Miami's $1 million-plus housing sales on rise
By Patricia Hoyos
Despite concern over more than half of all Miami-Dade residential sales still being distressed properties, condos and single-family homes priced over $1 million are selling heavily thanks to attractive prices, low interest and an improving economy, realtors agree.
"We had a great January of pending sales in Miami-Dade and Broward," said Ron Shuffield, Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors president. "We wrote 48 contracts [of more than $1 million] between those two counties during the month of January, which is quite a few more than we're accustomed to writing."
Last year, the firm had 324 sales over $1 million, he said, up from 2010.
"Everyone has recognized that the values have probably seen their low point," he said, "and they're trying to make the best deals that they can before the values have a chance to start making their way back up again."
"We're still sensitive to the fact that we have a lot of distressed properties on the sidelines, so that keeps pressure on pricing for now," he added.
Still, he said, he expects prices to inch up this year as inventory is absorbed.
"Our business is all about supply and demand," he said. "It's inevitable that this year we are going to see prices increase."
Tere Bernace, broker and co-owner of Shelton & Stewart Realtors, said her company's activity has increased markedly from a mix of local, foreign and Northeastern buyers in million-dollar-plus residences, particularly in waterfront locations and gated communities.
Many Northeasterners from areas like New York continue to view Miami as ideal for a second home, Mr. Shuffield said.
Ms. Bernace, a Master Brokers Forum director, said, "Early last year not much had sold over $3 million, and then at the middle of last year we had a number of sales over $3.5 million."
Majestic Properties founder and CEO Jeff Morr also has noticed Miami Beach, the Biscayne corridor and Miami's urban centers as some of the strongest markets in the county.
He said the entire market has dramatically improved, particularly the high end, with Majestic's sales over $1 million about double from this time last year, which he considered a good year.
"This is a complete recovery of the real estate market," he said. "We are not in a real estate recession anymore."
In some areas, prices have recovered beyond normal levels, he said. Even so, he said, Miami Beach offers better property values than Rio de Janeiro.
Mr. Morr credits banks beginning to lend again and continued interest from abroad, especially Brazilians and Venezuelans, for the rebound.
The market has picked up in part because people are feeling more confident in the economy, said Helen Jeanne Nicastri, realtor with Coldwell Banker and Master Brokers Forum chairwoman.
"There's a tremendous amount of activity," she said. "There's a lot of houses that have gone pending."
While 55% of all sales are of distressed properties, Mr. Shuffield said, that percentage is lower at the high end. The fact that construction is resuming is also a good sign, he said.
"We've had a perfect storm," Ms. Nicastri said, "and we're coming out of it."
To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e -Miami Today, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.