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Some advice from a broker

One key to purchasing a property is spending less than you intended

By Karen Curran

BOCA RATON - Florida real estate broker Michael Mayer removes his suit jacket from the rear seat of his silver Bentley and prepares to meet his prospective buyer. He has files of information already downloaded from his web site. A computer generated itinerary describes each home to be seen, at precise 15 minute intervals.

Mayer calls ahead to be sure the first broker is on time for the appointment. The broker is running late. "It is just no fun doing business with you," Mayer tells the other broker.

Mayer, a buyer broker, works exclusively with buyers. His company, Think Inc., forces buyers to do just that… think. Born in Germany, Mayer not only works with buyers from around the United States including several from Massachusetts, but also from Canada and Europe. He encourages all to follow his list of "Ten Golden Rules of Real Estate" when buying in Florida. The rules include:

Get your significant other, but no other relatives involved.

Choose the lifestyle you want to identify with.

Shoot for the least expensive home in the most expensive neighborhood.

Mayer says he forces buyers to think. (Globe Photo/Gary I. Rothstein)

Mayer recommends his buyers spend less than they really want to. "I have my buyers checking their bank accounts. If they come and say $2 million, then I try to find them something for $1 million or $1.5 million. I start way lower than they want to be, then at least they see the difference and they see what money buys. It is a big investment," said Mayer.

Most of his customers are referrals from former customers. "There are so many brokers who are part-time brokers, that don't know their areas. Make sure you find a full-time broker. Don't fall for a broker who only wants to show you his own listings. Always ask for references. And make use of your brokers experience," said Mayer.

How does he help buyers find the right spot?

"You have to first choose the area. Once you choose the area, I sit down with people and narrow it down. I ask what are you using your home for? What is your age group? Are you a social person? Do you play golf, tennis, do you have a boat? Then I start pointing out the advantages and disadvantages based on the lifestyle my customer wants."

"I personally think renting does not help if you've made up your mind to be in Florida. It's more distracting to be in some one else's place. If you like the area, are in agreement with your partner, there's no reason not to buy. If you rent for $30,000 a season, lease something with an option to purchase," said Mayer.

He is candid about how to optimize your investment in a single-family home in a residential community, a golf course community and in a condominium.

On condominiums: "There is no money-making in condominiums. If it is not a real good location, if it is not something spectacular, don't go into condos. You are stuck with it forever. The condo fees are outrageous, $300 to $1,000 per month for $250,000 and up. I never deal with condos under $300,000 because if that customer comes back to me and says I want to get out of it, then I have an unhappy customer. I think $300,000 is the minimum you have to spend for a condo but then you have to be in the right building, the right location, and more importantly, you have to really steal it. It must be some-thing like a foreclosure, a divorce, estate sale, where you can really get in a good price so it doesn't kill you when you want to get out."

On golf course communities: "Expect to pay $40,000 to $60,000 for a full golf club membership and approximately $10,000 in annual home owners dues and golf club membership fees."

"Older homes grow more valuable in New England, but not in Florida. Owners stay an average of three years in a home in a golf course community. As soon as a new community comes on line, they all go there like the lemmings. With the change of the neighborhoods, your friends move on, so you can either move with your friends or get left behind. This does not seem to happen any where else but Florida".

On residential communities: "These are still neighborhoods. When you move in you get chicken soup from the right, wine from the left, where people come over and greet you. Everyone knows everyone. When people move into waterfront communities they seldom move out, because waterfront communities are investments."

Mayer recommends waterfront real estate for those who can afford it. "You cannot dig another intracoastal canal but tomorrow you can build another golf course."

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