International Buyers Target Orlando

london-bigben-1500x850Americans from the Northeast and Midwest have been flocking to Florida for decades, but Orlando remains a favorite destination for our friends across the pond as well.  Recently, A Place in the Sun, a British TV show and magazine, put out a glowing and informative feature on the Orlando market.  Check out the full article below…

The strong dollar hasn’t kept the crowds away from Florida this year, with the Sunshine State on course for a new tourism record. Visitor numbers in the first six months of 2016 increased by 6 per cent compared with last year and the state expects to welcome 115 million tourists for the whole year, compared with 105 million in 2015.

Similarly, September marked a record year for Orlando International Airport, where the green light has been given recently for a new terminal. In the 12 months to the end of September, 41.5 million passengers passed through the airport, representing a year-on-year increase of 10 per cent. International traffic was up by 14.75 per cent.

This is all good news for homeowners in Florida, with demand driving both house price growth and rentals. “The market is really picking up here in Orlando, with more investors now looking at buy-to-let properties as well as vacation homes,” said An Flamand, owner of the agent Orlando Vacation Realty. “Prices are still very good value, especially compared to what your money gets you elsewhere, like in Europe.”

David D’Ambrosio, director of operations at the Grove Resort & Spa in Orlando, added: “Recent statistics from HomeUnion [the investment property portal] revealed that Orlando’s family holiday home rental market is set to rise by 6.1 per cent per month this year, due to its growing leisure and hospitality industries.”

Most second homes around Disney are in the “Golden Triangle” or “Four Corners” areas. Fanning northwards from Haines City to the edges of Disney, these include the metropolitan hubs of Davenport, Kissimmee and ChampionsGate where short-term rentals are allowed, and being bisected by Interstate 4 affords fast access to Orlando city and the airport. Here’s a closer look at where to buy, depending on your requirements.

Second homes with proven rentals to pay the bills

Established communities (also called resorts) that combine easy access to the theme parks and golf typically offer the best rental returns. Popular ones suited to the traditional family second homeowner include High Grove, Tuscan Hills, Solana, Calabay Parc, Highlands Reserve, Highgate Park, Tuscan Ridge and West Haven. Disney World is no more than 20-25 minutes’ drive from each of these.

“For budgets of $80,000 to $135,000, most clients realise that a condo or apartment with resort amenities is the best option,” said Howard Thorne at Homes of America Realty Group.

“And those with $135,000 to $200,000 lean more towards a town home, preferably one with its own splash/plunge pool. And those buyers looking for a home that attracts enough rental income to at least pay for itself, leaving enough profit over to pay for trips to Florida a couple of times a year, are paying $200,000 to $350,000.”

Single family homes for as little as $160,000 are available, said Mr Thorne, but with lower rental yields they are usually better suited to retirees or non-rental second homeowners.

For buyers planning to spend six months of the year in Florida, typically retirees, more residential communities with quieter neighbourhoods, lots of natural scenery and where the homeowners’ association (HOA) fees are low are preferred. Examples are Watersong in Davenport and Orange Tree in Clermont.

The agent Homes of America recently helped a couple who appeared on A Place in the Sun on the TV to purchase in Watersong. “They were looking for a more residential/second home area, where they could spend half the year,” said Mr Thorne. “Initially, they did not want to rent out their property, but they now accept 10-16 weeks of rentals each year, just to cover their outgoings on the house.”

An Flamand confirmed that “most buyers tend to look for three, four and five-bedroom vacation homes with pools and sometimes spas, too”. She recently helped Scottish clients to buy a four bedroom second home with a pool in West Haven, Davenport. They paid $245,000 for the property, which is a holiday home that they’ll also let.

Meanwhile, communities suited to buyers who don’t want to be more than 10 minutes from Disney include Windsor Hills, Sunset Lakes, Emerald Island, Tuscany, Calabria, Indian Creek and Formosa Gardens.

Golf, not theme parks?

If being closer to a fairway is more important, a home in the golf communities of Reunion, ChampionsGate, Mystic Dunes and Southern Dunes are safe bets. For something new, though, Flamand suggests a new-build town home at the golf villas development at Providence Golf Club, Davenport, where the developer is offering fixed rental returns.

Meanwhile, just west of Orlando in Montverde is the relaunched Bella Collina golf community. The project, created by the same developer as Reunion, stalled during the last economic crisis but not before the one-of-a-kind Tuscan-style clubhouse was built, infrastructure put in and the Nick Faldo golf course was opened in 2008.

With a new owner, the community offers stunning lakeside and frontline plots, available through The Jerry Barker Group, whose own property there will open as a show home early in the new year. Prices at Bella Collina start from about $500,000 for a three-bed pre-construction home, rising to $11million for a palatial lakeside home built in 2014.

Fully managed vacation resorts: the ultimate stress-free property

Some of Florida’s most exciting opportunities are in new hotel-style vacation resorts, where owners often have the option to enter their property into a leaseback or rental scheme with the developer. Facilities offered at new projects coming to market in the next year are comparable to full-blown holiday resorts.

Once complete, The Grove Resort & Spa, next to Lake Austin and five minutes from Disney, will include 878 apartments. For a limited time the resort is offering buyers in the first phase of 292 units the option to enter a two-year leaseback programme, which delivers a 10 per cent gross return (before tax and insurance).

Owners will then have the option to join the standard rental programme managed by Benchmark Hospitality International. Prices at The Grove, where extensive on-site facilities include a water park and surf simulator, start at $255,000. Not five minutes from The Grove and even closer to Disney is the site of another mega resort, Margarita Village, by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Resort Orlando, due for completion by the end of 2017. Centred around a hotel, a lake with a beach area, water park and commercial outlets, the site will include a mix of vacation homes, timeshare units and residential apartments.

“Margarita Village is going to be something else,” said Jerry Barker. “We have over a dozen pre-sale reservations, including one of my own. Models and prices are due to be released early next year and the infrastructure is currently going in. This place will rock everything else.”

Balmoral at Waters Edge in Haines City, 25 minutes from Disney and 12 minutes from Legoland, is another more boutiquey option. Built around a series of navigable lakes and themed garden areas, a total of 245 three to eight-bedroom houses are planned. Complementing the clubhouse and usual amenities will be a water park and Ronaldo soccer academy.

The resort’s grand opening is planned for the end of March. “Phase one, which consisted of 102 units, has just sold out with the largest group of buyers being from the UK,” said Garrett Kenny, chief executive of Feltrim Group, Balmoral’s developer.

“We released phase two, which consists of 85 units, in October. Prices are from $328,000, inclusive of luxury furniture and a private pool. We’re also offering a 6 per cent net leaseback contract to buyers at Balmoral for up to three years, including off -peak personal use.”

All on-site management at Balmoral will be by Feltrim Resorts, whose recent contract with Virgin Holidays, kicking off in the spring, has already resulted in 150 bookings for the May to December 2017 period.

With a growing number of resort launches lined up, central Florida’s holiday home market is gearing up for an exciting 2017. For a home that lets you and your rental guests enjoy theme parks, golf and a quality outdoors lifestyle, the sunshine state is hard to beat.

This article provides just another current testimony of why Orlando remains one of the hottest destinations for international travelers.  We look forward to welcoming more UK vacationers and second home buyers here in the months and years to come.

For more information on the Central Florida real estate market, consult with Team Koss at Keller Williams Classic in Orlando.  Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Mortgage Markets Respond to Fed Rate Hike


As the Federal Reserve raised interest rate hike last Wednesday, fixed-rate loans on mortgages also increased.  On 30 year loans, rates climbed from 4.21 to 4.0, whereas 15 year loans saw a 3.42 to 3.5 percent increase.

Most experts see the Federal Reserves’s .25% hike (from .75% to 1%) as a prudent maneuver in a strengthening economy.  Jobs numbers in February, for example, far surpassed expectation.  The Fed has indicated future hikes are likely to continue.

This Inman article offers some perspective on the interaction between mortgage rates and Federal Reserve interest rates:

“That Fed move is already built in to rates” for other products (like mortgages), added Barnes — which seems to be the consensus from other experts, too.

The Federal Reserve sets the rate for the overnight exchange of money by banks; governors adjust the rate to help curb inflation or stimulate growth, depending on their assessment of what would be best for the economy.

Although this rate is not the same thing as the mortgage interest rate that buyers pay when they take out on a loan on a home, movement of the Fed rate up or down can put pressure on mortgage interest rates.

“With this increase well anticipated by most markets, Keller Williams does not expect any dramatic change in the current path of mortgage rates. Rates will likely continue to slowly rise this year barring a change in the economic situation,” said Ruben Gonzalez, staff economist, Keller Williams, in a statement.

None of this is cause to panic, as the raise in rates are said to be a result of a stronger economy.  If more people find work and incomes rise, more home ownership should follow. However, if you are currently considering buying, you may want to consult a mortgage expert and get the process rolling to lock in the lowest possible rate.


Economic Development, Tourism on Agenda in Tallahassee

Governor Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran may be members of the same party, but they hold a very different view on several key positions regarding business incentives and tourism marketing.

Governor Scott is asking the legislature to approve $85 million for Enterprise Florida funding, a public-private economic development corporation, as a means of attracting more major employers to the Sunshine State.  The Governor has the backing of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, who’s CEO Wilson said Enterprise Florida is a key component of bringing in  “high-wage, high-skill jobs.” Governor Scott is also asking for $76 million for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing program.

Both measures are met with opposition from Speaker Corcoran who contest that the state government should not “pick winners and losers” in the market, nor should it spend public money on boosting tourism to promote private companies.  Republican majorities in the Florida legislature will be forced to make a tough choice between Governor Scott and Speaker Corcoran’s position, or find some way of reconciling the two.

Scott was denied his request for $250 million for Enterprise Florida in last year’s budget, but has come back asking for a much smaller amount.  The Governor has proposed an $83.5 billion budget plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017.  Among other highlights in the budget include business tax cuts, increased education funding and healthcare spending cuts.

Lawmakers have begun putting their agenda’s forward, as Regular Session of the Florida Legislature convenes on March 7 in Tallahassee.

Written by Brian Koss of Team Koss, Real Estate Agents at Keller Williams Classic in Orlando.  Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

FHA Loans Insurance Premium Cuts, Cancelled

Things are changing in Washington DC with President Donald Trump being sworn into office last Friday.  One of the first executive actions taken by the new President was in regards to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan insurance premiums.

The scheduled rate cut were set to take effect on January 27 and would have amounted to reducing FHA-loan insurance fees (MIP fees) from .85% of loan amount to .60% of loan amount.  Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to Twitter in criticism of the policy, saying it would have saved home buyers as much as $500 per year.

So why did the Trump Administration take action?  The argument is based around concerned related to events that happened with the real estate collapse of the mid-2000s.  FHA loans already allow for small down payments (as low as 3.5%) and credit scores as low as 580; meaning that FHA borrowers are more likely to have less stable financial history.  The main concern is that these riskier borrowers are more likely to default on their loans and that cost would fall back on the FHA (i.e. taxpayers).

What does this mean for you?  Well, if you are currently paying these monthly fees on your loan, your rate will remain the same.  Since the cut has not gone into effect, your payments will not change, for the time being. President Trump has selected Ben Carson as his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, but Carson has yet to be confirmed for the position. Carson did signal, however, that when he assumes his new role, they will reevaluate the policy.

This action is not likely to have much impact on the housing market, but it is interesting to note that the real estate industry has been in the spotlight, day one of the new Administration.

Written by Brian Koss of Team Koss, Real Estate Agents at Keller Williams Classic in Orlando.  Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Election’s Impact on the Real Estate Market

Picture of White House –

We can all agree, the 2016 Election was one for the history books. Both pollsters and financial experts alike, failed to predict the outcome of the election, as well as its impact on the economy.

Wall Street overwhelmingly supported Secretary Clinton’s campaign. Some in the financial community predicted an almost doomsday-like scenario if Trump were elected. Yet, in the days following Trump’s victory, markets rallied to record-breaking heights. This spike is perhaps attributable to investor’s realization that Trump’s proposed tax, health, regulatory and energy reforms, as well as projected investment in infrastructure, would create a pro-growth environment.

So what impact will President elect Trump, have on the residential real estate market?

If Trump’s policy agenda is enacted, forecasters expect at least a short-term boost to the economy. As a result, we are likely to see more jobs, rising incomes and a lower tax burden. Theoretically, this could result in more money in the pockets of homebuyers. Thus, renters may be incentivized to buy.

On the flip side, Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, has expressed support for privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and has called for more scrutiny on government-backed loans. There has already been an increase in mortgage rates post-election, and the December meeting of the Federal Reserve may result in a slight increase in interest rates.

There is no clear consensus on the impact of a Trump Administration on the residential real estate market. Some experts advise those looking to buy or refinance should be patient as rates stabilize; while other experts suggest buyers should buy now in order to lock in lower rates.

Brian Koss is a member of Team Koss,  Real Estate Agents at Keller Williams Classic in Orlando.  This article was featured in the West Orange Chamber of Commerce December newsletter and on their Blog and News section.   Team Koss are members of the West Orange Chamber. 

The Presidential Election Puzzle

America will pick their next President on Tuesday November 8th.  In the remaining days, candidates will remain focused on campaign rallies and television advertising in the key battleground states that will determine the outcome of the election.

A great source for following the breakdown of polling in each state is Real Clear Politics.  RCP is citing most often by media outlets because it provides and average of all the polls taken in each state and come up with a plausible outcome based on those averages.  Currently, the national polling average has Hillary Clinton with a +1.7% advantage in a 2 way race and +2.2% advantage over Donald Trump in a race including multiple candidates.

Two things of note:  First, there are multiple candidates on the ballot.  Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) and Jill Stein (Green Party) are both showing that they register at with a few percentage points in national polls. Evan McMullin is also running an independent campaign for President, focused primarily on winning the state of Utah’s 6 Electoral Votes, which would typically go to the Republican nominee. Several polls have shown McMullin quite competitive in Utah.  Second, the national polls are just an indicator of the mood of the country, but will not determine the outcome of the election.  The candidate who will become the next President of the United States will have to win 270 Electoral Votes in the Electoral College.

The Electoral College was designed by America’s Founders to weigh each state’s influence according to population, giving them a representative number of votes.  The Electoral College votes for each states are determined by the number of Congressional Districts in each state, plus the number of US Senate seats (which is 2 for every state).  This guarantees even the least populated states like Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming at least 3 Electoral Votes.  Our system also allows states to determine how those Electoral Votes are allocated.  For example, the states of Maine and Nebraska break up the allocated votes according to Congressional District.  Each state has 4 Electoral Votes; 2 of which will be determined by each state’s Popular Vote, and the other 2 are determined by the outcome in each of the state’s Congressional districts.  Normally, this has not been a factor, however, Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is considered a “Toss UP” in this election.  Currently, Clinton is leading Trump in the RCP Polling Average by only  +0.7%.

When looking at polling, pollsters allow for approximately a 3% swing in either direction, called the margin of error.  Similarly, not all polls have the same methodology.  Over and under sampling of certain groups within the electorate are often a subject of dispute.  According to the pundits, pollsters and campaigns, there are anywhere from 11-18 states that are going to determine the outcome of the November 8th election. RCP Averages currently have the following states in the “Toss Up”category:  Florida (29), Ohio (18), Georgia (16), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Arizona (11), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4) and Maine 2nd (1).

Additionally, there there are several other states that are currently categorized as “Leans Democrat” that have seen recent visits from both candidates this week. These include:  Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10) and New Mexico (5).  The Rust Belt states of PA, MI and WI have been seen to be of particular interest to the Trump campaign, where his message on opposition to trade agreements like NAFTA and the pending Trans Pacific Partnership seems to resonate with blue collar workers.

Three other states are listed as “Leans GOP,” which include:  Texas (38), Indiana (11) and Missouri (10).  In recently weeks, the Clinton campaign made trips to Arizona and Texas, hoping these once solid Republican states with high populations of Latino voters could start moving in her direction.  Given recent movements in the polls it is very likely Mr. Trump will win Texas and these other GOP leaning states, but Arizona will likely remain a critical battleground state.

One thing is for certain, Florida’s 29 Electoral Votes are crucial for both candidates.  The amount of time spent in the state by both candidates in all corners of Florida in the last week of the election is testimony that the entire election could come down to outcome of the Sunshine State.


Why Florida is the Most Coveted Swing State

On November 8th, Americans will elect a new President and Floridians will choose a US Senator, members of Congress and many state legislative and local officials.  It could be said that; so goes Florida, so goes the nation.  Here’s a few facts about how Florida is a critical player in national elections:

  • Florida has 29 Electoral Votes, tied with New York for the third most of any state. Only California (55) and Texas (38) have more.  As you may know, the Electoral College (not the popular vote) determines the outcome of the Presidential election.
  • Florida is considered perhaps the most coveted “swing state” in the country.  In the past couple decades, California and New York have leaned heavily Democratic, whereas Texas has leaned heavily Republican.  This leaves Florida’s 29 Electoral Votes as the largest prize for a state that is not locked in for one party.
  • The winner of the last four Presidential elections has won the state of Florida.  President Obama won Florida in 2012 and 2008.  President Bush won Florida in 2004 and 2000.  Many of you will remember the Florida recount in 2000, in which George W. Bush only won by just 537 votes.
  • Florida has a very diverse electorate.  Florida is the retirement capital of the US, meaning over 19% of the state’s population is 65 or older.  These retirees come in from many of the Northeast and Midwest states.  Only one third of Florida residents are native born Floridians and Florida is taking in hundreds of thousands of new residents each year.  23% of Floridians were born outside the continental United States; many of those migrating from US territory of Puerto Rico.  Cuban immigration is also larger (by far) in Florida than any other state.
  • Geographically speaking, the northern parts of Florida (Panhandle and Jacksonville area), tend to lean heavily toward Republicans, where as Southeast Florida (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach), tend to lean heavily toward Democrats. These means the battleground areas are all across Central Florida, otherwise known as the I-4 Corridor. The Presidential candidate who wins Florida will have to convince voters in the greater Daytona, Orlando and Tampa areas that they are best fit to lead the nation.

Absentee and early voting is already taking place across the state.  If you are unsure the whereabouts of your local precinct voting location, or you’d like information on locations for early voting, contact your local county Supervisor of Elections.

Click here for Supervisor of Elections in your county or enter your search your county Supervisor of Elections online:

Lake County SOE

Orange County SOE

Osceola County SOE

Seminole County SOE 

Whatever your candidate, party or preference, if your live in Florida, your vote truly matters!


Two Ballot Issues Impacting Homeowners

Vote your home! 

As you may have heard, November 8th is Election Day.  But, if you are in Lake, Osceola, Orange, Seminole and most counties in Florida, early voting begins Monday, October 24th.  There are two ballot measures near the back of your ballot that directly matter to homeowners.  Here’s some information provided by the Florida Chamber of Commerce:

Amendment #3:  Tax Exemption for Totally and Permanently Disabled First Responders

 Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize a first responder, who is totally and permanently disabled as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty, to receive relief from ad valorem taxes assessed on homestead property, if authorized by general law. If approved by voters, the amendment takes effect January 1, 2017.

Amendment #5:  Homestead Tax Exemption for Certain Senior, Low-Income, Long-Term Residents; Determination of Just Value

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to revise the homestead tax exemption that may be granted by counties or municipalities for property with just value less than $250,000 owned by certain senior, low-income, long-term residents to specify that just value is determined in the first tax year the owner applies and is eligible for the exemption. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2017, and applies retroactively to exemptions granted before January 1, 2017.

James Madison Institute has released a very detailed guide explaining both sides of these issues.  CLICK HERE for their analysis. Ballotpedia also offers a good breakdown of these issues –  CLICK HERE for more information.

For homeowners and future homeowners, issues you will vote on this November could have long term implications for your pocketbook.