After months of waiting and watching, wealthy buyers are returning to South Florida’s luxury housing market
A couple of days earlier, Miami cosmetic surgeon Dieter Manstein paid $3.8 million for a six-bedroom, eight-bathroom home in
Coral Gables. The house was originally listed for $4.7 million.
In Miami’s Coconut Grove, Carlos Hakim, a biomedical engineer recently got a steep discount when he paid $10.2 million for a house
on South Moorings Way. The property was listed for $14.9 million.
Miami-Dade property records show the five bedroom, five-bathroom house was sold by Gerald Kelfer, vice chairman of Avatar
Holdings, a publicly traded homebuilder based in Coral Gables.
Toni Schrager, an agent with Avatar Real Estate Services, which is not affiliated with Kelfer’s company, marketed the home. She said
lower prices are one of the biggest factors luring buyers back to the market.
Prices for high-end houses in South Florida have declined 30 percent to 40 percent from 2007/2008 levels, brokers say.
“A lot of people were sitting on the sidelines,” Schrager said. “And sellers are now being more realistic in terms of prices.”
Palm Beach County also has seen its share of multimilliondollar sales, including condo deals.
One property that has been active is the new Ritz-Carlton Residences on Singer Island in Riviera Beach. Miami-based Lionheart
Capital and the New York-based investment firm Elliott Management bought the 146 unsold units in the 242-unit project at 2700 N.
Ocean from developer Daniel Catalfumo in June for about $120 million.
Last month, the partners struck a deal to make the property the sixth Ritz-Carlton Residences without a hotel component.
Since the takeover, the oceanfront project has sold 11 units totaling about $18 million in sales, according to Carolyn Ellert of Premier
Sales Group. She is marketing the units in the project.
One purchaser is Ashok Khubani, who runs Ontel Products, a New Jersey-based company that makes TV infomercials pitching
inventors’ products. An entity controlled by Khubani named Ask Florida LLC paid $4.6 million for three units at Ritz-Carlton.
With the latest purchase, Ask Florida, which is owned by Khubani family members, owns nine units in the project.
In the first quarter of this year, Ask Florida bought three units for $1.6 million, $1.75 million and $600,000. In early 2008, the entity
purchased its three first units in the building, when it was still owned by Catalfumo, for prices in the $2 million range.
“We have been talking to buyers all over the world,” said Ellert, who declined to comment on specific buyers.
While the Ritz brand is a key factor in attracting buyers, the recent wave of sales is a sign luxury properties are rebounding,
according to Ellert.
“The luxury market in general had stalled for some period,” she said. “The recent sales are definitely a good sign.”
This month alone, there were five condo sales in Palm Beach County worth $2 million or more, and 25 houses over $2 million sold.
In Miami-Dade 10 houses and 15 condominiums priced at $2 million or more sold in December.
Broward County, which typically has fewer high-end sales, didn’t do as well. Only two houses over $2 million sold in December.
Much of thejump in activity in Miami-Dade comes from condo deals, according to Ron Shuffield, president of Esslinger Wooten
Maxwell in Miami. Sales of condos priced at $2 million or more rose 33 percent in the past six months, compared to the same period
of 2009, he said.
Shuffield attributed the increase in condo sales to the influx of foreign buyers — including Canadians and Brazilians — who want to
take advantage of bargain prices and a weak dollar. “They prefer condos because it’s easy to maintain,” he said.
Broker James Basilio of BasLer International Realty in Miami said he has seen an increased interest from foreign buyers, especially
Brazilian politicians and celebrities seeking vacation properties.
“There are a lot of good deals right now,” he said. “There are homes listed for $12 million being negotiated for $6 million.”
The lower prices and the resulting increase in sales also have cut the inventory ofluxury properties listed for sale. In November,
there were 592 homes priced at $2 million or more for sale, a 22 percent drop from 756 in the same month a year earlier, according
to data compiled by Shuffield.
There were 466 condos price at $2 million or more for sale last month, a 26 decrease from 627 a year earlier.
Despite tighter inventory, prices have not started to increase, and the sales activity generated by the lower prices is expected to
continue throughout 2011, said Beth Butler, president of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty.
“The activity will certainly continue in 2011,” Butler said. “Since the height ofthe market, the news was so bad for so long that
people were sort of frozen in place. But they are more confident and ready to make deals again.”
AT A GLANCE
Selected December luxury house and condo sales in South Florida
Property Price Buyer
3301 S. Moorings Way $10.2 million Carlos Hakim
2700 North Ocean, Singer Island $4.6 million Ashok Khubani
287 Carabella Court Coral Gables $3.8 million Dieter Manstein
2812 N.AtIantic Blvd., Fort Lauderdale $3.6 million Greg Wells
2500 S.Ocean Blvd., Unit 702, Boca Raton $3.5 million Barbara Sabatino
3535 S.Ocean Drive, Unit 2603, Hollywood $2.65 million Jitendra and Sunita Saxena