Morris Massre's Blog

Thoughts on South Florida Realty and the Planet in General

Housing’s Perfect Storm Erupts in Florida

South Florida's Perfect Real Estate Storm

South Florida’s Perfect Real Estate Storm

Housing Perfect Storm is Upon us

Housing Perfect Storm is Upon us

Welcome to Florida; The Hurricane State

Welcome to Florida; The Hurricane State

Some thought Hurricane Wilma of 2006 fame was the perfect storm that started the housing meltdown in South Florida.  Well, if you coupled that with mortgage fraud, rising home prices that were out of control, and unscrupulous realtors, mortgage brokers, and appraisers, then maybe it was.  I believe that it was simply the beginning of the end.

Today we have a perfect storm of other sorts.  I like to think of it as the perfect storm for our housing recovery.  Whether or not you like it makes no difference.  Housing is the single factor in the US economy that dictates whether or not we fail or succeed economically as a country.  Not Wall Street, not the auto industry, and not banking.  This is why everyone should be paying close attention to the market, especially here in your own backyard.  Housing’s success or failure has a domino affect on America’s economy.  Choosing to ignore it is simply not the right attitude. 

Sometimes I wonder if the Native Americans had it right all along because they had no concept of ownership of any kind, including their own country.  This is why they never had to worry about defaulting on a loan.  They shared in everything willingly.   And that is why it was so easily manipulated away from them though.  On the one hand they never had to worry about a mortgage payment, insurance, HOA dues, or even cutting the grass.  On the other hand, this type of cultural mentality led to their loss of land.  One could argue that there simply were not enough Indians to stop the influx of White immigrants flowing into the country and that it was bound to happen anyway, but if there were some kind of national government in place perhaps a deal could have been arranged to avoid the takeover. There is no going back now and we have to live with the current economic conditions.   

But Indians did not use money at the time, so an economic collapse due to housing would have been impossible.  But it sure would be nice to not have to think about money or bills for a while.  Today’s society has no concept of sharing because we are all out for ourselves when it comes to home ownership and getting the best deal possible.  Nobody cares about whether or not the sale of their over-priced home will have impact on the rest of the community as long as they get what they want.  Hopefully, we have learned from our mistakes and will be more conscience of  our actions in the future. 

What South Florida is experiencing now is not unlike pre-meltdown housing numbers, but make no mistake about it, everything has changed in the way we conduct business.  The perfect housing storm arises first from rising seller prices.  Although not enough to bring a lot of homeowners from the abyss, it is still enough to rescue many others.  Another factor that has been taking hold are buyers who are coming to the US to invest for various reasons, although mostly political.  All of the political and economic unrest in various parts of the world have led to foreign investment in US housing.  These buyers are coming in droves too, and this has led to a shortage of inventory, thus driving up demand and prices.  In particular, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, and China are the biggest movers and shakers in the home buying business. 

American buyers, on the other hand, are driven more by simple economics like interest rates.  Foreigners do not have to worry about that because they buy with cash, but with Americans who finance it is the single biggest factor in the purchase of a home.  Give out zero percent interest rates like the auto industry and the run on housing would be so great that we would surely run out of homes to sell in record time. 

So, given the fact that we have a great deal of buyers for homes, low interest rates, higher home values, and a shortage of inventory all point to a housing perfect storm.  This time, however, it is all for the better. 



Filed under: Real Estate, , , , , , , ,

South Florida Shadow Inventories Leave More Questions than Answers

The debate as to whether or not South Florida’s struggling housing market is back on track or not is still up in the air as far as I am concerned.  If you asked one hundred agents here you would get a different answer from them all, but most would hinge on either a big time yes or a slowly but surely approach.

The problem with getting an accurate account of the recovery is simply tied into the shadow inventories, or the foreclosed homes that the banks are holding back on so as to not flood the market.  By doing so, the real estate market is left with a smaller inventory of homes, which generates multiple offers and higher demand.  Personally, as more of a listing agent than a buyer’s agent, I like the idea.  However, I do not like the false hope that it provides my customers.  Let’s face it, getting a loan today is like pulling teeth, so continuing to lower interest rates can only go so far.  So that pretty much leaves sellers with a whole lot of investment buyers, most of whom are foreigners.  On the other hand, if the market were to be saturated with thousands of foreclosed homes that would be a disaster as well.  Buyers would indeed come out of the woodwork like roaches, but their offers would be lower than usual, thus leaving the traditional sellers on the outside looking in because they are not the better deal.  This would probably also kill short sales since they close so much faster. 

I remember in 2006 and prior to when all the media could talk about was when the bubble was going to burst on the housing market.  Nobody paid attention to the warnings.  It was as if they wanted it to happen so that they would have something to talk about.  But now all they can talk about is the so called recovery.  What will the media talk about when that happens?  Make no bones about it – this is indeed an investor driven real estate market and without investors as buyers the South Florida market would look like Detroit.  It will lead to another bubble, however, that of the rental market because the area is being flooded with rentals now and landlords are gouging like tomorrow will be the end of the world.  It is sad at how people take advantage of others in their most time of need.  John Steinbeck’s, “The Grapes of Wrath” is a classic example of how the market collapsed during the depression and how those with took advantage of those without. 

So, as far as I am concerned the real estate recovery has to be divided into different parts of the country.  Some are better off than others, but Florida has a long way to go because it was probably the most greedy during the heyday.  The deeper you go into a real estate tragedy in terms of pricing and inventory, the longer you have to climb out.  Only time will tell how Floridians will bounce back from the deepest depths of the real estate abyss.  No media giant can ascertain that.

Filed under: Real Estate, , , , , , , ,

Remembering 1972 Munich Olympic Games Massacre

Forty years ago members of a Palestinian terrorist organization found a way into the Olympic Village in Munich Germany and kidnapped 11 Israeli athletes in the hope of using them as hostages in a prisoner swap.  However, a botched German rescue went horribly wrong and all of the hostages were murdered as they sat in a helicopter with their arms and legs tied together awaiting departure for the airport and hopefully their release. 

The Face of Terrorism

Several movies on the subject have been made since, all of them heartbreaking.  Until “Munich” came along.  The difference?  “Munich” was based on the aftermath of the murders and how the Israeli Mossad went after the freed terrorists that were captured by the Germans.  What this movie proved, however, was that as much as the Israelis wanted blood for the murders they did not want it at the cost of becoming murderers themselves.  Years later the ultimate leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, would be seen shaking hands with Yitshak Rabin in Washington in his attempt at peace.  He even received a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.  Suddenly, everyone forgot about all the people he killed and Munich, even though “Black September,” a branch group of the PLO, claimed credit.  A detailed account of what happened that fateful day in 1972 can be read here, including the thoughts and interviews with olympian Mark Spitz.

The London games mark the 40th anniversary of this horrific mark on olympic history.  And what does the International Olympic Committee have to show for it?  Absolutely nothing.  Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee’s President, feels as if the opening ceremonies are not the place to remember such a tragedy.  I wonder, where is the proper place?  These men were an integral part of the Olympic family and deserve the repsect and honor of their peers, especially during this time as an anniversary date of the massacre.  Who is he to make such a decision when the rest of the democratic world thinks otherwise?  Let’s face it;  His decision is based on two things, racism and politics.  If this were any other Christian or Muslim country that faced such a horrific incident every effort would be made to honor their athletes, but because they were Jews and Israeli’s to boot, there is no way Rogge or the IOC is going to upset the fragile balance of Olympic harmony with their Muslim neighbors who have threatened to boycott the games if such a memorial service is performed.

Only Fox News has the Chutzpah, or guts, to bring attention to these courageous men who died.  See reporter Jen Floyd Engel’s story here.


Botched Rescue

And finally, Bob Costas plans on adding his own on air commemoration prior to the games.  I am so glad that at least one news organization has still retained some semblance of the right kind of morals and values that the IOC and the Arab world doesn’t.  The shame of it all.  These are human beings competing in what are supposed to be the one moment when the world puts all of their differences aside and competes as one, regardless of politics and religion. But the Arab world doesn’t see it that way and the IOC, like the United Nations, capitulates to their every demand.  They should all be ashamed of themselves for such indifference and outright racism.  They should reach down deep into their hearts and do the right thing for once in the hope that this remembrance shall never be allowed to happen again.  Read the Bob Costas story here.


Casket of Israeli Athlete Carried by American Soldiers

Filed under: Israel, , , , , ,

Yom HaZikaron Should be in the USA too

Yom HaZikaron

Yom HaZikaron

You may not like what I am about to say concerning Memorial Day, but it has to be said. I am appalled by what this holiday has become in the US. When it should be about memorializing the dead soldiers who fought in all of our wars, it has become all about barbeques, sales at the mall, and traveling. Even commercials on television, while sporting red, white, and blue, are pushing everything from shoes and shorts to cars and jewelry. It disgusts me to say the least, and should do so to you as well. This should be a sad holiday, not a celebration.

These people died for you for crying out loud. They deserve more than this. I propose a nationwide moment of silence at a specific time tomorrow as designated by the federal government, where everyone stops what they are doing and says a silent prayer. Am I insane you say? Not really. Actually, I got the idea from the country of Israel, where they do this exact thing. Just google it. My wife was there just a couple of weeks ago with a group of middle school kids when one day horns, like those you would find in tornado alley, were sounded and everyone everywhere stopped, even if they were in their cars on the highway, and stood where they were to honor their fallen. They do this for holocaust victims as well. She said that the kids were amazed at the fact that so many would do so much for their soldiers when back home in America nothing like this was done. The holiday in Israel has the same name also, although over there it’s pronounced in Hebrew as Yom HaZikaron. (See picture insert) If this doesn’t blow you away, nothing will.

Pass this message along to all fellow bloggers and help me feature it too Activerainers! I want to get the message out to all American soldiers that we do indeed care about the fallen and will be saying a prayer for all of them, for all wars fought, wherever they may be buried. And, to let the living know that we will not forget them should they also fall.

Filed under: Israel,

Why It’s Great to be a USC Gamecock

Beat Clemson

Being a Gamecock fan is about as easy as being a Chicago Cub.  So much hope and promise every year and then we are let down.  My journey as a fan began in high school.  Up until then I was as big a Clemson fan as one could be.  But one evening in front of a television changed all that.  I was about 16 and a USC baseball game of all things popped up on the screen.  So I watched it out of curiousity and was instantly hooked.  You have to remember that back then in the early ’80’s you basically got sports on Sunday and even that was limited.  There was no ESPN.

Later that year my best friend and I watch our first bowl game, Cocks vs. Mizzou.  I really liked what I saw even though they lost.  As a matter of fact, the Cocks lost their first eight bowls before they finally pulled one out in the Carquest Bowl.  I started looking into everything Gamecock by then and made the journey to Columbia in 1980 to see George Rogers steamroll over the Pack.  If you grew up in South Carolina you either went to Clemson or USC, period.  I wasn’t even thinking about other schools.  It was as if they did not exist.

By the time I graduated I was off to Columbia and followed Gamecock sports of all kinds while there, even the sports nobody else pays attention to like swimming.  What I found was that USC was more than just a football, basketball, or baseball school.  It had so much more to offer.  The soccer program is incredible and has had the same coach for decades.  But having the time to constantly go to every game in every sport is exhausting.  It is not until after you graduate that you realize you are an even bigger fan now than when you were actually in school.  I just didn’t have the time to be as big a fan while attending school.   But today, even my WordPress handle is associated with a South Carolina great, Shoeless Joe Jackson of 1918 White Sox baseball fame.

I arrived in the ’80’s when USC was an independent, almost unheard of today, unless you are Notre Dame.  We could never win a conference championship in anything.  But in ’84 we really had something going when we won 10 football games, but blew our shot at a national title by losing to Navy of all schools.  They haven’t won 10 since then and it was really all downhill after that when Joe Morrison died.  Things didn’t start to come together again for the football program until Spurrier arrived.  No, Holtz did not make a difference.  He was dedicated to the Irish first and foremost and did nothng to endear himself to the fans other than winning 9 games once.  He never beat Florida and had a losing record against Clemson.  In other words, his heart was always in South Bend.  Spurrier had his chance for 10 wins in 2010 too.  It was as if God himself was a Gamecock fan and was giving him and the team chance after chance by scheduling more games, including a conference championship in Atlanta and a Chick Fil A bowl game against FSU.  In the end it turned out to be the letdown loss to Kentucky, after a big lead, that prevented the 10 wins season.

Spurrier really adopted the city and the school in a big way, however.  He goes to other games and gets involved.  To see him smiling and cheering at the College World Series in 2010 sealed his loyalty to me.  Everything he has done to turn the program into a consistant winner is visible everywhere from the incredible new uniforms to the recruting of literally some of the best talent in the country.  No other coach could have landed Lattimore, Jeffery, and Clowney to USC.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Up until 2010 the football program only won one conference title and that was the 1969 ACC championship.  The once proud basketball program under Frank McGuire’s influence had fallen on tough times, and periodically showed flashes of brilliance in ’95 and ’96 when they won the SEC two years in a row.  They were bounced from the tournament in the first round both years.  For those of you who don’t know McGuire, he was the man at St. Johns and then UNC prior to Dean Smith’s arrival.  He even won a national championship there.  He made USC a powerhouse in the ACC  throughout the ’70’s.  I had the greatest pleasure of meeting the man face to face right before he died and purely by accident.  I was dining at a local restaurant in Myrtle Beach and a friend of mine was there.  He asked me if I wanted to meet McGuire.  Do I?!!!  He introduced us and Mcguire and I sat and talked for about an hour about Gamecock basketball.  It was a moment I would never forget.  The man is truly a legend.  He loved the Gamecocks too and had a great deal of influence on the program even after his retirement.

Baseball and soccer, on the other hand were always powerhouses.  But nobody ever talks about that.  The problem with the Gamecocks was they were always the bridesmaid, but never the bride in both sports.  The soccer team played in a national title game against Virginia and came up short and the baseball team made it to the finals three times before finally winning it all in 2010 in dramatic fashion in what has to be the most exciting college baseball series of all time when you consider the fact that they won it all after losing the opener and then sweeping everyone else, including Clemson twice.  Even Spurrier was there.  Holtz was invited in 2003, but was a no show.  This baseball team made history by being the last national championship team to win the last game at historic Rosenblatt Stadium.  I watched every single game they played in for ten straight nights thinking they were going to blow it.  So many times they were on the brink of elimination, only to fight back and pull it out each time.  Then in 2011 they did it again.  This time they blew through the regionals, super regionals, and then the World Series and became only the sixth team in NCAA history to win two championships in a row and broke the series record of consecutive wins in a postseason.  Nobody is laughing at the Gamecocks anymore.  The best part was whereas in 2010 they had to beat arch nemesis Clemson twice to advance, this year they had to beat arch nemesis II Florida twice as well.  There is something about orange I just hate.  And that was sweet satisfaction.

Although not  the first national championship for the university in it’s illustrious history, it was the first for the men in a major sport.  Now everyone knows who the Gamecocks are.  And now that the Gamecocks have won the SEC East  football crown with a win over hated Florida and the soccer team took home the Conference USA title in the same weekend it appears that the chicken curse has indeed finally been lifted.  This is a major accomplishment considering the level of talent in both conferences.

Living in Florida now I have to hear it all the time from the Gator fans.  But now I can rub it in their faces because the Gamecocks have indeed arrived.  USC is truly a wonderful university in many ways and I still go back just to reminisce.  What the rest of the country doesn’t know about the school is that the sports facilities are incredible and rival those of some professional sports.  It sits in the middle of downtown Columbia and is within walking distance of everything happening.  It has a balanced mixture of old and new buildings


with a beautiful setting at it’s center, the horseshoe.  And no, not just Southerners go to school there.  A lot of kids from the Northeast also attend.  The school is also at or near the top in business, journalism, and engineering.  Walking through downtown Columbia is like taking a trip through time with it’s brick pavered sidewalks, mix of older buildings, and the 100+ year old clocks that adorn the streets.  It’s really such a nice way to spend an afternoon just walking and enjoying the scenery.  And fraternity row is simply majestic with it’s large fraternity and sorority houses lining the streets.  Ah, to be a student living and attending school there today would just be fantastic.

The best advice I can give anyone who is attending college at USC today is to enjoy it and savor every minute of it.  Suck it all in and get involved in as much as possible by visiting everything the university has to offer.  For instance, USC is the sole owner of all Movietone news reels and anyone can feel free to walk in to the theatre and watch it all day.  Why is this important?  Because Movietone is a large piece of American history.  Before television and the internet, Americans got their news by attending a movie and having the news flash on the screen prior to it starting.  The university is also home to the most comprehensive research collection for the study and teaching of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is housed at the Thomas Cooper Library.
Yes, it is getting easier and easier to be a University of South Carolina Gamecock fan today. I appreciate the university and all it has to offer more today than I ever did as a student probably because I have a better appreciation for history now.


Filed under: Gamecocks, University of South Carolina, , , ,

Israel Is For Investors

From the mind of Richard Meier comes his latest project in Tel Aviv. Named after it’s designer, Meier, this new construction condo scheduled for completion in three years is a 32 floor masterpiece with panoramic views of the city and the mediterranean.

According to the current plan, the residential tower will be 32 stories high, or 150 meters, with a five stories lobby incorporating seating and hosting areas.
A total of 20,300 sq m will be reserved for residential use, including all technical services, lobby, lounge and other residential facilities.

Each 785 sq m flat can either be a single apartment or be divided into two, four or five apartments, on the first 10 floors. The condo also
offers penthouse plans as duplex and triplex.

The design and technology of the tower will be based on innovative systems to incorporate environmentally friendly living.

This photo gives you an idea of the breathtaking views from Meier.  It’s just a short walk to the beach too. 

Forget about what you have heard in the media.  Israel is as peaceful a country as one will ever see and extremely friendly towards it’s visitors, especially Americans as they are the country’s closest ally.  Tel Aviv is Israel’s largest city and you could literally see the rest of the country in a week by car. 

Contact me for more information at 954-214-6014 for more detailed information and pricing or visit my website at

Thanks for visiting.

Filed under: Israel, Real Estate, ,

New Construction in Israel

I know what you are thinking. And no, what you see happening on CNN, Fox, etc. is truly NOT the face of Israel. As a matter of fact, the real estate business there is booming and there is no bubble because banks lend little, if any, money for residential sales. In fact, most of the buyers of the new projects on the Mediterranean are foreigners. Citizens of the country have to actually win the lottery just to buy a home.

Do not let threats from Iran or any of the other wacky Arab countries deter you from investing in Israel. I have been there four times and have never felt threatened. I actually find it to be quite a lovely and relaxing country that is incredibly friendly towards Americans especially. Getting around is a snap as everyone speaks English and all signage is in four languages. The security at all levels there is unmatched anywhere in the world. Why? Because there are no politically offensive or incorrect messages or policies that the federal government cares about using. Security is paramount and if you do not like the steps taken to ensure that, you can leave. We as a country can learn from that.

This brings me to my real estate point. If you like Miami Beach or Brickell, this is for you. The architecture is very similar with the art deco look,  and the amenities spectacular. But the best part of this project, Aviv, are the views of the Mediterranean. Underground parking abounds as well. This is about a two year project and deposit are being taken here with me at Fortune International Realty.  All contracts are assignable as well. 

Tel Aviv New

This building in particular is six floors with retail on the ground level and a garden area on the roof with shared “safe rooms” for everyone.  I liken these rooms to those of Americans in the 1950’s who had a bomb shelter in their back yard.  You can never be too safe in the government’s eyes.  Parking is underground and the beach is a ten minute walk.  Contact me at 954-214-6014 for additional detailed information.

Filed under: Real Estate, , , , , , ,

Understanding Florida’s Landlord/Tenant Act

This nifty little disclosure has literally gone from two pages to eleven overnight.  What once was used simply to protect the tenant from losing his or her security deposit has now gone to protecting both sides.  Afterall, landlords seemed to be getting the short end of the stick on this one time and again, espcially with all of the tenants refusing to pay rent in the event of foreclosure, short sale, or even a simple modification. 

I have since come to find out that a rental agreement between a landlord and tenant and an agreement between landlord and bank are two different things and should be treated as such.  Just because a landlord may not be making his or her mortgage payments does not relieve you of your duty to pay rent as stated in your lease.  It is your duty or your agent’s to check on the property’s status beforehand.  Why get yourself into something that is already in trouble?

But it gets better.  Included in the Act are both sides obligation to maintain the unit, the landlord’s access to the unit, termination of an agreement, holding over, prohibited practices, and my favorite, choice of remedies upon breach or early termination by tenant.  This last one has been ignored forever, but now a landlord can charge for liquidated damages for either in the amount of two month’s rent. 

Is that fair?  Absolutely.  My advice to all tenants now is to read every page of this act before signing a lease in the state.  It is so much more detailed and goes beyond the scope of a simple security deposit.  That is provided your agent gives you one.  Be sure and always ask for the landlord/tenant act before signing a lease in Florida, whether it’s from an agent or a by owner.

Filed under: Real Estate, , , , , , , ,

If it’s too good to be true, don’t do it

Homeowners facing foreclosure are prime targets for scam artists. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission identified 71 companies running suspicious foreclosure rescue ads, and the Better Business Bureau counts foreclosure rescue rip-offs among its top 10 scams. Understanding how these scams work can help you avoid becoming a victim.

The variations are seemingly endless, but one popular foreclosure scam involves a representative of a so-called foreclosure rescue company promising to negotiate a deal with your lender. The rep, vowing to take care of everything, will instruct you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or credit counselor during the supposed negotiations. The more brazen ones will even tell you to pay your mortgage directly to them.

Once you pay an upfront fee or hand over a few months’ worth of mortgage payments, the scam artist will disappear. You’ll be left with an emptier wallet and a mortgage that’s in even deeper trouble because no deal was cut and no payments were made on your behalf. According to John Riggins, chief executive of the Fort Worth, Texas, office of the Better Business Bureau, upfront fees can range from $500 to $5,000.

Rip-offs come in many forms

A bankruptcy foreclosure scam can involve a promise to fend off foreclosure in exchange for an upfront fee. Instead of getting you legitimate relief, the fraudster will pocket the fee and secretly file a bankruptcy case in your name. The scam may seem to work initially, because a bankruptcy filing will stop foreclosure proceedings temporarily, but they’ll resume. Compounding your problems, a bankruptcy can mar your credit report for 10 years.

Another common scam, called the bait-and-switch, results in a scam artist taking ownership of your home. You sign documents supposedly for a new loan that will make your mortgage current. What’s really happening is you’re signing over the deed of your house. In this scenario you would still owe on your mortgage but no longer own the home.

In a rent-to-own scheme, you’re told to surrender a home’s deed as part of a deal that lets you stay put as a renter. The scam artist, perhaps claiming to be able to refinance at a better rate with you off the title, promises to sell the house back to you in the future. However, terms of the deal may make it all but impossible for you to repurchase the home, or the scammer may get you evicted by raising the rent beyond your means. Either way, you end up losing the home while remaining on the hook for the unpaid mortgage.

Look out for red flags

Being aware of the warnings signs can protect you from foreclosure rescue scams. Red flags ( include:

·Demands for high upfront fees.

·Guarantees to stop a foreclosure.

·Instructions to make mortgage payments to someone other than your lender.

•Pressure to sign over a deed.

Filed under: Real Estate, , , ,

Landlord/Tenant Responsibilities

Anyone out there acting as a realtor or those practicing leasing on their own should know this;  tenants will always try to get away with as much as possible on a lease agreement simply because they either do not trust the landlord or just want control.  One of my favorites is when a tenant will want a clause written in a lease where they have the ability to repair anything that breaks down and bill it to the landlord. 

This is taboo as far as I am concerned.  It pretty much leads to the tenant simply calling anyone they wish to in the phonebook without a care as to how much it’s going to cost.  Most landlords, at least the experienced ones, always have someone that they work with that won’t rape and pillage them for a repair.  That is why this should never be allowed by a tenant. 

On the other hand, if you have a deadbeat landlord that never repairs anything, that’s another story.  But how is one to know that?  That is where your agent comes in.  If I had a landlord that I knew was a deadbeat I would do everything in my power to give the tenant the authority to make the repairs responsibly.  Other than that, your next best bet would be to hire a property manager.  As one myself, I have a handful of vendors that I specifically use for these purposes and because of my constant stream of business I get preferential treatment and prices.  Always look for  these types of clauses in the lease or agreement.

Filed under: Real Estate, , , , , , , , ,

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