A Rebound for South Florida Condos?

There may be signs of life yet for the south Florida condo market, so famously battered by unemployment, tight credit, overbuilding in some spots, and other slings and arrows of outrageous economic fortune.

Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Miami–There may be signs of life yet for the south Florida condo market, so famously battered by unemployment, tight credit, overbuilding in some spots, and other slings and arrows of outrageous economic fortune. According to a new report by Bal Harbour, Fla.-based Condo Vultures LLC–a brokerage firm that unsurprisingly specializes on ‘capitalizing on the real estate correction’–buyers took more than 700 condos in the downtown Miami area during the first quarter of 2010, compared with 370 during 1Q09.

The strong buying activity in a market with virtually no financing means that 35 projects out of a total of 82 are now completely sold out, notes the report. An additional 24 projects have successfully sold at least half of their respective units for sale. Only six projects haven’t sold a single unit, according to CondoVultures.

“The condo sales in greater downtown Miami are a function of price,” Peter Zalewski, a principal Condo Vultures, said in a statement. “A year ago, developers and lenders were still asking $300 per square foot for a new condo. Asking prices dipped shortly after that to the $200 per square foot range, triggering a buying frenzy that reduced the overall inventory by 11 percent.”

He added that as inventory in downtown Miami drops even lower–currently it’s 6,600 units–some developers might try for prices in the $300 per square foot range once again. “Time will tell if the new pricing sticks,” he noted.

Elsewhere in southern Florida, reports of condo sales also suggest that the region is attracting buyers now that prices are down. Boca Raton-based Altman Cos., for example, reports that it has sold 44 units in its upscale Fort Lauderdale condo project called Sapphire since the beginning of 2010 for a total of $18 million.

That compares with a long, hard slog for the property from 2006 to the end of 2009, when only 10 units found buyers. The developer tried a variety of incentives during that time, but ultimately low price points–down to as low as the $290,000s from half a million originally–and a modicum of investor optimism seem to have done the trick.

“Not since the height of the market in early 2006 have we seen such a tremendous number of potential buyers,” Joel Altman, developer of the the 172-unit Sapphire, tells MHN. “It just proves that if you have the right product at the right price in a great location, people are interested.”

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