Luxury Miami Condos Tied to Brazilian Money-Laundering Probe

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on June 21, 2017

luxury Miami condosA new, luxury collaboration between former Trump business partners and the Porche brand has already been embroiled in scandal. Just a few months after their March opening, the tower is being investigated for ties to a Brazilian money-laundering scandal.

Just a few months after opening, Brazilian Federal Police began investigating the developer for using the United States to hide millions and avoid taxes. “Operation Connection Miami” involved a development group called Carelli Properties, which is the group that licensed the name “Porsche Design Tower Brava” from Gil and Michael Dezer. The Dezers insist they have no idea where the Carelli got the cash for licensing fees and that they did their due diligence.

The probe is investigating payment from a Brazilian construction company to a shell company in the United States. Such shell companies are under close watch in the United States already, but only insofar as they buy and sell properties with cash, and only transactions for more than $1 million in Miami-Dade and other specific counties in Florida, New York, California, and Texas. Even then, cash purchases made by wire transfer aren’t subject to the same scrutiny.

The Porsche development is a 132-unit tower that includes a patented elevator that takes residents to their unit while still in their cars. The sellout is estimated at $840 million, and is currently 75 percent sold. Owners include Russian, Polish and Mexican billionaires, as well as the daughter of an alleged mobster.

The grand opening party included models painted silver, fireworks, and a performance by Alicia Keys.

Call Miami Real Estate Lawyer Isaac Benmergui at 305.397.8547 and set up a no charge, no obligation consultation to discuss your case. We have over a decade of experience handling Real Estate and Civil Litigation cases throughout Miami and South Florida, and will use our expertise to help your case to the best of our abilities.

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Florida Homeowners Fall Victim to Down Payment Scam

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on June 20, 2017

homeownersMore than 100 Florida homebuyers have fallen victim to a simple real estate scam—one that could have saved them thousands if their real estate agent had simply used a secure email address for sensitive information.

The scam involves hackers breaking into the email accounts of real estate agents. Many real estate agents use free email to communicate with clients, including email like Yahoo. Once they break in to the agent’s email, they can send emails to the title company asking for details about the borrower. Then once they have the information they need, they email the borrower from the real estate agent’s email with wire transfer instructions for the down payment. Once the borrower wires the money, it’s gone.

The FBI says in these cases, many times it goes to Kenya and can’t be tracked down from there. Even worse, buyers aren’t protected, and the real estate agent doesn’t owe them anything. In one case, the Florida couple was told they would get back the amount stolen once the agent got their commission from the home purchase, but once the deal closed, they never heard anything from their real estate agent.

How can you prevent this scam from happening to you?

  • Do not respond to email from your real estate agent on free email address providers like Yahoo, Gmail, or other free email services. Only communicate through encrypted email.
  • Call and confirm all instructions for wiring funds with your real estate agent or your title company contact before wiring. Use their office number, not personal cell phones. Confirm their receipt of the funds as well.
  • If anything seems suspicious during the process, ask about it.

Call Miami Real Estate Lawyer Isaac Benmergui at 305.397.8547 and set up a no charge, no obligation consultation to discuss your case. We have over a decade of experience handling Real Estate and Civil Litigation cases throughout Miami and South Florida, and will use our expertise to help your case to the best of our abilities.

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Hardest-hit South Florida Housing Now Enjoying Record Gains

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on June 19, 2017

South FloridaSome of the areas in South Florida that were hit hardest by the recession are now enjoying record home price gains.

In seven cities in Palm Beach and Broward counties, homes are now experiencing home values that have doubled just since 2012. That year marked the first year of recovery from the recession. Oakland Park was one of the areas hardest hit by the recession, where homeowners experienced a 65 percent decline in value after 2008. Before that, the median home price in the city was $259,000. Today median home values stand at $189,600, so even though they have increased 107 percent since 2012, they are still well below values at the peak of the bubble.

Other cities that have made the rebound since 2012 include Coconut Grove, Tamarac, Palm Springs, Greenacres, Margate, Deerfield Beach, and Lake Worth. Many of the places with the biggest price gains were working-class areas during the recession. Today, there’s a severe shortage of affordable housing for the same market. In many of these neighborhoods, investors bought up much of the real estate to flip or rent out. Home values in middle and low-income communities had the most room for growth, so many of those properties were flipped and entire neighborhoods changed virtually overnight. And with so little available land left, builders are using what little they have on luxury projects, which has caused a problem for middle-income buyers that each community needs, such as teachers, police officers, and nurses.

Call Miami Real Estate Lawyer Isaac Benmergui at 305.397.8547 and set up a no charge, no obligation consultation to discuss your case. We have over a decade of experience handling Real Estate and Civil Litigation cases throughout Miami and South Florida, and will use our expertise to help your case to the best of our abilities.

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Florida Keys Real Estate May Soon Soar in Value

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on June 16, 2017

Florida keysOne Miami broker is betting that Monroe County homes with waterfront access will soar in value. The reason? Nearly 35 percent of the Miami-Dade County population participates in marine activities, yet Miami isn’t building any new slips despite experiencing a 1.2 percent increase per year in marine vessel registrations. That’s 600 new vessels per year.

Miami is holding the lid on waterfront development for a number of reasons, including luxury economic development and environmental preservation. The geography of the area limits the places you can put recreational boating slips and marinas, especially when you’re trying to protect the environment as well as key infrastructure. So Miami has made a strategic decision to limit marina growth to projects like the Island Gardens Super-Yacht marina, which accommodates large vessels only. This is despite huge wait lists for marinas, as well as 2-hour wait times to get a boat launched at the city’s two public marinas.

But if you go a little farther south, you’ll find Monroe County, where the population is shrinking and the creation of new slips would not negatively affect housing growth. However, the state and federal environmental restraints all but prohibits the creation of new marinas. Because of this, in the next few real estate cycles waterfront properties in Monroe are very likely to outperform those with in Miami-Dade and those without in Monroe.

Call Miami Real Estate Lawyer Isaac Benmergui at 305.397.8547 and set up a no charge, no obligation consultation to discuss your case. We have over a decade of experience handling Real Estate and Civil Litigation cases throughout Miami and South Florida, and will use our expertise to help your case to the best of our abilities.

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How Will Changes to FHA Loans Affect Buyers?

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on June 14, 2017

FHA loansRecently, President Trump reversed some rate cuts that President Obama made for FHA borrowers. But what does that mean for mortgage rates and borrowers?

The mortgage rate cut was supposed to help one million borrowers save up to $500 a year on monthly mortgage insurance, which is required for loans with less than 20 percent down. The cuts also made it possible for more people to qualify for FHA mortgages, since the cuts in monthly payments would help reduce debt-to-income ratios for borrowers. FHA loans made up 16 percent of loans for single-family homes in 2016.

Well before Trump assumed office, some housing experts were concerned about these rat cuts because of they effect they would have on the FHA mortgage insurance fund. The FHA is required to maintain a certain amount of capital on hand equal to 2 percent of all the loans issued. The ratio was 2.32 in 2016, which was why Obama signed an executive order authorizing the cuts. But some worried that they would cause the cash reserves to drop too low, putting the FHA at risk in the event of another major housing crash.

Reversal of the Obama decision would only mean about $40 more a month for a homeowner who purchased a $200k home when the reduced rates were in effect. Homeowners who were right on the cusp of qualifying due to debt-to-income ration may no longer be able to get a loan until they save more for a down payment or pay off debt.

Call Miami Real Estate Lawyer Isaac Benmergui at 305.397.8547 and set up a no charge, no obligation consultation to discuss your case. We have over a decade of experience handling Real Estate and Civil Litigation cases throughout Miami and South Florida, and will use our expertise to help your case to the best of our abilities.

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