“Although [South Florida is] a long way from China, we have become very trendy, and we’re on the trendy map,” Realtor Jeanne Nicastri said.
But don’t call it a boom. In contrast with the mansion-buying frenzy that peaked in 2008, shoppers this time around are driving hard bargains.
Palm Beach County had 517 sales of houses and condos for $1 million or more in the first nine months of 2010, up 13 percent from 457 transactions during the same period in 2009, according to the county property appraiser.
The construction crane has returned to the city’s skyline with an Argentine company’s new condo tower. Foreign developers — and projects backed by foreign investors — have emerged in force [“Foreign-Backed Projects,” page 44], and more may be in the offing.
“There are a lot that have invested — and it’s not even public — that are of equal financial strength and stature as Genting and Swire,” says a land-use attorney for those two firms, former Miami Beach Mayor Neisen Kasdin, managing shareholder for Akerman Senterfitt’s Miami office.
“This is completely different in quality and quantity and depth and staying power than anything we’ve ever seen before, and it bodes very well for us,” says Kasdin. “It’s a recognition that Miami has arrived as a major global gateway city.”
Cash-rich Brazilians are leading a revival in South Florida real estate – one of the markets hit hardest by the US property crash – underlining the diverging fortunes of the two largest economies in the Americas.
Brazilians, along with other Latin Americans and Canadians, have driven up prices of condominiums in the popular coastal neighbourhoods of Miami by an estimated 50 per cent from their lows in 2009, according to Condo Vultures, a Miami real estate consultancy.
One welcome feature of the boom is that Brazilians are paying in cash for 85 per cent of their properties, according to the US National Association of Realtors. Developers have responded by unveiling projects in Miami for the first time since the crisis.
“Right now everything’s all about Brazil,” says Peter Zalewski, principal of Condo Vultures, which tracks supply. “Brazilians are rock stars in Miami right now.”
Miami and other parts of Florida have for years attracted investment from abroad – from Latin America in particular. Along with the property markets of Texas, Arizona, New York and California, the Florida real estate market has tended to benefit from foreign investment during US downturns.