Bill Erbey: From millionaire to billionaire and back

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No former billionaire had a more precipitous drop in the past year than Bill Erbey, according to Forbes magazine. He had the steepest decline of any member of last year’s Forbes 400 list of richest Americans.

By my calculations, Erbey’s shares in Ocwen Financial Corp. and related mortgage companies were worth nearly $3 billion in late 2013. As of Thursday, that sum had shrunk to $382 million.

Erbey was forced out of Ocwen earlier this year, and the company was compelled to pay $100 million in a settlement with New York regulators.

A former Palm Beach resident who now lives in St. Croix, Erbey built Ocwen, a subprime mortgage servicer, into an international web of companies. Ocwen no longer is technically headquartered in West Palm Beach, but most of its top executives are here.

See how much Joe Philbin wants for his house

Joe Philbin (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)
Joe Philbin (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Former Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has put his Davie mansion on the market. He’s asking $2.5 million for the six-bedroom house at 2232 Phoenix Ave.

Philbin paid $1.78 million for the 7,850-square-foot property in 2012, according to property records.

The mansion features a wine room, a billiard/games room and a separate in-law suite, according to the listing on Realtor.com.

Philbin was 24-28 as a head coach for the Dolphins. He was fired in early October.

Get more details on the house from Realtor.com.

Soft prices but brisk sales for Palm Beach County homes

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Palm Beach County home price growth slowed a bit in September, but sales volumes picked up.

The median price for a single-family home was $285,000 last month, down 3.4 percent from August but up 5.9 percent from a year ago.

Closed sales totaled 1,529, up slightly from last month and up 12.8 percent from a year ago, the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches said Thursday.

Houses are selling briskly, Realtors said. The median days on market fell to 35, down from 36 in August.

Palm Beach County’s share of underwater homeowners keeps falling

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The share of Palm Beach County mortgage borrowers who were “seriously underwater” fell to 20 percent in the third quarter, down from 20.4 percent in the second quarter, RealtyTrac said in a report released Thursday.

Some 23 percent of Florida mortgage borrowers remained “seriously underwater” — defined as a loan balance 25 percent more than the home value — in the third quarter, according to RealtyTrac.

Among Florida’s 67 counties, the underwater rate ranged from a low of 7.9 percent in Franklin County to a high of 39.4 percent in Gadsden County. See a county-by-county map:

Palm Beach County consumers still prefer huge Wall Street banks

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Four giant banks with offices in Palm Beach County continue to gain market share, proving once again consumers like too-big-to-fail institutions despite their role in the mortgage meltdown.

The Big Four — Walls Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citibank — held 51.11 percent of Palm Beach County’s deposits as of June 30, according to new numbers from the Florida Deposit Insurance Corp. That’s up from 50.36 percent last year, 50.25 percent in mid-2013 and 48.5 percent in mid-2011.

Meanwhile, Florida-based banks’ share of Palm Beach County deposits continues to dwindle. Only 13.9 percent of Palm Beach County’s money was held by Florida-based banks as of June 30. That’s down from 15.5 percent a year ago.

Palm Beach County deposits grew to $45 billion this year, up from $40.5 billion last year.

Trulia calls Palm Beach County obvious place to buy rather than rent

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In Palm Beach County, the rent-or-buy decision is a no-brainer. It’s 41 percent cheaper to buy than to rent, according to a study released Wednesday by Trulia.

Palm Beach County boasts one of the nation’s biggest discounts for buying vs. renting, ranking 12th among the 100 largest metro areas. Trulia bases its calculation on Palm Beach County’s median home price of $231,491 and median rent of $1,800 as of last month.

Houston, with a 46 percent discount, is the best buyer’s market. Fort Lauderdale ranks No. 4, with a 44 percent spread. Miami is No. 5 at 43 percent.

Honolulu and San Jose, California, are the markets where it makes the most sense to rent. In Honolulu, the typical home costs more than $600,000, but typical rent is only $2,500.

Job growth? Check. High-paying job growth? Uhhhh

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Robust job growth is a strong point for Florida. High-tech job growth? Not so much.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its Enterprising States report Tuesday morning, and there are no surprises in a study that identifies the usual hits and misses for Florida’s economy.

Florida’s strengths: Florida ranks in the top 10 in two-year job growth, tax climate, college affordability and share of high school students taking advanced placement tests. The state nabs top 10 spots in 13 of the 35 categories the Chamber analyzed.

Florida’s weaknesses: The Sunshine State lands in the bottom half for income growth, income, high-tech jobs and cost of living. Florida is an also-ran in 17 of the survey’s 35 categories.

Florida’s leaders have desperately tried to turn the notoriously low-wage state into a California-style innovation hub, spending more than $1.5 billion to lure biotech institutes in recent years.

At new apartment complex, no smoking, no vaping — even outside

Construction at The Quaye at Palm Beach Gardens. (Jeff Ostrowski/The Palm Beach Post)
Construction at The Quaye at Palm Beach Gardens. (Jeff Ostrowski/The Palm Beach Post)

The new Quaye at Palm Beach Gardens apartment complex welcomes dogs, cats and hamsters. One thing it can’t abide: smoking (or even vaping) by tenants or guests, anywhere on the grounds.

Landlord HG Management of Tampa says the no-smoking policy is part of the complex’s effort to go green. The ban extends to vaping, although there’s no rule against chewing tobacco, said Nancy Cribb, regional manager for HG Management.

She calls the smoking ban a selling point: Tenants don’t want to catch a whiff of their neighbors’ sidestream fumes.

“They won’t have to sit on their patio and smell smoke,” Cribb says.

Cribb also expects tenants will rat out scofflaws.

“Everyone’s policing everyone else,” she says.

Tenants begin moving into the Quaye on Thursday. Rents at the 340-unit complex range from $1,490 for a one-bedroom apartment to $2,510 for a four-bedroom unit.

See how much Port St. Lucie prices could rise this year

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Port St. Lucie rarely is mentioned in the same breath as San Francisco, San Jose, Denver and Seattle, but here’s an exception: Port St. Lucie is projected to rank fourth in home-price appreciation over the next year.

Veros Real Estate Solutions predicts U.S. home values will appreciate by 3.6 percent over the next year. The top five markets:

  1. San Francisco: 10.7 percent
  2. San Jose: 10.5 percent
  3. Denver: 10.3 percent
  4. Port St. Lucie: 10.0 percent
  5. Seattle: 9.5 percent

Wichita Falls, Texas, is projected to be the weakest market, with a 1.9 percent decline.