Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Florida housing trends may be an early-market barometer

December 22, 2014

Florida is a real estate junkie's kind of place. What happens in its macro- and micro-markets always bears watching, whether as some kind of economic barometer or as a locus of sheer real estate kinkiness. A few recent observations:

Don't look now, but they're camping out overnight again to get first dibs on new developments, just like they did in the run-up to the bubble that the Florida real estate market so famously inflated. This time, at least half a dozen would-be buyers brought their lawn chairs and parked themselves on a sidewalk for a couple of days (and cool nights) to reserve units in an as-yet unbuilt condo building in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, which is owned by Tribune Publishing. Prices for the apartments, according to the newspaper, will range from $500,000 to more than $1 million.

The last one out should turn off the lights. The housing-research firm RealtyTrac says Orlando, Fla., is primed to see the horde of investors who bought up houses during the downturn start heading for the exits. They've made their profits, according to the researchers, who calculated that the investment properties' values increased by 23 percent since January 2012. Price increases in that market are beginning to slow, suggesting that a sell-off may be coming, particularly from the so-called institutional investors who bought foreclosures by the dozens — even by the hundreds — when prices were ebbing. (In addition, RealtyTrac suggested that institutional investors soon may be similarly heading for the doors in Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and in Jacksonville and Brevard County, Fla.)

Separately, the Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper, reported that the local inventory of houses for sale there swelled in November to the highest level in nearly four years.

The action isn't all in for-purchase housing — rents are getting steamier, too. In downtown Miami, for example, lease rates jumped 6 percent in the first nine months of 2014, according to a study by Integra Realty Resources. Downtown, one-bedroom condos were leasing for an average of $2,054 per month or $2.50 per square foot; conventional one-bedroom apartment leases averaged $1,605 per month or $1.86 per square foot, according to the Miami Herald. Such rental hikes might not be sustainable, though, because construction cranes (regarded by some as the state bird) are busy building apartments throughout South Florida. The Miami Downtown Development Authority said about 2,300 new apartment units are set to be completed in the next two years, doubling the inventory of professionally managed buildings, according to the Herald.


The trade group analyzed population trends, housing affordability and local economic conditions in metro areas around the country and came up with 15 spots most likely to see an influx of "leading-edge" boomers, ages 60-69. And Florida claimed four of them.

In alphabetical order, the top spots were: Albuquerque, N.M.; Boise, Idaho; Denver; Fort Myers, Fla.; Greenville, N.C.; Orlando; Phoenix; Raleigh, N.C.; Sarasota, Fla.,; and Tucson, Ariz. Other markets making a strong showing included Chattanooga, Tenn.; Dallas; McAllen, Texas; Riverside, Calif.; and Tampa, Fla.
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