Downtown Ft. Lauderdale Redevelopment

Sun Sentinel

The Stiles real estate firm is moving forward with plans to redevelop a stretch of downtown Fort Lauderdale with residential units, retail and a 25-story office tower.

Stiles is scheduled to meet with the city’s Development Review Committee on Tuesday to discuss 348 apartments and 25,222 square feet of retail at 212 SE Second Ave. Stiles last year paid $13.1 million for the Bank of America building on the site.

Meanwhile, the developer has started preleasing an office building on a neighboring parcel at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd. as part of a previously announced deal with Broward College to replace its two aging buildings.

The 395,836-square-foot office tower, expected to open in the fall of 2020, would include about 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The office building would be the largest built in downtown Fort Lauderdale since Stiles developed 200 Las Olas Circle nearly a decade ago. AutoNation is that building’s signature tenant.

Office construction virtually ended following the Great Recession, and developers have been slow to propose new projects in the years since.

But market observers say the timing is right for a new building, pointing out the strong demand for space in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

“I would say the lack of large blocks of contiguous space in downtown Fort Lauderdale could be hindering new business relocation,” said Peter Reed, of Commercial Florida Realty Services in Boca Raton.

Stiles executives did not return calls Monday. But Chairman Terry Stiles said earlier this year that the office building would revitalize the area “by bringing new and exciting entertainment and dining options to the ground level as well as open venues for gathering.”

City officials are trying to make the downtown corridor a live-work-play destination, and having retail within walking distance is a key component of that strategy, said Barry Wolfe, vice president of investments for Marcus & Millichap in Fort Lauderdale.

“To be living downtown and still having to drive everywhere, it becomes more challenging,” Wolfe said.

In an online brochure marketing the office tower, Stiles says it has built more than 4 million square feet on and near Las Olas Boulevard.

Projects include Bank of America Plaza at Las Olas City Centre, Plaza at Las Olas and Amaray Las Olas.

Amaray, a luxury apartment building at 215 S.E. Eighth Ave., sold this month for $133.5 million.

The Stiles real estate firm is moving forward with plans to redevelop a stretch of downtown Fort Lauderdale with residential units, retail and a 25-story office tower.

Stiles is scheduled to meet with the city’s Development Review Committee on Tuesday to discuss 348 apartments and 25,222 square feet of retail at 212 SE Second Ave. Stiles last year paid $13.1 million for the Bank of America building on the site.

Meanwhile, the developer has started preleasing an office building on a neighboring parcel at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd. as part of a previously announced deal with Broward College to replace its two aging buildings.

The 395,836-square-foot office tower, expected to open in the fall of 2020, would include about 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The office building would be the largest built in downtown Fort Lauderdale since Stiles developed 200 Las Olas Circle nearly a decade ago. AutoNation is that building’s signature tenant.

Office construction virtually ended following the Great Recession, and developers have been slow to propose new projects in the years since.

But market observers say the timing is right for a new building, pointing out the strong demand for space in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

“I would say the lack of large blocks of contiguous space in downtown Fort Lauderdale could be hindering new business relocation,” said Peter Reed, of Commercial Florida Realty Services in Boca Raton.

Stiles executives did not return calls Monday. But Chairman Terry Stiles said earlier this year that the office building would revitalize the area “by bringing new and exciting entertainment and dining options to the ground level as well as open venues for gathering.”

City officials are trying to make the downtown corridor a live-work-play destination, and having retail within walking distance is a key component of that strategy, said Barry Wolfe, vice president of investments for Marcus & Millichap in Fort Lauderdale.

“To be living downtown and still having to drive everywhere, it becomes more challenging,” Wolfe said.

In an online brochure marketing the office tower, Stiles says it has built more than 4 million square feet on and near Las Olas Boulevard.

Projects include Bank of America Plaza at Las Olas City Centre, Plaza at Las Olas and Amaray Las Olas.

Amaray, a luxury apartment building at 215 S.E. Eighth Ave., sold this month for $133.5 million.

The Stiles real estate firm is moving forward with plans to redevelop a stretch of downtown Fort Lauderdale with residential units, retail and a 25-story office tower.

Stiles is scheduled to meet with the city’s Development Review Committee on Tuesday to discuss 348 apartments and 25,222 square feet of retail at 212 SE Second Ave. Stiles last year paid $13.1 million for the Bank of America building on the site.

Meanwhile, the developer has started preleasing an office building on a neighboring parcel at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd. as part of a previously announced deal with Broward College to replace its two aging buildings.

The 395,836-square-foot office tower, expected to open in the fall of 2020, would include about 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The office building would be the largest built in downtown Fort Lauderdale since Stiles developed 200 Las Olas Circle nearly a decade ago. AutoNation is that building’s signature tenant.

Office construction virtually ended following the Great Recession, and developers have been slow to propose new projects in the years since.

But market observers say the timing is right for a new building, pointing out the strong demand for space in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

“I would say the lack of large blocks of contiguous space in downtown Fort Lauderdale could be hindering new business relocation,” said Peter Reed, of Commercial Florida Realty Services in Boca Raton.

Stiles executives did not return calls Monday. But Chairman Terry Stiles said earlier this year that the office building would revitalize the area “by bringing new and exciting entertainment and dining options to the ground level as well as open venues for gathering.”

City officials are trying to make the downtown corridor a live-work-play destination, and having retail within walking distance is a key component of that strategy, said Barry Wolfe, vice president of investments for Marcus & Millichap in Fort Lauderdale.

“To be living downtown and still having to drive everywhere, it becomes more challenging,” Wolfe said.

In an online brochure marketing the office tower, Stiles says it has built more than 4 million square feet on and near Las Olas Boulevard.

Projects include Bank of America Plaza at Las Olas City Centre, Plaza at Las Olas and Amaray Las Olas.

Amaray, a luxury apartment building at 215 S.E. Eighth Ave., sold this month for $133.5 million.

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What do today’s buyers want in a home?

NEW YORK – Aug. 5, 2015 – What building materials are trending in new-home construction? The latest Annual Builder Practices Survey, conducted by Home Innovation, reveals what buyers can expect to see in the new-home market.

1. Garages: The garage door is getting more enhancements, including windows, insulated doors, and doors made of composite or plastic materials. In 2014, 32 percent of all new single-family homes had bays for three or more cars – the most ever recorded in this study’s history.

2. Flooring: Carpeting continues to be the most popular flooring option for new construction, included in about 83 percent of all new-home bedroom installations. However, only about 40 percent of living rooms now have carpet. Hardwood flooring – both solid and engineered– is the second most popular type of flooring included in 27 percent of all new-home installations. Ceramic tile (which appears in 72 percent of all bathroom floor installation) follows in third place, making up 20 percent of all new-home floor installations.

3. Countertops: For kitchen countertops, granite continues to reign in two out of three homes (64 percent of new-home installations). Quartz/engineered stone is gaining popularity while laminate, solid surfacing and ceramic tile are losing appeal.

4. Appliances: Cooktops and wall oven combinations are gaining in popularity and make up about 24 percent of the market, compared to freestanding ovens (45 percent). Freezer-on-bottom refrigerators are gaining in popularity at 19 percent, while side-by-side has fallen to 28 percent of the share.

5. Kitchen sinks: More buyers are paying attention to their kitchen sink, with the single basin kitchen sink making a comeback, growing from 5 percent to 20 percent of all new single-family homes in the past decade. Also growing in popularity are granite/stone kitchen sinks (at 8 percent). One-piece cultured marble lavatories are continuing to decline in demand.

Source: “Material World: The Hottest Trends From the 2015 Builder Practices Survey,” BUILDER Online (July 29, 2015)

© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

4 Florida cities tops for seriously underwater homes

IRVINE, Calif. — July 30, 2015 — RealtyTrac released its second quarter (Q2) 2015 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report, which listed four Florida cities at the top of the list for homes seriously underwater – properties where the homeowners owe at least 25 percent more than the home’s current market worth.

Areas (population greater than 500,000) with the highest percentage of seriously underwater properties included Florida markets such as Lakeland (28.5 percent), Cleveland, Ohio (28.2 percent), Las Vegas (27.9 percent), Akron, Ohio (27.3 percent), Orlando (26.1 percent), Tampa (24.8 percent), Chicago (24.8 percent), Palm Bay(24.4 percent) and Toledo, Ohio (24.3 percent).

In addition, RealtyTrac looked at underwater homes that are also in the foreclosure process.

In the same Florida cities, over half of the homeowners going through foreclosure were seriously underwater:Lakeland (54.8 percent of foreclosures seriously underwater), Tampa (51.7 percent), Palm Bay (51.5 percent) and Orlando (51.2 percent).

Statewide, 23.6 percent Florida of homeowners with a mortgage were seriously underwater in the Q2 2015 – a drop from 23.8 percent in the first quarter and 30.3 percent year-to-year.

On the flipside, RealtyTrac found that 17.6 percent of Florida owners with a mortgage were “equity rich” with at least 50 percent equity. That’s a slight drop for the first quarter’s 17.8 percent but an increase from 15.9 percent year-to-year.

Looking only at homes in foreclosure, 62.8 percent in Florida were seriously underwater, while 18.6 percent, even though going through foreclosure, were equity rich.

“Strong South Florida price increases over the past few years have moved many homeowners from negative to positive equity. We would encourage the remaining distressed homeowners to ask for a Broker Price Opinion (BPO) regarding the value of their property – many may be surprised at their improving value,” says Mike Pappas, CEO and president of Keyes Company in South Florida.

National numbers

Nationwide, 13.3 percent of all properties with a mortgage were seriously underwater in Q2, an increase from 13.2 percent of all homes in the first quarter. However, they dropped from 17.2 percent year-to-year. At the peak of the foreclosure crisis in 2012, the percentage was 28.6 percent.

“Slowing home price appreciation in 2015 has resulted in the share of seriously underwater properties plateauing at about 13 percent of all properties with a mortgage,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

“However, the share of homeowners with the double-whammy of seriously underwater properties also in foreclosure is continuing to decrease and is now at the lowest level we’ve seen since we began tracking that metric in the first quarter of 2012,” he adds.

© 2015 Florida Realtors®

Rising Rents, Falling Wages Leave More Cash-Strapped

DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2014
Renters are increasingly becoming cash-strapped, facing higher rents while their paychecks are shrinking or stagnant, RealtyTrac reports. Nationwide, rents have risen by 6 percent over the last decade, according to data compiled from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Meanwhile, incomes have plunged, falling 13 percent over that same time period. More than half of all renters now are devoting 30 percent or more of their income to paying rent, up from 12 percent a decade ago.

Among some of the least affordable rental markets (in which the percent of income spent on rent is 42 percent or more) are: Bronx County, New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.; Baltimore City, Baltimore-Townson, Md.; Philadelphia County, Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md.; Kings County, New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.; and San Francisco County, San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif., according to a RealtyTrac analysis.

Coinciding with the increase in renting, home ownership rates have been falling.

Traditionally, home owners have long outnumbered renters by more than three to one, according to RealtyTrac. But since the recession, the rate of home ownership has steadily been dropping, falling from a 69.2 percent peak in the fourth quarter of 2004 to 65.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to Census data.

The number of renter households has risen to 43 million, or 35.4 percent of all U.S. households, which is up from 31 percent in 2004, according to Harvard data.

“The American Dream of owning a home is still alive and well today in the United States, but it is increasingly under assault by a growing number of renters,” RealtyTrac writes in a recent article.

Source: “Will Rents Fall?” RealtyTrac (Sept. 12, 2014)

Why you shouldn’t pay down your mortgage faster

NEW YORK – Aug. 31, 2012 – The impulse to pay off your mortgage more quickly than you need to is understandable, especially these days.

Interest rates are near historic lows, so it’s possible to replace a 30-year mortgage with a 15-year loan and still afford the monthly payments. Or, if you’ve already refinanced at a dirt-cheap rate, you can take those savings and pay down your principal faster.

But the allure is more emotional than financial. Mortgage debt provides great financial flexibility, and paying it down fast probably isn’t the best way to grow your nest egg.

“Generally speaking, there’s no advantage to paying down a mortgage earlier than you need to,” says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com

That’s because the interest on mortgages is low, it helps lower your taxes, and paying less every month gives you chance to reinvest the savings in more productive ways. Among the better options: paying down higher-interest credit cards, or saving for retirement.

Start with rates on 30-year mortgages. The average rate is 3.66 percent, close to the lowest level since the 1950s.

But in reality you pay an even lower rate when factoring in tax breaks. The federal government gives borrowers a break by allowing them to deduct mortgage interest from their income. And if instead of using the extra cash to pay down your mortgage you put it in a tax-advantaged retirement fund like a 401(k), your taxes are reduced even further.

Jim Sharvin, a certified public accountant with the firm McDowell Dillon & Hunter in Torrance, Calif. says if you are thinking of paying down the principal of a mortgage more quickly than necessary – either by switching to a shorter-term loan or sending extra principal payments to the bank – consider first doing the following:

• Pay down all high-interest debt, like a credit card. It’s the first priority because it’s very expensive debt, and it has no tax or other financial benefit.

• Build a cash cushion to cover unexpected expenses or loss of income.

• Bolster your retirement savings by putting the maximum amount allowed by law into a tax-sheltered plan such as a 401(k), a 403(b), or IRA. This also reduces your taxes.

• Fund a college savings program such as a 529 plan for your children, especially if you live in a state with an income tax. These programs shelter the money from state and local income taxes.

Once these priorities are taken care of, the next step is a matter of preference.

You could take the money you borrowed at 3 percent and try to reinvest it in a way that earns more than that. If you have time to ride out ups and downs of the market, 3 percent should be relatively easy to beat.

Or you could pay down your mortgage quickly. If you are just going to park your money in money market funds or certificates of deposit that yield less than 3 percent, it makes sense to pay down that mortgage debt. And it sure would be nice to have no mortgage when you retire.

There are other situations where it’s smart to pay down a mortgage early.

The first scenario is when you’re trying to eliminate the cost of private mortgage insurance, or PMI. That’s the insurance you must carry if you put down less than 20 percent on your home. It makes sense to speed up payments on your principal until you’re allowed to drop the insurance.

It’s also good to pay down your mortgage if you don’t have the discipline to reinvest extra money wisely. Handing the money to your mortgage company is one way to protect you from yourself.

Even if paying down a mortgage fast is the best choice, there are smarter ways than opting for a 15-year loan. That’s because the shorter term locks you into a higher payment, and that can become a burden if money gets tight.

A 30-year loan gives you options. If find yourself with extra money, then pay down the principal as aggressively as you like. But if you’re short, scale back to the regular monthly amount. That flexibility is probably worth the slightly higher interest rate on the 30-year loan these days, Sharvin says.

To compare a 15- and 30-year mortgage, consider this example: One homeowner with a $200,000 loan chooses a 3.75 percent 30-year mortgage, which costs $926 per month. Another chooses a 3 percent, 15-year mortgage, which costs $1,381 per month.

The homeowner with the 30-year loan ends each year with $5,460 in savings from lower payments and a tax break of about $770. He puts all that money into a 401(k), saving himself an additional $1,560 in taxes. That’s a total annual savings of about $7,800. If he earns a 5 percent return over 15 years, the homeowner will have accrued $170,000.

The homeowner with the 15-year loan will have no extra savings after 15 years. But then his mortgage payments will end. He’ll try to catch up, but he’s starting from so far behind that by the time 30 years are up – and both loans are paid off – the homeowner with the 30-year loan will have $124,000 more in savings.
Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press, Jonathan Fahey, AP business writer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Average on 30-year mortgage falls to 3.59%

WASHINGTON – Aug. 31, 2012 – Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week and are just slightly above record lows reached earlier this year. The low rates have contributed to a modest housing recovery.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan declined to 3.59 percent, down from 3.66 percent last week. Five weeks ago, the rate fell to 3.49 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, slipped to 2.86 percent. That’s down from 2.89 percent last week and closer to the record low of 2.80 percent five weeks ago.

Cheap mortgages are a key reason the housing market is finally started to rebound five years after the bubble burst.

Sales of newly built and previously occupied homes are well above last year’s levels. Prices have increased consistently, largely because the supply of homes has shrunk while sales have risen. And builder confidence is at its highest level in five years.

Still, the housing market has a long way back to full health. Some economists forecast that sales of previously occupied homes will rise 8 percent this year to about 4.6 million. That’s well below the 5.5 million annual sales considered healthy. Many people are still having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can’t afford larger downpayments required by banks.

Mortgage rates are low because they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. A weaker U.S. economy and uncertainty about how Europe will resolve its debt crisis have led investors to buy more Treasury securities, which are considered safe investments. As demand for Treasurys increase, the yield falls.

To calculate average rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week.

The average does not include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for 30-year loans was 0.6 point, down from 0.7 point last week. The fee for 15-year loans also slipped to 0.6 point from 0.7.

The average rate on one-year adjustable rate mortgages fell to 2.63 percent from 2.66 percent last week. The fee for one-year adjustable rate loans was unchanged at 0.4 point.

The average rate on five-year adjustable rate mortgages declined to 2.78 percent from 2.80 percent. The fee held steady at 0.6 point.
Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press, Marcy Gordon, AP business writer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Broward multi-family market gains steam

The multi-family sector in Broward County has seen steady declines in vacancy over the past two years, but the market still has room to grow, according to a report from Marcus & Millichap. While the area’s vacancy rate fell by 130 basis points last year, the firm projects vacancy to fall to 4.3 percent in 2012, a drop of 100 basis points. Rents are also expected to increase, with a 2.8 percent projected rise in asking rents to $1,111 per month, accelerating from a 1.2 percent growth rate in 2011. Coinciding with the strong rental demand and growth is renewed “vigor” in the investment market, according to the report. — Alexander Britell

Bank of America offers new loan modifications that reduce principal

MIAMI – May 9, 2012 – Bank of America is sending out letters to potentially thousands of struggling Florida homeowners to let them know they may be eligible for a reduction in their loan balance that may save them up to 30 percent in monthly payments, the lender announced Tuesday.

The letters will go out to more than 200,000 mortgage holders nationwide, with the first to arrive this week, the bank said. However, most of the letters will be mailed by the third quarter that starts July 1.

The latest loan modification offer is part of a $25 billion settlement involving Bank of America, four other major banks, 49 state attorneys general and federal officials.

Bank of America officials said they had no immediate number of how many South Florida mortgage holders would be sent the letters. “What I can tell you is that the heaviest concentration is in California and Florida, the largest of the hardest hit states,” said Jumana Bauwens, a spokeswoman for Bank of America Home Loans.

About 19,000 South Florida homeowners with Bank of America mortgages were at least 60 days late, Jessica Garcia, vice president for the bank’s national mortgage outreach, said last month.

To be eligible for the new loan modification, the Florida homeowners must have been at least 60 days behind on their payments on Jan. 31, 2012. They also must owe more on the mortgage than their home is worth today.

Their monthly payment – principal, interest, property taxes, insurance and any homeowner association fees – also has to total more than 25 percent of the family’s gross household income. “A key goal of mortgage modifications is to provide an affordable monthly payment, based on borrower’s ability to pay,” according to a Bank of America statement released Tuesday.

And to be eligible for the latest loan modification offer, homeowners should have loans owned and serviced by Bank of America – or serviced for another investor that has given the bank the authority to make the modifications.

Bank of America began reducing the principal on some home loans in March, first granting the reductions to homeowners already in a modification review process.

“So far under this early initiative, about 5,000 trial modification offers have been mailed, providing a potential total of more than $700 million in forgiven principal,” Bank of America officials said in a release.

The homeowners are required to make at least three payments on time before the modification can become permanent, the bank said.

“To the extent principal reduction and other modification tools help us turn mortgages headed for possible foreclosure into long-term performing loans, it will be positive for homeowners, mortgage investors and communities,” said Ron Sturzenegger, a Bank of America Legacy Asset Servicing executive.

In South Florida, Bank of America has seen a declining number of delinquent mortgages – from about 30,000 last June to 19,000 now. That mirrors a national downward trend, according to a recent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report.

For more information, customers may call Bank of America at 877-488-7814.

Copyright © 2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Donna Gehrke-White. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

South Florida housing prices have hit bottom, Zillow analysts declare…..

By KIMBERLY MILLER
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

There are three little words South Floridians have longed to hear since the housing slide began: “We’ve hit bottom.”

Analysts at the online real estate database Zillow are declaring just that for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties in a report to be released today that shows tri-county home prices bottomed out in the latter part of 2011.

Although the first quarter Zillow Home Value Index was down 2.3 percent in Palm Beach County on a year-over-year measure to $140,600, small increases in monthly and quarterly measures were enough for senior Zillow economist Svenja Gudell to predict an end to free-falling prices.

“The last two years we’ve seen the rate of decline slow and now we’re seeing this uptick for the first time, where instead of sloping down, the curve is sloping up,” Gudell said.

Of the 30 largest metropolitan areas measured by the Seattle-based Zillow, 14 were declared to have hit bottom either at the end of 2011 or between January and March of this year, including Orlando and Tampa.

The optimism was echoed by Florida International University real estate economist Ken Johnson, who began predicting a bottom in November when prices hit 2002 levels.

“It just makes really strong financial sense to buy right now,” Johnson said. “We can’t go down anymore.”

Zillow’s index considers the value of all homes, not just those that sold during the measurement period, and South Florida Realtors are often skeptical of the company’s South Florida data. Zillow’s website states that as of February, its estimates were within 5 percent of the actual sales price of a South Florida home just 27 percent of the time. About 49 percent of the time the estimates were within 10 percent of the price.

Zillow estimates the national home value during the first quarter of 2012 was $146,200, a 3 percent decrease from the same time in 2011, and predicts the country as a whole won’t hit bottom until the end of the year.

That’s more in line with some other reports released this week that offered mixed signals on the state of the housing market.

Nationwide, new home sales in March fell from the previous month, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce report released Tuesday, while the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index was down 3.5 percent in February from the same time in 2011.

South Florida, however, was a bright spot in Case-Shiller, showing a 0.6 percent bump up from January and a 0.8 percent increase from February 2011.

Gudell said investors are driving South Florida’s price increases, which Zillow estimates will climb 5.6 percent in the next year.

Still, there are 373,550 foreclosure cases backlogged in Florida’s courts that could depress prices once they hit the market. Johnson said he’s less concerned about the so-called shadow inventory because people are finding creative ways to dispose of current foreclosures, such as with bulk sales.

“They may hinder the speed of the bounce-back, but I don’t see prices coming down anymore,” Johnson said. “My hopes and intuition tell me it will be a slow but steady recovery.”

Bank of America invites 19,000 distressed homeowners to Miami Beach for help

South Florida Business Journal by Brian Bandell, Senior Reporter
Date: Wednesday, April 11, 2012, 12:55pm EDT

Brian BandellSenior Reporter – South Florida Business Journal

Bank of American has invited more than 19,000 homeowners in South Florida with late payments to the Miami Beach Convention Center to help them work out their mortgages.

The bank (NYSE: BAC) reserved 140 rooms for the event, taking place Thursday through Saturday. Jessica Garcia, a VP in national mortgage outreach for Bank of America , said it is bringing 50 customer specialists and 30 underwriters to work with homeowners. Most of them have loans that Bank of America is servicing for investors.

Bank of America has about 1 million mortgages under servicing in Florida, and about 22 percent of them are delinquent, she said.

Garcia said any customer who is 60 days or more late on their mortgage payment is encouraged to attend, but they should call ahead (855-201-7426) and have their financial records ready to present. That includes pay stubs, tax returns and bank statements.

Bank of America has many different ways to help homeowners, depending on their financial capabilities and what the investor in their loan will allow, Garcia said. The solutions could include a 90-day forbearance, adding missed payments to the end of the mortgage term or reducing the interest rate, she said. Generally, the goal is to make the mortgage payment no more than 31 percent of the borrower’s monthly income, she said.

“If we can do a loan modification and the customer wants to remain in the home, and they want to be with us a few hours, then we can do it right there,” Garcia said.

Bank of America also has sped up the process to approve short sales, Garcia said.

Florida Realtors issued a press release on Tuesday praising Bank of America’s decision to reduce its short sales approval process to 20 days.