New Yorkers abandon Big Apple to buy in the Sunshine State

Feb.February 03, 2012 02:15 PM

Sao Paulo. Caracas. Mexico City. Toronto. Buyers from cities like those have been driving Miami’s residential market since the worst of the condominium bust. And although it was largely overshadowed in the foreign buyer shuffle, New York City residents are heading back to Florida with money in hand.

“[New York buyers] are very, very real and very active,” said Phil Spiegelman, principal of brokerage ISG. “It’s tangible, and it’s happening at properties across the board.”

Spiegelman said part of the drive was coming from the fact that buyers in New York and the northeast are beginning to change their perception of Miami’s real estate market and acknowledge its rapidly shrinking inventory.

“I think it started halfway through 2011,” said Coldwell Banker Realtor Danny Hertzberg. “I saw a pickup from New York, and particularly in the last two or three months.”

Hertzberg said the return has been due to several factors: one, many New York buyers are beginning to realize they may have missed the bottom of the market, and even more are fleeing New York for Florida’s favorable tax environment.

“When things were booming a bit, maybe they were able to stomach the city and state income tax [in New York], but now it seems like more and more people are establishing residency, moving their business to Florida and taking advantage of no income tax and the homestead protection.”

The weather, too, continues to draw New York snowbirds down to Miami, despite an unusually balmy winter up north, Spiegelman said.

They’re also looking to Miami for the same reasons as many of the now-famous foreign buyers: investment.

Nelson Gonzalez, a senior vice president with EWM, said he was working with one New York investor who was interested in Miami Beach.

“He’s seeing a lot of upside in the very near future, in the next year to three years. Originally, the thinking was that it was going to be three to seven years,” he said. “His timeline has now shortened because he’s seeing much greater appreciation.”

It’s not to say that New York buyers haven’t had a presence in Miami during the downturn, however.

“They never went away entirely,” said Beth Butler, president of One Sotheby’s International Realty. “There was a little bit of a slowdown, but certainly in areas like Miami Beach we still had some New York buyers. But it’s certainly picked up this year.”

Indeed, as the Miami market recovered, some New York buyers began to rent homes and condominiums in Miami Beach, with some looking to begin establishing residency.

The foreign contingent remains Miami’s strongest source of buyers, though, and a number of other South American demographics, like Mexicans and Venezuelans, are beginning to picking up steam, Butler said.

“[New Yorkers] are definitely here — especially this time of year,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not necessarily just from New York, they’re really from everywhere.”

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