Hotel/condos are all the rage in Miami-Dade -- and for good reason.
For developers, the concept is a no-brainer. During the past few years, lenders have been shy about financing new hotel projects. With hotel/condos, the developers use buyers to finance the deal and developers typically hold onto the hotel's restaurants, front desk and other high-margin services.
The Ritz-Carlton's entry into the hotel/condo segment adds credibility.
"From a developer's standpoint, he's got to be saying, 'we can't lose with this deal,' " says Chase Burritt, a hospitality consultant with Chase Burritt Associates.
Despite the rash of projects, Burritt says demand is outstripping supply. With mortgage rates low and foreign currencies outpacing the dollar, investors see hotel/condo units as a hassle-free opportunity to own Florida real estate. Buyers also like the idea of being able to rent out the unit to offset taxes and maintenance.
The market also has been buoyed by the entry of big-name players, who bring credibility. Among the branded hotel/condos in Miami-Dade: Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and Sonesta. Developers include WCI Communities, Donald Trump and The Falor Cos., which is leading the charge with a string of conversion projects, including such high-profile properties as Coconut Grove's Mayfair House, Coral Gables' Omni Colonnade and the Royal Palm in Miami Beach. Also being converted is Ian Schrager's glitzy Shore Club, whose 245 rooms will sell for between $500,000 and $20 million.
Some tourism officials are pondering the impact of so many hotel rooms going private, especially during peak travel periods like New Year's Eve and Super Bowl week. Last fall, Key West officials addressed a similar concern in that tourism-dependent city by placing a six-month moratorium on hotel-condo conversions.
For all the buzz, Burritt and other analysts say hotel/condo units are risky investments for buyers. There is no track record; few properties have been around long enough to demonstrate likely returns, they say. And buyers who depend on rental income from their unit may be disappointed during a downturn in tourism or an oversupply of hotel rooms. "There's a reason why banks and other lenders don't like the hotel business," says Burritt. "From a buyer's standpoint this is fraught with peril."