26 November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Modern Florida homes, by real estate specialist Tobias Kaiser modernsouthflorida.com

In gratefulness for what we have, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

Photo: Zwetschgen (135205) ©tckaiser

21 November 2014

How much house you get for $2m nationally; On airline misery; Two opponents united

Several things are on my mind this week... here we go:

You may remember a weirdo in Raleigh, NC, who objected to a modern home being built after it was approved and half finished?

Well, the petty-minded neighbour lost, and the owners can complete construction of their modest modern in the Oakwood neighbourhood.

Modern homes by Florida real estate agent and modern architecture specialist Tobias Kaiser
The Weber house by Weber/Matsumoto, 1953
Now fate brought two former opponents in that case together again. How? A Raleigh homeowner wants to remove the historic designation she had sought for her 1953 modernist home, the Weber house.

At Wiesner vs. Cherry/Gordon on opposite sides, now North Carolina Modernist Homes and the Oak City Preservation Alliance are united in fighting against that little side-step, which seems driven by the owner's awakened sense of marketability.

Her argument: though she hopes the next owner will enjoy the house as it is, but: when she is ready to sell she could do so much easier without the burden of the designation.

So why seek it in the first place – for a tax break perhaps? Read all the juicy details at the News & Observer.

Lively mod scene up there, ain't it? And: did I mention that preservation starts with the seller, not the buyer?


Off-topic: Bad week for Jet Blue-flyers. The once rule-breaking and beloved airline caved in – a sign of modern times?

It will A) charge for checked bags (yup), B) will start a tiered pricing system for tickets – the more flexibility you want, the more you pay – and C) will introduce a "cabin refresh".

That is what Caroline Costello over at SmarterTravel correctly calls "a pleasant-sounding way to tell us that other peoples' seatbacks (and elbows) will be closer than ever", and their planes "are going to get more crowded, with less available overhead-bin space".

Which leaves Southwest – for now – as the only domestic carrier where luggage flies for free.

But much more important: if your travel plans change, as mine did for reasons outside of my control three times this year, SWA does not charge re-booking fees.

Correct: no re-booking fee, only any possible fare difference. That policy saved my bacon three times in 2014 – this weekend one of those instances – and makes SWA my Go-To domestic carrier, preferred by lightyears.


Modern homes by Florida real estate agent and modern architecture specialist Tobias Kaiser
The Duenke house by Ralph Fournier
Finally, back to Real Estate:

The Gray Lady (nickname for the New York Times stemming from the time before it started printing in colour) published an overview how much house you will get for $2,000,000 nationwide.

Following that, in my next post I will show you what $2m buys in South Florida.  

Photos: News&Observer, New York Times

07 November 2014

South Florida Home Sales, 3rd Quarter 2014

Summer activity for Single Family Homes (SFH) in the TriCounty area (Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade, the area from Jupiter to South Miami) is completely over, the market is noticeably getting quieter. All key numbers for Q3 2014 show this, and – unlike during earlier periods this year – all three counties moved in unison.

SE Florida SFH sales for the last 36 months. red = list price, green = selling price, blue = inventory. Source: Kaiser Assoc.

Some key data for the third quarter:

1. Inventory ended at 18,395 SFH, an increase of 3.6 percent to the second quarter. It now sits at 5.0 months, a very strong 16.7 percent over Q2, since closed SFH sales dropped by 4.3 percent over the previous quarter.

2. Asking prices of all SFH are down, landing at a median $376,700. September was the sixth month in a row with declining list prices – but because of the list price volatility, it ended up only 1.0 percent under September 2013.

3. Selling prices per square foot are slightly up y-o-y at $135/sf. Not so absolute selling prices at $265,470, though they have fluctuated all over the board this year from $251,000 in January to $279,000 in July. Year over year though, median selling prices in Q3 were up by 5.5 percent, but flat in comparison to Q2. Recognise a pattern? Good, me neither.

Tracks of a horseshoe crab–similarities to the housing market?
My prediction: the market is going up or going down.

Seriously: I think we will see a limp market for SFH for the rest of the year and perhaps into early 2015, with a lot of hesitation on the buyers’ side, though financing does not seem to be the issue anymore.

In addition, very problematic is the lack of good homes in the market for modern architecture, which I focus on. Buyer interest is there, but under $600,000 there are barely any architecturally interesting homes for sale.

So if you consider selling a modernist property, by all means please do contact me for a free analysis and consultation.

24 October 2014

Your House Usually Isn't Worth As Much As You Think

That is a really good opener to win a popularity contest with sellers, right?  

But it is a situation sellers and their Realtors face daily, and believe me, I had my share of those moments. Excellent advice on how to tackle pricing properly appeared yesterday in the newsletter Realty Times:

Your house is super badass. It's easily the nicest home on the block. Great updates and a corner lot. You're going to make a fortune when you sell. You might even set a new record for the neighborhood.

It's all about making as much as you can, right?

Especially in a Seller's Market. Those two words get everyone that's about to put their house on the market all giddy. But "seller's market" doesn't mean license to be a real estate snob.

Somewhere between what the last people paid for a house like yours and the highest price suggested to you by a REALTOR - that's your sweet spot. But pinpointing it isn't always easy. Here are five tactics that will help.

1. Choose the right agent

The right agent is not necessarily the one that wants to list your home for the most money. In fact, an agent whose recommended list price is significantly higher than the other agents you are interviewing may be a red flag.

"Local agents have an inside track on what local buyers care about and what they will and will not spend. Talk to your agent about it, but don't forget to actually listen to and consider what your agent has to say," said Forbes. "If you don't trust what an agent is telling you about where you should list your home, talk to several agents -- if the consensus is a recommended list price range lower than what you had in mind, that's a sign you should reconsider."

2. Get comps

Comps, otherwise known as comparables, will tell you what other houses are selling for. It will also show you a pattern of sales trends over a period of time. But it can also be dangerous for anyone seeing dollar signs above all else.

If you're tempted to price your home high, check the comps, said Forbes. Active buyers do not "want to overpay for a home, and most will view your home as overpriced and not worth the hassle (or the haggle) if it is out of whack with the recent sales prices of similar homes. Similarly, appraisers will use these numbers when figuring out your home's value. Even if you do get an offer at a higher-than-justified price, if the buyer's appraiser finds that your home is overvalued compared to other nearby recent sales, it can cause major delays in your buyer's mortgage process -- or derail it altogether.

The bottom line:  Heed your agent's advice... he/she will be able to delve deeper into the trends and provide further context around them. Which brings us to:

3. Listen to your agent

You probably already have a good idea of the price you want for your house. But is it based on reality or is it simply a number that sounds good? Perhaps it's what you need to comfortably get out of your house and into something bigger. But that doesn't mean you'll get it.

A local seller not listening to the market for nine (!) years; cs = last sale date

"Here's a real estate fact that every home seller should know: Buyers determine the right price for a property, not sellers," said the Washington Post. "The market price for a home is determined by what an able and willing buyer ultimately pays for it. There are certainly things that homeowners can do to influence buyers' perceptions of their home's value and hence increase the price buyers are willing to pay for it. But, ultimately, the buyers will set the price."

4. Do additional research

In today's day and age, you can easily gather a mountain of information to help you understand the market in general, and, specifically, the market in your neighborhood. Pay special attention to the number of homes on the market in your projected price range. The more inventory, the more competition, the more pressure to make sure your home is priced right.

5. Consider the consequences

Pricing too high is a danger in that a house that sits on the market unsold will eventually have to lower its price. Chasing the market down is not something any seller wants to do. Plus, the longer a house sits on the market, the more momentum it loses from being a new listing. And all of this means one thing: money lost.

"Making a mistake on price can cost sellers thousands of dollars…not by under pricing the value of the home, but by overpricing it," said NH Homes.

Pricing right, or even lower, thereby creating interest (and possibly even a bidding war), is the easiest way to get your home sold. Your fear of leaving a few thousand dollars on the table upfront should pale in comparison to what could happen if you can't sell quickly, or at all, at your "preferred" price.

What is your experience in pricing a home for sale? I would love to hear your input.

Article ©Jaymi Naciri for Realty Times, photo illustrations ©tckaiser

15 October 2014

Architect Thomas Crowder, 1956 – 2014

Sadly, Thomas Crowder, architect and City Councilman in Raleigh, NC, died on Tuesday.

I had the pleasure to meet Tom during my wife's and my first exploratory visits to Raleigh. He was a very interesting man to talk to, very smart and very much on the ball.

While we were discussing architecture in the Triangle, he proudly gave me his business card and asked if I noticed something?

I said “yes, the spelling”: he had very slyly circumvented some legal naming convention and named his firm “ARCHITEKTUR”, which is the German spelling for Architecture; fitting for a modernist.

Godspeed, Tom, and all the best to your family.

Details on his work on NCMH, the announcement of his passing at the Raleigh News & Observer.

26 September 2014

Thinking "Architecture in the Alps ≠ Modern Architecture"? - Surprise!

If you by chance were thinking "Architecture in the Alps ≠ Modern Architecture" - you would be in for a big surprise.

Every time I go to Munich – I just came back – I'm astonished how much modern architecture is put into place in this area, public and private. Actually, I don't stop and document interesting construction often enough. And it pops up not only in Munich, a cosmopolitan city with a metro population of  1.49mm.

No – you see interesting examples of Modernism in small villages in farm areas, which are very much imprinted by typical alpine architecture influenced by functionality (i.e., an integrated barn, roof overhangs to protect stacked firewood from snow, etc).
But perhaps not by accident was this beautiful pre-alpine area (locally referred to as "Das Blaue Land") home to then-radical modernism before: The "Blaue Reiter" school of painters, formed in 1911.

A few examples observed over the last weeks:



Modern Florida architecture by estate agent Tobias Kaiser
(from top: Linde HQ, Pullach; Buchheim museum, Berg; Kindergarden, Feldafing; traditional Bavarian house and modern construction directly opposite, Feldafing; Highschool, Grünwald; Elementary School expansion, Starnberg) Photos: Kaiser

Have you been in the Munich area? Architecturally, what did you notice?

29 August 2014

Have a fine Labor Day weekend!

Florida modern home specialist and real estate agent Tobias Kaiser

To a nice relaxing Labor Day weekend!

Photo: tckaiser

22 August 2014

NC Museum of Art, Raleigh

NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
Classic pose: drawing a Rodin sculpture

On my third visit of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh last week, I had the chance to see both the new and old building as well as the sculpture garden.


The NCMA opened in 1956 as the first major museum collection in the country to be formed by State legislation and funding. In 1967, the current site was chosen for a new building, as the museum had outgrown its previous location.

Designed by Edward Durrell Stone of New York and Holloway-Reeves Architects of North Carolina, the building on Blue Ridge Road opened in 1983. Stone used spatial experimentation with pure geometric form for the museum, by using a square as a basic unit and designing the entire site by manipulating the square form.

After Stone's death in 1978, the exterior was changed from white marble to red brick.

NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
In the East Building
NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
Expansion (West Building), east elevation

2010 Expansion

In April 2010 the museum opened the $72m 127,000-square-foot (11,800 m2) West Building, designed by Phifer and Partners. The single-story structure, clad with anodized aluminum panels that are canted back two degrees, and surrounded by sculpture gardens and pools, was created to feature the museum’s permanent collection as well as more than 100 new works of art, acquired on the occasion of the expansion.


NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
Erich Heckel, Tiergarten im Herbst
The NCMA offers a collection of art spanning more than 5,000 years from antiquity to the present, an amphitheater for outdoor performances, and a variety of celebrated exhibitions and public programs. It features more than 40 galleries as well as more than a dozen major works of art.

Highlights include a gift of 30 Rodin sculptures and work by artists Roxy Paine, Ursula von Rydingsvard, El Anatsui, Jaume Plensa, Jackie Ferrara, Ellsworth Kelly, and David Park. The project also transformed the older East Building into a center for temporary exhibitions, education and public programs, public events, and administrative functions.

NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
Museum park
The nation’s largest museum park with 164-acres (0.66 km2) includes walking paths, bike trails, ecological projects conceived with artists, and site-specific commissioned works of art in a rolling green landscape.


The contrast between old and new (east and west) building is startling. While the expansion shows  the architecture and (mostly) light qualities museum visitors today would expect from contemporary museum design, the old building in its current form (or what was accessible on a recent Sunday afternoon) looks dark, a bit cavernous and somehow forlorn. It reminded me of a favourite tool, forgotten in the shed.

NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
Main lobby; wall-mounted: "Doors of Jerusalem" by Jaume Plensa

What really caught my eye is the very broad palette of art styles and periods at the NCMA – everything from Egyptian art via Rodin sculptures (a lot!) and some lovely Germans (Schmitt-Rottluff, Heckel, Richter), to famous Americans such as Motherwell.

But amidst this plethora of styles and periods, I was not able to recognise a defined focus. Perhaps the focus is "A Bit of Everything" as a general overview; a subject my local friend and I discussed at length but came to no conclusion. An interesting museum nevertheless, and certainly worth visiting.

If you go

Admission to the permanent collections is free, to the special exhibits usually not.

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday. 9:00 - 17:00, Fridays - 21:00, Sundays 10:00 - 17:00. The museum's lovely Iris restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday, dinner on Friday, and brunch on Sunday.

2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC 27607, (919) 839-626, http://ncartmuseum.org

NCMA Raleigh ©tobias kaiser
At the Iris restaurant; it could be art. Who knows?

01 August 2014

S. Florida Homes Sales, 2nd Quarter 2014

It's time for us number-geeks to gather, isn't it? Let's do it:

For the first two quarters of 2014, absolute inventory of Single Family Homes (condos and townhouses are not subject of my data) remained glued to the table at just over 17,000 homes for sale, with a monthly variance of less than 400 units.

But the absorption – the rate of sales – increased every month this year, so much so that relative inventory shrunk from 6.3 months in January to 4.3 in June (relative inventory means: if no homes came to market, in 4.3 months at the current rate there would be nothing left to sell. A balanced market is said to linger around six months).

The blue curve shows the inventory volatility over the last three years very nicely:

Florida modern architecture and modern homes
SE Florida Single Family Home sales data, June 2011 to June 2014, ©tckaiser

Asking prices went up too, big surprise: from a median $378,000 in January to $398,000 in June, though the movement happened in the first quarter, while the second barely twitched.

Noticeable is an increase in selling prices: from a median of $251,000 in the always-lame-January (only few people think of real estate between Thanksgiving and New Year when January deals are signed) to a much more robust $274,000 in June.

That’s a solid nine percent increase over six months, and seven percent year over year. The culprit: lack of good and affordable inventory and a tighter market at the bottom price end.

If you know and like my “Disconnect” index – what sellers want and buyers are willing to pay:

That one sank. Two percentage points from the first quarter 2014 and a hefty 11 percent from the second quarter 2013. It seems sellers did not over-stretch buyers' willingness and wallet, as both became aware of a more limited selection.

One oddity I can not explain: the median duration of houses on the market - from hitting the MLS to contract – has hardly blinked in the last twelve months.

That goes against instinct when looking at dwindling inventory, but it's reality. Maybe you have an explanation?

04 July 2014

Thoughts on Independence Day

On Tuesday, I congratulated my Canadian friends and clients on Confederation Day, Canada's Day of Independence from the British. Today we in the US are celebrating it.

It is a major Holiday, not because all supermarkets are closed, which is unusual enough, but because of the significance for this country, just as Canada Day is for our Canadian friends.

By coincidence or by design, today I also wrote a former prospective client who had acted rather unprofessionally: after a flurry of important emails from him, super-urgent phone calls – often several a day – and a property search that couldn't wait one single second, all of a sudden: nothing. No more response, no "thanks, not interested any more".

Until today, when he asked to be taken off my email list. Which of course I did, but I also added a cool-ish (but polite) comment about his unprofessional behaviour.

Silly of me? Perhaps. Did I write it to make me feel better? Nope.

But I strongly believe one shouldn't offer the other cheek: bad behavior, tolerated, breeds more bad behavior.

Luckily, my business is successful enough to allow me to pick my clients, to voice my opinion, to assert my independence.

What about you – Can you, do you, have you?

Happy Fourth to y'all,


Fireworks over Miami Bay, shot from a bobbing sailboat. ©tckaiser

20 June 2014

Economic boost for Miami through EB-5 designation; Matsumoto Prize

Miami to receive economic boost through EB-5 program

Miami has received an EB-5 Regional Center for Foreign Investment designation, making it easier – and more attractive – for foreigners to invest in South Florida.

The City of Miami has received approval for designation as an EB-5 Regional Center for Foreign Investment under the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services immigrant investment visa program.

By utilizing the EB-5 investment program, foreign capital investment in Miami is expected to increase, which in turn will likely translate into the creation of thousands of new jobs and economic growth for both the city and the entire South Florida region.

Mayor Tomas Regalado said the approval by the USCIS is a “tremendous vote of confidence”.

The program allows the city to assist foreign nationals who inject capital in to the U.S. economy by granting them special immigration status. To be accepted into the program, investors must spend at least $500,000 and prove in two years that they created 10 jobs.

Please contact me for more details if you are interested.

Matsumoto Prize for Modern Architecture

The George Matsumoto Prize is a unique design competition, focusing on Modernist houses in North Carolina. It features a jury of internationally-known award-winning architects, and an online People's Choice Vote

Which is where you come into play.

Matsumoto was one of the founding faculty members of the NCSU School of Design, who created some of North Carolina's most well-known and well-loved Modernist houses.

The Matsumoto Prize engages the public in the value of architecture, and demonstrates the unique talent of exceptional Modernist architects and designers in North Carolina. 

Voting is open until 5 pm Eastern on Sunday, July 13. You do not have to live in NC to vote, but you better have an opinion about modern architecture (good taste doesn't hurt). 

I participate every year and can tell you it really is fun - so head over to the Matsumoto Prize page, take your time to evaluate the entries and cast your vote – it does count! 

Photo: Lebda Guest House by Michael Kersting

30 May 2014

Radical Punk Architect Strikes Fear in Heart of Peaceful Raleigh

At least that's what seemed to be going on at first glance, when I learned about an architect's design for his own residence in this lovely city.

Then I came across this piece by Paul Goldberger.

Mr. Goldberger, Pulitzer-price winner and noted architectural critic – ex-NYT, among other publications, now Vanity Fair – offers a cool-headed view of the debate: about an unassuming ground-up construction by respected modernist architect Louis Cherry, far from being radical or even polarising, but obviously still pissing off a neighbour (and fellow real estate agent; how embarrassing).

The plat de résistance:

Photo ©Louis Cherry

And – did you drop your ipad in the loo because of this flag-burning acid punk outcast design?

I didn't think so. Me neither.

Looks rather civil, or to quote Goldberger "modernism on its best behavior". (Judging from his published portfolio, I'd be elated to own a Cherry one day).

But it is obviously still radical enough to have neighbor Gail Wiesner object to the house after the design was approved by the Raleigh Historic Development Commission and the building permit was issued.

After the permit was issued and construction began, not before.

Luckily, so far Mrs. Wiesner did not succeed in getting the house razed. Though at some point she was able to temporarily stop all construction, while piling up substantial legal fees for the owners who have to defend a permit they legally obtained. Where are we here?

Shame on the city for even contemplating to retract an existing permit for a conforming construction well under way, but even more shame on Gail Wiesner and her petty little ways.

So let's hope the Cherrys will be able to finish and enjoy their home.

As for Mrs. Wiesner – with such an eyesore opposite her house, perhaps she feels like moving far away? Probably an ideal solution.

A detailed time-line of events can be found on the website of NC Modernist Houses, as well as a link to the Legal Defense Fund for the Cherrys, if you are inclined to help.  – Hat-tip to Leilani for the story.

16 May 2014

(OT) Consumers' Duty to Choose

Information and Choice are at the core of my post today:

Three disputable cases of corporate decision-making were the catalyst to make me reflect about my position in a modern consumer world, and how far my convictions may propel me.

Case 1: LG’s and Samsung’s new US headquarters

Both Korean electronics firms are currently planning new US headquarters, LG in Englewood, NJ, Samsung in San Jose, CA. In a recent piece “An Energizer Versus an Eyesore”, NYT’s architectural writer Michael Kimmelman examines both projects and minces no words: “Samsung comes across as a good citizen here; LG as a lousy neighbor.”

Kimmelman explains how LG pulled various strings and the “new jobs”-card to override local zoning laws and protective ordinances to build 110 feet higher (!) than allowed next to the protected Pacific Palisades in Englewood, NJ, a designated National Natural Landmark. Protests from every corner didn’t faze LG, which refused to build lower and wider.

Kimmelman: “The project in San Jose is thoughtful. LG’s is a public shame.”

Case 2: General Motors and that Pesky Ignition Switch

If you have looking at a newspaper – any newspaper – since January, you may have read that GM, being aware of installing faulty and dangerous ignition switches in over 2.6 million vehicles since 2001, has reluctantly acknowledged that there is a tiny lil' problem with them pesky switches.

As in: they may completely shut the vehicle off while driving, including airbags. Or they may keep the engine running after you turned it off. Or possibly anything in between.

GM’s approach to the problem was classic Customer Service 101: Don’t talk about it, maybe it’ll go away. Or script #2: It wasn’t us.

After hesitantly recognising at least 13 deaths caused by those darn switches without being able to blame the drivers – who are not supposed to have anything but a single car key on the key ring, lest they assume responsibility for wrapping themselves around the next lamp post – GM under its new chief Mary Barra came up with a brilliant thought:

Let’s just state our dogs ate all of our homework. If that fails, let’s claim we’re immune from any lawsuits for the years we were under the bankruptcy umbrella. That may get us out of the pickle. - Or similar. But you get the idea. – More here

Case 3: Publix Supermarkets and the Tomato Pickers

Florida supplies almost all of the nation’s winter tomatoes. The pickers’ conditions have been anything but comfy, from carrying buckets holding 32 pounds of fruit to lack of shade on the fields to failure to pay for all work time.

But a group of intrepid tomato pickers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, has successfully enlisted major tomato buyers, which in turn pressured growers responsible for 90 percent of Florida’s tomatoes to increase wages for their 30,000 workers and follow strict standards that mandate rest breaks and forbid sexual harassment and verbal abuse.

The participants in the “Fair Food Program” — including Burger King, Chipotle, Subway, Taco Bell and its parent Yum Brands, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Whole Foods — have pledged to buy only from growers who follow the new standards, and to pay an extra penny a pound which goes to the pickers. The companies also pledged to drop any suppliers that violate the standards.

But the supporters don't include the giant Publix chain of supermarkets. The company refused to join the Fair Food Program despite its weighty position as the eighth-largest food retailer, stating it already buys only from responsible growers. – More here.

What to do?

Three cases of (for me) objectionable corporate policy, three questions of consumer choices.

If I disagree with one or all of the corporate decisions above, will that influence my consumer behaviour?

And if so, how much will I let inconvenience get in the way of my righteousness? Do I avoid shopping at Publix, sell my LG phone and eliminate GM cars from my short-list?

As a single consumer, I have no voice in the decision or conduct of corporate giants. By the same logic, my single vote won’t make or break an election either. And yet I vote.

So my conclusion is that I will do as much as I can:

Share my questions and opinion with as many friends and readers as possible, delete GM vehicles from my list, replace my LG phone, and avoid Publix – especially their tomatoes – whenever possible.

What about you? How far would you go to exercise your right of choice?


Update 3 July 14: sold my LG phone and bought a Sony. No GM in the garage, and Winn-Dixie tomatoes have a really nice flavour to them.

02 May 2014

Construction Adventures

This series – written in retrospect, not in real time – follows the ground-up construction of a 4,000+ sf modern waterfront home.

A short time ago, new clients - husband and wife – contacted me to find a modern home for them. The criteria were: minimum three bedrooms, two baths, between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, deepwater (local speak for "ocean access without fixed bridges"), pool and garden for two large dogs, all under $2.5m.

The buyers would be in town in a few days – could we please meet? Which of course we did.

The couple had very clear and concise ideas about the property and the style they were looking for: ideal from a real estate agent's perspective. Within seven days of our initial contact, we conducted the first six viewings.

But it quickly became clear that we would have to also consider ground-up construction. The clients being on travel again, I took video clips of areas I recommended to include in our search for vacant lots and tear-downs.

One of the waterfront lots the clients were considering

Upon their return, I also introduced them to several long-term rentals where they could stay during the construction period, which I anticipated to be at least 14 to 18 months from programming – the architect’s brief on the builders' criteria – to move-in.

Five weeks after our first contact, I met with the clients again. We looked at several larger rentals and as well as waterfront lots – including the rental they were going to live for next two or three years, and also the very lot they would have under contract only five days later.

To be continued.

20 April 2014

Happy Easter!

Photo: "Bunner" at Easter, ©tckaiser
Photo ©tckaiser

18 April 2014

Market Report for Southeast Florida, First Quarter 2014

The first quarter of 2014 repeated some trends that I have observed at least since 2009, most obvious being the falling inventory.

This year, all three counties started 2014 quite a bit higher than year's end, but over the course of three months fell back to December levels quickly.

Median relative inventory now stands at 6.3 months (means: if no new house comes on the market, everything is sold in 6.3 months). That is due to rising number of sales, outpacing the rising number of homes on the market.

In all three counties, asking prices per 31 March exceeded asking prices per year-end, and except for Miami-Dade, the same goes for selling prices (absolute and per sf).

However, the time homes spent on the market (beginning of the listing until a contract is signed, the so-called “Days-on-Market”) increased in all three counties, most noticeably in Palm Beach county.

Interesting also: the very same goes for the Seller-Buyer-Disconnect, the gap between what sellers want and what buyers are willing to give (= pay). As it has been since I analyse monthly, the disconnect number again is largest in Palm Beach county, with 161 percent.

South Florida single family home market, last three years: Inventory, Median asking prices and Median selling prices, Apr 2010 - Mar 2014.

As all projections – especially mine – are notoriously off, I will not lean out of the window except to say that the second quarter will be a very active one, as it traditionally is:

June is busiest home selling month in South Florida. With rising sales and stagnant inventory, that should lead to further price increases.

We’ll see.


“All is Lost”

Did you watch Robert Redford’s latest movie, “All is Lost”?

My wife and I did on Tuesday, together with a sailing friend. I just have to vent.

Even as a non-sailor and non-boater, as someone who can barely differentiate a boom from a mast, all three of us were incredibly ticked off by the countless flaws and harrowing boating mistakes – obviously dramaturgically necessary to propel the story forward, else the plot would have sunk much faster than the poor boat in the film did.

She only had a nasty gash in the hull, but the film’s story had holes you could drive the Exxon Valdez through. What an insult to our intelligence.

Seems though that – outside the sailing community perhaps – everyone else, including my fav reviewer Joe Morgenstern from the WSJ, loved the movie.

I don’t get it. But at least now I feel better.


Coming up

A new series, following the ground-up construction of a 4,000+ sf modern house

04 April 2014

Chance Encounters with Modern Architecture: Red Reef pavilion, Boca Raton, FL

"Chance Encounters with Modern Architecture" is a series of unexpected finds of modern architecture – or perhaps art – which caught my eye. It's about sharing delicious little morsels that pop up while on your merry way to get a snack or stock up at, say, Seaboard Wines.

Today: Red Reef park pavilion, Boca Raton, FL

On the west side of the Red Reef golf club – actually behind the west parking lot – I discovered this neatly designed pavilion (?) gazebo (?) right on the Intracoastal Waterway.

A single massive steel column supports the roof structure made of T-beams and tubes, which carries sheathing looking like corrugated pvc.

Note the two roof parts facing east, while the west-facing roof is "fractured", probably to ease the wind load. Neat, no?


photos ©tckaiser

01 April 2014

4 FL Supermarkets to offer rebates for "modern healthy eating"

In an inspired move to make the connection (any connection?) between modern life and healthy lifestyle - aka regular exercise and healthy eating – the non-profit South Florida Society for the Promotion of Modernist Architecture (SFSPMA) has teamed up with four supermarket chains to offer food discounts to its members.

Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Winn Dixie and the new Florida-entry Trader Joe's are onboard a deal offering SFPPMA members a 13 percent discount on storewide purchases.

Seal the deal: Trader Joe's Joe Saussenheimer, SMFAPPF's Bettyann Hepplethorpewithe, Whole Food's Santiago Manchego, Winn Dixie's Christina Carbonara and Fresh Market's junior CEO Jim-Bob Fresh (counterclockwise from left).

The trial phase will run from today through May 31st. After that, results will be tallied, and managers from the four chains as well as from SPSFAM will decide if to continue the cooperation on a permanent basis.

Noticeably absent from the discount offer are Publix Supermarkets, which lately has been under flak from consumers for their non-organic high price-policy aiming at their organic-food competitors Fresh Market and Whole Foods.

SMASPSF's trial voucher; see below for link to printable version

SFMASPF offers a limited amount of vouchers on a first-come-first-serve basis to non-members, supposedly to generate interest in the Society's work. To print a trial discount voucher, click here.

Please let me know if the voucher worked for you, and I will post the success rate during the trial run.

21 March 2014

It Caught My Eye: Old and Young in Starnberg/Bavaria

Starnberg/Bavaria, county seat ca. 15mi/25km south of Munich, pop. ca. 22,500:

Embedded between the old church, houses nearly as old as the church itself and some nasty road construction, I caught a glimpse of a little white gem shining through.

No further detail is available, due to Germany's famously strict privacy laws. But it seems to have nice views over the lake... Have you been there?

14 February 2014

The Current Housing Market in Southeast Florida

Time for an update for all you statistics-fans who are riveted by real estate minutiae (yes, all two of you).

I am not quite sure when, but I believe in July or August I got the first hunch that the market for single family homes was loosing steam.

Back then, a prospective seller had waited forever to list her house with me, to a point where she and I did not agree on a list price anymore. Another seller, a couple, was very realistic when a price pre-determined in May had to be corrected downward – with the result that their house sold within four days of becoming available and appraised properly. Which confirms again what I learned in a seminar a few years ago: once a house enters the proper selling price corridor, it should sell within approx. 45 days.

More on that in another post. Today's subject is market data.

As available inventory started to creep up in fall – the low point for the Tri-County area was April with 12,513 single family homes for sale – asking prices did not react until two months later, when the first noticeable drop came (median $408,150 to $401,650).

But the interesting part: selling prices increased until Christmas.

They rose from $255,333 in April to $265,000 in December, and only dropped again in January, to $250,917.

Psychologically perhaps to be explained by a lower "Disconnect" ratio – what sellers want and what buyers are willing to pay – heading from 166% in April down to 141% in December, back up to 151% in January.

So the Seller-Buyer-Disconnect, which I have been calculating since five years, again mirrors the overall market and proves to be a good trend indicator.

Judging from the current trend, it seems like at least for the first quarter, there is no upswing in prices – niche products and super-trendy areas like the Miami Bay perhaps excluded.

Consequences for sellers and buyers? I will talk about that next time. In the meantime, please do contact me with any questions you may have.

SE Florida single family homes market last three years: Inventory, Median asking prices and Median selling prices, Dec 2010 - Jan 2014. Break indicates end 2012. Source: Kaiser Assoc.

24 January 2014

Loans for Modern Homes Are Possible

Tobias Kaiser, modern architecture specialist and broker

When you are working with modern architecture, one of the big problems can be the appraisal (and the loan) for a modernist home. 

To quote my friend George Smart from the non-profit North Carolina Modernist Homes:

Just mention a Modernist-house loan, and most bankers give a deer-in-the-headlights look that usually ends in time-consuming disappointment. 

The loan process can take many months, if it happens at all, and getting comped against non-Modernist neighborhood houses can yield unrealistically low appraisals.  

Home buyers in the North Carolina Triangle region, an area chock full of modern architecture (though not quite as many documented as in Southeast Florida counting over 2,400 mod residences) got a break: 

They now have a lender (Harrington Bank) that seems to have at least some understanding of the uniqueness of modern houses. Utilising the extensive architecture archives of NCMH, the bank states: 

Rather than restricting [three comparables] to just a few miles away, if there are no Modernist homes found nearby we’ll use two additional specifically Modernist homes up to 20 miles from the subject property. That means we can comp against previous Modernist homes almost anywhere in the Triangle. 

I count myself lucky enough to have recently worked with three (!) different Southeast Florida appraisers who know and appreciate modern architecture. Not one but three - that is a miracle in itself.

But if you are a South Florida lender – or know of one – who understands and works with modern architecture, and is willing to go the extra mile (or 20), please do drop me a note! Many thanks.

*Raleigh - Durham - Chapel Hill. Full disclosure: no consideration of any type has been received in exchange for this blog post.

23 January 2014

Immobilienscout24 Expose 49002387

Wenn Sie sich auf Immobilienscout24 für eine Wohnung in 82319 Starnberg interessieren, die derzeit unter der Exposénummer 49002387 mit dem wonnigen Titel

"Frühlingserwachen: Sonnige Terrassenwohnung und Garten oberhalb des Sees" 

offeriert wird, dürfen Sie mich gerne zu Adresse und Hintergrundinformationen zu Wohnung und Vermietern kontaktieren.

01 January 2014

A blessed New Year to you!

modern Florida homes and architecture - real estate specialist Tobias Kaiser

Thank you to all of our clients and friends, and a blessed, abundant and prosperous 2014 to you!