The real estate industry changed in 2012 — in some ways, significantly.



Florida Realtors put together its annual list of top industry stories, a recap of the most significant news stories that impacted Florida’s real estate brokers and agents.



Real estate rebound



Just look at the numbers. In a year-over-year comparison, single-family sales grew 25.3 percent and prices increased 9 percent, according to Florida Realtors economists. The big Realtor complaint now is low inventory and continued banking and lending hassles. Schwab says real estate will be the key driver of a 2013 rebound.



There's no place like home. Got one?



The big Realtor complaint now? Low inventory. Sensing a rebound, buyers jumped into the market only to face competition from investors. At the same time, many owners put off a sale, waiting for even higher prices. New construction — almost nonexistent since the recession — kicked into gear.



For lease, Navidad
Real estate investors tried a new tactic: Instead of buying buildings, they bought single-family homes one by one and, on paper, turned a multi-location group of homes into a single investment. They signed up renters, paid a property manager and turned an almost immediate profit.



How low will they go?



Mortgage interest rates hit record lows in 2012, bottoming out at 3.31 percent for a 30-year fixed rate — and still hovering in that range at year's end. Some buyers with dynamic credit scores found great deals. Others couldn't score a great home due to tight lending and competition from cash-laden investors.



Let's get fiscal



A threat overshadowed the second half of 2012 — a presidential election followed by possible economic pandemonium if Congress failed to stop a fiscal cliff on Dec. 31. Fear of the unknown caused businesses to postpone investments, homeowners to avoid buying, and a nationwide wait-and-see attitude.



I'll make this short



Buyers loved bank-owned properties (REOs) just a year ago, but in 2012, banks cut back on REOs and started to favor short sales that net them more money. In RealtyTrac's latest quarterly report, a full 65 percent of homes in some stage of the foreclosure process sold through a short sale instead.



Don't deduct the deduction



The U.S. supports homeownership through a mortgage interest tax deduction (MID). But some now question the fed's role and say renting isn't such a bad option. As part of a deal to cut the deficit, will lawmakers nix the MID altogether? Cap the amount? Either option could trim buyer demand in 2013.



A billion here, a billion there



Five large U.S. banks accused of unfair foreclosure tactics settled a court case to the tune of $26 billion. The money helped some underwater homeowners lower monthly payments, and it reimbursed some ex-owners who went through foreclosure. The banks say they've changed those practices.



Don't deduct the deduction



The U.S. supports homeownership through a mortgage interest tax deduction (MID). But some now question the fed's role and say renting isn't such a bad option. As part of a deal to cut the deficit, will lawmakers nix the MID altogether? Cap the amount? Either option could trim buyer demand in 2013.



Sizing up appraisals



NAR survey: 65 percent of Realtors had no contract problems due to a home appraisal over the previous three months, but 35 percent did. NAR and appraisers note many problems result from lender demands and the use of out-of-area valuators (often via AMCs) without local expertise or full access to local data.



Three out of four ain't bad



Florida voters passed three property tax amendments in November, easing the burden for spouses of veterans and first-responders, out-of-state veterans and, with local approval, low-income adults 65 or older. Unfortunately, the Florida Realtors-backed Amendment 4 failed to get the 60 percent approval needed for passage.



Help for homeowners literally underwater



Congress finally passed a long-term fund flood insurance law extending the program to 2017, following a lengthy, years-long series of short-term extensions. The national flood program faces financial challenges, however, and it now has stricter requirements for coverage.



Less is more



In an effort to become financially sound, Florida's Citizens Property Insurance Corp. reduced coverage and increased premiums. Still, these policies are less expensive than the private market. In 2013, Citizens will struggle to again become the state's insurer of last resort.



Global shift



International buyers love Florida's sunshine, lifestyle and want a piece of the action. However, some global economies have been hit harder than others. In 2012, buyers from Brazil, Venezuela and Canada ramped up purchases. But European buyers, hit harder by a downturn, cut back on buying Florida homes.
This article was contributed to The Log by Florida Realtors.