Trump's visits to Mar-a-Lago may be hurting Palm Beach real estate

Key Points

• Fewer homes were sold in Palm Beach during the first quarter, and prices also fell

• The declines stand in contrast to strengthening results in nearby communities

• Disruptions in the community appear to be driving buyers away, local brokers say

President Trump's Mar-a-Lago visits hurt area real estate

President Donald Trump's frequent visits to Mar-a-Lago may be good for his golf club — but they could also be hurting real estate sales nearby.

Only 22 homes were sold in Palm Beach during the first quarter, an 8 percent drop over the prior year, according to a report from Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman. Average sales prices fell 15 percent and the supply of homes on the market is now longer than two years. That's up from 20 months last year.

Prices in Palm Beach are still among the highest in the country. The average sale price for a home there was $6.7 million in the first quarter. But that was down from $7.9 million last year. The median sale price was also down, by 13 percent.

The declines stand in contrast to strengthening results in nearby communities Manalapan, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach.

Brokers and homeowners in Palm Beach say Trump's seven visits to Mar-a-Lago, aka "The Winter White House," since he took office in January have made it more difficult to sell multi-million-dollar mansions there.

They say the road closures, traffic jams, legions of heavily armed security guards, and presence of journalists and gawkers has disrupted the island's otherwise refined pace of life.

"A lot of my clients are complaining about the traffic nightmares and intimidating presence of security," said Senada Adzem, a luxury broker in southern Florida.

Adzem, who once worked for Trump and praised him throughout the campaign, said she doesn't fault Trump for traveling to Palm Beach. But the disruptions are causing buyers to look in nearby Manalapan and Boca instead, she said. She was recently with one client having dinner overlooking the water when an armed gunboat motored by.

"It's hard to enjoy a nice rosé with a gunboat passing by," she joked.

Just to the south, Manalapan is seeing some very strong sales at Palm Beach-like prices. A home owned by Patron CEO Ed Brown sold for $40 million, while another waterfront property sold for $22 million.

"Manalapan is benefiting from Palm Beach's issues," Adzem said.

The rest of southern Florida is seeing more stable prices and sales after a decline last year. The average sale price in Miami Beach and the Barrier Islands rose 10 percent over last year, to $999,241, while the number of sales was roughly flat.

The average sales price of a luxury condo jumped 33 percent in Miami Beach, to $4.2 million, and the number of sales inched up 1 percent. But some high-end communities saw huge price jumps as new developments came onto the market. In Bal Harbour, the average sale price for a condo more than doubled, to $2.4 million.

Like many luxury markets, south Florida is leveling off after declines last year, said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel.

"After the market reset in 2016, the first quarter results suggest more stable conditions," he said. "We are seeing sales rise in some of the markets."

Yet sales volume remains weak throughout Miami and parts of southern Florida as sellers refuse to lower prices in keeping with growing supply.

"The deals getting done are with sellers who willing to adjust to the market," Adzem said. "I think more sellers are starting to capitulate. But it's been a standoff between sellers refusing to lower prices and buyers waiting for deals. The buyers are out there, but only at the right price."

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