Homeownership rates bounce back

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The U.S. homeownership rate ticked up in the fourth quarter to 63.8 percent, its highest reading of 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday.

The change bucks the conventional wisdom that the homeownership rate could plunge as Americans choose to rent rather than buy.

The trends varied widely by age group. Among seniors, the homeownership rate rose to 79.3 percent, up from 78.6 percent the previous quarter. The biggest jump came among 35- to 44-year-olds. Their homeownership rate rose to 59.3 percent, up from 58.1 percent in the third quarter.

But only 34.7 percent of Americans under 35 owned homes, down from 35.8 percent in the third quarter.

Florida’s strong job growth boosts home values

House for sale
(Getty Images)

Florida cities dominate Forbes’ Best Buy Cities: Where to Invest in Housing in 2016. Seven of the state’s metro areas make the ranking’s top 19, including Orlando (No. 2), Fort Lauderdale (No. 8), Cape Coral (No. 10), Sarasota (No. 12), Tampa (No. 14), Jacksonville (No. 18) and West Palm Beach (No. 19).

The reason? Florida’s strong job growth. The state’s 2.93 percent job growth over the past year was best among large states and fourth-best among all states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Palm Beach County’s share of underwater borrowers keeps falling


Let the financial waterboarding cease. As home values rise and the flood of foreclosures recedes, Palm Beach County’s share of “seriously underwater” homeowners continues to decline.

Only 17.8 percent of Palm Beach County homeowners had loans for more than 125 percent of their homes’ value at the end of 2015, RealtyTrac said Thursday. Three months earlier, 20 percent of Palm Beach County homeowners were struggling for the surface.

Florida still has a problem with underwater borrowers. The state trails only Nevada and Illinois in the share of upside down borrowers. But Florida’s equity-rich borrowers now outnumber the seriously underwater contingent.


South Florida home values up, still below peak

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

South Florida home prices are up 8 percent in the past year and 50 percent since 2012, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index.

Despite the strong gains, home values in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties remain below 2005 levels, the index shows:

Boca lender leases 42,000-square-foot headquarters


How fast is consumer lender CircleBack Lending growing? Apparently pretty fast — the three-year-old company just leased 42,000 square feet in Boca Raton for a headquarters.

The company makes loans for cars, weddings, debt consolidations and other purposes. Annual interest rates range from 6.6 percent to 35 percent.

CircleBack Lending signed a seven-year lease at 777 Yamato Road, said Stiles Realty Vice President Matthew Schwartz, who brokered the deal. The company had been leasing 15,000 square feet at the same address.

Homes near Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods worth twice as much as other houses

Whole Foods Market at University Commons (Bob Shanley/The Palm Beach Post)
Whole Foods Market at University Commons (Bob Shanley/The Palm Beach Post)

Homes close to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods locations gain value more rapidly than houses farther from the trendy retailers, an analysis by Zillow finds.

At the end of 2014, homes within a mile of either store were worth more than twice as much as the median home in the rest of the country, according to a new analysis in the paperback edition of Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate published Tuesday.

RealtyTrac last year analyzed price appreciation near Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods stores in Palm Beach County and declared Trader Joe’s the clear winner.

“Like Starbucks, the stores have become an amenity in their own right – a signal to the home-buying public that the neighborhood they’re located in is desirable, perhaps up-and-coming, and definitely improving,” says Zillow Group Chief Economist Stan Humphries. “Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the stores may actually drive home prices. Even if they open in neighborhoods where home prices have lagged those in the wider city, they start to outperform the city overall once the stores arrive.”

No amount of data analysis can answer this question: Are Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s the cause of rapid appreciation, or are they simply locating in affluent neighborhoods that would see price increases anyway? Zillow punts, saying stores and home prices are “definitely related.”

“The grocery store phenomenon is about more than groceries,” Rascoff says. “It says something about the way people want to live – in the type of neighborhood favored by the generations buying homes now.”

See how low Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate fell


Palm Beach County’s jobless rate dipped to 4.5 percent in December, the lowest point since June 2007.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment fell to 5 percent last month, down from 5.1 percent in November. The state continued to post strong job growth — Florida employment grew by 2.9 percent over the past year, compared to a national average of 1.9 percent.

Palm Beach County gained 14,100 jobs over the year, led by professional and business services, which added 6,900 jobs. Trade/transportation/utilities and education/health services added 3,100 jobs each. The low-paying leisure and hospitality sector added 1,600 positions.

Construction, once crucial to Palm Beach County’s job growh, remains a laggard. It added only 300 jobs over the past year.

Among Florida counties, unemployment ranged from a low of 3.2 percent in Monroe County to a high of 7.3 percent in Hendry County.

See how much mansion once owned by John Lennon fetched

720 S. Ocean Blvd. Photo by Brian Lee, courtesy of WoollyMammothPhoto.com
720 S. Ocean Blvd. Photo by Brian Lee, courtesy of WoollyMammothPhoto.com

The 14,000-square-foot mansion briefly owned by John Lennon and Yoko Ono sold for $23.1 million, according to property records.

Alan and Christine Curtis sold the home at 720 S. Ocean Blvd. The buyer is investor John Sites, according to the Shiny Sheet.

Lennon and Ono in January 1980 paid $725,000 for the property. Lennon was murdered in December 1980. Ono remodeled the property and in 1986 sold it for $3.15 million.

Got a crisis? Call Giuliani at Greenberg Traurig firm

Rudolph Giuliani
Rudolph Giuliani

The Greenberg Traurig law firm, an international firm founded in Miami and deeply tied to West Palm Beach, has hired former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani will chair the firm’s Cybersecurity and Crisis Management Practice, in addition to serving as a senior advisor to the firm’s executve chairman, Richard Rosenbaum.

Giuliani, a former presidential candidate, is best known for his stint as New York City’s Mayor and the man who shepherded the city through the crisis and trauma of 9/11.

But prior to his service as mayor, Giuliani was the white-collar crime busting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Also joining Greenberg: Marc Mukasey, formerly deputy chief appellate attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Greenberg Traurig is a full-service firm with offices throughout the country, including in West Palm Beach.

The firm also has offices around the world, including in Latin America, Europe, Asian and the Middle East.

With Giuliani’s hiring, the firm is seeking to bolster crisis management, white collar criminal defense and cybersecurity as a core focus, Rosenbaum said in a statement.

Giulani is joining Greenberg Traurig from his firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, a Texas firm whose New York City office was established by Giuliani in 2005.

Rosenbaum said Giuliani will work with the firm’s litigation, government regulatory, cybersecurity and data privacy lawyers across the country and the world.

The firm also will work with New York-based Giuliani Partners, the global security firm Guilani established.

On real estate power brokers list, Florida executives an afterthought


Florida is the nation’s third-largest state and home to some of the world’s most valuable mansions, but real estate executives from the Sunshine State play only a bit part on consultant Stefan Swanepoel’s list of “The Most Powerful People in Residential Real Estate 2016.”

The top of the list is dominated by executives from New Jersey-based Realogy Corp., owner of the Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Corcoran, ERA and Better Homes and Gardens brands. Realogy execs occupy four of the top 10 spots (and eight of the top 28).

The top-ranked Floridian, Coral Springs broker Tom Salomone, shows up at No. 51. He’s president of the National Association of Realtors this year.

The only other Floridian in the top 100 is Sarasota broker Michael Saunders, who ranks 99th. Also on the list are Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty President Rei Mesa (No. 107), Miami Association of Realtors Chief Executive Teresa King Kinney (No. 127) and Keyes Co. Realtors head Mike Pappas (No. 147).

The annual power ranking is created by Swanepoel T3 Group of San Juan Capistrano, California.