As the Magic City's real estate landscape continues to evolve, the city's top brokers spotlight some of the most extraordinary properties.
It’s no secret that Miami real estate is hot, hot, hot. Buyers from the United States and around the world are still flocking here to purchase single-family homes and condominiums for both primary residences and vacation homes. But what’s selling, and who’s selling it? Are there any parts of Miami that are selling better than others? And what strategies are brokers exercising successfully? Ocean Drive spoke with some of the area’s top brokers to answer these questions and more.
The Market is Evolving
Few brokers will deny that the real estate market has slowed as it returns to a balanced state. While everyone agrees this is normal and nothing to be concerned about, there’s no question that the market is facing new challenges.
“We’ve had an influx of new inventory,” says Ann Nortmann, a senior project director for Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Miami Beach. “We are also dependent on the international markets, especially in the summer months, and because of currency issues with many other countries, we have not had the international investment that we would normally get in those months.”
Nortmann says properties are staying on the market longer than in the past, giving buyers more bargaining power, but prices have remained steady.
Cash is King
Even with prices steadfast, cash sales in the Miami market spiked by 11 percent in November 2015 from the previous month, and 4.7 percent year over year, according to data firm RealtyTrac. One factor driving this upswing is flight capital.
Just ask Dora Puig, broker/owner of Luxe Living Realty in Miami Beach, who says 90 percent of her deals are done in cash. Of course she focuses on the super-luxury market, where cash deals are everyday currency.
Even so, mortgages are making a comeback, says Eddy Martinez, CEO of Worldwide Properties in Miami Beach, who is seeing an uptick in clients opting for monthly payments—although many still pay half the purchase price in cash. “They’re making substantial down payments,” he adds.
Americans are Back in Force
The Miami market has always been driven by international buyers. Today, however, Americans are an increasingly important part of the buyer pool. Puig, for example, verifies that most of her sales are to Americans. “They’re coming from Northeast markets and from California,” she says, citing specifically buyers from Ohio, New York, Chicago, and New Jersey, all of whom want to own a piece of paradise.
“Many of the foreign buyers are absent since their currencies suffered a devaluation of approximately 30 percent,” says Ines Flax, a master broker with One Sotheby’s International Realtyin Miami Beach.
For Jill Eber, one half of “The Jills” at Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Miami Beach, her clients include “a lot of locals, good interest from the US, and there are always new entrants into the market, from CEOs, celebrity athletes, and celebrities to successful hedge fund managers.”
Warm weather and beaches aside, countless Americans, particularly those from the Northeast, are flocking to Miami for tax purposes, living here just long enough to establish a domicile in Florida. “It’s advantageous for these guys, especially the New York hedge fund guys who are making $50 or $100 million per year, to come down here for income tax purposes,” says Nelson Gonzalez, a senior vice president at EWM Realty International in Miami Beach. “They buy a $20 million house or condo, and it literally pays for itself with the tax savings within two to five years.”
...But the International Buyers Remain A Strong Force
Even with international traffic slower than in the past, buyers are still coming, says Sandra Chartouni, director of sales for Jade Signature. “The difference between these buyers and those in the last cycle is that current international buyers are end users, not purchasing for investment.”
Daniel de la Vega, president of One Sotheby’s International Realty, adds that while there has been a significant slowdown in Latin American buyers, he expects their numbers to increase once some of the political and currency instability settles down. He says One Sotheby’s is also seeing a lot of buyers from the North East and Canada. “Canada will be a prolific market in 2016.”
According to Miami’s Cervera Real Estate managing partner Alicia Cervera-Lamadrid, however, international buyers still play a “huge role” in the Miami market in spite of the dollar’s strength. “In South America, they are very used to currency fluctuations,” she notes. “Many of our clients have dollars in the United States already, so it doesn’t stop their investment in the United States—it just makes them reassess the way they pay for those investments.”
So What's Selling?
The brokers we spoke with reported that some product types are more popular with buyers than others—as well as certain locations.
Primarily, everyone wants waterfront. Darin J. Feldman, owner of Insignia International Properties in Miami, says that waterfront single-family trophy properties are selling well. Those not on the water are sitting and taking longer, he adds, giving buyers more opportunities. And don’t discount the move-in-ready properties, especially for those who are new in town. Darin Tansey, director of luxury sales for Douglas Elliman Real Estate, says many of his clients are looking for turnkey properties. “People don’t want to deal with finishing apartments off, waiting six months, and dealing with permits,” he says.
Ann Nortmann’s roster of buyers are seeking larger units, and developers are responding with full- and half-floor condominiums. “South Beach used to be a place for retirees with efficiencies,” she says. “Now it’s become a playground for billionaires.”
Lastly, it’s all about location, location, location—and downtown is in demand. Peggy Fucci, CEO of OneWorld Properties in Miami, finds that buyers are increasingly drawn to the urban core. “They don’t want to get in their cars,” she says. “They want places they can walk to, grab a bite, or shop.”
Successful Selling Strategies
So in a market that’s evolving, what strategies are brokers using successfully to move their listings? While some dealers wouldn’t disclose their tricks of the trade, others offered insight into a Miami market booming with innovation, starting with virtual tours that are Hollywood-worthy productions, complete with musical scores and aerial images from drones.
Sandra Chartouni shows her prospects a film that depicts a day in the life of a resident at Jade Signature. “It’s more than a tour,” she says. “It’s focused on the lifestyle. There’s a lot of really beautiful existing buildings that everyone is competing with, and you need to set yourself apart.”
Concierge service is also top on the agenda. Chartouni created a one-stop shop in the 10,000-square-foot sales office at Jade Signature where potential buyers can enjoy butler service as they tour the model unit, and those who purchase are offered assistance with choosing finishes, accessories, and even referral to a general contractor.
Lourdes J. Gutierrez, an agent with EWM Realty International in Coral Gables, helps her clients secure a decorator, buy a car, or pick furniture—even find a housekeeper. Nancy Batchelor, an agent with EWM in Miami Beach, takes clients on a tour on her 35-foot boat. “Houses look completely different from the water,” she says. “We try to get people excited about why you want to live here, and you realize when you get on the water that there’s no place like this.”
Then there are also the nice touches, aka going the extra mile. Eddy Martinez hosts elaborate luncheons—sushi and Champagne, for example—and invites other brokers to preview his properties. “It gets the broker community excited, and then they bring their buyers,” says Martinez, who sold two homes in December by hosting sushi luncheons.
The top brokers in any location are experienced enough to adapt to market conditions—good or bad—but despite its ups and downs, the Magic City remains a magical place, one that offers residents a tropical lifestyle combined with world-class dining, shopping, and cultural opportunities. “Miami and the Beaches have a constantly changing market,” says Insignia International’s Feldman. “There are opportunities at each stage in the market. You just have to know how to make the market work for you.”
This article originally appeared in Ocean Drive Magazine