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Housing-related businesses enjoying big bounce-back

Tue Apr 30, 2013 on Blog

Written By Paul Owers, Sun Sentinel 4:24 p.m. EDT, April 27, 2013 and republished for Weston Title & Escrow Inc. and The South Florida Law Blog with excerpts from Roy Oppenheim.
Keeping the family-owned firm afloat during the real-estate bubble crash enjoying housing-related "bounce-back."

Real estate agents aren’t the only ones cashing in on the housing renaissance.

Home inspectors, mortgage brokers, moving companies and other related businesses also are watching their bottom lines grow again after six years in a deep slumber.

“It’s been very busy,” said Scott Dooley, a Fort Lauderdale appraiser. “There aren’t enough hours in the day.”

Roughly 30 percent of South Florida’s economy tanked because of the real estate downturn that started in 2006, Weston lawyer Roy Oppenheim, co-founder of Weston Title & Escrow Inc. and Oppenheim Law, said.

During the housing boom of 2000 to 2005, speculators drove up prices, forcing some buyers to take out adjustable-rate mortgages and other risky loans for homes they couldn’t afford. Prices plummeted and a wave of foreclosures followed, leading to an epic collapse.

Oppenheim’s title company, Weston Title & Escrow, lost 80 percent of its business during the bust. While he avoided layoffs, employees had to take furloughs and pay cuts to keep the family-owned firm afloat, he said.

Now business is booming again, although revenues are still down because home values are nowhere near the record levels of 2005, he said. Oppenheim also has noticed an uptick in his real estate law practice, with more construction leading to more liens and building disputes.

“People are calling me now that I haven’t talked to in six or seven years. They’re back in business,” he said. “The last eight months have been good ones for people in real estate.”

Although investors paying cash still represent a large part of the housing market, Supreme Lending in Palm Beach and Broward counties has tripled its business since October, Supreme regional manager Jim Flood said.

“People think, ‘Why wouldn’t I take a loan when it’s so economical to do so?'” Flood said.

A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections has seen revenue jump by 15 percent, founder Bill Redfern said. The company, which moved from Canada to Pompano Beach in 2011, had been cool on the U.S. housing market until last year.

It wants to expand from 30 offices to more than 100 nationwide by 2015. The company has signed 20 franchises in Florida and expects to add 10 to 12 more this year, Redfern said.

“We’re seeing a rebound in the real estate sector, and our growth is significant because of it,” he said.

Jennifer Collins, co-owner of Titan Moving & Storage in Pompano, said skyrocketing home sales over the past year have increased demand for her company’s services — sometimes forcing her to turn down business.

Most analysts say the region’s housing market hit bottom in 2012, with buyers eager to capitalize on low mortgage rates and affordable prices.

The market is expected to remain strong into next year as prices keep rising due to a shortage of available homes. While values aren’t expected to decline, they will level off, observers say.

Titan has one moving truck it recently paid off. Collins would like to buy another, but she remains hesitant to put too much faith in the recovery after such a prolonged and devastating slump.

“I think I’ll just wait and see what happens,” she said.

Real estate attorney and foreclosure defense attorney, Roy Oppenheim left Wall Street for Main Street, founding Oppenheim Law along with his wife Ellen in 1989 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and is vice president of Weston Title & Escrow Inc. and creator of the South Florida Law Blog, named the best business and technology blog by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Follow Roy on Twitter at @OpLaw or like Oppenheim Law on Facebook.