Activity high and low for South Florida real estate

The hottest months in South Florida are typically the coolest for real estate brokers, and it seems last month was no different — with two exceptions: the region’s high-end niche, which has performed consistently well in a still-sluggish housing market, and the sub-$350,000 price point.

With financing still difficult to obtain for most would-be purchasers, those in the $5-million-and-up range continue to look to South Florida. But the sub-$350,000 mark has been a draw for several months, with nearly 85 percent of all transactions trading right now in that market, according to data from Condo Vultures.

“It was a slow summer,” said Kevin Tomlinson, a realtor with ONE Sotheby’s in Miami Beach. “But we’ve had some big house sales, and in the high-end condos, I’m seeing a lot of activity, good activity,” he said.

The high-end market was headlined last week by the sales of homes by two of the Miami Heat’s marquee free agent signings, Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

Bosh paid $12.5 million for his home on exclusive North Bay Road on Miami Beach, while James went for a lower-priced home in the Hughes Cove enclave of Coconut Grove that had previously been listed for $7.65 million, although the sale price is still unreleased.

Chris Bosh’s new home on North Bay Road

Tomlinson pointed to several recent sales of high-end South Beach condos, including one at the Continuum, which sold for $6.7 million, along with another at the W South Beach, an $8 million sale which worked out to an average of $2,300 per square foot.

“The strongest market in Miami Beach, over the last five years,” he said, “has always been the high-end condo market, surprisingly.”

Condo Vultures founder Peter Zalewski cautioned that the high-end market was too small to have a significant impact on the market, and that it was the $350,000 market that was really performing well.

“People will point to the Chris Bosh deal, along with other transactions that have occurred,” he said. “But there are only so many Chris Bosh buyers in the world. While it’s a feel-good story, it doesn’t have a significant difference.”

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The sub-$350,000 market “seems to be very attractive in Brickell and the Biscayne Corridor,” said Edgardo DeFortuna, president of Fortune International Realty, which is handling sales at Icon Brickell.

“That’s the market that’s moving the most units, period. August was a little better [for that market], but it’s still the sweet spot for many, many buyers.”

DeFortuna also said that foreign buyers, who have been heading to South Florida in droves, were finding the $350,000 market to be especially attractive.

“That’s definitely a driving force,” he said.

In Palm Beach, the luxury market is strong as well.
“We’re continuing to see more and more activity and more sales,” said Betsey Hall, an associate with Fite Shavell. “We had some higher-priced sales [in September] than what we’d seen in the previous month. I think September was definitely an improvement.”

Earlier in September, the home of former CIA director William Casey, Estrella del Mar, was sold for $6.8 million.

As for the Miami Beach market, high-end condos are still in high demand.

Tomlinson said he had recently shown an apartment listed for $9 million at Apogee three times in the same day.

“When you’re showing a $9 million condo three times in one day, that says something about the market.”