Residential market: Condo buyers set pace

Jan.January 21, 2011 02:43 PM

Foreign buyers are still driving South Florida real estate, with many of them taking advantage of luxury bargains and scooping up high-end condos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

While the single-family market was a mixed bag last year, both counties saw jumps in the condo market; Miami saw a
whopping 43 percent jump to 9,778 units and Fort Lauderdale had 10,773 condo sales, a 9 percent increase from the year before.

“The market is picking up — there are definitely buyers out there,” said Terri Bersach, branch manager at Coldwell Banker in Weston and president of the Broward County Association of Realtors.

Last year, there were a total of 7,308 sales of single-family homes in the Miami metro area, up 9 percent from 2009, according to data from Florida Realtors. In the Fort Lauderdale metro area, that number dropped 9 percent to 7,997 sales.

“Our condo market as a whole is continuing to sell a larger percentage versus single-family homes,” said EWM President Ron Shuffield. “This balance between single family and condos began shifting back in 2003.”
Shuffield said that 58 percent of all residential transactions in Miami-Dade County last year were condos — the largest condo percentage ever in South Florida.

Bersach said the increase in condo sales, especially in Broward, was due in part to foreign buyers, along with those looking for second homes. The western portion of the county, like her base of Weston, is seeing a number of Latin American buyers, while the beachfront eastern portion has drawn buyers from the Northeast and Canada.

“We’re seeing a lot of the condo market being absorbed in Miami-Dade County, either by tenants or by sales from international [buyers],” she said.

Foreign buyers have long been a force in the South Florida market, especially in Miami, but the demographics have shifted a bit as Latin Americans, especially Brazilians, driven by favorable exchange rates and comparatively affordable prices, have entered the market. The buyers range from Brazilians buying high-end condos in properties like Icon Brickell in downtown Miami and Capri in South Beach to Venezuelans buying in Doral.   

Shuffield said the buyers were not just coming from outside of the United States, however — a number of New Yorkers and buyers from the Eastern seaboard were coming down to take advantage of low prices.

“Certainly foreign [buyers] are a large percentage of it, but there are also a lot of second-home buyers,” he said. “People have all heard about the great values and so they all come down here to look.”

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