Interview With Luxury Home Designer

As one of the top luxury real estate agents in Tampa Bay I have had the pleasure of being in hundreds of high end homes.  Some of these homes are truly breathtaking and beautifully designed.  A common theme I have noticed of the breathtaking homes is a large amount of them have been designed by Thomas Everett Lamb, known as Tommy by his friends.  Tommy has really put his mark on Tampa Bay and I thought it would be interesting to learn more about him.

Greg:  What types of services does Thomas Everett Lamb Design & Development offer?

Tommy: Thomas Everett Lamb Design & Development, Inc. specializes in ”high-end”, luxury homes designed from conception to completion.  In the past almost 20 years, we have done everything from helping clients locate the perfect piece of property, design new custom homes, design major renovations to existing homes, design the interiors and decorate homes, fully outfit and accessorize homes, to recommending services, schools for client’s children, and social networking for those new to the area.  In fact, we often find that we are helping to design a client’s entire lifestyle, not just their home!

Greg:  Your name is synonymous with estate sized luxury homes in Tampa Bay for the uber rich.  What about smaller jobs like additions or remodels, is that something you would handle for someone?

Tommy:  I do a wide variety of projects ranging from design consultation to the design and supervision of the construction of very large homes.  Thomas Lamb (Tommy) personally designs each and every one of his projects and attends every meeting.  Client’s are never passed off to an assistant or a draftsman.  It’s not just about developing projects, but developing relationships with interesting and fun people.  I only want to work with people who are going to enjoy the process and help make my job fulfilling.  Again, no job is too small, it really depends on who it’s for!

 Greg:  How many homes have your worked on?

 Tommy:  Over the past 19 and 1/2 years, I have worked on over 150 homes.

Greg:  Do you like to work within one particular style or can you design in all styles and architecture?

Tommy:  My education in architecture from Notre Dame is highly classical, and by demand, the majority of what I am asked to design is Mediterranean.  I do, however, enjoy contemporary design, but I am able to design any style.  I double majored in Art and Architectural History, so when I am asked to design a particular style, I am generally well versed in the associated details, but I still research that style “to death” as I do NOT like to design “pseudo” anything.  I prefer that a particular style be as authentic as possible, down to the last detail.  Also, even though I am able create exacting period interiors, I do prefer a more eclectic blend of styles and tastes – I feel that it makes for a much more inviting and comfortable setting.

Greg:  Do you work on homes outside of the Tampa Bay area?

Tommy:  Most of my work is in the Tampa Bay area, but I have designed homes in Dade City, Sarasota, Anna Maria Island, Palm Beach, Miami, New Orleans, St. Louis, Dallas, Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, the Bahamas, and as far away as Brazil.

Greg:  What was the most outrageous, unique, or “cool” thing you have every done for a client?

Tommy:  Hard to say what the most “outrageous” thing is that I ever designed – We keep our client’s privacy ”under wraps”!!!! More often than expected, however, I have been asked to design a home from beginning to end with little to no input from the client.  All my client had to do was bring his clothes and his toothbrush, but in one case, we supplied the toothbrush as well!

Has the Condo Market Hit Bottom?

Has the condo market hit bottom?  Recent developments by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are pointing to YES!  To explain lets first discuss the cause of the price declines.

As everyone who hasn’t lived in a cave for the past several years knows the condo market was drastically over built. A large portion of the demand was from speculators and investors which in many cases didn’t have the financial qualifications to rent a garage apartment from their mother but none-the-less had purchase contracts on multiple units in hopes flipping the contracts for large sums of money.  This business model worked well for a while until demand could no longer keep up with supply and those “investors” were actually expected to close on these units which of course never happened.

That was the start of the fall but what made it worse was the banking crisis when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who purchase most of the loans from banks decided to dramatically lower their risk.  Fannie & Freddie stopped buying condo loans from banks unless the buyer had a 25%+ down payment, A+ credit, and the condominium association had to be approved by having 70% of the units owner occupied and less than 15% of the units could not be in default .  As we all know there weren’t too many associations that would qualify under those rules and there were even less buyers that had 25%+ to put down.  That in turn lowered demand even further which continued to bring prices down.  Of course when the prices came down further that put more people in trouble who could no longer sell their condo.

The actions that Fannie and Freddie took to lower their risk actually caused even more short sales and foreclosures.  HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS – They are finally realizing that to lower their risk the market needs to stop going down!  To stop going down they need to create demand and to create demand they need to make money more easily accessible!  We’re not talking brain surgery here, it’s simple supply demand!  Effective yesterday Freddie Mac will now buy loans in troubled condo developments as long as the seller’s loan is already securitized by Freddie Mac.  Fannie Mae is currently reviewing hundreds of condo projects who don’t currently qualify for their loans and buildings deemed stable after their review will receive special approval and lenders will be able to offer loans in those buildings again. In my opinion we are turning the corner on the condo market and real estate market in general.

Luxury Home Market Rebounding to 2005 Levels!

 According to an article in the Wall Street Journal we are seeing sales of luxury homes at levels not seen since 2005.  Homes priced between $2 million and $5 million are up 32% from last year totaling 2,461 for the first quarter of 2014.  The strong luxury home market is largely attributed to the stock market rebound over the past couple years.  The general real estate market is tied very closely to employment unlike the luxury home market which is largely determined by the fluctuations in the stock market. 

Other reasons that are helping to fuel the luxury home market are buyer confidence and sellers being more realistic on pricing.  In parts of New York and California the amount of $2 million+ homes sold actually exceeded what was sold in 2005.  These statistics are paralleling what we have been seeing in the real estate market.  As for the general real estate market another indicator that it’s  heading up is for the first time in 4 years the unemployment rate in Florida fell. 

Real Estate is doing better than the state with an interest rate of 11.9% down from 12.8% while the state’s unemployment rate fell from 12.3% to 12%.

Are Appraisals Slowing the Real Estate Market Recovery?

I had an interesting meeting this morning with an appraiser covering the Real Estate area.  To give you a brief history in May of 2009 the government started the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) which greatly changed the real estate appraisal process nationwide.  Like just about any new government program the idea came about with the best of intentions but the actual results may be hurting the housing market much more then it is helping.

The major part of HVCC was to completely remove all contact between the lender and the appraiser, by doing this they remove the possibility that lenders and appraisers were in cahoots in fraudulent loans on houses that had artificially inflated prices.  These fraudulent loans which were a small fraction of the cause of the real estate bubble and this was set to close that loophole.  So the idea behind this is great on paper but in reality here is what is happening:

  1.  In order to comply with HVCC, Appraisal Management Companies (AMC’s) were formed to handle all the appraisals for these large banks. (I wish I had the foresight to start one of these AMC’s!)
  2. Pre HVCC the lender would consult their internal approved appraiser list and chose an appraiser they knew was reliable and familiar with the area.  Now the lender goes to the computer and blindly puts in an order, having no idea what or who they will get.
  3. The appraisal order is then sent to sometimes hundreds of appraisers who are part of an AMC that has contracted with that lender and its first come first serve for the appraiser to get the order.

It sounds like it’s a good system but two major problems have been created.  First, sometimes these appraisers are coming from hours away to do the appraisal and they are not in the least bit familiar with the areas.  Second, even though you as a buyer might be paying $400 for your appraisal that money is given to the AMC and the AMC might only be paying the appraiser who is doing all the work $175 and the AMC keeps the rest!  Have you ever heard the saying, “you get what you pay for”?  Well that couldn’t be more true right now.   Since this system has started every Realtor I know has had a deal that fell through due to an inexperienced appraiser or one that didn’t understand the area.  There are a lot of people who are opposed to the HVCC and are advocating it’s repeal.  I feel the same way.  Yes there were some who abused the system but to punish all the good people for a few bad apples is not a solution.  Had it not been for HVCC I believe our real estate recovery would have started sooner and would be more robust.

River City 3

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River City Condo Phase 3 has been announced and sales are starting now. Please click on the following link to register for pre-construction promotions.

River City Condo Phase 3 is a much anticipated development by Urban Capital who have partnered with Saucier + Perrotte Architects and ZAS architects to bring you a a 30 storey building.  River City 3 will be a sleekly designed condo which will be essential part of a much bigger billion dollar revitalization of West Don Lands.  River City 3 will have beautiful views of the lake, of the park and the Toronto downtown skyline.

Investors are excited and are lining up to get a unit or two, largely due to the success of phase one and two.  There is already a buzz surrounding the project and buyers are eager for a piece of the action.  The building will come with some great amenities which will include pristine  landscaping, a large outdoor pool with a dining area an a BBQ section.  A 2 storey glass lightbox party room which will house a lounge, and two fully equipped gyms and furnished quest suites.

This up-and-coming neighborhood will also be home to the athletes of the 2015 Pan Am games. Residents can expect a whole slew of restaurants, lifestyle amenities, supermarkets and more coming with all of the residential construction.

River City 3 Project Details

Name : River City 3
Architect : Urban Capital Property Group and Waterfront Toronto
Type : Condo
Address : Eastern Avenue & Saint Lawrence Street
District : Toronto
Province : Ontario
Postal Code : M5A 3N1
Construction Status : Registering/Pre construction
website :

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