Agent Insights Property Market Insights

Market Update: A Boom and Bright Future for Real Estate in South Florida

Three top brokerages give us a snapshot of the luxury real estate market in South Florida, including the effects of the pandemic, trends to look out for, and their outlook for 2020 and beyond

The New York Times reports that real estate in South Florida is on an upward swing, with sales of single-family homes in Palm Beach totaling $1.26bn in just the first seven months of 2020 and Miami forecast to be one of the six top-performing prime markets in the world by 2025. And, with hundreds of miles of beaches, a notable arts scene, and 237 days of sunshine a year (32 more than the national average), it’s not hard to see why the area holds such allure.

It’s an appeal that seems only to have increased in recent months, say real estate insiders—including Adrian Reed, broker and owner of Fenton & Lang; Gerard Liguori, broker and owner of Premier Estate Properties, Inc.; and Liz Armstrong, director of luxury sales at Illustrated Properties Real Estate, Inc.

Read on for their insights into the trends in their respective markets, the new initiatives they’ve embraced, and their predictions for what the future may hold.

View over the pool at 14844 Palmwood Road, prime real estate in South Florida
Situated in Palm Beach Gardens, and on the market with Illustrated Properties, this striking home’s swim-up pool creates a dramatic indoor–outdoor connection, seamlessly combining luxury, wellness, and serenity.

Year-on-Year Performance

While much of the U.S. real estate market experienced a freeze during lockdown in March 2020, the temporary halt in activity had very little impact on brokerages’ turnover. All three real estate professionals indicated that they expect to maintain, or even exceed, 2019’s results.

“Starting in late April we began to see people deciding to make a big move—seeking a new primary residence, schools, and jobs in Florida,” explains Reed of Fenton & Lang. It’s a trend that Illustrated Properties has noticed too: “The COVID-19 crisis means that people in the Northeast of the country are accelerating their movement to the South,” Armstrong says. “As a result, our luxury business in South Florida is up more than 40 percent.”

“As of the end of August 2020, we surpassed our 2019 total sales volume of $915m,” Liguori notes of Premier Estate Properties’ year-on-year performance. “We’re currently on track for projected total sales of more than $1.2bn, which equates to approximately a 24 percent increase in turnover.”

A courtyard pool at 9620 Highway A1a in Vero Beach Florida
On the market with Premier Estate Properties, this light-filled, five-bedroom oceanside residence in Vero Beach offers privacy and easy living in abundance.

However, Reed cautions that the increased demand has led to a corresponding shortage in inventory. “We operate on Jupiter Island, a small community, and as sales continued through the summer, options for buyers dwindled. But our clients recognize how important it is to be the first in the know about new listings, and they’ve seen that our firm leads the way in this crucial enterprise time and again.”

Primary Residency

The pandemic has caused a number of new trends to emerge in South Florida’s real estate market and, according to all three brokerages, the increased interest in the region is notable.

“We’ve seen exponentially greater market activity that’s been spurred by high-net-worth individuals wanting to move out of densely populated cities, particularly in the Northeast,” says Liguori. Reed agrees: “Many of our recent buyers, both young and old, are making the move to Florida in order to establish primary residency here. Our local private schools are at or near capacity, many for the first time in their history.”

aerial view of 1060 Bassett Creek, a home in Jupiter Island
This stately Bermuda-style home, available through Fenton & Lang, is situated at the end of an expansive fairway on Jupiter Island, benefiting from spectacular golf course views along with ocean breezes.

Armstrong points out a side effect of this boom in interest: buyers are prepared to move far more quickly than they once might have, choosing to get in early by viewing a potential home remotely—or not at all. “The virtual buyer has entered the South Florida market,” she says, “and they are purchasing homes sight unseen.”

Innovative Approaches

The reduced number of physical viewings, due to regional lockdowns and social distancing measures, have also given rise to a wave of technological innovations. For example, while Fenton & Lang made use of virtual viewings before the pandemic, “now we’ve added extra dimensions to the tours, such as the ability to pivot from almost any angle and view the full spectrum of a room,” Reed says.

Over at Illustrated Properties, Matterport’s 3D home tours are used “to help clients make the right decision when purchasing sight unseen,” says Armstrong, and Premier Estate Properties has adopted a similar approach to virtual viewings. “We’ve implemented the virtual showing components on our website into our concierge client service, along with cinematic estate videos,” Liguori explains.

The pool and main house at 2312 Apaloosa
Designed by architect Roger Janssen, this Palm Beach-style equestrian compound offers a five-bedroom main house and attached guest apartment, as well as two eight-stall barns and seven paddocks. It is on the market with Illustrated Properties.

These changes also extend to the way in which business is now conducted. “We’ve initiated teleconferenced negotiations and e-closings, which have served our clients well during this challenging time,” says Liguori. Meanwhile, Illustrated Properties is using remote online notarization. “So, for all practical purposes, the closing has also gone virtual,” says Armstrong.

Investment Opportunities

Interestingly, all three real estate professionals point to different factors that make for good investments in their respective markets.

For Reed, it’s the unbeatable quality of life offered by Jupiter Island. “Twenty years ago, not many people knew where Jupiter Island was, but word of mouth has spread. Residents have actively solicited friends and neighbors to join them here and the place has filled up, sending values through the roof. Now almost everyone knows about the area, thanks in a large part to our unique lifestyle.”

“Gated communities have become more desirable due to a heightened awareness of safety and security,” Liguori explains of his marketplace. He also believes buying a property to let may be a smart choice, adding that “luxury leases are in high demand due to the market scarcity.”

Even with scarcity of inventory in mind, Armstrong believes that “there are still great opportunities for investment, even in this tight market. The northern Palm Beach market is one of the hottest in the country. Juno Beach is a particular gem, with great oceanfront condos and golf course country club offerings available for investment.”

The Rest of 2020, and Beyond

So, what’s the outlook on real estate for the remainder of this year, and into the next?

Liguori believes that, while there may be some political uncertainty regarding the upcoming presidential election, “Premier Estate Properties brokers are optimistic for a strong finish to 2020, with sales continuing to trend upward—a factor that has been aided by our corporate strategic planning and agent responsiveness.”

View from the garden to the pool and house of 1281 Spaish River Road
Recently sold for $7.5m by Premier Estate Properties, this magnificent home is situated in a gated and walled estate and offers its new owners resort-like living thanks to its patio with spa, pool, cabana, and summer kitchen.

“The wind is in our sails with tremendous momentum to finish strong,” Armstrong says of Illustrated Properties’ year end. “Our current written contracts are up almost double digits from 2019, and that surge has come in the second half of this year. All indicators, such as low interest rates and the increased interest from the north of the country, bode well for our market in 2021.”

Reed’s outlook is a slightly more philosophical one. “Right now, an enormous number of Americans are deciding to completely reorder their lives,” he says. “But while many things may have changed in 2020, it will take time to see which shifts are permanent. For now, the question for many people is simple: ‘Where are we going to spend the winter of 2020–21?’ For the most discerning, the only answer is South Florida.”

Banner image: This property in Westlake Drive, Fort Lauderdale, Florida recently sold for $10.9m through Premier Estate Properties