Morris Massre's Blog

Thoughts on South Florida Realty and the Planet in General

Rebuilding America’s Real Estate Market Begins in its Downtowns

1950's Columbia

A vintage 1950’s era black and white photo of Main St. in downtown Columbia, SC tells a story of a city’s past. You will notice the hustle and bustle that used to be. The other is the new Mast General Store that now occupies what used to be Lourie’s Men’s Store in the downtown area today. With the advent of the suburbs and malls people slowly moved out of the city and the downtowns across the country began its slow decent into oblivion. I vividly remember as a student at the University of South Carolina in the 1980’s how dead the area was. And I often wondered what it would take to bring it back because the suburbs were actually too far away as the college campus was downtown. I figured that something like South Beach in Miami would have to happen. That took lots of cafes, bars, and retail, something Columbia was seriously lacking.

What it takes are some smart and gutsy business people to come in and take a chance by opening a business there. Well, this finally started to happen last year when Lourie’s Men’s Store, a staple of the downtown area for years, finally closed its doors. Businessmen and politicians from the area stopped shopping. But low and behold, the Mast General Store took a chance and took the bottom of the old store and The Lofts apartments took the top. By doing so the two managed to bring people back downtown. More and more young professionals who are more and more disenchanted with the price of gas are making the move to downtown and walking to work. It seems that hybrids and smaller cars just were not working anymore. As it turns out, the apartments are renting at a fast pace because the demand has returned.

Now, some may call this gentrification, but in the case of Columbia, it can’t be because nobody was living there anymore. This, however, may now be the case in Miami, Florida.

I bring up Columbia as an example of what can be. I now live in Pembroke Pines, Florida, a suburb of Miami, and found that this too can happen in downtown Miami. If you have never been there, the heart, Flagler St., isn’t much to look at and pretty much shuts down after 5pm. My grandfather used to roam these streets in the 1940’s as a carpetbagger and the place used to hustle. He would not recognize now. But the good news is that others like me are starting to recognize the potential in the downtown area and are taking a chance in bringing back some of the old buildings by converting them into apartments, much like the The Lofts. One such building is Flagler First, a loft style apartment building exclusively represented by Fortune International Realty. The prices are more than reasonable and start at $94,000. for a loft or one bedroom. (See photo)

Flagler First

This too is a prime example of young professionals making their way back into downtown areas to be closer to work. And the main reason, besides the drive, is the price of gas. Everyone has now realized that the price is what it is and it’s not going to change. Wishful thinking. Now comes acceptance. Why buy and smaller car when you can just sell your bigger house in the suburbs, get rid of your car altogether, and walk to work? The savings are incredible when you think about it. In this case, gentrification may actually be a good thing. How else are you going to bring downtown Miami back?

If you think that this may be you and you are considering this type of move, contact me, Morris Massre, for more information about Flagler First and a viewing. You will be surprised at what can be. Visit my website for more information about me and other properties at

The Lofts Apts.


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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.

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Realtors Not Dead Yet

I sometimes wonder if realtors really are a dying breed.  In the old days before the internet people would always look for an excuse not to use an agent, but in the end always did.  Today they don’t even have to use an excuse.  There is plenty of free help out there online and television on the nuances of selling or buying a home.  And we do not help ourselves by giving anyone with a breath a license in a week.  I can’t think of any other business that does that.  You should have to earn it and go through much more rigorous training.  This will weed out the deadbeats.

Perhaps we are our own worst enemy too.  Cutting commissions, shafting our brethren, seeking out shortcuts to get rich quick, breaking all the rules and laws, and so on.  I liken this to when I was a kid.  My parents were in retail and had lots of competition who were always doing the same exact things just mentioned.  So my father took it upon himself to contact each of his competitors and offer a solution to the war.  Why not everyone just carry the same items at the same price and let the customer decide for himself who he or she wants to buy from?  This same philosophy can and should apply here.  Yet it doesn’t because everyone is looking out for him or herself.

If we band together and give the customer the service and attention they deserve they will stick with you.  No need to sell yourself short.  The more you do, the more respect you lose from the customer.  Once the public realizes this, and they will, they will come back to using agents the way they used to.  Afterall, how much attention can a computer give a customer?  As far as customers are concerned, the only good a computer should do for them is give them information on all of the qualified agents in their area.  If a client took the time to research who they are interviewing and eventually hiring they just might eliminate a lot of headache later on down the road.  Anyone can claim they are a “specialist,” but we all know that’s just branding.  Does the customer know that?

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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.

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Once Upon A Real Estate Time…

I ruled the rental world of South Florida with an iron fist.  When times were good, nobody wanted to touch rentals or property management.  It was beneath them.  And I thrived because I was the Wal-Mart of real estate rentals. I went where nobody else wanted to go.  And it paid off.  But as soon as the market tanked everyone was now a rental specialist.  Now these realtors were dipping into my territory and profits and there was really nothing I could do about it except keep giving out my superior service and keeping my clients informed that I was in it for the long haul and would never abandon them.

And four years into this recession from hell I am still here plugging along and my clients appreciate it.  They know that if I can hang in there and still at least help them through all of this then there is hope for us all.  The only thing that can set you apart as an outstanding realtor is service, especially now.  And yes, it is a cliche for most, but this is a philosophy I have always adhered to, not something that I came up with now because there are no other tools.  My clients speak for themselves and as professionals you too should strive to keep your clients happy and informed by always going the extra mile for them.  It always pays off in the long run.

However, it doens’t always work that way.  I thrive on referrals and the only way to get them is to impress your clients with superior service.  Others don’t so much.  This is why I make it a point to insist that my potential clients read my resume, call my references, and read my blogs.  How else are you going to know anything about your agent?  Just because an agent has a big, fancy ad in the paper or glossy magazine does not make them a specialist.  Do your homework.  The hiring of an agent, including one that specializes in rentals and property management, is just as important as a sale, and therefore, should be interviewed thoroughly.

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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.

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