The St. Joe Company has announced plans to move its corporate headquarters to its large-scale development project next to the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Bay County.
The new location will enable St. Joe to build on its real-estate and economic-development successes in the Northwest Florida region, the company said in a news release.
The company will consolidate offices in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Port St. Joe and Walton County. Construction of a new 50,000 square foot building is set to begin this summer, with relocations expected to be completed by the summer of 2011.
Tallahassee State economists mostly held steady Tuesday in their forecast of tax collections for the year ahead — meaning lawmakers continue to face a budget shortfall of as much as $3.2 billion.
Tallahassee state’s four-person Revenue Estimating Conference revisited the Tallahassee economic forecast it made in December, concluding that lawmakers will have $56.1 million more than expected for the 2010-11 budget year and $25.3 million in additional money for the current spending year.
The modest shift doesn’t change much. But the on-forecast flow of tax collections the past few months indicates that the recession’s grinding slide may be nearing an end, said Amy Baker, coordinator of the state’s Economic and Demographic Research Office.
“Underlying the forecast is the assumption that the extreme financial and economic stress that began over a year ago has reached its bottom,” Baker said.
Baker said forecasters agreed that the relatively small “adjustments to the forecast are indicative of an economy that is stabilizing.”
Looking inside the numbers, the conference reported that sales tax collections — which account for the bulk of state general revenue -— have climbed by almost $130 million over the two years reviewed, while insurance premium taxes have ticked upward slightly. Tallahassee Real estate taxes are also generally holding steady, with home and condo sales rising steadily for more than a year — driven by slumping prices.
While the current budget year has reversed three straight years of decline in overall tax collections, the state still has a long road toward recovery. Economists reiterated Tuesday that it will be 2013-14 before revenue levels are expected to top the robust levels of 2005-06 — just before the bottom fell out of the real estate market.
Similarly, the adjustments made Tuesday will do little to ease the pressure on lawmakers looking to make deep budget cuts. While Gov. Charlie Crist last month proposed a $69.2 billion budget fortified by federal stimulus money still tied up in Congress and a gambling compact unresolved by Florida lawmakers, the Legislature is short $3.2 billion in just crafting a budget that meets last year’s program demands.
The data indicated that comparing January 2010 vs. January 2009, Tallahassee real estate sales were 58 percent higher. Pending sales, which are a good indicator for the next two to three months, topped 800 for the first time since Oct. 2009. In January of 2009 pending sales were 683, compared to 815 in January 2010.
Meanwhile, median sales prices did not do as well, and show the real estate market has not recovered, yet. The sales increase may, in fact, be the result of “poaching” at lower valued prices.
The median sale price for a single family home was $156,250, down from December’s figure of $170,000. It is, however, up slightly from January 2009’s figure of $149,950. For condos, the median price dropped to $165,000 from December’s figure of $199,000, which is significantly lower than last January’s figure of $220,000.
Tallahassee Association of Realtors market is rebounding from the recession, particularly in the category of normal arm’s length transactions. We are seeing a stark contrast between these two markets, and this probably reflects the fact that some buyers don’t want to wait for additional months often involved in closing a purchase of a distressed property. Also, the condition of normal, non-distressed properties can be far superior to the short sales and foreclosures on the market. Once the number of distressed properties begins to drop substantially, we should see the median sale prices start to recover.”
Tallahassee, Florida showed similar sales increases. According to Trendgraphix, Inc. the number of closed property sales increased over 35 percen, year-over-year. The number of pending transactions increased a huge 87 percent year-over-year.
Over the next few years, a wave of Tallahassee commercial real estate loan failures could threaten an already-weakened financial system.
So warns a new report from the Congressional Oversight Panel as part of its oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, highlighting yet one more hurdle for this country’s fragile economy.
The panel, chaired by Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, says it remains “deeply concerned” that commercial loan losses could jeopardize the stability of many banks, particularly the nation’s mid-size and smaller banks. Read the 183-page report for yourself here.
Worries about CRE loans — those loans taken out by developers to purchase and maintain shopping malls, offices, hotels, and apartments — have been simmering for months, as we noted in an October article.
The problems now plaguing commercial real estate have no single cause, and the panel notes that the loans most likely to fail were made at the height of the real estate bubble when commercial real estate values had been driven above sustainable levels and loans.
“[M]any were made carelessly in a rush for profit,” the panel said.
But the full impact of this CRE challenge now lies ahead of us: the largest commercial real estate loan losses are projected for 2011 and beyond; losses at banks alone could range as high as $200-$300 billion.
“A significant wave of commercial mortgage defaults would trigger economic damage that could touch the lives of nearly every American,” the panel warns us.
The report issued today shouldn’t surprise anybody that’s been listening to our central bankers, who have made it known, loud and clear, that they’re sweating the potential impact of CRE on the broader economy.
For instance, in a recent speech, Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said he was particularly concerned about the interaction among bank lending, small business employment, and CRE values.
News Hub: Mall Operator Goes Shopping
In a signal of consolidation in commercial real estate, Simon Properties has bid to buy fellow mall operator General Growth for about $10 billion. John Spence of MarketWatch discusses.
Here’s the issue, as Lockhart spelled it out: A lot of CRE exposure is concentrated at smaller institutions — banks with total assets under $10 billion. These institutions carry almost half of total CRE loans.
The problem is that many small businesses depend on these smaller banks for credit. In fact, small banks account for almost half of all small business loans.
Moreover, Lockhart said, small firms’ reliance on banks with heavy CRE exposure is substantial: Banks with the highest CRE exposure account for almost 40 percent of all small business loans.
When small banks, hoarding capital to offset future losses in the value of their CRE portfolios, don’t make loans, then small businesses can’t grow and expand and create the jobs we need. During the last two economic expansions, small firms — those with fewer than 50 employees — contributed one-third of net job growth.
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TALLAHASSEE — Foreclosure is a harsh reality for thousands of Floridians these days, but a new bill could slash mortgage payment amounts.
Orlando Democrat Rep. Darren Soto’s “Foreclosure Bill of Rights” would pressure banks to charge monthly payment amounts based on what homes are worth now and not what they were worth when they were purchased.
“The banks would get their money and the homeowners — in the short run — would get a lower payment,” Soto said. “But obviously they’d have to start paying more or start satisfying that lien if they wanted to get out sooner rather than later.”
In return for the lower payments, banks would put a lien on the property, which means eventually the homeowner would still have to pay the full value of the mortgage.
The lower payment could help many homeowners avoid eviction. But when it comes time to sell the home, if it’s not worth more than it is now, the homeowner could owe thousands of dollars on the lien.
“There are so many foreclosures; there are so many short sales going on right now people are having difficulty getting through to their lenders,” said real estate agent Penny Herman. “As I read in national newsletters, you know, banks are backlogged. So, if it were an easy fix, it would have been done by now.”
In December, the state Supreme Court ordered all current foreclosure cases be re-negotiated with a neutral third party.
But the current bill in the Legislature would let homeowners ask for mediation as soon as they fall behind on their payments, with the goal being to avoid foreclosure in the first place.
Dubai’s real estate market showed little signs of any imminent upturn in fortunes as it remained sluggish during the final quarter of 2009, with lease rates continuing to fall, CB Richard Ellis said.
According to the Dubai Land Department statistics, total transactions fell 17.7 percent to 520 in the fourth quarter from the year-ago period, the brokerage said.
According to CB Richard Ellis, lease rates for Dubai’s residential units may see a small contraction through 2010 as a substantial volume of new homes reach their final stage of construction.
Lease rates for Dubai’s commercial office space market have already bottomed out, with rents in some cases reflecting 2005 levels, the brokerage said, adding that rates in the central business district area are unlikely to see any marked shift given limited new supply over the short term. Still, newer commercial office areas that are already seeing high vacancy rates may see rates dip further as landlords continue to give greater incentive packages as they compete to woo tenants, CB Richard Ellis said.
Apartment rates are also likely to see a small drop this year, they added.
A bitter fight is brewing in Tallahassee over whether banks should be allowed to bypass court hearings in foreclosures. According to reports, the Florida Bankers Association has offered up state lawmakers a new legislative proposal that would create nonjudicial foreclosure procedures in the state, thus allowing a financial institution or servicer to sell a foreclosed home at auction in as little as 90 days after a filing notice.
Currently, Florida is one of only 13 states where foreclosures have to go through state courts, a process that allows homeowners to stave off auction sales and evictions by up to 18 months, or longer if they successfully challenge bank actions.
Supporters of the idea think the foreclosure process is in desperate need of an overhaul: too many foreclosures are clogging up court dockets (23,000 cases alone in Lee County on the Southwest coast of the state), and are forestalling a market recovery by letting homeowners stay in their houses – when they could be out renting or buying. In a non-judicial process, banks could take over homes before they fall into neglect and get a chance to recover their losses more quickly through another sale or through rental income. As part of the change, the industry would be willing to give up recourse against outstanding debt.
Opponents, such as legal aid workers for homeowners, argue this could remove a valuable legal safeguard against lenders or servicers that may not have the legal authority to foreclose because they can’t prove they own the loans. Mortgage holders could also lose a negotiating tool to modify underwater loans with uncooperative lenders and servicers.
The FBA’s proposal would only be effective for new foreclosure filings after July 1, but that’s a ways down the road: FBA president Alex Sanchez says the group is still looking for a sponsor to introduce a bill when the legislature reconvenes in March.