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Searching for Just the Right Public Schools?

Here are some Very Helpful Tips ...

During the house-hunting search, customers sometimes ask me for advice about which public schools have the best reputations.  Finding the ideal school is a highly personal decision and should be based on the individual needs of the student.  A neighbor of mine who is a very experienced public school teacher, offers the following helpful tips:

First, the Florida Department of Education offers a wealth of information.  Visit On the left side of the home page, search 'Public schools/Districts.'  From that tab, you can research every public school.

Next, check out the level of PTA involvement (statistically available for each school). This is an important indicator about parental and community involvement.

And very importantly, plan to visit the school(s). Go to the office, request a tour and ask to meet the staff.

Last, be sure to check the report cards ... All schools are rated "A,B,C,D,F."  Now go do your homework!


Healthy Economic Trends

Economy Poised for a Stronger Second Half of 2013
By Pete Bakel
RISMEDIA, Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The ongoing housing recovery coupled with improvement in both consumer confidence and the labor market are expected to boost economic growth in the second half of the year, according to Fannie Maes (FNMA/OTC) Economic&Strategic Research Group. The latest jobs report showed steady year-to-date job creation and measures of consumer confidence are at or near recovery highs. Furthermore, despite a sharp increase in mortgage rates during the past two months, home sales have held up and home prices have continued to post gains, helping to keep the economy on a positivealbeit modestgrowth path in 2013.

We are keeping a very close eye on the effect of rising mortgage rates on the housing market and the economy, but our July forecast is little changed from last month, says Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. We continue to see growth in housing, partly due to an increase in existing home sales as buyers choose to act while rates remain near historic lows. Consumer attitudes are improving amid a strengthening employment sector and we should begin to see a moderate pickup in consumer spending. Overall, we expect economic growth to come in at 2.0 percent in 2013, but further momentum later this year should help carry growth in 2014 to an above-par pace of 2.6 percent, the strongest since 2005.

On the housing front, mortgage rates are expected to continue to rise gradually, averaging 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter of this yearabout 40 basis points higher than the June forecastbut the forecast of home sales is little changed, with expectations of an 8.0 percent rise in 2013. However, while the surge in mortgage rates has not significantly hurt purchase mortgage applications, it has led to a marked decline in refinancing applications, which is expected to continue next year.

Foreclosures Rise in May 2013


RealtyTrac: Foreclosures rise 11% in May

Foreclosures rose 11% last month, with some states such as Maryland and Nevada seeing 2 year highs in foreclosure rates.  Florida saw a 20% jump in foreclosure filings, and most other states also saw increases. Why are we seeing a rise?  One reason is banks are starting to unload their massive backlogs of REO inventory because they see home values are starting to stabilize.  Also, with low interest rates, home buyers can afford to pay a little more for their REOs.  

Foreclosure activity continued to bounce back in some markets where it may have appeared the foreclosure problem had been knocked out by an aggressive combination of foreclosure prevention efforts over the past two years, said Daren Bloomquist, VP at RealtyTrac.

Bank of America Economic Update


December 26, 2012

Season's greetings! I hope youre enjoying a very happy holiday season with friends and family. Following is an economic update from Bank of America:

What's ahead in 2013?

Homeowners and homebuyers have a lot to keep track of as we head into 2013. Heres a quick overview of the top stories to watch over the next few months.

The Fed

In its final meeting of 2012, the Fed confirmed that it would continue the third round of its bond buying strategy (known as Quantitative Easing or QE3). It also announced that it will begin a fourth round of Quantitative Easing in January.

What surprised the markets was the Fed's decision to tie the Fed Funds Rate (the rate banks charge each other for lending money overnight) to the unemployment rate. Instead of keeping with its plan of maintaining low rates until "at least mid-2015," now the Fed is going to hold the Fed Funds Rate steady as "long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5%."


One of the biggest takeaways from this decision is that the Fed may be more tolerant of a rise in inflation. Lower unemployment would mean that the economy is gaining some momentum, thanks in part to the stimulus programs like QE3 that are currently underway, and inflation could easily trend higher in an improving economy. Keep in mind, inflation has a negative impact on bonds and therefore, on home loan rates.

Recent Producer Price Index and Consumer Price Index Reports have shown that inflation at the wholesale and consumer levels respectively remains moderate. However, when inflation manifests, it tends to do so quickly. This is a key area to keep a close eye on in the weeks and months ahead.

Fiscal Cliff

As we head into 2013, tax cuts for individuals and various tax breaks for businesses are due to expire, taxes pertaining to President Obamas health care law will begin, spending cuts enacted by Congress as part of the debt ceiling deal of 2011 will go into effect, and long-term jobless benefits are due to expire. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that if all of these items occur, it could take an estimated $600 billion out of the U.S. economy in 2013. This is the fiscal cliff were possibly heading toward.

While Congress and the President have been working toward a resolution, the uncertainty in the U.S., combined with continued uncertainty surrounding the debt crisis in Europe, has benefitted our bond market, as investors see our bonds as a safe place for their money. And since home loan rates are tied to mortgage bonds, they have also benefitted. As of this writing, a final agreement on these issues has yet to be reached. But even if an agreement is reached, the Fed notes the economy will continue to expand at only a moderate pace for the foreseeable future.

Bottom Line

Home loan rates remain near historic lows, making now a great time to purchase a home.

News This Week Likely to Impact Mortgage Rates


This should be a busy week of economic news that will like have an impact on mortgage rates, starting with the State of the Union address.

The first Federal Open Market Committee meeting of the year also will take place this week, with Chairman Ben Bernanke holding a press conference, always informative. It is unlikely that the Fed will alter short-term interest rates, but we may discern what the next move by the Fed may be.

Thursday will be interesting as three economic reports will be released: December's Durable Goods orders. A smaller increase than expected would constitute good news for mortgage rates. Probably won't have much of an impact.

December new home sales data will be released about 10 a.m. and is likely to show a slight increase, much like the Existing Home Sales report last week. We will also hear about December's Leading Economic Indicators, which is expected to rise.

The big news of the week will come Friday when the fourth quarter Gross Domestic Product figures will be released. This report can have a major impact on the stock market and on mortgage rates.

Finally, we will hear about the University of Michigan's Index of Consumer Sentiment or consumer confidence. It will tell us if the consumer is more or less likely to buy big-ticket items, which would be good for the general economy.

It ought to be an interesting week, especially Friday, and mortgage rates may well be volatile all week.

It's a great time to buy a home, with today's mortgage rates at all-time lows.

Who do Realtors work for?


This is a great article written by  Andy Fletcher, Broker/Manager of our Mandarin office...

Representing People or Paper


By Andy Fletcher

One area of confusion for Buyers and Sellers is the role real estate licensees have in real estate negotiations. There are three basic options in a real estate transaction that a brokerage firm can assume: no brokerage agreement, transaction broker and single agent.

prudential network realtyIn a no brokerage agreement the agent is simply handling the paperwork of the transaction and cannot represent or negotiate on behalf of the buyer or seller. As a transaction broker the agent provides limited representation and does not have a fiduciary capacity.

In this form of representation the buyer / seller is a customer of the agent and has given up their right to undivided loyalty of the licensee. In other words, a transaction broker may not work to the detriment of either party in a real estate transaction, but conversely cannot work to benefit either party either. Many brokers have opted for this limited representation for financial gain and to avoid legal responsibility for both the broker and the customer.

The highest degree of accountability comes with single agency. As a single agent, the broker has a fiduciary relationship and owes complete allegiance to the buyer or seller, who is then referred to as a Principal or Client. This means that the single agent is not only allowed to work to the benefit of their Principal, by law the agent must work to achieve the best terms for their Principal. 

As a fiduciary representative, a single agent must provide Loyalty, Confidentiality and Obedience to the Principal whereas other forms of representation may not. More and more buyers and sellers are looking for the full representation from their broker that single agency provides.

As our industry evolves and customers continue to demand a higher degree of accountability from their real estate broker, agents are faced with the question of whether they want to represent people or paper and in the end, it is the buyer or seller that will decide if they want to be a Principal or a customer.

Kosher Coffee Shop Opens

Kosher Coffee Shop Opens

Hey Jacksonville coffee lovers....Big news!!

Coffee Roasters of Florida recently announced that it is a kosher coffee roaster and cafe under the supervision of Rabbi Yaacov Fisch of Etz Chaim Synagogue.  Coffee Roasters is located in the Mission Square strip mall on Old St. Augustine Road, near San Jose Blvd in Mandarin. Coffees from around the world are roasted onsite, including coffees from Latin America, Africa, the Pacific Rim and the Arabian Peninsula. The cafe offers a full array of coffee based drinks (hot, iced and frozen lattes, expresso, cappuccinos and French pressed coffees. Enjoy various teas; and a variety of kosher pastries and bagels !
Coffee Roasters website is : 
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