I recently read an article in Florida Realtor Magazine which is a trade magazine for Realtors that showed 14% of Realtors are using video.  The article focused on the fact that video is now the number one Internet activity even surpassing emailing.  They recommended using YouTube Analytics to verify the reach of the video audience. Realtors Using Video!

Because the Ellis Team has used video for awhile I decided to look at the analytics and see if the results the magazine touted matched what we were seeing.

Realtors Using Video
Ellis Team YouTube Channel Video Statistics

In the past 30 days our channel www.Youtube.com/brettellisfl has received 4,471 video views. 71 came from a Google search about SW Florida. 33.9% came from mobile apps which may explain why Facebook is concentrating so much on the mobile platform.

The YouTube search pulled in 691 video looks so one could argue YouTube is a bigger search engine than Google is, at least for video.

Video Statistics by Country for Ellis Team at RE/MAX Fort Myers
YouTube Analytics by Country for Ellis Team YouTube Channel

Recently we’ve sold homes to buyers from Germany, Canada, and Dubai, so I wanted to see if video is helping us reach those markets.  Sure enough, Germany and Canada scored very high at #2 and #3 right behind the United States.  United Arab Emirates came in at #15 with 23 video views.  The buyers said they were on our website and found us on the Internet, but I guess the next question should be where on the Internet?

Did these buyers find us on our MLS property search page www.AllswflRealestate.com or www.LeeCountyOnline.com ?  Did they find us on video first which led them to other areas on our site?  When a buyer says they found us on the Internet, maybe watching a video is the sum total of what they meant and they looked no further?


The International list goes on for pages so we just showed the top 25 this past month.  I’m amazed that there were 13 views from Turkey, 14 from Kuwait, and 95 from Saudi Arabia.  Could it be that we’ll sell a luxury home to a Prince from Saudi Arabia in the next month?

The answer is it’s possible.  Buyers from all over the world are finding Realtors through video.  These views we’ve provided don’t even count the virtual tours we use. Last month our virtual tour site link which can be found at www.Topagent.com received 4,125 views in addition to the YouTube video views.  Throw in our MLS property search sites, our Topagent.com site as a whole and views, our Blog and the numbers grow substantially.

The point is, only 14% of Realtors are using video now and more should be.  If Realtors knew the staggering number of people using video to find homes and research areas more would reach out and learn.  The trouble is video is hard to do on your own.  Sound quality is an issue and production costs are high.  With today’s modern technology those costs are coming down.

For instance, we produce our shows in-house and add our jingle and graphics.  While we have an advantage from doing TV shows and radio shows over the years, an agent without all this could hire a virtual assistant to create logos, music, and even edit videos.  An agent can even do voice overs if the initial sound quality isn’t good.

Doing video poorly isn’t good, but doing nothing can cost as well.  As you can see from the numbers, video is becoming one of the most important things.  Reaching the mobile buyer is critical.

More tablets and smart phones will be sold this year than PC’s.  More Internet traffic will occur over mobile than the office.  The sands are shifting, and Realtors have to be at the forefront.  The good news is, the real estate industry has always led, and will lead with video.

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!

We’ll attempt to answer a few questions we hear things buyers say:

Things Buyers Say

1. What did the seller pay for the home? What the sellers paid back in time really has no bearing on its value today. If a seller paid $300,000 5 years ago and it’s only worth $200,000 today you’re not going to offer $300,000 because that’s what the seller paid. Conversely if the seller paid $62,000 back in 1975 and it’s worth $300,000 today their not going to sell it for $90,000. Sellers should expect to sell at today’s current value and buyers should expect to pay that as well. What a seller paid or how much they owe has nothing to do with value.

2. If it’s meant to be it will happen- When a buyer says these words it’s typically out of fear of making a decision, so they sit back and let someone else make the decision for them. Let’s say more than one buyer is interested in a home. Buyer A doesn’t know what to counter offer in light of the news another buyer is interested, so they freeze. They essentially let another buyer make the decision for them. I’ve found in life that when you let others make decisions for you, you might not like the outcome. You are in control of your own destiny. If it’s a home that suits your needs and you really like it you have a chance to control your fate. Step up or you may be forced to offer on your 3rd or 4th best favorite. In this market there is limited inventory, so finding 4 homes you really like might be tough.

3. Is the Seller motivated?  If I am the listing agent I simply answer the buyer agent with yes, they are interested in selling or they wouldn’t have put it on the market. It’s in the buyers interest to find out what they can if a seller or seller’s agent will tell, but it’s not in the sellers best interest to do so. You can always ask the question, but don’t be offended if you don’t receive an answer. The buyer doesn’t get to know the seller’s private business just as the seller doesn’t need to know the buyer’s private business, other than if the buyer is qualified at the agreed upon price.

4. I heard you always offer 10% less on a home. We’ve had buyers say this is a rule where they came from. First off, there is no rule. Secondly, all real estate is local and certain areas may have customs, but I highly doubt asking 10% less in any market is a good idea unless sellers typically overprice homes in a certain area. Most homes in SW Florida sell for about 96-97% of asking price, so if you’re offering 10% less you’re probably losing out to other buyers who are more realistic. If a home is overpriced by 10% or more that’s another story, but those homes typically aren’t getting offers because they are so over-priced.

5. Will the seller do a lease-option? Most sellers wish to sell outright. Occasionally a seller wouldn’t mind leasing first, but they hate to lock in a price today at today’s prices in a rising market. Buyers typically have misconceptions about how the lender will finance the home at the end of the option. Rent money cannot be used for down payment money unless buyer pays over fair market rent as determined by the appraiser and then only that portion above fair market can be credited as down payment. Also, the buyer loses the option money if they don’t close for any reason. Many buyers ask this question because they don’t have good credit today and they may not have 1st month, last month’s rent and security deposit. Both buyer and seller should sit down with an agent and discuss their options first or a situation like this could turn out badly for both later.

The other day a seller was asking me the typical things I hear buyers and sellers say. That question sounds like good material for an article, so this week we’ll focus on the seller side. Things Sellers Say!

Things Sellers Say

  1. That house was a short sale– Sellers really don’t understand how other sales in area affect their value. A short sale is a compromise by the bank to allow a seller to sell their property at today’s current value. Banks aren’t in the business of taking a larger loss than they should, so the bank typically does its own evaluation to determine the seller has accepted a contract at or close to fair market value. If not, the bank typically counters what they’re willing to accept. Short sales became the new market. Some foreclosures sold too low, and some are in terrible condition. It’s important to compare condition to any sale, and a skilled Realtor or appraiser should take this into account.
  2. It’s only been on the market a week– We hear this when an offer comes in soon after it hits the market and it’s not quite full price. There’s an old saying that your first offer is usually the best offer. Believe me, this saying is not always true, but I could tell dozens of stories where a seller wish they had that first offer back months after its passing.
  3. We can always price it high and take less-Sellers think they’ll get more money by asking more, but this is rarely the case. In fact, they typically get less by overpricing it. The overpriced listing sits on the market and becomes stale. Buyers wonder why it’s been on the market so long and they become fearful. When they do eventually offer after several price reductions, they typically offer much less. It’s always best to price it at the market and hopefully attract one or more buyers. This way you avoid becoming stale and having that stigma that something is wrong with the home because nobody wants it.
  4. I don’t want a sign up because I don’t want my neighbors to know-Your neighbor is going to find out anyway. In fact, your neighbor might be glad to see you go and may know a friend who’s looking in the area. A sign call is always a good call because unlike an ad, a passing buyer knows exactly where it’s located and cared enough to call. The sign is an additional tool that sometimes pays dividends.
  5. We don’t need to sell– Very few people absolutely need to sell. Many make the choice to sell because a change better suits their needs. I think sellers say this to slow down the process. They are fearful and don’t want anyone taking advantage of them. They want to sell, but want some control over the process. Selling is a process no one party controls. It takes a buyer and seller, and the seller typically is not looking forward to that whole process. This is where a good Realtor can help alleviate that stress and counsel the seller. Sellers feel much better going forward once they understand the process and the true market value.
  6. If it’s meant to be it will happen– Actually buyers and sellers use this one a lot. To my way of thinking, this is a way of shielding the seller from the tough decisions, a defense mechanism so to speak. I’ve learned in life if you really want something you tend to get what you go for. If it’s to be it’s up to me. If you sit back and let someone else decide your fate, you might not like the outcome. It’s always best to look at all the facts and make a decision. This way you control your own destiny instead of relying on fate. This market is littered with people who put their head in the sand because they felt powerless.

It pays to sit down, look at all the facts, and weigh your options. Analysis paralysis isn’t good either, so after evaluation take action. If you need assistance weighing your options, we’re here to help. Always call the Ellis Team 239-489-4042

You can’t sell what you don’t have, and the SW Florida real estate market has much less inventory than it did a few years ago. We’ve been reporting for a few years how demand has outpaced supply and that is one reason why prices have gone up in the past few years. Keep in mind too that the year end numbers are an average of the year, so numbers at end of a year could be higher than the year’s average, which is especially true in a rising market.

Inventory Leading the Market SW Florida Real Estate Prices
Fort Myers Cape Coral Year End Prices

Inventory Leading the Market

Another phenomenon we predicted a few years ago was the “No-Man’s Land” market. We knew that one day we would exhaust much of the distressed inventory and traditional sales would once again have to fill the demand. Prices would have to rise, but they couldn’t rise enough to make certain sellers whole as so many are still underwater on their mortgages. They’re not in risk of default, but they’re riding out the market until prices rise enough to payoff the mortgage. Sellers would like to sell but don’t wish to harm their credit by doing a short sale, so they wait.

Prices are surely rising, but there is a limit. The economy isn’t good, so that caps the rise. Prices have to rise, but they can’t rise to 2005 levels because the job market and the economy won’t sustain those levels. We could argue that the 2005 economy couldn’t either and that’s why it collapsed.

The economy was running on borrowed money. Consumer spending was fueled by equity lines and other borrowed money. Everyone knew the clock would run out, and it did.

Southwest Florida Months Supply of Real Estate Inventory
Months Supply of Inventory

Going forward, most people view the market as a supply and demand market, and that theory works as long as economic conditions are the same or similar, but with a tremendous downturn in the economy, prices cannot rise quickly enough to make many sellers above water, so they will sit on sidelines unless something happens to their employment.

We see incremental listings hitting the market as prices rise. It probably won’t be enough to satisfy demand, so buyers should be prepared for multiple offer situations as soon as good properties enter the market.

As you can see we only have about 3.4 months supply of inventory on the market and current single family inventory is only about 3,730 heading into season. Interest rates are artificially low due to Fed policy of buying down interest rates trying to stimulate the economy.

Buyers who can purchase now will be crazy to wait as prices years from now should be higher, and borrowing costs will be higher when the Fed action is completed, but competition for homes is expected to be great this season.

If I were a buyer I would get on an email notification list from an agent that emails you the day new properties enter the market that match your criteria. The Ellis Team has such a system as do many agents. You’ve heard the saying, “The Early Bird Gets the Worm” and it’s true now and will be blatantly evident this season.

Hopefully after November we’ll have clarity as to which way the politicians are going which may give businesses clarity so they can begin hiring. Our nation has been in an economic freeze. Our local market is set to take off once the economy returns, and that will sure be a welcome sign so we can escape the No Man’s Land.

If you’re a buyer and need help, feel free to call us at 239-489-4042 or visit our website www.Topagent.com If you’re a seller, we can guide you through the selling maze whether you’re a traditional seller or a short sale.

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!

We hear a lot of talk and rumors about ObamaCare and what its effects will really be on business and real estate.  Perhaps it’s a mystery because the new tax in the legislation was never introduced, debated, or reviewed until just hours before its passage.  Remember when Nancy Pelosi said “We must pass this legislation to find out what’s in it”?  She wasn’t kidding.  Nowhere was a new tax on real estate or capital gains talked about before its passage, so of course people are asking questions now that the new tax is set to take effect after the election. Does ObamaCare Raise Taxes on Real Estate?

ObamaCare and Taxes

With that said, it’s a new tax that isn’t going to affect everyone, so that’s the only silver lining.  They needed this revenue because Medicare is set to run dry in a few years, so this new tax will supply $210 Billion over 10 years and will help to extend the life of Medicare a few years.

Here is the breakdown as we understand it.  There are 2 new taxes.  One is a 3.8% tax on unearned income like interest, dividend, rents, capital gains and the second tax is a .9% tax on income such as salary, wages, commissions, etc.

The 3.8% tax will apply to individuals with an adjusted gross income above $200,000 and couples filing a joint return with more than $250,000 adjusted gross income. Once you meet those criteria, there are complicated formulas we won’t go into here.  It’s probably best to consult with your accountant on that.

Nobody knows what will happen if upper income people decide not to sell.  It would negatively impact Florida’s doc stamp program and revenue to the state, and it would cut income to Medicare which is in deep trouble anyway.  Sneaking a tax in at midnight to cover Medicare probably wasn’t the best way to save Medicare.

Will the Fed’s New Stimulus Help Housing? The Fed has promised to pump money into mortgage backed securities as a way to buy down interest rates, also knows as the QE3 Stimulus.  Nobody knows what effect it will have on real estate.  All we can say is it couldn’t hurt.  However, rates have been low and the market is still relying on the overall economy to improve.  This action by the Fed will reduce borrowing costs, but it will also reduce rates paid to savers like senior citizens.  Seniors today cannot be happy.  We may see real inflation creep up and rates stay low, so seniors will actually lose money on the deal.

Real estate accounts for about 32% of GDP, so anything that gets real estate going may help the economy.  We believe that real estate and the economy need each other.  Having a balanced budget, lower taxes, and leadership in Washington where business could plan would best stimulate the economy and help real estate.  A rising tide lifts all boats, and we think real estate would take off if Washington tried this approach.

It’s a rather simple equation and yet our government is so divided we’re not sure that will get done.  So for now all we can do is report the effect the ObamaCare taxes will have on real estate transactions.  Last time I checked we had about a 4 Year + supply of $1 million homes on the market.  Taxing those transactions further won’t do anything to help housing.  I’d really like to know whose bright idea this was to sneak this tax in at midnight.  What happened to Obama’s promise of transparency and all bills would be viewable to the public for 3 days before a vote?  Was that just an empty campaign promise?

4 years later these things matter.  Taxes are set to rise in 2013; some from ObamaCare and some from Congress’ inability to pass a budget.  Did you know the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in 3 ½ years?  They just keep passing continuing resolutions and raising the debt ceiling.

Keep your eyes open.  If we find any other new taxes they try to sneak in on us we’ll be sure to point them out.


Are you one of thousands of homeowners wondering what happened to your property insurance discount in Florida?  Perhaps you paid money for an expensive inspection that entitled you to property insurance discounts on your homeowners insurance for things like wind protection. Florida law requires insurance companies to offer homeowners discounts or credits for existing building features or home improvements that reduce damage and loss from hurricanes. Florida insurance companies are required to file these discounts with the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Property Insurance Discounts
Has Your Insurance Company Raised Your Rates?

The discounts apply to your wind portion which accounts for 15 to 70% of your total premium, depending on where you live in Florida. We’d encourage you to check out MySafeFloridaHome.com/insurance.asp for more information.

Having moved here from State Farm Country in Central Illinois in the ‘80’s I was a loyal State Farm customer for all those years until last year.  I started receiving letters stating that State Farm wanted to re-inspect my home, ignoring the reports I had presented years prior that entitled me to wind protections discounts.

Low and behold an inspector came out, looked around, and left.  He didn’t ask me to show him anything.  Next thing I know I received a letter denying my discounts.  I asked for a re-inspection.  That was denied.  I asked them to look at my reports.  They did and said it didn’t qualify.  I provided copies of the permit and State Farm said the wind resistance tests weren’t with the documentation.  Keep in mind the inspector looked into none of this.  This was a failed test designed from the get go.

I provided the engineering and testing reports provided by the manufacturer.  These products were tested and accepted by the state, but not State Farm.  A loyal customer of State Farm for over 30 years was forced to switch.  I’m sure State Farm isn’t the only company stingy with the discounts.

Citizens has made news the past few months after employing the same tactics. Citizens has received complaints stemming from their reinspection program that has resulted in 3 out of 4 property owners receiving rate hikes due to the new inspection.  So far Citizens has inspected 257,000 properties, so that’s about 192,750 affected customers.

Due to the complaints, Citizens board of directors has decided to reform its reinspection program, hire an auditor, and improve its customer relations department.  I’m still waiting on State Farm to do the same.

Property owners will now have a year to dispute the rate hikes.  Owners can request another inspection free of charge.  If an inspector previously could not enter an attic a home was denied automatically, but that’s not the case on the reinspection program.

I saw another report this past week that said the state has built up a $6.2 Billion dollar fund due to lack of hurricanes.  I realize one big hurricane in a metropolitan area can change all that, but it would seem to me these insurance companies could pass along the savings for homeowners who have complied and strengthened their homes.  Don’t set guidelines, ask people to spend money and follow them, then jerk the discounts away.  These people have spent good money to protect their property which in turn should lower insurance costs.  It seems the people are keeping their end of the bargain. And now it’s time insurance companies keep theirs.

We suspect this has happened to many here in SW Florida. If it has, call your insurance company.  Let your elected representatives know.  If it’s important to you, it will become important to them.  Together we all pay, and together our thousands of voices will be heard, and hopefully together we’ll all save.

Feel free to share your insurance stories here.


Well, it’s that time of year again and the tropical season is heating up.  Because we have an impending storm approaching we decided to do a video on Hurricane tips for agents and the public alike.  We hope these tips will help you prepare for this storm or any others that may come our way.

Hurricane Tips for SW Florida


If you’d like market information on SW Florida including the Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs real estate market and how it stacks up against the national real estate market be sure to  watch our National Housing Report

Last week the News Press ran a story about the rebounding housing market and they used inventory stats that said the single family inventory is down to 13,897 in Lee County, down from 14,113 the month prior. The only problem is, they were looking at the chart wrong as those were cumulative inventory numbers, not current.

Housing Numbers Becoming More Reliable
SW Florida Housing Inventory

It was an easy enough mistake if you don’t study those numbers on a regular basis. The chart should have quoted 3,579 single family homes on the market, but even that number isn’t the best number, and we’ll explain why.

I sit on the MLS stats committee and for the last year or so we’ve been working hard on cleaning up the data and defining how listings should be classified to best reflect what’s actually happening in the market. Look for inventory levels to increase because of this change.

In the past inventory numbers only reflected Active listings that were not Active Contingent Short Sale. In other words, agents were still taking offers to present to the bank or as backups until the banks accepted a short sale offer but it wasn’t being counted. At the point a bank accepts a short sale offer the property was to be placed pending, like a normal sale would be.

A high degree of pending sales actually close, but the same cannot always be said for Active Contingent sales, especially short sales. Another reasons aside from being a short sale a property could be listed as Active Contingent would be if something else has to happen first, like a buyer selling another property before they can close.

In this case a listing agent may mark the property Active Contingent and insert a Right of First Refusal clause and continue to market the property. To me, this property is still an active listing and should be counted in inventory. From now on it will.

It’s easy to count and search for sold properties in MLS, but it’s much harder to go back and search for active listings from the past on a certain date unless you have frozen copies of the database. Because of this, the Board of Realtors cannot post what the active listings would have been under the new guidelines since they weren’t searched that way at the time.

Some on the committee pondered whether it would be easier to just keep the status quo since we didn’t have that data. Most of us preferred to rectify and make the most accurate possible, even if it meant postponing the revisions to past inventory levels until we have a new baseline to present. Everyone on the committee concurred once the tough decision was made to make it right, even if it would cause some heartache and confusion for a few months.

Personally I’d rather take the tough steps now to get the most accurate statistics to agents and the general public, and the committee and the Board agreed.

Housing Numbers Becoming More Reliable

I feel much more confident going forward with the data that will be provided. All the definitions will be posted and any agent should be able to duplicate the data, something that wasn’t possible in the past. This will provide for full transparency and credible data, and should eliminate various sources from having differing standards and definitions.

While mistakes in the newspaper or anywhere else will always be possible, hopefully we’ve made some changes that will eliminate systemic errors. We still have the issue of various boards reporting separate data which can cause duplication in areas served by two nearby MLS’s, we can account for this within a consistent statistical deviation.

It really depends on whether the press is quoting one board or multiple boards as the source for their data, as some listing may appear in one board and not the other, and some appear in both.

I feel very confident in the new definitions presented by the Florida Gulf Coast MLS which will begin to take affect soon. In the meantime, we’ll continue to report the stats and inform you where we believe the numbers will change. Inventory numbers are low but will increase under the new guidelines.

We’ll talk about some of the new formulas in future articles that better reflect the SW Florida real estate market.

Good luck and Happy House Hunting!

Each week we spend a lot of time analyzing the local market which is important to study even though we all know we don’t operate in a bubble.  We’ve always maintained that our market is influenced by the state and national economy, tourism, interest rates, taxation, and markets up North among other things.

RE/MAX national Housing Report

So let’s take a look at the national market.  Fortunately RE/MAX publishes a national housing report.  RE/MAX collects data on 53 metro housing market including markets such as Chicago IL, Providence RI, Miami FL, Boise ID, Phoenix AZ, Detroit MI, Pittsburgh PA, Los Angeles CA, San Francisco CA, Denver CO, Orlando FL and several others which should give a pretty good cross section of the country.

National Real Estate Market Improving

The monthly study compares data from the previous month and from the previous year.  This month’s report shows transactions nationwide are up 5% over last year and median prices are up 3.7% from $163,995 last June to $170,067 this June.

Prices Rise, Sales Increase
Healthy Gains

Days on the market for homes sold dropped significantly to 84 days in the 53 metro markets. This is down 8 days from May 2012 and down 6 days from June 2011.  Inventory nationwide has dropped significantly which is forcing buyers to compete with other buyers.

Days on Market Nationwide
Days on market Fall

All this news could be good news again for SW Florida.  Last season many buyers came down and looked at properties, and several bought.  We had an excellent season.  Others needed to go back home, sell a property and get their finances in order before they could make the move to SW Florida.  Still others want to take out an equity loan against their Northern home to purchase a second home down here.  In any event, lower inventory and rising prices help our Northern friends who are interested in purchasing down here.

And it helps next year’s crop who will visit our area.  They’ll have more confidence in the market up North which can spur many of them to also consider a move to SW Florida.

Baby boomers aren’t getting any younger and sometimes the only thing standing in their way is having a house to sell or borrow against before purchasing.  This bright housing report helps in that regard.

Having election results out of the way in November may help as well.  There is much uncertainty in Congress and the White House.  Will we have national health care?  Will big cuts go into effect in certain markets Jan 1?  Will taxes go up on small business owners?  Will companies ship US jobs overseas because it’s too expensive here in the US?  Hopefully many of these answers will come in November and next season will be good as well.

What happens in the US economy influences the national real estate market.  Taxes influence the market.  Capital gains rates are set to go up in January which could hurt the market.  We have so many things at stake in November that will influence every one of us in various ways.

Florida truly is a trickle down state.  What happens up North affects us down here.  We’ll keep studying the local market, and occasionally we’ll report on the national scene as well simply because it matters.  If it matters to you, it matters to us.

In the meantime things are looking up.  Let’s keep the momentum going.  We like the direction.  Good luck and Happy House Hunting!


We thought since we know so many of the very top and most experienced agents nationwide it would be great if we could post market updates from around the country.  Here is a list of market updates you might find useful.  We post these without regards to company affiliation.  These agents are known for doing a great job in their market.

National Agent Reports

National Real Estate Market Improving

Minneapolis/ St Paul MN    Video Market Update by Steve Westmark

Louisville KY Market Update by Bob Sokoler

Naples FL Market Improves by Greg Gorman of Team Paradise

Dallas/Fort Worth, Southlake TX by Kellee Heldoorn

Eugene and Springfield OR By Galand Haas

Overland Park and Kansas City KS by Cindy DiCianni

Mandeville LA by Wayne Turner

Orlando FL market Reports  Celebration FL,  Windemere FL,  Kissimmee FL by Teri Isner

Central PA by Don Roth

Charlotte NC by Diane Honeycutt

San Mateo County CA by Samia Morgan

Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina by Tim Burrell

Fort Myers – Cape Coral FL by Brett Ellis

Lately agents have been complaining about Condo or Homeowners Associations being difficult to work with to obtain numbers to payoff associations to put a short sale closing together.  To give readers a little perspective, here is the process of a short sale.

Association Management Companies Causing More Foreclosures

Partial List of Association Company Fees
SW Florida Association Fee Chart

Once a buyer is found and contract is negotiated it is sent to the seller’s bank for consideration to take less than the full proceeds to payoff the loan.  The bank asks us to put together a sample HUD closing statement.  To do this, we along with the title company estimate a closing date, pro-rate for taxes and any other costs that would go on the statement.  A lender will not allow the seller to receive any money from the closing, so this statement must match almost exactly.  We plug in the payoff on the loans last and the bank decides whether they’ll take the payoff.

Are Association Management Companies Causing More Foreclosures

We must put in the HOA fees, and there in lies the problem, HOA and Condo Associations won’t tell you how much is owed without paying them a fee.  Keep in mind it’s in everyone’s best interest to get the deal closed so another happy homeowner can begin paying fees.  If the property goes to foreclosure, the Association has some rights to recover some past fees, but only to a certain point.  Many times the association loses money in unpaid fees. There are Florida Statutes that cover this and we won’t cover that in this article.

HOA’s and condo associations typically contract with CAM”S (Common Asset Property Manager’s) to manage their association.  There is still a board of directors and officers, but the day to day management falls to a management company unless an association is self managed.  Typically the Board interviews and hires a company based upon tasks, and fees among other things.  The management company will quote a fee, let’s say $50,000 in this hypothetical example to manage the association, hire the landscapers, collect HOA fees, and all the things an association must do. The list goes on and on.

What the Board doesn’t always consider are the hidden fees a management company charges, like estoppel letter fees.  An Estoppel letter is the formal instrument that tells the title company how much is owed by the owner so the property can be closed.  Typically the short seller is having money problems and this is why they can’t pay their mortgage or HOA fees.  They are trying to sell, but the HOA fees and legal fees keep mounting.

So when an owner cannot pay the estoppel fee so the file can be closed, it sometimes forces the property to foreclosure.  Here is a list of fees some of these companies charge to tell you how much you owe.  As you can see, they charge a certain fee nd make you wait, but if you upgrade and pay more they’ll tell you sooner.

Most even charge more after 30 days to update the fee.  It typically takes the bank longer than 30 days to approve the short sale, so more fees are almost guaranteed.

Now, the HOA or condo association doesn’t keep that money.  You guessed it, that money stays with the management company, so it’s a profit center for them.  They get paid either way a management fee to run the association.  The HOA or condo may lose money by prolonging things, but the management company doesn’t.

Keep in mind many people belong to multiple associations, so these fees may be doubled or tripled.  Also, if a homeowner is in default, they may owe an estoppel fee to the law firm in addition to the management companies.

If more Boards asked better questions when interviewing management companies they’d save their property values from declining further and the association’s financial situation would be much better off.  Keep in mind, everyone else pays when someone in trouble isn’t.  HOA fees for everyone would be less if they didn’t have to make up for those that aren’t paying.  And less foreclosures leads to higher prices in a community, so everyone but the management company has a vested interest in providing this information quickly and painlessly.

Extra fees are the dirty little secret in association management people aren’t aware of until it hits them.  Nobody is saying a company who does good work like CAM’s do shouldn’t be paid nicely for their work.  I’d rather see them be upfront about it and quote it in their bid instead of complicating things on the back end when time is of the essence.

These companies will tell you it costs them to look up and report these fees.  Does it really cost them a lot more to look them up quicker?  How long does it take an employee to check the computer?

We’ve included a chart that shows recent transactions encountered and the fees that were charged. This chart is by no means complete.  Next time you go to your HOA or condo meeting, you might ask your board to look into this.  If you’re wondering if it’s really an issue, call your agent or title company and ask them their opinion.