Miami residential sales activity is highest in five years: report

Miami's home sales activity is the highest it has been in five years, according to a report from Douglas Elliman Florida.

The number of residential sales jumped by 20.5 percent over the second quarter of last year, to 3,618 single-family and condominium units, according to the second-quarter report, which was prepared by property appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel.

"Unquestionably, the report shows we're heading toward a healthier market," said Vanessa Grout, president of Douglas Elliman Florida. "You can tell that this is a market unlike anything we have ever seen -- and just by seeing all of our pending contracts, I can tell you that it's still strong, and we're looking at probably an unusually high third quarter."

The report shows the median sales price for condos was approximately $144,000 in the second quarter of this year, a 4 percent drop from the same three months in 2010. The median sales price for single-family homes was $204,000, a 2.8 percent dip from second-quarter 2010. Sales in the luxury sector, that is, those over $1.05 million, actually rose by 4.9 percent over the second quarter of 2010.

Grout said the price decreases were a bit misleading. The report broke up inventory into distressed and nondistressed units, and examined the varying ways each segment behaved.

"You can't believe the macro reports that say pricing is down in South Florida," she said, "because it's not that pricing is down. It's that one particular segment of the market is down because we're flushing these [distressed] properties out of the system."

For Miami-Dade County generally, the numbers showed promise.

Numbers released by Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell today show a total of 2,402 units sold in the period from April 11 to June 11 of this year, a 14.3 percent increase over the same two-month period in 2010. Total residential inventory fell by 32.6 percent year-over-year, down to 17,175 units for sale.

As the Elliman report notes, more expensive properties are tending to do better -- with part of the explanation being that there are fewer distressed properties the higher one climbs on the price ladder.

"I think the second quarter was kind of an extension of the first," said Beth Butler, president of One Sotheby's International Realty. "Inventory is dropping in some areas as much as 50 percent from this time last year. What we saw, especially in June, was prices, both closed and active, started ticking up [on the high-end]."

One geographic area that has been particularly strong in the higher end is Miami Beach, which has seen a slew of ultra-high-end home sales, marked by the $19.8 million Maurice Fatio-designed home on Sunset Island that sold this week.

"What I'm seeing is that the high-end houses are selling, and the market is not replenishing itself with more very high-end houses," said Nelson Gonzalez, senior vice president at Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell. "The market is starting to get really, really tightened up. Some people are even raising their prices."

Gonzalez said he did an unoffiical survey of homes at the $20 million-and-over mark in Miami Beach this week and there were just eight on the market as of today. Of those, eight, he said, between three and four were in move-in condition.

"This year, the slower deals that started at the beginning of the year, a lot of them are starting to come together, and that's really what's been happening," he said. "It's mostly stuff that has carried over from the first four to five months of the year."

High-end condo sales in Miami Beach were strong, too, he said, with a host of condos fetching more than $1,000 per square foot, something unseen since 2005. It's all part of a general price jump in the high-end sector.

"Even at the peak, and I gotta tell you -- even at the very peak -- we weren't getting houses selling for $19.8 million and $25.5 million like on Star Island," he said.

July 20, 2011 06:00PM By Alexander Britell