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Front Page » Top Stories » Commuting Frustrations Fuel Changes In South Floridas Real Estate Markets

Commuting Frustrations Fuel Changes In South Floridas Real Estate Markets

Written by on January 9, 2003

Frustrations over long and hectic daily commutes are one of the driving forces of change in Miami-Dade County’s residential real estate market.

So said several agents, including Deborah Valledor, chairwoman of the Realtor Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches – which boasts 7,000 members – and a partner/owner of The Team Advantage Realtors in Coral Gables. She sees this latest trend in local residential real estate stemming from buyers seeking homes in the "urban cores" such as central Coral Gables, downtown Miami and Brickell area.

"They are coming from suburbia, from Kendall down south to Broward. Those who work in downtown Miami want to reduce the commute. The increase of their quality of life is tremendous," Ms Valledor said. "I try to find out the motivation for a house with no closet space, small square footage and small yard. When I say ‘Why are you moving?’ they tell me ‘I can’t take the commute anymore.’"

"People are moving from way west Kendall or Broward because they choose to be closer to work," echoed Charlette Seidel, managing broker for Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in its Coral Gables office. "It’s a big factor when driving to work can take two hours out of the day or more."

Most are seeking single-family houses and have turned to the county’s older neighborhoods. Two-bedroom, one-bath homes in original condition can sell in the ballpark of $200,000 to $350,000 and $450,000, she said and few rentals exist among single-family homes.

"The older neighborhoods tend to have that neighborhood feeling that many people have said has been lost in suburbia," said Ms. Valledor. "People are flocking to these established area that years ago people shunned. Even small lots, people are killing for them right now."

Very popular are the sturdy houses built in the 1940s and 1950s that contain a "true craftsmanship, built to last" that has been forsaken, she said, from wood floors to plaster walls instead of sheet rock.

" ‘Give me an old home anytime, any day,’ my buyers are saying," she said. "New house, you can hear through the walls. In the older ones, you can bang on the walls and not hear a thing."

In the downtown Miami-Brickell Avenue area, market cycles are clicking to turn residential real estate into a powerful market.

Statistics from Miami’s Downtown Development Authority show heavy residential influx to the center city, according to Adam Lukin, project manager.

Back in the 1980s, planners predicted a business boom downtown; instead came people. Since 1995, about 17,000 residential units have either been built, are under construction or are in the pipeline, according to Mr. Lukin. That would total about 30,000 new residents.

Scores of Brickell area developments – many mixed-use projects combining shops and offices with apartments and condos – are under way or ready to break ground, from the Four Seasons Hotel and The Jade to the Espirito Santo Plaza and Mary Brickell Village. Interest in the Coral Way corridor is also "phenomenal," said Ms. Valledor.

Ms. Seidel sees major projects under construction around Dadeland Mall, Brickell, downtown Miami and along Miracle Mile and Douglas Road in Coral Gables.

"Right now, we’re seeing more inventory," she said.

Other hot spots include Coconut Grove, with its urban mix of shops and restaurants, and Pinecrest, for its trees, green space and new construction, she said.

Surges of South Americans also add to the pool of people looking to live in or near the Magic City, said Ms. Seidel

And a great number of current residents are downsizing from a big house to a townhouse or condo, she said.

"Once the kids are gone, couples want to travel and have more leisure time and less responsibility."

Condos are also popular, especially for those who spend most of their time at work and aren’t looking to maintain a house, much less renovate one. Apartment buyers are often young professionals who travel and work late and would rather have access to a gym than a back yard, Ms. Seidel said.

"There are a lot of condos in the $200,000 and $ 300,000 range," she said.

But with interest rates at 5.7%, Ms. Seidel sees more activity in home ownership.

"Over the weekend all of our open houses were full. It was non-stop. We had people an hour to two hours past closing," Ms. Seidel said. "People want to own a home."

"If you have to pay rent, you might as well buy," said Liza Mendez, the president and principal broker for Pedro Realty International in Miami Lakes, who is also president of the Realtor Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches residential board of directors.

The area of the county greatly affects the price tag.

Single-family, three-bedroom/two-bath houses in Hialeah cost $160,000 to $180,000; condos can’t be found under $100,000 in Miami Lakes, Ms. Mendez said.

"Everybody wants a single-family home under $130,000," Ms. Mendez said. "Well, you got to dig for that. Go further south to Homestead or in the urban area east of I-95."

The appeal of Miami, she said, is its diverse housing market.

"Do you want a big mansion on the beach? You can get it. Want a farm? You can still go out and find an area with horses."

The key is a willingness to make trade-offs, whether it’s paying more or moving into a fixer-upper or finding out you’ll need to drive a greater distance to work, Ms. Mendez said. She recently sold a house at $80,000 that had great potential but needed serious renovations.

Ms. Mendez added that "flipping properties" is very popular right now, although it’s not necessarily a "buyer’s market."

"You’ve got to buy right and sell right," she said.

"It’s going to be interesting," said Ms. Mendez. "We won’t really know how it all turns out until the first quarter of this year."

Ms. Mendez said she’s "cautiously optimistic" about the current trend.

"Is there a perceived bubble? Can it slow down?" she said. "The jury is still out on that one."