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Realty Check

Fighting to Stay Afloat

As the twin devils of foreclosures and recession continue to torment Southwest Florida, the plight of condominium associations is becoming more dire.

“We’re not seeing this trouble much in waterfront property,” says Ross W. McIntosh, a veteran real estate analyst and owner of the Bidder’s Broker, Naples. “It’s more common in rental-to-condo conversions, where foreclosures are high, and the developer isn’t paying his share.”

Without cash flow, condo associations can’t fund insurance, pool maintenance, trash collection and other essential services.

“Associations have to be like collection agencies now and deal with homeowners in distress. They have to contend with short sales, mortgage companies and foreclosure attorneys,” says Raymond W. Snow, of Premiere Plus Realty Co., Naples. “Associations and board directors are telephoning homeowners, posting notices on their doors, and even visiting them in person and asking them to pay.”

According to a law passed in October, says Rodger Bevington, vice president of AAIM Realty, Fort Myers, if a condo association can’t fund services, the state can appoint a receiver to assume control. McIntosh says despite conventional wisdom, foreclosures should happen quickly.

Bevington explains that the once a lender takes title to a foreclosed condominium unit, it must pay the quarterly fees six months before that date and thereafter until the unit is resold.

Trouble is, lenders needn’t pay until there’s a resale. “Now that the bailout is taking effect, some banks are paying those fees in advance of resales,” he says.

Cash-hungry condo associations have few options. They can assess the other owners to pay up the deficit. Bevington says they can put liens on lender-held foreclosures to encourage fee payment. “There isn’t too much [associations] can do after they file the lien in the courthouse,” Snow says. “I don’t think they’re going to force a foreclosure, show up at the property auction and buy a condo that’s worth $100,000 less than the mortgage balance.”

McIntosh notes some creative marketing at a 240-unit Fort Myers complex. There, Jason Ballotti of Florida Fidelity Realty Advisors bundled 109 units into a bulk short sale package in hopes of attracting an investor to buy the lot, pay the fees and use the units for rentals until the market improves.

The association woes aren’t temporary. McIntosh predicts buyers will be checking financial records carefully when better times return.


Mediterranean elegance shimmers throughout The Lucca, a four-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath Harwick Homes model at Estuary, Naples.

Sherri DuPont, of Collins & DuPont, incorporated Spanish, Moroccan and French influences with exotic accessories, a warm gold color palette and travertine flooring in gold and amber tones. “For me, the Lucca is a place where people will feel comfortable—a place where friends and family will have a good time,” she says. “The floor plan presents numerous spaces for entertaining that flow into a wonderful outdoor living area.”

Beams and corbels make the living room’s ceiling more intimate. A warm, straw-color chenille sofa faces a pre-caste fireplace that replicates native coral rock. The kitchen, which, along with the family room, is the home’s gathering and entertainment center, has maple cabinets. Spanish tiles accent the range hood. The breakfast room, with a cypress coffered ceiling, seats six.

The Lucca has 5,145 air-conditioned living square feet and is priced at $5,495,000, furnished. Residence 1904 at Esperia South in Bonita Bay presents an interior as striking as the bay and gulf views surrounding it from the building’s 19th floor.Lauri Godfrey of Godfrey Design Consultants provided the Lutgert Companies’ model with a warm, comfortable atmosphere at once both rustic and refined. “Traditional touches, such as wood paneling, add an elegance that is punctuated with dashes of the cottage look,” she says.

Two-foot squares of patika travertine tile in light gold run throughout the main living areas, which are highlighted with splashes of lemongrass green, pumpkin and fuchsia. The kitchen has black granite countertops with a backsplash covered in small, natural-stone squares. The great room’s windows stretch nearly floor to ceiling, and a second wall is finished with a grid of stained wood and mirrors. The double-doored den has a built-in, wall-length work area, stained wainscot paneling and a wood floor.

The 2,102-square-foot floor plan, with two bedrooms, kitchen with breakfast area, two and one-half baths and laundry room, is priced at $1,295,000, furnished.


HOUSE Shopping … from Home

The Web site is trouncing the For Sale sign and other traditional advertising media when it comes to finding buyers, says the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In a report released in November, 87 percent of 10,000 survey respondents said they used the Internet in their home search. The front-yard, ad-on-a-stick still has merit, but displaying the merchandise in a worldwide showcase is now the rage.

Shannon Lefevre, of John R. Wood Realtors, says the survey should be a wake-up call to sellers. “People wanting to sell their home try to be conscientious about choosing an agent,” she says. “Some depend on referrals from friends, and some rely on the reputation of the bigger firms. While those are good indicators, they should also ask where the home will appear on the Internet.”

Lefevre notes there are multiple online opportunities. Agents might have their own Web sites, and they can participate in many other joint listing sites. “Not all agents fully realize the value of Internet exposure,” she explains, “and many home sellers aren’t aware of how important that exposure can be in helping make a sale.”

Lefevre, a 12-year real estate veteran, says she’s had properties featured on the Internet purchased from long distance, too.

“If the pictures shown aren’t enough,” she says, “I do a little more video for them, and then they make their offers and complete the sale electronically.”

Tony Bernosky, of Prudential Florida WCI Realty, saw one of his condo listings move in June because the out-of-state buyer saw it online. “He knew the community, saw the photos and made his offer,” Bernosky says. “The sale closed without the buyer ever leaving home.”

NAR’s eight-page questionnaire went to home buyers and sellers involved in a sale between July 2007 and June 2008.

For more local real estate news, read Gulfshore Life’s bimonthly blog “The Housing Game” at www.gulfshorelife.com.




Collier’s Reserve

Arthur hills was enlisted to design a golf course with as little impact on the existing topography as possible for Collier’s Reserve, an upscale community of 224 single family homes that opened in 1993 off Immokalee Road just east of U.S. 41. Commercial conveniences are a stone’s throw away, but the Naples community retains its privacy and a wildlife population drawn to the natural environment.

Total number of properties:

Total number of sales November 2006 to November 2008:

Price range of sales November 2006 to November 2007:
$1,200,000 to $2,800,000

Price range of sales November 2007 to November 2008:
$925,000 to $1,820,000

On the Market:
Located at 1483 Gormican Lane, this four-bedroom home, above, includes a den and three-and-a-half baths in a 4,255-square-foot floor plan surrounded by fairway and nature views. Built in 1998 with gracious entertaining in mind, the outdoor area has a gas-heated pool, fountain and spa. There’s coziness in the living room with fireplace and convenience in a butler’s pantry linking kitchen and dining room. Listing agent Monika DeBenedictis of John R. Wood Realtors reports the selling price at $1,795,000 unfurnished, with furnishings available. 

Recent Sale:
With three bedrooms, den and three-and-a-half baths, the home at 868 Barcarmil Way overlooks the nature preserve, lake and the golf course’s eighth hole. The lanai’s heated pool and spa are accessed from nearly every room. Built in 1994 with 3,139 air-conditioned square feet and sold in 1998 for $680,000, the home sold for $925,000 in July, reports Jolene Munzenrieder of Downing-Frye Realty.

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