World’s Luckiest Fishing Village Hosts Annual Rodeo

Whether you’re an angler or not, chances are you’ve heard about the Destin Fishing Rodeo. This popular event draws thousands of participants and spectators from the Emerald Coast and all over the country and lasts the entire month of October. Our friend and co-founder Jayme Nabors has been hooked on sport fishing for years and has had some great catches all over the world, but he’s the first to admit that you can’t beat Destin when it comes to fishing!

As longtime residents of this area, we enjoy watching these “lucky” and skilled anglers show off their catches when they return to the docks for weigh-ins every afternoon. It’s also fun to enjoy the Destin Seafood Festival, which kicks off the Rodeo with three, fun-filled days of music, activities, seafood and exhibits. One of our favorite spots is The World Famous AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar at 116 Harbor Blvd. Make sure to try the Wild Buffalo Oysters, Seafood Gumbo or Shrimp N’ Grits for a real treat – although everything there is delicious!

Whether you live nearby or own a vacation home in Destin, now is the time to enjoy the Emerald Coast. We think the weather is better than anywhere else in the country, as it’s still warm enough now to feel like summer, but it’s cooling down at night and gradually ushering in fall. If you’ve been thinking about investing in property here, give us a call and we will show you the best the area has to offer. We’ll even meet you at the Rodeo!

NBI Leads Emerald Coast’s Property Management Surge

NBI Properties reports that its property management division is booming, due in part to stable job growth and increased interest from investors in the area. The company’s co-founder, Craig Barrett, said he has hired several new employees to keep up with the demand.

“NBI is known throughout the Emerald Coast for our expertise in commercial real estate,” he said. “But we’ve also been building up our reputation for awhile as leaders in property management, and now we’ve reached the point where it is a significant portion of our business.”

With job growth reported to be steady on the Emerald Coast and much of it attributed to the leisure and hospitality sector, investors are taking advantage of the demand from renters for affordable housing as well as luxury properties in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and 30A. Barrett said that occupancy rates are typically highest during the summer, but job growth is responsible for keeping properties occupied all year.

“Investors are happy because we’ve been able to get max rents for them during the summer season and also keep properties occupied all year due to the demand from working class families,” he said. “In addition to investors, we work with families who buy vacation condos or homes and hire us to manage the property while they live up north. Military families also buy homes here and rely on us when they are suddenly stationed in another state or country.”

Barrett said that NBI’s property management services offer peace of mind to owners who do not have the time or experience to carry out the extensive responsibilities of a landlord. He said there are endless stories from owners who signed up renters and thought the process would be as easy as collecting a check every month. In reality, numerous problems can arise and cause nightmares for owners.

“Savvy investors and owners don’t have time to collect rent and late fees, assess property damage, do background checks on renters, refund security deposits, or fix a broken air conditioner in the middle of the night,” he said. “But we handle all of these things and more at NBI, and our clients know we are going to make sure their property is protected as if it’s our own.”

For more information on NBI’s property management services, call the office at 850-243-0007.

Area Counties Qualify for HUD’s $1Billion Resilience Competition

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro and Dr. Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, announced a $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition. The competition will make $1 billion available to communities struck by recent natural disasters to promote risk assessment and planning. It will also fund innovative projects to prepare communities for future storms and other extreme events.

“This competition will help spur innovation, creatively distribute limited federal resources, and help communities across the country cope with the reality of severe weather that is being made worse by climate change,” said Castro.

Funding for the competition comes from the Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery appropriation under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act in 2013. It’s a response to requests from state, local and tribal leaders for help, according to HUD. Prior to the competition, representatives from eligible communities will have an opportunity to attend Rockefeller-supported Resilience Academies to strengthen their funding proposals submitted to the competition. Applicants must tie their proposals to their area’s eligible disaster. For example, a community that suffered a flood might want to offer flood buyouts in distressed areas and then create wetlands that limit future flooding, while simultaneously creating a nature preserve or recreation area.

Craig Barrett, co-founder of NBI Properties in Fort Walton Beach, said that storms responsible to millions of dollars in property damage that swept through the area last March would definitely qualify for the resilience program.

“In our area, Okaloosa, Walton, Santa Rosa, and Escambia counties all suffered major damage,” he said. “Any funds awarded from the resilience program could greatly benefit communities here in the future.”

The $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition has 67 eligible applicants, including Florida. To qualify, a state must have a major disaster declared in 2011, 2012 or 2013. HUD says Florida had three major declared disasters in that time that impacted 45 counties.

The Rockefeller Foundation will provide technical assistance to eligible communities. More information on the National Disaster Resilience Competition can be found on HUD’s website.




E-Commerce Challenges Retail Sector

The rise of e-commerce has challenged retailers for several years, and coupled with the recession it’s spelled gloomy sales for bricks-and-mortar businesses. With online sales rising every year, consumers are making it clear they love the convenience of shopping online, leaving franchises and mom and pop stores scrambling to attract customers.

“There’s no doubt that e-commerce is impacting bricks-and-mortar businesses,” said Craig Barrett, co-founder of NBI Properties in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. “New devices and apps make it easier for consumers to shop online all the time, and many choose to do so despite the fact that the risk of having their credit card information hacked is at an all-time high. There are also plenty of folks who believe it’s cheaper to order products online instead of driving to stores when the price of gasoline increases.”

With stores such as Blockbuster Video and Borders going out of business, retailers have had to adapt to e-commerce threats by working harder to win customers with savvy marketing, exclusive in-store offers, and loyalty programs. Many retailers are reconfiguring stores so they won’t need as much space for inventory. According to Barrett, banks in particular seem to be implementing new strategies to use space more efficiently.

“The days of big banks with numerous offices, spacious foyers, and waiting areas are over,” he said. “The trend now is for banks to build or lease smaller branches of 600-700 square feet with tellers greeting customers with iPads. Banks are betting on getting more exposure with two smaller banks than larger buildings at a single location.”
Aside from banks staying ahead of the curve, the industrial real estate sector is also  using space more efficiently in order to compete with e-commerce. Many are choosing to establish new distribution centers instead of changing the footprint of their retail space.

Barrett added that retail businesses have a rosier outlook on the Emerald Coast due to the throngs of tourists who visit the area year-around.

“When tourists are on vacation, they love to shop at all the area’s brick-and-mortar stores, outlet malls, and boutiques,” he said. “I believe this is why we still have a lot of investors interested in retail space as well as industrial space and raw land in our area.”

Banks Lower Military Mortgages

A new government agreement with five of the nation’s largest banks is helping active-duty military service members save hundreds of dollars or more each year on their mortgages. Banks also pledged to make enrollment easier, notify service members who qualify for lower rates, and simplify the entire process to help more military families own homes without overwhelming debt. Research from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that many military service members fail to take advantage of the benefits available under the Service Members Civil Relief Act because they’re unaware of them or they don’t want to complete the paperwork.

Craig Barrett, co-founder of NBI Properties in Fort Walton Beach, said that under the previous law in 2003, active-duty service members could have mortgage rates and other debt fees capped at 6 percent.

“With so many military families residing here on the Emerald Coast, we learned that many were simply not taking advantage of benefits that could lower their mortgage payments,” he said. “In most cases, families were unaware they qualified for these benefits.”

Five of the country’s largest mortgage lenders – Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Ocwen Loan Servicing, CitiMortgage and Quicken Loans – all agreed to make the application process easier and take a more proactive approach to notifying those who are eligible. The lenders have pledged to make frequent checks of the Defense Department database to see if their customers qualify for any unclaimed benefits.

“This is great news for military families in this area,” stated Barrett. “Reducing mortgage interest rates can result in saving thousands of dollars.”


CRE CLOs Offer Investors More Options

Investors searching for higher yields have been flocking to CRE collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) for the past two years. Driven by target yields in the mid-teens for equity investors, real estate insiders say momentum continues to grow due to favorable stock market performances over the last several years.

“The market is on a roll, despite all kinds of predictions that the bull market will collapse any day now,” said Craig Barrett, co-owner of NBI Properties in Fort Walton Beach. “The investors we are working with are taking advantage of reduced borrowing rates and more loan options from lenders.”

Barrett added that commercial real estate CDOs were the financial vehicle of choice prior to the recession, but disappeared during the recovery. He said the new CLOs have an improved, simplified structure that is preferred because they are secured loan transactions.

Moody’s reported that 2013 closed with an estimated $2 billion in CRE CLOs issued, with an even bigger volume anticipated for 2014. However, CRE brokers say one of the biggest hindrances for the growing CLO market is the need to educate investors and discourage familiarity with CDOs, which are largely blamed for contributing to the 2008 financial crisis.

Barrett said there are there are important differences between the CDO structure and CLOs pertaining to commercial real estate.

“Before the recession, CDOs offered B-piece buyers a way to get leverage off of their double B and lower unrated portfolios,” he said. “People should know the new CLOs only include loans, and interim financing suitable for three, five and seven-year loans. What we’ve noticed is that
CLOs are not dominating commercial mortgage interim financing, but they still play an important role in the market.”

Recently issued CLOs have typically targeted loans on properties in transition. For instance, a typical loan could be structured for a class-C apartment building with an upfront reserve or future funding for renovation. The property would likely have a high occupancy level and be located in a tight market, but could possibly be in need of an upgrade in order to maintain and improve cash flow.

“Overall, CLOs are a good option for borrowers,” said Barrett. “We’re happy to help investors with the rules and regulations involved in order to take advantage of CLOs.”



Florida Property Owners Benefit from Credit Score Leniency

While many people are aware that lower credit scores make it difficult to qualify for loans, homeowners in most states are discovering that bad credit increases the cost of homeowners insurance. However, a recent study by CNBC revealed that Florida is one of only four states that do not penalize borrowers with low credit scores by raising property insurance rates.

According to the study’s findings, only Florida, Maryland, California and Massachusetts quote low credit score homeowners the same rates as those with high credit ratings. Nationally, homeowners who have poor credit pay an average of 91 percent more for homeowners insurance than those who have pristine credit reports, according to a new report by According to Craig Barrett, co-owner of NBI Properties, insurance rates are just another reason why more people are relocating to the Sunshine State and to the Emerald Coast.

“When we speak with prospective buyers, they will say it’s not their mortgage or their commercial lease that is killing them, but it’s the insurance,” said Barrett. “On top of that, so many people are dealing with less-than-perfect credit scores since the recession a few years ago, so paying 91 percent more for insurance doesn’t help these folks one bit. We love to be able to tell them that in 46 other states they would have to pay more based on their credit rating.”

The report also concluded that homeowners with credit scores in the fair or “median” range may pay 29 percent more for their insurance than someone with an unblemished credit record. Findings also revealed that how insurance companies weigh the significance of a person’s credit score can vary greatly from company to company and even state to state. Insurers started using credit-based insurance scoring in the early 1990s when FICO studies discovered a correlation between a person’s credit and his or her likelihood of filing a claim.

“There’s no denying that credit scores still have an enormous impact on an individual’s overall finances,” said Barrett. “Everyone knows that maintaining a good credit history is very important. But for those who are just starting out with no established credit or for those who went through some rough times and saw their scores drop, it’s good to know that Florida is one of the few states where they might be able to get a break.”



Florida Reels In A Cool BILLION in Settlement

Comedian Mike Myers and his goofy Doctor Evil character always liked to stress the importance of one BILLION dollars. But unlike the fictional comedy, nearly 17,000 Floridians will receive more than $1 billion in relief as part of a record-setting settlement with Bank of America. The Florida Attorney General’s Office recently made the announcement, calling it a “historic” resolution. Overall, the state is earmarked to receive about a seventh of the settlement’s $7 billion in aid to communities and homeowners hit hard by the housing market crash that led to the Great Recession.

Bank of America Corp. agreed to pay $16.65 billion to end federal, Florida and other state investigations into the sale of toxic mortgage securities during the subprime housing boom. Consumer relief will include principal reduction and forgiveness, loan modifications and new loans to credit-worthy borrowers struggling to obtain loans. Financing will also be available for affordable rental housing to help communities still recovering from the financial crisis that affected thousands of families statewide.

“We’ve learned that some of the details are still being finalized as far as who in Florida will be receiving aid,” said Craig Barrett with NBI Properties in Fort Walton Beach. “Programs are being organized and set up in order to help eligible borrowers.”

Many of the bad loans that backed the securities came from firms Bank of America acquired in 2008, including Countrywide Financial Corp. of Calabasas and Merrill Lynch & Co. Prior to the fallout, Bank of America had already incurred approximately $60 billion in losses and legal settlements from its purchase of Countrywide, which was one of the nation’s biggest subprime mortgage lenders during the housing boom of the mid 2000s.

Why Online Websites Won’t Replace Brokers

On the heels of recent news that Zillow, the most popular real estate listing website, has plans to acquire its biggest competitor Trulia for $3.5 billion, lots of questions are looming about the possible merger. Namely, people are wondering what this will mean for buyers and how if will affect real estate firms, agents, and brokers. Insiders say that once Seattle-based Zillow acquires Trulia, the companies will dominate the real estate listings market, accounting for 48 percent of web traffic for listings (not including local websites).

NBI Properties co-founder Craig Barrett said that online websites such as Zillow offer an alternative to the traditional MLS listings that agents and brokers have used for years. He said the online services offer a wealth of information for buyers, but have not disrupted the function of real estate brokerages.

“In my experience, websites like these are useful in the initial phases of research when buyers are browsing or shopping around to see what kind of properties they are interested in,” Barrett said. “It gives buyers a head start because they can meet with us at NBI and tell us specific types of properties they have checked out in the area. Based on what they have seen online, we can research the availability of their selections or recommend similar properties they may wish to see and compare with their findings.”

Once the Zillow and Trulia merger is finalized, Zillow stated that both brands will retain their own identities and continue to offer buyers, sellers, and renters access to information about properties at no charge. The company also said it will provide advertising and a software solution designed to help real estate professionals grow their business. By implementing these solutions, Zillow said the company will benefit consumers and the real estate industry, even though the service is bound to drive some traffic away from real estate brokerage websites.

“Overall, we look at this as innovation and not competition,” said Barrett. “Numerous studies prove that the majority of consumers and investors still prefer to buy real estate through an agent. Also, at NBI we use a lot more of the commercial real estate databases.”

Barrett also said consumers using online real estate databases should be aware that listings are not always up to date or accurate. He added that he had experienced several instances of buyers who called to inquire about a property they had seen online, only to be disappointed to learn it had been sold months earlier.

“The bottom line is the websites are good research tools, ” he said. “But overall, nothing can replace local realtors who have inside knowledge about the area and often know the history of a property and its condition. Buyers also rely heavily on realtors for price negotiations, guidance with the loan process, and contacts with inspectors, insurance underwriters, property appraisers and much more.”


Commercial Real Estate Rosy in Third Quarter

If the Real Estate Roundtable’s third quarter Sentiment Survey is any indication, commercial real estate markets in the States continue to enjoy a slow but steady recovery. Slight increases over the second quarter in two of the survey’s indices, “Overall” and “Current” quarter are in line with overall economic growth detailed in a recent positive report about higher-than-predicted gross domestic product (GDP) in April, May and June. Craig Barrett, co-owner of NBI Properties in Fort Walton Beach says the survey results are reflective of what his firm has been experiencing on the Emerald Coast.

“We’re busier than we were at this time last year,” noted Barrett. “We’re leasing properties to new businesses, franchises, and to professionals relocating to this area. Also, financing options have definitely improved since last year and investors are finding it easier to obtain sources of capital.”

Overall, the survey reported that commercial real estate is on the upswing, although some respondents voiced concern over policy matters on Capitol Hill that could affect the industry. Notably, some said they feared recovery is threatened by policy-related risks such as the scheduled expiration of the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) on Dec. 31 and the looming prospect of higher interest rates.

“We’re somewhat concerned about the TRIA expiring because it could cause a wave of economic setbacks and problems,” said Barrett. “I think we’d definitely see difficulties with banks and lenders again, which would mean that funding for new projects could come to a halt.”

The U.S. Senate voted resoundingly (93-4) for a seven-year reauthorization of the TRIA on July 17. House legislation countering with five-year extension program reforms cleared a key committee in June, but remains in limbo until Congress meets again in September.