Boom & Bust, Part 2

Stressed sellers scheme and dream.

Despite the market conditions, Finn recently opened a new, larger office in Fort Lauderdale's Gateway Plaza. He has compensated for the down market by advertising overseas — in London and Paris. "The dollar is down and prices are down.... Europeans are coming over to America on real estate spending sprees."

Finn is trying to benefit from this market in the long run. "Other offices are closing for good," he says. "I figure if I expand now, with the industry where it is now, when it bounces back, I'll be the first broker people call. I just have to ride out the storm."

Another local real estate agent, who asked not to be named, says he's been giving buyers up to 15 percent of his commission, which is generally 6 percent of the selling price. That means as much as $20,000 out of his own pocket on, say, a property that sells for $2 million. He's listing a multimillion-dollar mansion in Fort Lauderdale that includes dock space for a yacht up to 100 feet long. When he added a small boat to sweeten the deal, buyers still balked, he says. So now he's offering an all-expense-paid luxurious vacation for two in the Bahamas.

Kyle T. Webster

"I've seen sellers offer liposuction, breast augmentation, anything you want," Timmins says. "The bottom line is that doesn't sell houses. People will wait for the right prices no matter what. That's how the market works."

Timmins says this bear market will be his last. He's getting out of real estate sales to work with reverse mortgages, which let home owners cash out equity and give their property to the mortgage holder when they die. "That's where the future is," he says. "People can cash in on their property and still enjoy it. And somebody else can worry about selling the house."

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