Florida brokers prepare for rich, cold snowbirds

The rich head to the beach

The icy wind and snow may be making life miserable for northern New Yorkers and Midwesterners, but one group is cheering—Florida real estate brokers.

Brokers say cold weather usually leads wealthy buyers and preretirees to visit Florida more often or to stay longer. That leads to more real estate viewing, which leads to more sales.

In Miami, sales were flat in the first half of 2014 compared to 2013, but average sale prices were up 10 percent, according to the Douglas Elliman real estate brokerage.

Brokers said this winter is shaping up to be stronger, given the calls and emails and showings they're already booking.

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"The more time the snowbirds and the snowflakes spend in Florida, the more they buy," said Senada Adzem, a broker with Douglas Elliman in Boca Raton. "It's very simple. They decide to spend an extra month, or two weeks or even two months, in many occasions, and they realize 'you know what, we want a bit of a better lifestyle. We want a bigger home. We want to go from a dry lot to a beautiful waterfront property,' and they end up buying."

This 60,000 square foot Miami mansion recently hit the market for $139M
Source: William P.D. Pierce

Of course, brokers are promoters. But Florida saw a record year for tourism last year with just under 95 million visitors. And real estate experts say there was a 40 to 60 percent increase in New York buyers last winter, much of that focused along the coast in Miami and Dade counties.

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And aside from better weather and lower taxes, Florida is a bargain.

Prices in Miami Beach are now around $572 per square foot, about half that for Manhattan property. The median sale price for a single family home in Miami is $240,000 compared with the median in New York of $750,000.

Yet it may be wise to wait for a deal in Miami. Rising inventories, especially of condos in and around Miami, are already sending prices down as sellers compete for buyers. Listed inventory jumped 42.7 percent to 10,695 in Miami in the third quarter, and brokers say the number of units available will only go higher as more buildings come on line.