18 December 2015

A Happy-Christmas-Greeting


As always for Holiday greetings, I use photos I shot myself, and this one I like a lot. I took it with an HTC Sensation mobile in December 2012 on the terrace of the (sadly now defunct) Graf's Bistro in Starnberg/Bavaria.

And believe it: quite a few people do sit outside even in winter, wrapped in blankets and enjoying a latte or a hot cocoa. Delicious.

To a delicious Christmas and to a Blessed New Year!

Tobias Kaiser

14 December 2015

8 Reasons To Buy A Home During The Holidays

Spring is the start of the hot real estate season for a few obvious reasons, nice weather and the desire to move during the summer when kids are out of school at the top of the list. But embarking on a home search during the holidays can be advantageous to buyers. Thinking about taking the plunge? Here are a few reasons you should be looking for a new home now.

The potential for a great deal

There's an assumption that anyone selling over the holidays, and thereby taking time away from family get-togethers and Christmas shopping and is selling because they have to, not because they want to. That assumption tends to be true. And it can payoff for buyers.

"Sellers tend to avoid the end of the year due to the short days, wintry weather and conventional wisdom that says buyers are otherwise occupied, says Tim Deihl, associate broker at Gibson Sotheby's International Realty in Boston," said Bankrate. "But those who do choose to sell at year-end are often under pressure and highly motivated to cut a deal. And that's why the year-end might be a smart time to buy: Determined house-hunters can take advantage of sellers' urgency."

Lower prices

Experts say that homes listed over the holidays may have a lower sales price. If you're looking for a deal, braving weather conditions and skipping out during a football game to see a listing might make sense.

Less competition

A smaller buyer pool during this time of year means less competition for homes that are on the market. That can give you great negotiating power beyond the listed sales price. And, it can take some pressure off what is already a high-stress situation.

"Less competition from other buyers during the holiday season might mean you'll be able to negotiate a favorable price for a home you want to purchase," said Bankrate.

Added CBS News: "Holiday home sellers often have to adjust their price downward or make other concessions if they want to sell. Keep this in mind as you search for homes. Bargains may be available, and listed prices may be more open to negotiation."

Lower interest rate

Rates going up at the end of the year can make mortgages more expensive and also spell doom for those who are already at the top of what they can qualify for. Getting preapproved now to lock in a lower rate can save you even more on your new home.

Faster closings

The time of the year may also play in your favor if you want to close on your home quickly.

"Generally, all parties involved have incentive to complete transactions toward the end of the year," said CBS News. "Lenders want to close their books, real estate agents want to receive their commissions before the year closes, sellers want to move on to their new home and settle in for the holidays—and just like the sellers, you want to settle in as well. Since all parties are motivated and there are fewer transactions taking place during this time, it should be easier to put everything in place for a smooth and rapid closing."

If you're not able to close before the end of the year, rest assured that the real estate market doesn't spring to life as soon as January hits. You should be able to have a clear path to homeownership for a few months before the spring thaw hits and the hot buying season begins.

More money for Christmas presents

If you're selling an existing home and walking away with money, you'll have more to spend on others—especially if you factor in the delayed first house payment on your new place.

Better deals on real estate-related items

Slow seasons for movers may get you a better deal. Be sure also to compare and contrast cable/satellite companies and utilities to see where the best deals are. Many companies have special offers for new customers and might also have specials running during the winter.

A no-sweat move

Nothing is worse than packing, moving, unpacking, painting, breaking down 700 boxes, and making 12 dozen trips to the trash in unbearable heat. And when you're working that hard, anything over 80 degrees can be unbearable!

Original article "Why It's Smart To Buy A Home During The Holidays" by Jaymi Naciri for Realty Times was published on 13 December 2015

30 October 2015

It Caught My Eye: A Mid-Century Modern Gas Station

A1A Gas, discovered on A1A in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, in the northeastern tip of Florida.  On top of the lovely design, the attendant was super friendly.

Now, where would you rather fill up – at a corporate-designed Citgo or at this little jewel?

11 September 2015

Embarrassed, by Lack of Value

Embarrassed: that’s how I felt twice this week.

Though through no fault of my own. But still. In German, there is a verb for embarrassment by actions or circumstances you have nothing to do with and zero influence on: “fremdschämen”.

Twice in a row that feeling crept up, caused by our housing market and its prices. What I often miss is the value equation.

First, I received an inquiry from a very nice young couple looking for a modernist house, ideally in the Miami area, ideally under $400,000. That’s good and bad: Miami has a lot mid-century- to contemporary-modernist homes. But what you get for $400k – not exactly an amount to spit on – is pitiful. With a sigh we sent the buyers the few selections in their price range, thus starting what could be a long search. I sure hope they have patience; they seem really sweet and honest.

The next inquiry from my website looked easier: beach-front, modernist, up to $4m. Again, the buyer and I had a very nice and friendly phone conversation. I mentioned I’ll send her everything that is available; not that difficult for me since I update daily a list of everything modernist for sale in the area, independent of which Realtor offers it.

“Everything” turned out to be exactly TWO modernist homes in a stretch of 160 mi between Vero Beach and Palmetto Bay. How’s that for measly pickings at the $4.0 million price point?

In the meantime, every day I count the luxury mod spec homes in the area that wouldn’t sell. It’s not a coincidence that while the average days on market for all homes across all prices currently hovers at approx. 75 days, while for luxury waterfront homes over ca. $2.5m, average marketing time is around 272 days.

Perhaps there are not enough luxury home buyers around? Or those who are perhaps do not see the value equation?

04 September 2015

Happy Labor Day!

Beach glass and shells, Avalon, NJ; ©tobias kaiser

I am so busy working that I have not had any time to write (or even come up with!) an intelligent post, but then – who would ever accuse me I did? ;-D

At the very least I can post a decent photo. Zero correlation to modern architecture, but then, not everything can have that.

This was by the way an unarranged shot, taken in early summer on Avalon beach, NJ, with a Canon S110.

We will be charring some burgers and relaxing with friends – hope you can kick back too. To a Happy Labor Day weekend!

14 August 2015

Move-In Day for a Modernist House

Move-in Day!

After a full 24 months construction period (programming and permits not included), last weekend my clients finally moved into their truly modernist Fort Lauderdale home.


2-story single family home
5,511 sf (496 m2) under air
17,400 sf (1,566 m2) waterfront lot
5 BRs, 4.5 baths, pool, gym, theatre, dog room, house fully connected
Construction period: pilings began Aug 2013, completion date August 2015
Construction budget: withheld

Here are some shots from the end of what was a very long move-in day:

Modern South Florida homes and architecture
Tobias Kaiser brokers luxury modern Florida homes and architecture
Modern South Florida luxury homes and architectureThe most luxurious in modern South Florida homes and architecture
South Florida modern homes and architecture by broker special Tobias Kaiser

The house is stricking when you approach it, especially at the dusky light I took these photos (with a Sony Xperia phone, mind you).

But even having worked as an owner's representative and consultant on this project from the start, and having been on site regularly for nearly three years, it remains fascinating.

Case in point: how the Lautner edge of the pool visually vanishes into the Intracoastal Waterway is fantastic. If you look closely, you only can differentiate pool and Intracoastal by the difference in the water surface.

Interested in building or buying a home like this? I can help; just ask.

(All photos except aerial ©tckaiser – use or copying prohibited.)

10 July 2015

Modern Architecture and Affordability – A Contradiction?

Distribution of asking prices, modernist SFH, Southeast Florida June 2015, © tckaiser
Distribution of asking prices for modernist homes in Southeast Florida, June 2015. Source: Tobias Kaiser/Kaiser Assoc.

Following the market for modernist homes in Southeast Florida for over 12 years, I noticed a significant shift in the price distribution of modern homes available for sale.

Back in July 2010, modernist homes were priced as follows:
  • 13.5%  under $499,000
  • 21.9%  between $500,000 and $1m
  • 42.2%  between $1m and $3m
  • 22.1%  over $3m

Today, the asking price distribution has dramatically shifted upwards:
  • 10.8%  under $499,000
  • 13.6%  between $500,000 and $1m
  • 35.7%  between $1m and $3m
  • 39.9%  over $3m

That translates into a massive drop of 22 percent and 38 percent in the two price brackets under $1m, and a stunning 80 percent increase in asking prices above $3m (not adjusted for inflation et al).

Aha – now you think: "great for you real estate agents and brokers".

Not so.

Contrary to common belief, upper market demand is small in numbers and does not constitute the majority of market activity. Most requested are modernist homes up to $600,000. But there is hardly any modernist inventory for resale at this price range, and because of the high land cost in SE Florida, new inventory below circa $1m is often located in areas that turn off most buyers.

Sellers of affordable modern homes and imaginative builders: step up to the plate – I am ready to take your call now.

26 June 2015

Preservation, Art and the Miami Marine Stadium

A little neglected since it was closed after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key – you see it en route from Miami to Key Biscayne – is feeling some love lately, along with a push to reopen it. 

But before the doers do, the talkers talk. So first come the politicians, the committees, and everyone who feels s/he has something to say. In some cases, people actually do bring something to the table.

The background: The architect Hilario Candela, a 28-year-old then-recent immigrant from Cuba, designed a stadium with 6,566 seats which became a Modernist icon because of its cantilevered, fold-plate roof and its construction of lightweight, poured-in-place concrete. At 326 feet in length, it was the longest span of cantilevered concrete in the world when it was constructed as the first purpose-built venue for powerboat racing in the United States. Opening on 23 December 1963, the building cost amounted to $1 million.

Champion Spark Plug Regatta at the Marine Stadium, 1975

Besides a plethora of world-class powerboat races, the Marine Stadium hosted many cultural events and concerts including Queen, The Beach Boys, Steppenwolf, Dave Brubeck, Miami Philharmonic, Ray Charles – as well as a legendary and raucous 1985 Jimmy Buffett gig.

After Andrew though, the city declared the stadium unsafe for human consumption, never mind that an engineering study demonstrated it was sound and undamaged. Since lock-up, the stadium has become a haven for graffiti artists, taggers and also vandals.

Then, in 2008, a group named “Friends of Miami Marine Stadium” (or FMMS) was formed, with the plan to restore and re-open the venue. 

Seen sideways, the 1963 cantilevered construction is mind-blowing

FMMS, with Hilario Candela on board, successfully secured historic designation by Miami’s Historic Preservation and Environmental Board. In 2009, it was recognised as an architectural masterpiece by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and named to the Trust’s 11 Most Endangered List, followed in 2010 by the Worlds Monuments Fund (WMF) to include the stadium on its own Watch List.

All those efforts finally got things moving.

Miami-Dade County Commissioners in 2010 decided to allocate $3m to the stadium’s historical preservation and reopen it as a venue for water sports and major concerts; the City Commission also included it in the Virginia Key Master Plan.

Lately, that has been a bit of a bone of contention for the Village of Key Biscayne though, especially the (quite logical) idea to hold the annual Miami Boat Show at the venue. But it is not called the Miami Marine Stadium for nothing.

In 2012, the Miami City Commission approved the first step in the creation of a partnership between FMMS, Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority and the Miami City Commission to restore the Marine Stadium. In 2014, the stadium received a $180,000 grant from the Getty Foundation to examine concrete restoration issues at hand.

And that subject was the focus of an interesting podium discussion at the Miami AIA chapter a few weeks ago. 

Marine Stadium discussion at the Miami AIA

Participants included – among others – Mr. Candela himself, elegant, humble and eloquent; Jorge Hernandez, architect and Co-Founder of FMMS; John Fidler, a very cool Brit specialising in preservation technology; Rosa Lowinger, conservator and  preservation specialist, and Luis Berros, a Miami-based street artist active at the stadium.

There was a lot of back-and-forth of course. Ms. Lowinger stated that after 30+ years of use by street artists, up to 200 layers of paint can be found on some locations at the stadium, and rightfully so posed the question if this is now art or vandalism? And: when is the (art) as significant as the site itself?

Marine Stadium graffiti

Leaving the key question dangling in the air for now, Mr. Fidler dove into technical aspects of battling graffiti; very interesting. Speaking with great knowledge, he gave examples of graffiti in the UK and how to address the impacts especially of multiple attacks. He concluded: "The significance of a place is the sum of its historical values".

After a major Miami real estate investor emphatically stressed the importance of “curating” the graffiti and preserving the site as a “living breathing massive sketch book” – perhaps to establish herself as a patron saint of all things art? – the street artist Luis Berros spoke.

What he said made me want to buy him a beer.

Mr. Berros’ perspective was clear: as a street artist, he knows the life span of street art is limited – it could be there for two weeks, or even only two to three days. 

He explained that artists use the stadium area for training in techniques and use of material, so he did not see any problem with a clean-up. 

And the question on how to prevent graffiti after a stadium restoration didn’t stump him either: protect the stadium, install surveillance, create designated areas nearby for artists and taggers to work, and the graffiti on the stadium itself will stop.

When a member of the audience pointedly asked why to curate street art which by nature is time-limited, a panelist agreed that the stadium design came first before the street art.
Mr. Berros, the street artist, expressed it best when he said to Mr. Candela, the stadium architect: “You are the original artist”.


And where do you stand?


Photos: FMMS, Spillis Candela, TCKaiser, unknown

09 May 2015

Happy Mothers Day!

Plumeria blossoms floating in a bird bath, Boca Raton/FL. Sony Xperia z1c, 2.0-1/125, ©tckaiser

Have you ever smelled a Plumeria (aka Frangipani)? It rivals Night Jasmin and Gardenias, just lovely. – An equally lovely Mothers Day to you!

08 May 2015

The Modernist Angle, modernised (win a gift card!)

When you opened this page, did you notice that the header looks a bit different?

If you did, you're correct.

But if you order in the next five minutes... stop stop stop.

You will get additional bonus points if you can correctly make out what has changed. Pick from:
  1.   New font
  2.   Different font color
  3.   Changed photo
  4.   Modified site description

Want to win a $25 gift card? Send an email to tobias@modernsouthflorida.com with your pick:

  • choose A for answers 3 and 1
  • choose B for answers 1, 4 and 2
  • choose C for answers 3, 2 and 4
  • choose D for answers 2, 4, 3 and 1
  • choose E for answers 1 and 4.

One of the correct entries* will win a $25 gift card to Lowe's Home Improvement Stores or – your choice – to Chipolte Mexican Grill, the first national restaurant chain to cook only with non-GMO ingredients.

Oh, and do let me know what you think about the new and improved header, will you?


*Email has to be received during the month of May, winner will be drawn in June. 

24 April 2015

South Florida Home Sales, 1st Quarter 2015

March brought the Big Thaw – single family houses sales in Southeast Florida, in the area between Stuart and Homestead, increased substantially in March.

With that, the last month capped a first quarter that started characteristically slow in January and ended with 4.6 months inventory in March – which in turn trumped the very active December with 4.8 months inventory (read: at the current pace of sales, the market would be wiped clean in 4.8 months. Healthy is approx. 6 months).

Southeast Florida single family home data, Mar 2013 - Mar 2015. Red = List price, Green = Selling price, Blue = Inventory (months). Source: Kaiser Assoc. via SEF-MLS

All the activity brought an increase in the March median list price in the Tricounty area of 9.5 percent year over year, to $425,000.

Actual selling prices reached $282,200 at the end of the quarter, exceeding the December selling prices by nearly $10,000 and 7.8 percent y-o-y.

Note however the “disconnect” between what sellers are asking and what buyers are willing to pay. The index I created to measure this crucial information reached 151 percent in March, a massive 11 percent points above December and also the last three quarters of 2014.

So does that mean prices for SFH will continue to increase?

Right now it looks like it.

But especially May and June, traditionally the months with the most closings (likely tied in with the end of the school year), will tell a better story. And who knows what political and economic developments summer and autumn will bring?

Leaving you somehow dangling in mid-air without a better forecast, the only thing I can do for now is to wish you a fine weekend!

10 April 2015

Online Home Values - Trick or Treat?

Most home buyers and sellers use online tools during their home search – and with during I mean even when working with a Realtor, they look up comparables (“comps”), search for homes they have not been shown and research home prices.

All these habits seem to be quite addictive to consumers, but they are not problematic as long as the seller/buyer uses a trustworthy Realtor.

And actually trusts that Realtor.

That can manifest itself in many ways:

  • for instance by asking the Realtor why s/he did not include a specific comparable that would conveniently in/decrease the value (typical answer: “this house is not a good comp, because it is 800 sf smaller, not on the water and not remodelled." Or similar)
  • for instance by asking the Realtor about homes the client found but the agent didn’t show (typical answer: “because you said you must be able to dock a 107 feet boat, and this house has only 45 feet on the water”)
  • or by asking the Realtor if the market analysis (“CMA”) is really on target, since valuation website X shows a totally different value (typical answer: see below). 

The last item is a special point of contention for many persons on the other side of the transaction table. E.g. when a buyer throws a Zestimate® into the ring, the agents must educate and inform, and not brush the issue aside.

For three reasons, home valuation sites such as Zillow should show a large blinking neon sign "Use With Extreme Caution":

  • they apply an undiclosed algorithm to come up approximate values, but without factoring in curb appeal, renovations or conditions,
  • laypersons often mistake them for gospel,
  • and they are very often very wrong.

If you raise your hand and point out that mine is a typical Realtor argument: You are correct.

Let me explain. To make my point, I randomly picked three homes in different price ranges which sold in South Florida in the last week.

  • Example 1: a 4 bedroom/4 baths 2,350 sf home which Zillow states is “off market”. The zestimate® is $1,425,698. The house actually sold on 3 April for $1,750,000; it was listed for $1,795,000. The actual selling price is 17.8 percent over Zillow. 

  • Example 2: a 3 bedroom 2 baths 2,060 sf home which Zillow states sold for $315,000. The zestimate® is $434,935. The house actually sold on 9 April for $290,000; it was listed for $315,000. The actual selling price is 33.3 percent under Zillow.

  • Example 3: a 6 bedroom 7.5 baths 6,610 sf home which Zillow states is “off market”. The zestimate® is $ 5,216,559. The house actually sold on 3 April for $10,900,000; it was listed for $12,500,000. The actual selling price is double that of Zillow (101.3 percent to be precise). 

So with values that much off, can you trust online estimates?

I answer with a question: If as your Realtor I miscalculate your list price or purchase offer by 18%, 33% or 100%, would you fire me?

And that is the take-away – do use every tool available (by the way, realtor.com is a much better source for real estate than any other consumer site). But at the end of the day, a good Realtor-generated CMA will hardly ever be beaten by an automated valuation tool.

If you think you smell a money-making scheme: Not so. Typically a Realtor doesn't get paid up-front or even for a CMA. In contrast: a Realtor doesn’t see any money if your deal doesn’t close, so his/her motivation is to get things right.

What is your experience?

03 April 2015

Happy Easter and Passover!

Modern Florida luxury homes and architecture – http://www.ModernSouthFlorida.com/
Easter Egg Radishes at Whole Foods Market, Boca Raton, FL
Happy Easter and Passover –

and so sorry I didn't post lately, but I am crazy busy and have not had time to pen something halfway intelligent (as if I normally do!).

Have a wonderful and relaxed weekend,

13 March 2015

Frei Otto, master of tent-like architecture, wins Pritzker Price one day before dying

Frei Otto, the architect behind some of the most important structures and engineering ideas of the last century, has died just two weeks before he was to receive the Pritzker Prize—the award that people often describe as the Nobel Prize for architecture.

Olympic stadium Munich, by Frei Otto 1972
Roof for Olympic park, Munich/Germany 1972
Football arena at Olympic stadium, Frei Otto, Munich/Germany 1972
Football arena at Olympic park, Munich/Germany 1972

(Thankfully Otto, born 1925, who died Monday at the age of 89 years, had already learned of the news, which he greeted with characteristic modesty: “I have never done anything to gain this prize” he said.)

Otto kept himself outside the fray of crazy-famous architects that defines the 1990s and 2000s. But without him, many of the structures and buildings of the past 50 years wouldn't exist. Because Otto wasn't just an architect—he was also a brilliant inventor and engineer who pioneered some of the most far-fetched feats of structural engineering ever completed.

Otto was obsessed with tensile structures—think the roof of a tent, where a piece of fabric hangs between two points in tension, versus a cabin, where the beams are in compression instead. And his obsession came from a very literal experience with tent-like shelters: As a soldier during the second World War, he spent two years as a prisoner of war in France where he built all manner of structures with anything he could find laying around, as The New York Times recounts today. Though he had been apprenticed as a stone mason before the war, he came out of the experience possessed by the idea of building with less.

Entrance Arch at the Federal Garden Exhibition, Frei Otto, Cologne/Germany 1957
Entrance Arch at the Federal Garden Show, Cologne/Germany 1957

You could trace his whole career back to those two years spend in captivity—the next five decades were spent trying to build the best spaces with as little as possible, as the Pritzker jury described today. That often meant using lightweight, inexpensive plastics or plexiglass strung between complex hardware frameworks to create huge, light-filled volumes that could be easily assembled and disassembled.

Bubbles. The wings of insects, bats, and birds. Spider webs. Trees. Otto's research into experimental structural engineering—often based on nature—was just as important as his buildings, especially since many of his buildings were temporary.

MIT published two volumes of it in the 1960s, packed with ideas about how tensile strength could be utilized in architecture, from membranes to pneumatics, each of which are now classics. His ideas about inexpensive, light-footprint buildings made him a hero to the progressive designers and inventors of the 1960s and 70s; the Whole Earth Catalog even published examples of his work.

The most famous example of this—the one you'll see a lot today—is his roof for the Munich Olympic Park for the Summer Olympics in 1972.

Roof for Olympic park, Freo Otto, Munich/Germany 1972
Detail, roof for Olympic park, Munich/Germany 1972

But the ghosts of the Third Reich influenced his work in other ways, too. As the Pritzker Jury alludes to:

    His architecture would always be a reaction to the heavy, columned buildings constructed for a supposed eternity under the Third Reich in Germany. Otto's work, in contrast, was lightweight, open to nature, democratic, low-cost, and sometimes even temporary.

It's a thread you can find running through all of his work—a direct reaction to the presumptuous idea that any building is forever, or that architecture is a tool for doing harm.

Aviary in the Munich Zoo at Hellabrunn, Munich/Germany 1980

Impermanence has definitely been the case with Otto's work. In some cases, photos are all that remain. But you can find his influence everywhere: From the NFL stadiums to Google, whose newly-announced complex is webbed with tensile netting that's directly inspired by Otto's work.

But in a 2005 interview with Icon Eye, he left young architects with a little advice about the difference between what you can build and what you should build:

"Maybe you know that I was a close friend of Bucky Fuller, and we debated the idea of large domes. But why should we build very large spaces when they are not necessary? We can build houses which are two or three kilometres high and we can design halls spanning several kilometres and covering a whole city but we have to ask what does it really make? What does society really need?"

Original article by gizmodo.com. Photos by Atelier Frei Otto, roof detail by Nils Gores

27 February 2015

Three Modern Homes by Duckham and Singer in Fort Lauderdale's Garden Tour

Last Saturday, the Fort Lauderdale Garden Club in it's "Secret Gardens" tour featured five homes – or gardens and exteriors to be precise, since the homes themselves were not available to the public – three of which were modern homes by beloved local architects, Dan Duckham and Donald Singer.

If viewing only the gardens and none of the interiors sounds a bit like a consolation price, it is. But in the choice between a consolation price or no price at all, it was an easy choice.

The homes, all of which are located in the aptly named Shady Banks neighbourhood and are hardly visible from the street:

Luxury Florida modern homes offered by Tobias Kaiser http://www.ModernSouthFlorida.com/
Uchin residence, 3/3.5, 5,071 sf on a 48,300 sf waterfront lot, architect Donald Singer, 1977.

Waterfront luxury homes in Florida, by modern architecture expert Tobias Kaiser
Uchin residence by architect Donald Singer, 1977.

Modernist architecture real estate agent Tobias Kaiser offers homes by Dan Duckham, Don Singer, Al Parker and others
Singer residence, 2/2, 2,631 sf on a 14,300 sf lot, architect Donald Singer, 1976.

Modern architecture specialist and real estate agent Tobias Kaiser – midcentury modern homes by Chuck Reed, Marion Manley and Rufus Nims
Singer residence by Donald Singer, 1976.

South Florida modern homes by modern architecture specialist and Realtor Tobias Kaiser at http://www.ModernSouthFlorida.com
Allen residence, orig. 2/3 single story, later expanded to 4,377 sf, lot 24,200 sf, architect Dan Duckham,1963

Dan Duckham designs and other modern homes - by modern architecture specialist Tobias Kaiser
Allen residence by Dan Duckham,1963

contemporary and mid century modern homes in Florida for sale, by real estate agent Tobias Kaiser
Allen residence by Dan Duckham,1963
If you were on the tour or are familiar with these homes, I'd love to hear your impressions!

Photos ©tckaiser

20 February 2015

OT: German Carnival Floats Skewer Politicians

What Fat Tuesday is for New Orleans, Rosenmontag ("Rose Monday") is for the German Rhineland area, mainly for the towns of Düsseldorf and Köln (Cologne).

The Carnival parades in these two towns draw thousands of spectators every year, who come to applaud or critizise the elaborate floats, which – built in secrecy weeks or even months ahead of time – skewer everything and anybody, from world leaders to local mayors to terrorists. During the Carnival Parade, freedom of speech is taken to new heights.

Some of my favorite floats from last Monday's parades in Cologne and Düsseldorf:

"Terror... has nothing... to do with Religion"

Mr. Putin's real physique: Economy (left) and Military (right)

On the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris: "One can't kill satire"

Arm-wrestling between ISIS and El Quaeda

The shark (GOP) and the lame duck (Mr. Obama)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel as Cyclops under fire from a Greek boy

Did you ever visit a Rhineland Carnival parade? What did you think of it?

all photos ©dpa

06 February 2015

A $6.9m home with $1.59 light switches?

Leviton lightswitch
Something wrong with this light switch?

Nope, nothing really. Last week I found it in many times in two open houses. It's your standard Leviton switch; $1.59 for the ten-pack, contractors' pricing probably a bit cheaper.

And therein lies the rub.

In the morning, I saw this switch being installed in a $1.4m modernist house under construction. No issues.

Then, same day an hour later, I encountered it and many of its siblings in another brand-new modern home for sale.

This time, the asking price was $6.9 million.
Alternative switch, nicer

But – $1.59 switches in a $6.9m home? Visible screws and all?

If I was a prospective buyer in that price bracket, I'd blow a gasket. Upscale pricing should get more than an upscale location and more space, it should also demand better materials.

But sadly, I often observe stunts like that. And I can't help but wonder what kind of buyer will let a detail like this slide by. You don't have to be in the building trade to be a bit more discriminating.

Is the builder's margin really that poor that s/he has to resort to this? Are luxury buyers really that indiscriminate that glitzy appearance of a big house is worth more than substance in details?

Seems so. In my book, that gets filed under "pathetic".

What's your opinion?

23 January 2015

South Florida Home Sales, 4th Quarter 2014

Fourth quarter home sales are always hampered by the Holiday season, stretching from the Thanksgiving week to the first week of the new year.

Noticeable last year however that November was rather lame, while December after Hanukkah, but especially the period called "Between The Years" in German – the week between Christmas and New Year – stepped on the gas again, clearly with closing before year's end in mind.

So my September prediction of a "limp market for SFH for the rest of the year, with a lot of hesitation on the buyers’ side" wasn't quite correct. Well, I sort of was, for two months of the last three in 2014.

The last quarter shaped up like this:

Listing prices: little increase in Palm Beach county (median $437,000), no changes in Broward and Miami-Dade counties (median $350,000 and 359,000 resp.)

Selling prices: a decrease of one percent in Palm Beach county was erased by a hefty six percent increase in Broward and four percent in Miami-Dade, for a Three-County median selling price of $273,230 or $140 per square foot under air ($1,555/square metre).

Inventory: closing the year with 19,268 single family homes for sale, inventory (in months) in all three counties had been down in October, increased in November and dropped again in December due to the strong sales at the end of the month, to 4.8 months. That is a little tight and under the approx. six months considered healthy.

SE Florida SFH sales data, Jan 2012-Dec 2014. Source: Kaiser Assoc. via SEF-MLS

On a side note, I am personally always baffled when statistics are "seasonally adjusted" – what does that mean and how does one adjust them? By temperature, snowfall or lack of snow, black ice, people nesting? It seems there is an awful lot of subjectivity in seasonal adjustments – why not leave the numbers alone and let the readers get their own picture?

Year over year, Southeast Florida thus saw a selling price increase for SFH of 4.5 percent absolute, or 6.2 percent per sf under air.

Modern architecture, my passion and expertise, is traded at considerably higher prices; the median selling price per sf under air last quarter reached $328.

That is partially due to the very limited number of modernist architecture for sale – less than 2 percent of all SFH – but also due to the overall value – tangible and intangible – that current and future owners attach to this type of architecture.
I invite you to contact me anytime if you are would like advice on selling, keeping or buying a modernist home.

01 January 2015

To a Healthy, Happy and Abundant 2015!

(Pic: modernist multifamily home in Tutzing/Bavaria. Architect: Helga Quauke, Tutzing, photo ©tckaiser)