Inside South Florida resi brokerages’ northward expansion

Rising prices are drawing firms to Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens and Weston

(Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)
(Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

South Florida’s residential brokerages are following the money –– and that means going north.

In recent months, many of the tri-county region’s top firms have opened new offices and scooped up agent teams in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The moves venture beyond the boundaries of South Florida’s traditional luxury markets of Miami Beach and Palm Beach, and follow the spread of price growth spurred by mass migration during the pandemic.  

Since its founding in 1983, Fortune Christie’s International Real Estate, headquartered in Miami and led by Edgardo Defortuna, focused on offices in Miami-Dade County and South America. Earlier this month, that changed, when the firm announced new offices in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton. The move comes with marked emphasis on Broward County, often viewed as a straggler among South Florida luxury markets.

“No area in Broward County is off the table,” Defortuna said. “Our immediate focus lies on expanding our presence in the eastern areas of Broward County.”

Defortuna isn’t the only one looking north. The Keyes Company, led by father-daughter duo Mike and Christina Pappas, recently doubled down on Boca Raton, acquiring two brokerages totaling 160 agents. Compass opened offices in Palm Beach Gardens and Weston in April. Corcoran and the Agency both put down roots in Palm Beach Gardens in recent months. Douglas Elliman opened not one, but two, offices in Weston.

“Weston is a very important area for us,” said Douglas Elliman’s Florida CEO Jay Phillip Parker. “We are seeing continued, consistent buying and selling activity.”

It’s that activity –– and price growth –– drawing brokerages to new territory. 

In Palm Beach County, Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens have drawn the most attention. A plethora of gated luxury communities, golf and boating amenities draw high net worth buyers.

Boca Raton’s current median sale price is $610,000, according to data from Redfin. In May of 2020, it was $387,000, equating to a 57.6 percent climb in three years. In February, a Michigan developer paid a record $28 million for a waterfront spec mansion in Boca Raton’s Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club. 

The current median sale price in Palm Beach Gardens is $757,500, up 119.6 percent from 345,000 in May 2020, Redfin’s data shows. A mansion in the Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens flipped for a record $22.5 million in July. 

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With expansions in Palm Beach Gardens, firms are hoping to capture market share across northern Palm Beach County, including in Jupiter, Jupiter Inlet Colony and Tequesta. A local doctor recently sold his waterfront Jupiter mansion for a record $27.5 million in May. 

The median sale price in Jupiter was $467,500 in May 2020. It is now $650,000, according to Redfin data. 

“The people that will look in Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter… want that country club feel,” said Chad Carroll, an agent with Compass. 

“Admirals Cove is just on fire,” he said, referring to the private Jupiter community that is home to Donald Trump Jr. and Mets pitcher Max Scherzer

In Broward County, brokerages are honing in on Fort Lauderdale and Weston, two very different markets. Fort Lauderdale is the county’s biggest luxury market, with waterfront spec mansions  repeatedly breaking records during the past year. Weston, on the other hand, is an inland suburb with a burgeoning luxury market more appealing to families. 

Fort Lauderdale’s median sale price in May 2020 was $347,500. It is now $550,000, according to Redfin data. The median sale price in Weston is currently $832,500, up 80.7 percent from $460,500 in May 2020. In October, Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert Moiran bought a waterfront Weston mansion for $12.3 million, a price record for the market. 

Despite a recent cooling period, many brokers say the market is still hot in comparison to pre-Covid, and that the reset on pricing for South Florida is here to stay. 

Carroll, who now has a team of 50 agents focused on Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter, noted that brokerages new to these markets have the advantage of working with buyers who are also new. 

“It’s like breaking into any other neighborhood,” he said. “Before you know it, you’ve taken over.”