Most SW Floridians don’t realize that the US government raised rates on flood insurance back in 2012.  The Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act of 2012 was signed into law July 6, 2012 and is being phased in over time.

Big Changes in Flood Insurance You Need to Know
Danger- Rising Rates Could Keep You Underwater

Big Changes in Flood Insurance You Need to Know

Realtors have been sounding alarms in Tallahassee and elsewhere because flood insurance rates under the new program could double or triple, effectively pricing new homeowners out of buying certain properties.  To make matters worse, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has reclassified certain properties that weren’t previously located in a mandated flood zone into a now mandated flood zones.

Some homeowners have never had flood insurance on their property but when they go to sell it will be required.  Some homeowners have received letters from their lenders requiring them to obtain flood insurance.

The issue is Congress is essentially raising taxes by raising flood rates and making more people buy flood insurance.  The program was losing money so something had to be done, but the Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act of 2012 said FEMA was to provide an affordability study on what the effects of implementation would be on consumers.  That study was to be completed by April 2013 but has not been done yet.

Florida Realtors President Dean Asher spoke to the members of the Florida Cabinet recently at the request of Governor Rick Scott.  He urged the Florida Cabinet to call on Congress to act now to delay “implementation of the Act’s rate increase provisions for grandfathered and newly purchased properties, pending FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) report to Congress on the results of the affordability study that was required by Biggert-Waters.” That still-unknown affordability study was supposed to be submitted to Congress this past April, he pointed out.

Existing homeowners were protected by phasing in the rate increase but new homeowners have no such protection.  This may limit the growth in real estate as added costs to the buyer curtail how much they can afford to pay for the home.  It’s a total cost issue.  A buyer must weigh cost of home, interest rate, down payment requirements, home owner’s insurance, condo or HOA fees, taxes, and now rising flood insurance rates.  The total cost impacts buying power, and if a buyer is impacted you can bet sellers will be too.

FEMA has recently updated its website to help consumers identify a property’s flood zone and estimate the cost of a new policy.  It can be found at The website gives a large range of costs but at least you’ll get an idea of a low end and top end and a list of agents that can write flood policies to check with.

We’re not sure what effect states can have on the federal government, so it’s probably safe to assume flood rates are going up and it may impact all of us in some form. We welcome any attention the State if Florida can give to the US government on this issue.

New disclosures to purchase contracts have just been released for new sales contracts.  Be sure to factor in the new changes as it could affect your cost of ownership.

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SW Florida Realtors are in for big changes in October if all goes as announced.  4 MLS systems from Naples, Bonita/Estero, Cape Coral, and Fort Myers and the Beaches will be together under one vendor and one shared MLS database.  It almost didn’t happen though, and when it does, there will be some challenges.

MLS Systems Are Merging – Benefits and Challenges Ahead

For some perspective all 4 boards met last year and decided to merge together but for some reason the Greater Fort Myers and the Beaches Board pulled out and decided to stick with their Vendor Rapattoni even though the others had selected Matrix.  After the other 3 boards made the move in August of this year, it became apparent having one board with one set of data and the separate boards with another set of data was going to be a nightmare.

Fort Myers voted to share the data with the other boards and all could share some data and keep their own vendor, but this was fraught with perils.  For instance, in Fort Myers and Cape Coral we have lots that are waterfront and direct access with no bridges.  This isn’t as much of an issue in Bonita and Naples, so the 3 board’s database doesn’t include this field.  Because the Cape Coral board merged with the other two we have no idea why they didn’t insist on this, but it isn’t there.

Had each board kept their own vendor and done the data share any agent searching for direct access homes or lots would have returned 0 results from the common shared database file because that field doesn’t exist in the shared database even though it does in the Fort Myers board.

Because the 4 boards are now one common database the field still does not exist, but at least now agents won’t be misled by a 0 matching properties result.  The agent just won’t be able to search on that field.

Matrix MLS Map Based Search Results

One advantage is the search results, and even the search itself can be map based, so you can see where the properties are located.  This will be particularly helpful when an agent doesn’t know for sure what Geo Area a property is in but just wants to do a quick search.  Some properties are located in a particular development name even though the legal description matches a particular subdivision name.  Searching under the new system will now be easier using the map, or the community name field.

Matrix MLS Great Fort Myers Association of Realtors

The waterfront description field is just one example of a search that would have been disastrous under a database sharing agreement.  Now things will work much smoother.  Some argued, including us, that the new Matrix system was superior to Rapattoni.  Some argued Rapattoni would be superior once new features kicked in.

The real argument never was which vendor was superior.  The system all 4 boards use jointly working together will be better no matter which vendor was selected. We like the map based search and the mobile solution Matrix uses better and we’re happy the Fort Myers Board changed and went with the new system, but the real advantage begins when all 4 major MLS’s operate together as one.  In my 25+ years in real estate we’ve been fractured and I’m so thankful the boards have gotten together and made this happen.  It’s been a long time coming and agents deserve having the information in one place and not having to check various MLS’s for data.

In the future, if a newer better technology comes along it is our sincere hope all 4 MLS’s will work together.  Now it’s time for Sanibel and Captiva to get on board and work together.  If 4 major MLS’s can do it, you can too.  While we’re at it, a common database up and down the West coast of Florida would be even better.  And one day, why not a joint state regional MLS like other states have done?  Now we’re just talking crazy, so we’ll stop and say thank you to all involved for making this happen.  Agents and consumers won on this one!

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