Saturday, January 12, 2008

Resale woes leave Orlando-area time-share owners in limbo

The Orlando Sentinel writes:

"We sold it for $1,500," Punzo said. "We had paid $7,400.

But Punzo also said she was satisfied with the Web site she used to sell the unit. That site,, lists a large number of units and tops the results list when someone surfing the Internet enters key phrases such as "time-share resales" in Google's search engine.

"Until a few years ago, before the Googles and Yahoos appeared, there was no good avenue for selling these things," said Jason Tremblay, chief executive officer of sellmytime sharenow. "Sellers are easy to find. We estimate between 15 to 20 percent of owners would like to sell."

The time-share industry insists the percentage is far lower. But there is a growing acknowledgment that the industry's rapid growth also means ever more prospective sellers.

Time-share companies spend large amounts on marketing, and many consider the secondary market a source of competition. But that may be changing. Orlando-based Marriott Vacation Club now offers to buy back some, though not all, units from those who want out.

"We have a relatively low percentage of units that are available for resales -- less than 2 percent," said Marriott Vacation Club spokesman Ed Kinney. "Resales are a byproduct of the industry. People have products that don't fit their needs. We know that."

Other companies aren't as receptive to reselling.

David Siegel, president of Westgate Resorts in Orlando, said his company warns prospective buyers that time shares are difficult to resell. And Westgate doesn't offer a formal resale program.

"It's a conflict for developers, because they have their own inventory to sell," Siegel said. "We tell owners that it is not an investment, and that they are really prepaying their vacation."

And Siegel said his sales staff is upfront about its stance.

"We tell people we won't sell it for you and we won't rent it for you," Siegel said. "But if they have to sell, we say go to friends or neighbors or advertise it in the paper."

Resale woes leave Orlando-area time-share owners in limbo

The Orlando Sentinel writes:

Pete and Sharon Bissinger loved the Kissimmee time-share apartment they had owned for 15 years, often offering it to relatives on visits to Central Florida or trading their annual week with other time-share owners for vacations in other parts of the country.

But love turned to loathing several years ago when they decided to sell the unit.

"We found that it was nearly impossible to find a buyer," said Peter Bissinger, a retiree who lives in DeLand. "People wanted $395 and more just to list the time share on the Internet. And when we paid, we never heard from anybody again."

Pete and Sharon Bissinger loved the Kissimmee time-share apartment they had owned for 15 years, often offering it to relatives on visits to Central Florida or trading their annual week with other time-share owners for vacations in other parts of the country.

But love turned to loathing several years ago when they decided to sell the unit.

"We found that it was nearly impossible to find a buyer," said Peter Bissinger, a retiree who lives in DeLand. "People wanted $395 and more just to list the time share on the Internet. And when we paid, we never heard from anybody again."

Advance bookings give hoteliers reason to smile, at least for now

Christopher Boyd writes:

"We are starting to see the effects of the marketing campaign," said Greg Hauenstein, general manager of the Lake Buena Vista Palace hotel. "We have also seen group travel remain strong. And we had no major storms . . ., which has taken away a bit of the concern people have about coming here."

Abe Pizam, dean of the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, said increases in Orange County resort-tax collections in late 2007 provide evidence that the lodging industry is in an upswing. But he said 2008 is full of unknowns.

"We have been doing relatively well, and some properties have been doing very well," Pizam said. "Will that continue . . .? Who knows?"

Hotel-room occupancy rates were hovering at about 65 percent in Metro Orlando late last year, according to monthly studies by Smith Travel Research. Those surveys don't include Walt Disney World hotels, which are generally thought to have even higher occupancy levels.

Pizam said the first two quarters of this year show every sign of remaining strong for the hotel business, but he said energy costs, price inflation and the ever-looming threat of terrorist attacks are wild cards.

"Tourism rises and falls on discretionary dollars, and nothing eats away at discretionary money as fast as inflation," Pizam said.

Pizam said inflation would probably hurt middle-market hotels the most. He said the region's growing number of luxury hotels is in a better position to withstand economic difficulties.

"Very-high-end hotels aren't so sensitive to economic factors," Pizam said. "They would not be as much affected. But hotels in the middle would take it the hardest."

Momentum, marketing are key for parks -- with few new waves

Scott Powers writes:

Universal Studios' The Simpsons ride and Disney's Hollywood Studios' Toy Story Mania ride are the only two major attractions scheduled to open this year in one of Orlando's major theme parks. Both are to open in the spring, and both are replacing old attractions. Universal also has overhauled its Earthquake . . . The Big One ride, renaming it Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride . . . Starring You.

That means the only really big difference-maker will be Aquatica, the 59-acre water park that has risen across the street from SeaWorld. It will feature 36 water slides, six rivers and lagoons, 80,000 square feet of beach plus some unique touches, such as clear-tube slides that shoot riders through pools filled with dolphins.

"I think it will definitely increase tourism traffic into Orlando, both short-term and long-term," said Joseph Couceiro, vice president of sales and marketing for Busch Entertainment. "We want people to be excited and anticipate that it will be what we know it will be: a park like no other in the world.

"But, also, we're in a marathon here, not a sprint," he said. "We need to continuously build on what is not only the SeaWorld brand, but also our Orlando brand. What we need in Orlando . . . [are] unique products that you can't get anywhere else, to make sure the Orlando brand remains relevant and invigorated."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Orlando Condos

From the Orlando Sentinel:

We confronted fallout from the nationwide slowdown in housing, as evidenced by record foreclosure rates, and we felt the pain as businesses big and small struggled to keep up with rising gas prices.

There was another side, though, to 2007, one that gave off a more prosperous vibe, thanks to plans for a new Orlando Magic arena and a new performing arts center as well as groundbreakings for a University of Central Florida medical school and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research.

As we prepare to leave 2007 behind, here are my picks for Central Florida's Top 10 business stories:

...The bubble is no more. Real estate sales nose dived and foreclosure rates shot up, easily making the slumping housing market the No. 1 story of the year. The hype over downtown condos faded, with some new towers still far from full. There's hope the market will stabilize in the next few quarters, but the carnage is far from over.

Vacation homes may be factor in occupancy rates

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Vacation homes are the wild card in Central Florida's lodging industry -- practically everyone in the travel business acknowledges their proliferation, but nobody concretely knows how many of them are out there.

The hotel industry has long suspected that the growing popularity of vacation homes has held down occupancy levels in conventional lodging.

The homes, which look identical to year-round residents' houses and condos, are instead used as short-term rentals, offering vacationers privacy and residential conveniences at prices that often undercut hotel rooms.

Steve Trover, chief executive officer of All Star Vacation Homes in Kissimmee, estimates that between 25,000 and 30,000 vacation homes are available in Central Florida.

Trover says that, even if the economy cools this year, vacation homes are likely to suffer less than hotels because they are often more economical for families vacationing in groups and are very popular with the British, whose currency is faring unusually well against the U.S. dollar.

It's not your mother's Florida


Florida doesn't follow tourism trends. It makes them. So, it's no surprise that spa life, one of the fastest growing branches of tourism, is booming.

More than 100 major resort spas have sprung up throughout the state, appealing to a range of tastes, budgets and lifestyles, from clothing-optional to black-tie. One thing is for sure. It's no longer your mother's Florida.

The state boasts 1,770 kilometres of warm, sandy beaches and more golf courses - 1,370 and counting - than any other U.S. state. It's an agora of tourism, welcoming 84 million visitors per year, most of whom are from other parts of the United States but more than 2 million from Canada.

Orlando Inventory Drops

The number of homes on the market in the Orlando area dropped by 158 homes during the month of November, which provides a baby’s breath of relief to the area’s record-high inventory. Every month so far in 2007 except for September – when inventory decreased by three homes – has seen more homes added to the market than subtracted.

The median sales price of a single-family home in the Orlando area held steady at $235,000 for the third month in a row, reports the Orlando Regional Realtor® Association. The median price for November 2007 is 6.0 percent below that of November 2006 ($250,000), and the year-to-date median home sales price ($245,000) is 1.21 percent below 2006 ($248,000).

The number of sales in the Orlando area declined by 47.66 percent in November 2007 compared to November of last year (963 to 1,840). The number of sales that took place in November 2007 decreased over the number of sales that occurred in October 2007 (1,090). Year-to-date sales for 2007 (15,602 through November) are down by 39.1 percent over the same period in 2006 (25,614).

The area’s average interest rate was 6.08 percent in November 2007 — which represents a continuing downward trend since a high of 6.60 percent in August.

The drop in the median home price to $235,000 that took place in September means that the area’s affordability index has improved by nearly 9 percentage points to 93.9 percent over the last four months. (An affordability index of 93.9 percent means that buyers earning the state-reported median income are 6.1 percent short of the income necessary to purchase a median-priced home.) Buyers who earn the median income of $51,218 can qualify to purchase one of 6,966 homes in Orange and Seminole counties currently listed in the local multiple listing service (MLS) for $199,750 or less.

Florida Real Estate Market Reached Bottom in 2007

A new report released today by Attorneys' Title Insurance Fund
Inc. (The Fund) and posted on finds that
Florida's housing market slowed in 2007 in nearly every county
analyzed. The report also shows that real estate markets flattened out
in spring 2007, before the subprime mortgage crisis in August knocked
markets down another 10 percent across the state. Since then the
housing market has flattened and is expected to begin to recover
during the next several years.

The 2008 Fund Real Estate Forecast, commissioned by Florida-based
Attorneys' Title Insurance Fund's Consumer Education Campaign, was
created by economist Hank Fishkind, Ph.D. of Fishkind & Associates,
Inc., using The Fund's extensive online system of deed data for more
than 30 Florida counties. The report provides a snapshot of the
national economic outlook and 33 county-specific forecasts for 2008
through 2010, as well as a section detailing how actual 2007 data
compared to projections that were made in last year's Fund 2007 Real
Estate Forecast report.

"Florida is one of the leading states for job creation and
outperformed the rest of the country despite the housing market
meltdown," stated Fishkind. "The state's population growth also
slowed, but is still nearly greater than all of the other Southeastern
states put together. Florida has a very large and powerful economy
that has gone through a cyclical downshift, but it is still
outperforming compared to the rest of the nation."

The Fund's 2008 Real Estate Forecast shows that Orlando continues
to be the strongest residential real estate market in the state
because of its large share of fast-growing industries, such as
tourism, healthcare, education and defense manufacturing. Not all
markets in Florida mirror Orlando's resiliency, however. Miami-Dade is
currently going through the worst condominium bust cycle that Florida
has seen since 1975. Additionally, significant excess supply of
single-family homes in the Fort Myers and Cape Coral markets will not
begin to be absorbed until 2010.

"With Florida's real estate market, it is important to maintain
some perspective as recent reductions in home prices come after a very
lofty and unsustainable peak, and prices are still up considerably
compared to 30 years ago," explained Fishkind. "Florida has created a
tremendous amount of wealth and - despite many of the problems that
loose lending practices and subprime mortgages have caused - the state
now has the highest level of homeownership ever. The market has some
indigestion now, but housing markets will return to normal during the
next few years; the damage for some is significant, but in the
aggregate, Florida still had some significant economic gains."

Orlando-area landlords shift to apartment rentals after condo bust

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Apartments are beginning to draw more attention from potential tenants in some parts of the Orlando area -- though in others, apartments are still chasing renters with discounts and deals.

Complex owners put the brakes on the conversion-to-condos craze during the past year, and now the leasing side of the ledger is regaining a marketing advantage for them.

RP Realty Partners, for example, decided in October against converting The Majestic of Downtown Baldwin Park to condominiums -- a decision that has paid off for the California real-estate investment company.

Lennar's New Homes Fetch 60% Less as U.S. Market Slump Deepens

Bob Ivry writes:

``We're watching Denver, Phoenix, Austin and Tucson, but South Florida is our principal focus,'' said Arsenault, 60. ``If you're a vulture, Florida has more carrion. This stuff is lying on the ground. It's lost life. Some of the stuff in Phoenix is still breathing. Perhaps not for long.''

Arsenault said he and his three partners may buy a block of about 50 new, unsold condominiums in Orlando, Florida. They have a price in mind and they're willing to wait until they get it: 40 cents on the dollar.

``There's a risk to buying too early in the downturn, but buying too expensive is our biggest pitfall,'' he said.

Companies such as Miami-based Lennar, the biggest U.S. homebuilder by revenue, need to generate cash to make up for slowing home sales, especially this time of year, said Vicki Bryan, a Friendswood, Texas-based senior high-yield debt analyst for Gimme Credit LLC.

``They sold land at 40 cents on the dollar and they're happy to get it,'' Bryan said. ``The value of land is eroding by the minute.''

Orlando Condos

Viera Beach, FL (PRWEB) January 10, 2008 -- Real estate auction company Marsha Wolak Auctions will be auctioning the remaining 20 of 250 new Florida condos in the Three Fountains complex in Viera Beach, FL on February 10 at 1 p.m. Ten units will be sold absolute. Currently the properties are being offered from $124,900 to $209,900. The units are one, two and three-bedroom condos. Many units have lakefront views and the complex has amazing amenities, including resort style pool with heated spa, wireless internet access, secure gated entry, state-of-the-art gym, luxury club house and putting green.

With an ideal East Coast location, this beautiful Florida condo complex has close proximity to the Brevard Zoo, Space Coast Stadium, King Center for Performing Arts and pristine Atlantic beaches. In addition, the historic districts of downtown Melbourne and Old Eau Gallie Riverfront offer many cultural and community art events. Another benefit is the short 45 minute drive to all the Orlando attractions.

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Real Estate Investor Survery

Report: "Central business district (CBD) markets that endured some of the highest
increases in overall vacancy between the second and third quarters of 2007
included Orange Country, CA, Fort Lauderdale and Fairfield Country, CT. By
comparison, CBD markets that posted some of the highest decreases in vacancy
included Silicon Valley, Baltimore and Orlando. Suburban markets that endured
some of the highest overall vacancy increases included California's Inland
Empire, Orange County and Oakland. By comparison, suburban markets that posted
some of the highest decreases included the San Francisco peninsula, Seattle and

Luxury Condos Open In Downtown Orlando


ORLANDO, Fla. -- The tallest taste of elegant living in downtown Orlando celebrated its grand opening on Thursday.

City leaders and homeowners came together to watch the ribbon cutting at the Vue at Lake Eola.

An 1,100-square-foot condominium will cost about $500,000, and a 35th-floor penthouse is going for $3 million.

The shaky housing market doesn't seem to be affecting business at the Vue. All but 25 of its 375 units are sold.

Representatives started selling the luxury condominiums in 2004 before the market took a hit.

"We had a really hard time selling our home, but we persisted. It took a year and a half, and we sold it, but we think what's really different is the special attention and the view," homeowner Leslie Miller said.

New Condos For Sale In Orlando


Welcome to the Orlando, Florida Condominiums Section of American Home Guides. Please click on a new community listing to get detailed information about the community and available Orlando condos and condominium homes. Be sure to request a free brochure or contact the home builder for additional information about their Orlando condominiums for sale or under construction.