Israelis, Venezuelans buy condos as homes, investments
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Many of the international buyers scooping up condos in South Florida's top bayfront communities are buying to occupy part-time, brokers say, but many would consider a future sale at a profit.
Where these buyers decide to purchase depends in part to the condominium's location, as some are more attracted to beachfront enclaves like Miami Beach, Sunny Isles Beach and Aventura while others want to be in the center of the action and opt for condos in greater Downtown in areas such as Omni, Brickell and downtown.
At the 66-floor Marquis Residences, one of Miami's tallest buildings at 1100 Biscayne Blvd., many of the foreign buyers are from Brazil, Venezuela, Israel and Italy, said Wendy Marks Pine, sales director for Cervera Real Estate, which handles its sales.
For many of these buyers, she said, "their currency has increased in value, offering great opportunities for them to buy in the Miami market."
For example, "we are seeing a heavy influx of Venezuelan buyers who have been able to allocate funds into US dollars" and are buying condos, Ms. Marks Pine said. "The challenge for those who are in Venezuela is taking the currency out of Venezuela to buy."
Along the Biscayne Boulevard corridor, the cluster of performing arts venues, the neighboring art and design districts, the American Airlines Arena and the many restaurants that have sprung up are attracting Israeli buyers to Marquis, many of whom previously owned residences in North Miami Beach and other areas, said Penni Chasens, a Cervera sales associate.
"Miami is so multicultural it has something for everybody," she said.
About 50% of foreigners are buying in cash and the rest are using a seller financing program Marquis offers, Ms. Marks Pine said, "allocated specifically for buyers who are coming in and need to finance. It's unique to this building. Most buildings don't offer that type of financing, so it's an opportunity to get buyers here."
The 292-unit Marquis has about 200 condos left for sale, with 92 sold or awaiting closing, she said. Lofts and two- and three-bedroom units are selling at discounted prices that range from the $400,000s to $3 million.
"It's a combination of original buyers who closed on residences and new buyers who capitalized on opportunities with the 40% price reduction," she said.
Edgardo Defortuna, president of Fortune International Realty, said at the luxury condominiums he represents, many foreigners are buying for their own use "because they love the product and think it's a great value."
Oceanfront residential towers such as Jade Ocean and Jade Beach in Sunny Isles Beach and ArTech in Aventura are being sold to many Latin Americans and Europeans.
For example at ArTech, where Fortune has 50 units left to sell, buyers are mostly Jewish Latin Americans and locals, Mr. Defortuna said.
At Icon Brickell's Towers 1 and 2, Fortune has sold 170 units, of which about 75% have been sold to international buyers, he said. The same at Jade, home to buyers from 22 nationalities, where foreigners represent 70% of buyers.
JuliŠn La Madrid, a Spanish-born developer based in Guatemala, bought a three-bedroom unit at Icon Brickell's Tower 2 because he liked the property's design and its location.
At first, he was debating whether to buy in Miami Beach or Brickell, but he opted for a bayfront unit on the tower's 35th floor because he liked Brickell's work-and-play lifestyle.
Mr. La Madrid, who develops office buildings and shopping centers in Guatemala, said he also saw value in the area's fast development, as he foresees more retail and restaurants opening up in the future.
"The apartment is for me to use as a second residence, to live between Guatemala and Miami," he said. "It's not focused on investment, but I don't discard that in the future it could become an investment."
Brazilians represent another strong buyer segment right now, followed by Argentines and Venezuelans, Mr. Defortuna said. He added that among the reasons for the latter groups to invest here is safety concerns and political problems affecting those countries.
"The economy in Brazil is doing really well. In Argentina, the economy is also doing well, but they are concerned with the safety situation," he said. "In Venezuela, the politician turmoil and the concern it could get worse has made a lot of Venezuelans have some safety net here in the US, and Miami is the perfect place."
About 62% of foreign buyers purchase condos, 21% single-family homes and another 10% townhomes, according to an international sales survey conducted by the Miami Realtors based on transactions in Miami-Dade from April 2009 to April 2010.
These international buyers are helping condo sales stay strong.
While the re-sales of single-family homes in Miami-Dade dropped 8% in July, condo re-sales rose 43% this July from July 2009 and by 112% from two years ago, according to the realtor association and Southeast Florida Multiple Listing Service.
Many buying today plan to use the condos as a vacation or second home, but some don't discard selling them at a profit some day.
But Mr. Defortuna described these as "solid" investors because more than 70% are paying cash.
"The investors who we saw in the good old days of the boom planned to sell or finance the rest of their purchase because they didn't have the cash to pay upfront," he said. "Also, the ability to rent the unit. If the price is right, the unit gets rented in a short period of time that makes it attractive."