changed The Face Of The Mortgage Industry



Focused man and woman using laptop, checking financial documents

The rise of digital technology ushered in a new era for the mortgage application process as borrowers took advantage of historically low interest rates and lenders embraced digital mortgages more than ever before.

A new survey on borrowing and lending by ICE Mortgage Technology finds that the pandemic has permanently changed the way consumers utilize technology, and those looking to buy or refinance a home are seeking lenders who offer online tools to complete their mortgage loans from home.

The overwhelming majority (90%) of lenders believe that technology can help improve the mortgage application process, citing benefits that include simplifying the entire process (74%), reducing time to close (70%) and minimizing data entry (67%).

“Last year brought our industry a perfect storm,” said Joe Tyrrell, president of ICE Mortgage Technology. “You not only had COVID, which required lenders to shift to virtual workforces, but you also had to continue to conduct business in a safe and socially distanced way with borrowers, all happening at the same time that we were experiencing a historical increase in loan volume.” 

He added, “This caused many lenders to re-evaluate their technology partners, how they were leveraging technology, the systems that they employed, and the tools that they relied on. We heard many stories from our lenders across the country that had to completely and permanently shift the way they served borrowers.”

According to the survey, the importance of lenders offering digital solutions such as online applications during the lending process increased for borrowers in 2020, with 58% saying it would likely affect their lender decision (up from 50% in 2018). While still important, the offering of a mobile app specifically was less likely to influence borrowers’ lender selection, with 47% saying availability of one would factor into their decision in 2020 (compared to 40% in 2018).

Homeowners who used an online application appreciated the simpler application process (55%), reduced time to close (53%) and resulted in fewer in-person interactions (49%).

Not surprisingly, decreased in-person interactions grew in importance in 2020, as just 37% of consumers in 2018 cited “no need to meet in person” as something they liked about their online application process. Whether they had been through the mortgage loan process or not, 64% of consumers surveyed believe that an online mortgage process would make buying a home or refinancing easier than an in-person process.

“From a borrower’s perspective, the pandemic has accelerated the demand for a consistent, digital first borrowing experience,” said Tyrrell. “Signing documents electronically is quickly becoming the minimum, and borrowers expect a seamless experience from start to finish. In 2020, many lenders cobbled together different solutions to meet borrower demands, but that often led to a more confusing, fragmented process. Covid highlighted the need for a single consistent digital experience for consumers.”

Currently, online applications and online portals are the digital tools most offered among lenders, with more than nine in 10 offering both options to borrowers (91%). Of lenders who offer online applications, 64% said more than half of all loan applications are submitted online, while 38% said more than 80% of their applications were completed online in 2020. However, traditional loan application methods may be more common at larger organizations. Half of large institutional lenders, or those with 200 or more employees, indicated that less than 50% of their loan applications were submitted online.

Borrower respondents who were offered online and/or mobile options by their lenders took advantage of those tools during the mortgage loan process. Sixty-one percent of borrowers used an online application in 2020, slightly up from 58% in 2018. Sixty-one percent also used an online portal for electronically signing and notarizing documents, compared to 56% in 2018.

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