International buyers mix for oceanfront units

Apr.April 26, 2013 11:00 AM

International buyers are visiting South Florida in search of sun, sand and condos in which to invest their cash.

“Three hundred feet of beach for 24 people? It doesn’t exist,” Philip Spiegelman, a principal at International Sales Group, or ISG, said at a recent sales party on a beach in Hollywood, Fla., part of South Florida’s fast-growing metropolitan area — pop. 5.6 million, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

A four-year boom saw the construction of 17,500 new buildings, with 10,000 left vacant when buyers pulled out.

For the first time since the crash, Miami is building again.

And as promoters of what because of limited inventory is becoming to be a seller’s market, Spiegelmen and ISG are rising with the rest.

The developers, Property Markets Group, plan to demolish Driftwood, an aging condo, and replace it with Sage Beach, a five-story, 24-unit oceanfront building designed by the Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, the model units sporting beige leather and marble floor as a lure for international shoppers for the two to three-bedroom units listing at over $1 million.

Caterers walk around with plates of tapas-style fish as potential buyers mix amid the fire dancers and Mona Music Group, a pair of DJs and an electric violinist.

Relative to Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires or Paris, where some of the wealthiest are wary of financial institutions and governments, Miami and the blossoming condo developments in its suburbs seem like a good deal and a safe bet, another ISG principal, who has traveled to Buenos Aires 30 times in recent years, said.

During the boom, developers and banks were left holding “bad assets” after owners with deposits of perhaps $200,000 down walked away when the valuations no longer made sense. Buyers pulled out of 10,000 of the 17,500 buildings that went up from 2004 to 2008, according to Spiegelman.

Of the 17,500 buildings constructed during the four-year real estate boom in Miami, buyers pulled out of 10,000.

Five years later, nearly all of the boom-era inventory has been resold, with only 600 units remaining listed, according to

Property Markets Group got burned in the real estate collapse. Five years later, PMG has found a new way into the South Florida development market – building on the ashes of failed projects. –Emily Schmall

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