Say what? Bank lending rises to all-time high

Palm Beach County’s banks continue to grow more financially stable. (Getty Images)
Palm Beach County’s banks continue to grow more financially stable. (Getty Images)

The popular picture of bankers has them hunkered down in their vaults, still smarting from the Great Recession, weighed down by a raft of regulations.

In fact, U.S. banks are lending more than ever, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday.

“Lending rose to an all-time high, with total lending reaching more than $9 trillion in the third quarter,” said James Chessen, chief economist of the American Bankers Association.

Most Palm Beach County banks have indeed reached record levels of loans. For the nine banks headquartered in Palm Beach County plus Seacoast National Bank of Stuart, loans as of Sept. 30 totaled $3.96 billion, up from $2.05 billion in 2012, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis of FDIC data.

One exception: Anchor Commercial Bank of Juno Beach. Its $72.9 million in loans as of Sept. 30, 2016, is below its loan level of $84.2 million as of Sept. 30, 2007.

Another is Mackinac Savings Bank of Boynton Beach. Its $71.5 million in loans this year were below the 2007 mark of $75.6 million.

In general, big banks have been able to lend more while small banks and credit unions face a larger burden from new regulations and capital requirements, says economist Mike Moebs of Moebs Services in Lake Forest, Illinois.

“Community banks and credit unions have been forced to adjust priorities,” Moebs says.

A new record for U.S. home prices, at least by one measure

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

South Florida home prices are coming back strong, but they remain well below boomtime levels, according to the widely watched S&P/Case-Shiller index.

As of September, home prices in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties posted a 6.7 percent gain over the past year. South Florida values remain 23 percent below their 2006 peak, however.

In one bit of hopeful news, the S&P/Case-Shiller index said Tuesday that, by one of its measures of national home values, prices reached a new record in September, eclipsing the previous high set in 2007. On further review, says Trulia Chief Economist Ralph McLaughlin, the new record isn’t especially exciting.

“Crossing this threshold is largely symbolic,” he said. “After controlling for inflation, home prices in the U.S. are still about 20 percent below the peak.”

The priciest mansions in Palm Beach County, 2016 edition

The mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach. Courtesy Smith and Moore Architects.
The mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach. Courtesy Smith and Moore Architects.

When I compiled the list of priciest properties in Palm Beach County in late 2015, mansions on the island of Palm Beach swept the top 10 spots. This year, though, Manalapan boasts three of the priciest residential listings, including a mansion that would set a new Florida record if it sells for anything close to its lofty asking price.

Here are the top eight, in reverse order (and with the caveat that these are just list prices, which might not reflect the eventual sale price):

$42.5 million: The newly built estate at 1340 S. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach was listed for sale in November 2016.

$43.9 million: This 25,000-square-foot palace is at 1340 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan.

$48.9 million: This 34,000-square-foot spread is at 1370 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan. Listing agent: Jack Elkins, Fite Group Luxury Homes.

$59 million: This newly built estate is at 101 Indian Road in Palm Beach. Listing agent: Sotheby’s International Realty.

$67.5 million: This 22,000-square-foot mansion is at 1485 S. Ocean Blvd. Listing agent: Christian Angle.

$74.5 million: The newly built north-end mansion at 1071 N. Ocean Blvd. (pictured above) spans nearly 33,000 square feet and boasts an eight-car garage. Originally priced at $84.5 million, the mansion’s seller has dropped the price a couple times. Listing agent: Christian Angle.

$137 million: Internet pioneer Jim Clark listed his house at 1500 S. Ocean Bvld. in August 2016. If the property eclipses the century mark, it will set a new record for Palm Beach mansions. Not marketed in the multiple listing service.

$195 million: The Ziff estate at 2000 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan is a massive property with nearly a quarter mile of oceanfront. Listing agent: Joe Liguori, Premier Estate Properties.

Tear-down trend resumes in West Palm Beach’s SoSo neighborhood

151 Seville Road in West Palm Beach. Photo by Jeff Ostrowski/The Palm Beach Post.

During the housing bubble, McMansions began replacing starter homes in West Palm Beach’s South of Southern neighborhood. The tear-down trend halted during the crash, but it’s back with a vengeance.

Among the new breed of houses, prices rise as high as $2 million — for properties not on the water or on Flagler Drive. Some examples:

  • 146 Seville Road. This freshly built 5,300-square-foot house is asking $1.995 million.
  • 151 Seville Road. Also newly completed, this 5,200-square-foot spread comes with an asking price of $1.975 million.
  • 201 Santa Lucia Drive. This 2,500-square-foot house includes green features such as solar panels and rain barrels. Asking price: $1.595 million.
  • 234 Gregory Road. Not technically a teardown, this is a renovation of a 1950s home. Asking price: $975,000.

We’re No. 1: Florida leads nation in home-price gains over past year


Florida led the nation in home-price gains in the year ending Sept. 30, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Florida properties posted a 10.7 percent gain over the past year, topping Oregon’s 10.5 percent and Washington’s 10.4 percent. The District of Columbia finished last, with a 2.7 percent decline.

Over the past five years, Florida ranks fourth in price appreciation. Explore the state-by-state map here:

By another measure, the median price of a house sold by Realtors in Palm Beach County last month was $310,000. That’s up 9 percent from a year ago but down from recent months — and still well below the November 2005 peak of $421,500.

Palm Beach County’s median condo price was $152,750, up 8 percent from a year ago but also down compared to recent months.

Statewide, median sales prices for both single-family homes and townhouse-condo properties rose year-over-year for the 59th month in a row in October, according to Florida Realtors, the Orlando-based trade group.

Prices have risen in part because foreclosures and short sales have all but disappeared from the market. What’s more, the statewide inventory of houses for sale dipped to just a 4.2-month supply in October.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac boost conforming loan limits for first time in years


The limit for a so-called conforming mortgage will increase to $424,100 from $417,000 in 2017, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said Wednesday.

It’s the first time since 2006 that the feds have raised the mortgage cap that applies to much of the United States, including Palm Beach County. In the priciest housing markets, such as San Francisco, the federal loan limit rises to $636,150 from $625,500.

Borrowing more than the loan limit requires a jumbo loan, which typically carry higher interest rates and stricter underwriting guidelines than conforming loans.

Boca Raton tech firm to cut 59 workers in December and January

Happier days: A fake sumo match at NTT's facility in Boca Raton. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)
Happier days: A fake sumo match at NTT’s facility in Boca Raton. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)

Tech firm NTT America plans to lay off 59 workers at its operations in Boca Raton, the company has told state labor officials.

NTT America says it will lay off 16 people on Jan. 15, many of them engineers. In a bit of good news for workers, NTT America scaled back a previously announced layoff, saying just 43 people will lose their jobs Dec. 15, down from the 51 originally reported.

NTT America operates from a facility at 5050 Conference Way in Boca. It’s a division of NTT Communications Corp. of Japan.

Former Miami Dolphin Will Allen pleads guilty to running Ponzi scheme

Will Allen
Former Miami Dolphins cornerback Will Allen, shown stretching before a 2009 game. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

Will Allen, a former cornerback for the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins, has pleaded guilty to four federal felonies in connection with a Ponzi scheme he ran.

Allen, a 38-year-old Davie resident, admitted to two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy and one count of money laundering. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in February.

Despite making $30 million in his NFL career, Allen told the judge in his case that he’s so broke he pawned his watches. He also leaned on a former Dolphins teammate for bail money.

Federal prosecutors accused Allen of committing 23 felonies in the course of running a Ponzi scheme. Allen made short-term, high-interest loans to athletes such as the NHL’s Jack Johnson. Prosecutors say he fabricated loans to raise money from investors.

Allen’s co-defendant, 56-year-old Susan Daub of Coral Springs, also pleaded guilty to four felonies.

See more coverage:

Former Dolphin Will Allen: New twist on pro athletes in the poor house

Loan sharking law rarely enforced in Florida

Will Allen stiffed Pro Player Funding on a high-interest loan in 2010. In 2012, he started a company making high-interest loans to pro athletes.

Allen calls Jack Johnson deadbeat, Johnson calls Allen loan shark.

Former Dolphin Bryant McKinnie also defaulted on high-interest loan.

Read the SEC complaint.

Florida warehouse rents soar, but still below 2007 peak


Florida’s warehouse tenants are seeing huge rent increases. In Tampa-St. Petersburg, the average asking rent is up 21 percent over the past year, commercial real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield reports.

In Palm Beach County, rents are up 19 percent. In fact, every market from Jacksonville to Broward saw double-digit increases in rents. Only Miami-Dade County posted a single-digit increase.

The rising rents reflect both low vacancies and the construction of fancy new space that can command higher prices than older warehouses.

Even so, warehouse rents in much of the state are below boomtime levels. Despite the recent surge, Tampa Bay’s average rent of $5.32 remains below the 2007 level of $6 a square foot. Palm Beach County’s average rent of $8.51 also is below the 2007 mark.

Good news for housing? Florida grads’ student debt among lowest in nation

Congratulations. Now start repaying those loans. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post)
Congratulations. Now start repaying those loans. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post)

First-time buyers are an endangered species in the post-crash housing market. But if and when millennials start buying, Florida might have one advantage: Its college grads owe relatively little student debt (aside from the occasional horror story).

For the class of 2015, the average Florida grad owed $23,379, one of the lowest debt loads in the nation. Utah, home of tuition-free BYU, had an average debt of just $18,873, according to a report by The Institute for College Access & Success. New Hampshire led the list with $36,101 in average debt.

Realtors have said soaring student debt is part of the reason that levels of first-time buyers have been at record lows in recent years. For more perspective on how Florida grads rank compared to their peers elsewhere, see this interactive graphic: