Updated 11 months ago
This time, however, the buyers are swarming in from the south. While low interest rates and a fickle stock market are certainly factors in the condo frenzy, real estate experts say Latin American buyers, many with relatives and business ties in Miami, are driving the boom.
As many as 25,000 condo units are planned or under construction countywide -- some 16,000 in downtown Miami alone. Roughly half of all new sales, experts say, are coming from Latin America, with some buyers grabbing units in bulk, often sight unseen.
"It seems there is a new property opening each week," says Philip Spiegelman, president of International Sales Group (ISG), an Aventura firm specializing in high-end condo sales. "Without the Latin money, much of it wouldn't be here."
Firms such as ISG are creating a pipeline of buyers from Bogota, Caracas, Mexico City and other Latin capitals, where networks of brokers hawk Miami properties. Every few months ISG flies in teams of Latin brokers for wining and dining and motivational sales seminars.
The payoff is clear: In the first phase of sales at the massive Biscayne Landing project in north Miami-Dade, for example, Latin Americans snapped up more than 50% of the units sold. In downtown Miami, Spiegelman says, nearly 80% of the 60-story Marina Blue tower sold within the first four weeks of preconstruction sales, with 60% going to Latin buyers.
Some analysts fear that the condo boom could bust if speculators push demand and inflate prices. But real estate consultant Michael Y. Cannon of Miami's Integra Realty Resources isn't worried, noting a strong resale market and a growing population. Cannon is more concerned about the credentials of some developers. Just about everyone with building experience, he notes, is breaking ground on a high-rise.
How long will the boom last? Cannon says the condo market here is inversely tied to economic and political conditions south of the border: "When things are bad down there, it's good for us in Miami."
Spiegelman agrees. "The joke around here is that every time (Venezuelan President) Hugo Chavez opens his mouth, we sell more condos. He should be our salesman of the year."
IN THE NEWS
Coral Gables -- Despite the loss of $2 million in federal funding, the University of Miami's Dante B. Fascell North-South Center expects to reopen under an agreement with the Rand Corp., a California-based think tank. The 20-year-old North-South Center focuses on research and analysis of Latin American and Caribbean issues.
Key West -- The FBI arrested former Monroe County Mayor Jack London for allegedly lying to federal agents investigating a vote-selling scheme involving a controversial development in Marathon. London was arrested at Key West International Airport, where FBI agents say he was departing for Ireland.
Miami -- The U.S. Conference of Mayors has selected Miami for its 2008 annual meeting. The June event, which is expected to attract about 1,500 visitors, will be held at the Hotel Intercontinental in downtown Miami.
Downtown Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena will be the site of the 20th MTV Video Music Awards this August. MTV executives say the event will be telecast to a global audience of close to 1 billion. Meanwhile, county officials say that the Latin Grammy Awards will not return to Miami this year.
Miami-Dade -- American Sales and Management, a company that provides ground support services to the airline industry, has announced it will expand its Miami operation, adding 300 employees to its present workforce of more than 900. The 10-year-old company received the top award in the aviation category of the Beacon Council's 2004 Beacon Awards.
Appliance-maker Applica (NYSE-APN), which cut its global workforce 25% last fall, will move its headquarters from Miami Lakes to Miramar in south Broward County in what executives describe as a cost-cutting measure. The move should be complete by October. The company will occupy space vacated by Kellstrom Industries. Applica's present Miami Lakes facility will be sold, executives say.
Responding to the growing Hispanic consumer market in the U.S., Latin America's largest food expo -- FISPAL Food -- will come to Florida for the first time next year. FISPAL Miami, featuring more than 300 Latin American exhibitors, will take place May 4-6, 2005, at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Miami-Dade has opened its newest school, the $57-million Ferguson Senior High School, in the fast-growing southwestern edges of the county. The school's planned capacity is 2,800, but some fear it may one day hold well more than 4,000, as do two neighboring schools.
Opa-Locka -- Powerboat maker Cigarette Racing Team, founded in Miami more than 30 years ago, will move its manufacturing facility from the famed "Thunderboat Row" area of northwest Miami-Dade to the site of the former Mako Marine plant here. The company expects to add 15 employees to its staff of 108. Mako Marine moved its facility to North Carolina a year ago.
MIAMI -- Chicago-based Falor Cos. plans to buy Coconut Grove's Mayfair Hotel and convert its 179 rooms into condo/hotel units. When it opened in 1984, the Mayfair Hotel was unrivaled as the accommodation of choice for visiting celebrities and the business elite, but it now faces stiff competition from a slew of high-end properties throughout Miami-Dade.