Trust This. June 23, 2023.

By Joseph E. Seagle, Esq

Happy Friday! Today is “National Take Your Dog to Work” Day. We bring Rufous and Edward to work almost daily. At this point, they’re the official mascots of the office. So, for them, at least, it’s just another day. We’d love to see some pics of your pooches at work!

1 big thing: FTC shuts down Spanish-focused real estate coaching biz

In another enforcement action against a real estate coaching group, the FTC has obtained a temporary restraining order to shut it down, and seized their assets.

Why it matters: This is at least the second major action by the FTC this year against such real-estate-focused coaching businesses, indicating the agency is scrutinizing them more closely as they proliferated during the pandemic.

This case hit close to home — actually less than a quarter of a mile from my home and office. Ganadores Inversiones Bienes Raíces, the defendant, last year renovated and opened its new office at 733 West Colonial Drive in Orlando, a little over a block away and across the street from our offices.

On June 13, the Middle District Court for Florida located in Orlando entered a temporary restraining order against the owners. The order prohibits them from:

  1. Making unsupported marketing claims;

  2. Violating the Business Opportunity Rule, the Consumer Review Fairness Act, and the FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule; and from

  3. Interfering with consumers’ ability to post reviews about the company online.

  4. The order also appoints a monitor over the companies and freezes all of the company’s and owners’ assets.

What they’re saying: The complaint alleges that the company targeted Spanish-speaking consumers with advertising marketing funnels that pushed customers to free “seminars” that were sales presentations.

  • The free seminars sold attendees on 3-day seminars where they would “learn everything they needed to succeed.”

  • The paid 3-day seminars instead funneled attendees into the company’s “infallible system” that would mentor the consumers to find financial freedom, replace their day jobs, and give their families financial independence. The system cost $28,000.00.

All advertising and seminars were in Spanish, but the contracts were in English with hidden key terms that many consumers couldn’t read. It didn’t help that the company’s principals previously participated in schemes known as Zurixx and FBA Stores that the FTC sued and shut down in 2019 and 2018, respectively.

  • Consumers received “mentoring” in group calls rather than one-on-one, and the company’s “special money-making software” didn’t work.

  • When consumers requested refunds, they were denied or only given half in exchange for the removal of bad online reviews.

The bottom line: The FTC is enforcing the laws on the books. If you’re a real estate coach, you should understand these rules and best practices to avoid the FTC’s visits.

Go deeper: FTC press release including a link to the pleadings

2. Housing may save economy

The national median home price is $419,103, 40% higher than it was in January, 2020. It’s estimated that it would have increased an additional 15% had the Fed not raised its benchmark lending rate to slow inflation.

Why it matters: Housing was the first industry, closely followed by tech, to go into a recession when rates started rising. Now, however, according to Jerome Powell the housing market has bottomed out, and it could be the industry that also pulls out of its recession first.

By the numbers: According to Redfin, the fewest homes were on the market in May since 2012. If that year rings a bell for you, it’s because it’s considered to be the year that the U.S. pulled out of the last Great Recession.

  • Only 1.4 million homes were for sale in May, down from 2.2 million in May, 2019.

  • New listings also dropped 25.2% from May, 2022.

  • The U.S. needs around 4.3 million more homes to make up the shortage that started in 2008 when the Great Recession hit, and new construction stopped.

This shortage of homes for sale keeps home prices high as demand has not waned.

Fortunately, housing starts exceeded expectations, surging 22% in May.

  • Post-pandemic supply chain kinks have cleared up, lowering prices for construction materials.

  • But labor is still in short supply, and it’s expected to get worse in Florida where new immigration job requirements that take effect on July 1 may have encouraged many undocumented construction workers to leave the state.

The hope is that faster construction will lead to more homes for sale to satisfy demand and bring prices down, but there’s no indication that the amount of new construction will make up for the current shortage.

The bottom line: First-time homebuyers are still suffering the mostNew legislation is being proposed on the federal level to address affordable housing. But — with the hyper-partisan state of politics and a Congress focused on the 2024 election — don’t hold your breath for any major legislation any time soon.

What we’re seeing: Lots of cancelations followed quickly by new contracts followed by cancelations, new contracts, and so on….

Go deeper:

3. Catch up fast

  1. Over 25,000 Citizens Insurance policies have shifted into the private market. Some expect Citizen rates to increase to match market rates of the private insurance market, which is an average of 40% higher than Citizens’ current rates. Axios – Tampa Bay

  2. “Zombie” second mortgages that homeowners thought they’d taken care of with modifications years ago are coming back to haunt them with potential foreclosures. Wall Street Journal and RESPA News

  3. While national average rent growth turned negative for the first time in three years, Florida had the eighth-highest rent increase average as of April. The Apopka Voice

  4. Don’t get your hopes up that the Fed’s rate pause that we covered last week will be permanent. Jerome Powell said in testimony before Congress this week that two more increases this year “are a pretty good guess of what will happen if the economy performs as expected.” Wall Street Journal

  5. Next week, a new federal law will protect pregnant workers in businesses with 15 or more employees. It’s a “big deal,” and those with businesses of this size or larger should study it. Axios Markets

4. Pic of the day

The office just got a little more Labradorable.

Edward likes to nap when he comes to the office. Of course, this is only after he’s done the hard work of visiting everyone to get pets, treats, and — of course — to check their trash cans and desks for stray food or empty potato chip bags.

If Rufous and Edward are running around the office while we have clients visiting, you’ll hear my exasperated questioning, “Who let the dogs out?

BTW, if you’re wondering why we spell his name “that way” with the extra “u,” it’s based on his fur color. Right-click the word to look it up, and you’ll understand what I mean.

We hope you found this helpful — any feedback is appreciated and can be shared by hitting reply or using the feedback feature below.

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