Florida Legislature passes bill that could boost foreign investment in real estate

Other states that legalized online notarizations include Virginia, Texas and Nevada

A Florida bill may allow for remote notarizations

A Florida bill may allow for remote notarizations

The Florida Legislature recently passed a bill that would make remote online notarizations legal, a move that could speed up foreign and out-of-state real estate investment in the Sunshine State.

Florida’s House of Representatives and Senate approved House Bill 409, which now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk. If DeSantis signs it into law, Florida would become one of only a few states that accepts remote electronic notarizations, joining Virginia, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas, Vermont and others.

The bill would allow for buyers, sellers, lessees, lessors and other parties on real estate transactions to physically be outside of Florida to get notarized documents signed – speeding up what can be a painfully old-fashioned process. Remote online notarizations were first accepted in Virginia in 2011.

If it passes, the bill could encourage more international investment in Florida, experts say. Florida ranks as the top state for foreign buyers, with the highest concentration in South Florida. In 2018, 65 percent of foreign investment throughout the state was in Miami-Dade, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.

“It provides the opportunity for a lot more investment, to expedite transactions,” said Gunster attorney and government affairs consultant Greg Black. “We have a ton of cash buyers coming into the country from South America and Europe. In South Florida and Central Florida, we also have a big military population” that could use remote online notarizations.

Black worked to get the bill passed on behalf of his client, Notarize Inc. In addition to other services, the company offers a customized platform for mortgage lenders and title companies to close loans online. Competitors include NotaryCam, DocVerify and SafeDocs.

In 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that for the first time ever, through Notarize, an American family closed a mortgage for their home in Illinois remotely using only electronic signatures.

Notarizations are typically done in person, and in the case of real estate deals often require out-of-state and foreign parties to physically be present for a closing. If they’re not done in person, buyers and sellers can participate in mail away closings, which take longer and leave more room for error, Black said.

A platform like Notarize would document each step of the process, including when a buyer or seller signs documents, and ensures that documents like deeds and mortgages are signed with “no missing pages.” Witnesses are required to be in the U.S., and the notary must be a Florida notary physically in the state at the time of a notarization.

Notarize can also provide witnesses if needed. For a commercial lease, for example, two witnesses are required in the state of Florida. The service, which records video of documents being signed by witnesses, parties to a deal and notaries, could also be useful in litigation, Black added.

“It creates a journal with the technology, which we do not have under traditional [notarizations],” he said. “All of that information is very accessible.”

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Zillow sues Compass for poaching execs, allegedly stealing trade secrets

Suit claims Compass took shortcuts to avoid building technology

Zillow CEO Richard Barton and Compass CEO Robert Reffkin (Credit: Zillow, Compass, iStock).

Zillow Group slammed Compass with two lawsuits late Friday, alleging the $4.4 billion SoftBank-backed brokerage hired three top technology staffers in violation of their non-competes as it staffed up its nascent tech hub in Seattle. The lawsuits also claim that Compass actively sought to obtain proprietary information from Zillow to avoid building its own technology.

The suits — one filed in federal court and the other in Washington state court — also name Robert Chen, Zillow’s former head of artificial intelligence; Michael Hania, an enterprise sales executive; and Chester Millisock Jr., a software engineer.

“Compass actively recruited these employees in order to avoid the costs associated with open and honest competition and to obtain Zillow’s confidential and proprietary information,” court documents allege.

In the suits, Zillow said all three of its former employees violated 12-month non-competes with Zillow. They are accused of taking proprietary information from Zillow in the days before they left the company, copying confidential customer lists, financial information, sales data and technical information on thumb drives and to DropBox.

Compass, which is spending billions on an end-to-end platform and recently acquired CRM Contactually, denied that it had done anything improper with the hiring of the Zillow employees.

“You cannot break a non-compete by leaving to go to a company that does not compete with you,” a spokesperson said in a statement to The Real Deal. “With hundreds of engineers and hundreds of sales people, it’s unfortunate that losing three individual contributors would result in using scare tactics to intimidate current employees from leaving. Compass has never asked and would never accept any trade secrets. A number of years ago Compass abolished non-competes for anyone that we hired as we believe that people should work at Compass because they want to, not because they are forced to.”

Zillow, which has a market cap of $7.37 billion, said it supports healthy competition to drive innovation, but argued that Compass’s practices are “something different.”

“They are unlawful, and because we have a responsibility to protect our intellectual property, we are taking action,” the company said.

Check back for updates. 

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After surpassing revenue target in 2018, CoStar reveals ambitious goal for 2023

After surpassing revenue target in 2018, CoStar reveals ambitious goal for 2023

Company collected $1.2B in revenue last year

CoStar CEO Andy Florance (Credit: CoStar via YouTube and Pixabay)

Real estate data giant CoStar Group exceeded $1 billion in revenue in 2018. And by the end of 2023, it hopes to roughly triple that figure to $3 billion.

Though tumult in the stock market contributed to a dip in CoStar’s market value, the company finished 2018 with a strong balance sheet, it disclosed in an earnings report on Tuesday. On the company’s subsequent earnings call, chief executive Andrew Florance said the firm posted $1.2 billion in revenue, a jump from $965 million for 2017. CoStar ended the year with $238 million in net income, up 94 percent over 2017’s $123 million. Its adjusted EBITDA checked in at $418 million, a 49 percent increase year-over-year.

“2018 was an outstanding year for CoStar with strong revenue growth and substantial margin expansion,” Florance said on the call, telling investors that the firm successfully integrated ForRent in the fourth quarter, which he called its strongest ever. He also said CoStar sees a “huge opportunity to further monetize LoopNet,” which, along with other commercial products, has the potential to “reach the size of Apartments.com.”

Florance briefly touched on two other 2018 acquisitions, noting that it picked up Cozy Services and Realla, the U.K.’s largest CRE marketplace, and signed client contracts with brokerages Marcus & Millichap and CBRE.

“We anticipate acquisitions will continue, but we anticipate most of our growth will be organic,” Florance said.

CoStar has long been the market leader for commercial real estate data, but is now facing a threat from Moody’s Analytics, which recently launched a new platform of real estate data services produced by firms including CompStak and Rockport VAL. Florance told Bisnow last week that while he welcomed the competition, Moody’s platform is “not exactly a big bang.”

CoStar’s share price has seen a spike since the beginning of 2019, jumping from $334 to $411 on Tuesday. Its market capitalization is currently at $14.8 billion. In 2019, CoStar is anticipating between $1.37 billion and $1.38 billion in revenue.

WeWork to acquire social networking company Meetup

From left: Meetup’s Scott Heiferman and WeWork’s Adam Neumann (Credit: Meetup and WeWork)
From TRD New York: WeWork is acquiring Meetup, a social network that connects people who want to meet up and pursue a common hobby.
The acquisition is another step in the co-working company’s planned transformation into a “physical social network” active in a broad range of community-centric real estate and software ventures. “It’s like a magical puzzle that fits together,” Meetup’s co-founder Scott Heiferman told the New York Times.
Meetup facilitates around 15,000 meetings per day, according to the firm, and around 100,000 of them have taken place in WeWork spaces to-date. According to Heiferman, Meetup will continue to operate as-is, but may become integrated into WeWork’s offerings the way Instagram is into Facebook’s (where users can link their accounts).
The Times reported that Meetup’s general counsel David Pashman was friendly with an unnamed WeWork executive, and that the first meeting between Heiferman and WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann took place in August.
Last week, news broke that WeWork invested in the women-only co-working company The Wing, which took in a total of $32 million in a Series B funding round. And in October, WeWork acquired the coding bootcamp Flatiron School. As The Real Deal exclusively reported last week, WeWork is working on a push into retail. It’s also reportedly considering raising hundreds of millions in additional funding on the Israeli bond market.  [NYT] — Konrad Putzier

Source: The Real Deal Miami