Why We Won’t Use YELP !

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Many of us rely on Yelp for advice on restaurants, dry cleaners, retailers, handymen, gardeners, real estate agents and so on under the assumption that it is a democratic site that supports all comments, good and bad, without bias.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yelp filters results according to certain arcane rules that are not even disclosed to the reviewers who donate their time and efforts to the website’s benefit. When a business patron writes a review it may or may not remain on the Yelp site according to these rules. There’s no real way of knowing what will stick and what won’t.

I found this out when I posted a glowing review of South County Process Service. This company, which was recommended to me by a close attorney friend had but one Yelp review at the time, and it was scathing. As opposed to that reviewer’s experience, my dealing with them was laudatory, warranting a very positive review.

When I notified County Process Service that I had posted a good review (my first on Yelp), they replied: “We’ll see if yelp filters the review. All of our good reviews get filtered. I’m not sure why yelp thinks our good reviews are fraudulent.”

When I checked a week later, Lo and Behold! My review had been removed. Did Yelp tell me about it? Not one word!

My wife, a Realtor, had a similar experience: “They seem be wary of first-time reviewers. If your first review is negative then they let you post other reviews, but if your first review is positive then they remove it. The same goes if all your reviews are positive.”

Recommended by Forbes

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Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

by Cathy L. Lucrezi, Attorney at Law
It’s that time of year again. A tropical storm will cause mischief somewhere and damage someone’s rental premises. The havoc will interrupt the tenant’s possession of the premises as well as the landlord’s income. Here are some important repair matters to keep in mind:

Damaged and uninhabitable. If rental premises are damaged in a way that renders them uninhabitable, the tenant is not liable for rent for the period that the premises are uninhabitable. The owner is not obligated to pay for a hotel or move the tenant to another unit (unless the lease specifically says he should). Continue reading

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Smoke Detector Laws 2015

Smoke Detectors – The New 2015 Law
by Harry Heist, Attorney at Law
After a number of years of unsuccessful bills introduced in the Florida Legislature, finally a bill addressing smoke detector/alarms has passed into law. Florida Statute Section 553.883 governs what property managers or owners must do under certain situations with regards to smoke detector/alarms. Continue reading

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Dogs and Insurance

Dogs and Insurance
by Harry A. Heist, Attorney at Law
Many property managers have improved the way they are dealing with pets. They know to always use a pet addendum, confirm with the COA or HOA that pets are permitted for tenants, collect their pet fee and/or pet deposit, use a pet application, visually observe the pet before approval, and inspect the premises more often to make sure there are no pet damages. The aforementioned are all best practices, and if you are not doing all of them, you need to begin now. However, the real issue to ponder is whether you are going to accept pets at all. Potential liability exposure increases dramatically when pets, especially dogs, are allowed on the premises. There are massive occurrences of dog bite injuries and other injuries attributable to dogs each year, and many millions of dollars are paid out each year by insurance companies or as judgments against property owners, due to injuries and even death relating to dogs, not to forget all the physical property damages that is attributable to dogs.

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Dealing with the Gas Grill

by Harry Anthony Heist, Attorney at Law
Each year thousands of explosions and accidental fires occur due to the use and misuse of gas grills, resulting in of thousands of injuries, millions of dollars in property damage and approximately 20 deaths. Gas grills are dangerous and are usually prohibited in multi-family housing and condominiums, either due to company policy or fire code. Should a property manager prohibit gas grills in all rental housing including single family homes? You may want to give this some thought and read on. Continue reading

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Social Media Reviews

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Copying Military ID’s

Copying Military Identification
by Harry Heist, Attorney at Law

In a past issue of our email newsletter, specifically the March 2008 issue, we addressed the topic of copying an applicant or a resident’s ID. It is our opinion that the benefits of copying ID and having it on file outweigh the potential risk that you would be found to be engaging in illegal discrimination. The discrimination charges in the past have arisen out of a few cases with managers sitting down and going through copies of ID, looking at the pictures of the applicants and then using this as a basis to pick and choose who is approved or not approved in a discriminatory fashion in violation of Fair Housing Laws. We feel that you know better and would not ever engage in such a practice. With that said, we must address a little known law regarding military identification. 18 US Code Section 701 prohibits anyone other than persons from specifically authorized state and federal agencies to make a photocopy of a military ID or Common Access Card and the penalties for violating this law are severe!

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Renter’s Insurance is a MUST

Why Renter’s Insurance is necessary.

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Housing Market Displays New Vigor as Prices Rise


Home prices notched their strongest year-to-date gains since 2005, climbing 5.9% through July and signaling the housing market’s steady trudge toward recovery.

The rising prices in Tuesday’s Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index could play a pivotal role in changing consumer sentiment toward housing and drawing in buyers from the sidelines. Another lure: Mortgage rates are falling to record lows after the Federal Reserve resumed buying mortgage-backed securities two weeks ago, helping to offset rising prices.


“Housing is no longer a negative. It is turning positive and we see the data reflecting that,” said Ivy Zelman, chief executive at research firm Zelman & Associates.

Home prices typically are strongest in the summer, the busiest season for home sales, before declining later in the year. But the 5.9% rise far surpasses the 0.4% gain seen through the same period last year and the 2% gain in 2010.

For the broader economy, the turn in housing could provide a much-needed boost if it continues. Rising prices could eventually lift consumer spending if homeowners begin to feel wealthier again. Housing construction, a big generator of jobs, also has the potential to play a major role in economic growth.

Rising home prices could shape voters’ thinking about the economy in the home stretch before the presidential election. National prices are at nearly the same level as when President Barack Obama took office 3½ years ago, though there is considerable variation from one city to another. The Obama campaign has argued that a series of policy interventions helped to arrest a steep slide in home prices, while his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, has argued that government interference has delayed the recovery.

Mr. Obama’s political standing has solidified recently in tandem with rising economic optimism. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, Sept. 12-16, some 42% of voters said the economy would get better in the next 12 months, the largest share since late 2009. At the same time, Mr. Obama’s job approval rating hit 50% for the first time since March.

Construction of single-family housing in August reached its highest level in more than two years, though it is still far below its pre-bubble level, the Commerce Department said last week. It is set to report on August sales of newly built homes on Wednesday.

Rising prices largely reflect a dwindling number of foreclosed homes being sold by banks and other lenders as well as stronger demand for those properties from investors. Foreclosures and other “distressed” homes typically sell at larger discounts, and with fewer of those properties selling, prices are under less pressure.

But rising demand, especially at the low end, is putting upward pressure on prices as traditional buyers—as opposed to investors—feel more confident about jumping into the market.

“This is our third year where people have not seen big drops in housing. The cautious ones are feeling a little bit more comfortable,” said Jim Klinge, a real-estate agent in Carlsbad, Calif.

Compared with a year ago, prices in July were up in 16 of the 20 metro areas tracked. Home prices are up by 15% since the end of last year in Phoenix and by 10.1% in San Francisco. By contrast, prices were up by just 1.7% in the New York metro area, the smallest year-to-date gain of any of the 20 cities. Nationally, prices were up 1.2% from July 2011, the largest year-over-year gain since home-buyer tax credits fueled a burst of sales two years ago.

In some cities, diminished supply has given rise to bidding wars—and headaches for would-be buyers. “I’m very stressed over this because I see that the prices are rising, but there aren’t that many homes available,” said Joanna Welo, who is looking to buy a home in Elgin, Ill. Ms. Welo, who is 38 years old, said her teenage stepchildren moved into her two-bedroom townhome last year and they need more space.

“We are anxious to buy something,” said Ms. Welo, who has made offers on two homes so far this year. But she keeps wondering if banks are going to list more foreclosures, which is causing her to hesitate. “Maybe something that’s closer to what we are looking for is going to be released by the banks,” she said.

Price gains also could prompt some potential sellers to hold out for a better deal next spring. “When people ask us for candid advice about whether it’s a good time to sell, we say, ‘No, it isn’t. We think next year is a better time to sell,’ ” said Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin, a Seattle-based real-estate brokerage that does business in 19 markets.

Some economists question whether the budding housing recovery is sustainable, particularly when wage and job growth remain sluggish. While home prices typically weaken during the second half of the year, the pace of such possible declines depend largely on whether the pace of buying keeps up and how banks resolve their overhang of distressed loans that could become foreclosures.

If demand persists and supply remains in check, then “home prices are easily past their bottom and are approaching their self-reinforcing portion of the cycle,” Ms. Zelman wrote in a note to clients this month.

However, headwinds could keep a lid on rapid price growth. Millions of homeowners owe more than their homes are worth and can’t sell their properties. That has frozen the important “trade-up” market—in which buyers move to bigger properties—in many regions hit hardest by the housing bust. Prices nationally are down by 30% from the peak seen during the housing bubble, and hovering around levels last seen in mid-2003.

Many would-be buyers have too much debt to qualify for a mortgage, and lending standards remain tight. Conservative appraisals also are snarling deals. Dave Bernhard, a 51-year-old engineer for an aircraft company, offered to pay $495,000 this summer for a home in Lake Forest Park, Wash., that overlooks Seattle’s Lake Washington.

An appraiser said the three-bedroom home was worth only $400,000, and because his lender wouldn’t allow a second appraisal, Mr. Bernhard backed out of the deal. His real-estate agent, Mark Corcoran, said the home went under contract a few weeks later with a different buyer after a new appraisal came in at $493,000.

Mr. Bernhard, meanwhile, is under contract for a $400,000 home in Mukilteo, Wash. “I am waiting with bated breath to see where that appraisal comes in,” he said.

Source: Wall Street Journal (Click here to view original article)

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Existing-Home Sales Improve in July, Prices Continue to Rise

WASHINGTON (August 22, 2012) – Sales of existing homes rose in July even with constraints of affordable inventory, and the national median price is showing five consecutive months of year-over-year increases, according to the National Association of Realtors®.  Monthly sales rose in every region but the West, where inventory is very tight.

Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, grew 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million in July from 4.37 million in June, and are 10.4 percent above the 4.05 million-unit pace in July 2011.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said housing affordability conditions are very good.  “Mortgage interest rates have been at record lows this year while rents have been rising at faster rates.  Combined, these factors are helping to unleash a pent-up demand,” he said.  “However, the market is constrained by unnecessarily tight lending standards and shrinking inventory supplies, so housing could easily be much stronger without these abnormal frictions.”

NAR is asking the government to expeditiously release the foreclosed properties it owns in inventory-constrained markets.

Given population and demographic demand, Yun said existing-home sales could be in a normal range of 5 to 5.5 million if all conditions were optimal.  “Sales may reach 5 million next year, but it will require more sensible lending standards and stronger job creation to push beyond that,” he said.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 3.55 percent in July from 3.68 percent in June; the rate was 4.55 percent in July 2011; recordkeeping began in 1971.

“Fewer sales in the lower price ranges are contributing to stronger increases in the median price, but all of the home price measures now are showing positive movement and that is building confidence in the market,” Yun said.  “Furthermore, the higher median price naturally means more housing contribution to economic growth.”

The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $187,300 in July, up 9.4 percent from a year ago.  The last time there were five back-to-back monthly price increases from a year earlier was in January to May of 2006.  The July gain was the strongest since January 2006 when the median price rose 10.2 percent from a year earlier.

Distressed homes3 – foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts – accounted for 24 percent of July sales (12 percent were foreclosures and 12 percent were short sales), down from 25 percent in June and 29 percent in July 2011.

Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17 percent below market value in July, while short sales were discounted 15 percent.

NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami, said pricing is the primary factor in determining how long homes stay on the market.  “Correctly priced homes, regardless of price range, are selling quickly these days,” he said.

“Fully one-third of homes purchased in July were on the market for less than a month, and only 21 percent were on the market for six months or longer.  Sellers should carefully consider a Realtor’s ® advice about marketing their homes,” Veissi said.

Total housing inventory at the end July increased 1.3 percent to 2.40 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.4-month supply4 at the current sales pace, down from a 6.5-month supply in June.  Listed inventory is 23.8 percent below a year ago when there was a 9.3-month supply.

Yun said there are distortions in housing inventory.  “The total supply of housing inventory appears to be balanced in historic terms, but there are notable shortages in the lower price ranges which are limiting opportunities for first-time buyers,” he said.  “The low price ranges also are popular with investors, so entry-level buyers are at a disadvantage because many investors are making all-cash offers.”

First-time buyers accounted for 34 percent of purchasers in July, up from 32 percent in June; they were also 32 percent in July 2011.  Under normal conditions, entry-level buyers account for four out of 10 purchases.

All-cash sales slipped to 27 percent of transactions in July from 29 percent in June; they were 29 percent in July 2011.  Investors, who account for the bulk of cash sales, purchased 16 percent of homes in July, down from 19 percent in June; they were 18 percent in July 2011.

Single-family home sales increased 2.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.98 million in July from 3.90 million in June, and are 9.9 percent above the 3.62 million-unit level in July 2011.  The median existing single-family home price was $188,100 in July, up 9.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 4.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 490,000 in July from 470,000 in June, and are 14.0 percent higher than the 430,000-unit pace a year ago.  The median existing condo price was $180,700 in July, which is 7.7 percent above July 2011.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 7.4 percent to an annual level of 580,000 in July and are 13.7 percent above July 2011.  The median price in the Northeast was $254,200, up 3.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 2.0 percent in July to a pace of 1.04 million and are 16.9 percent higher than a year ago.  The median price in the Midwest was $154,100, up 5.8 percent from July 2011.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 2.3 percent to an annual level of 1.77 million in July and are 8.6 percent above July 2011.  The median price in the region was $162,600, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West were unchanged at an annual pace of 1.08 million in July but are 5.9 percent higher than a year ago.  With pronounced inventory shortages, the median price in the West was $238,600, a jump of 24.5 percent from July 2011.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Source: National Association of REALTORS (click here to see original article)

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