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The Rise and Fall of the House on 96th Street

Hoeflinger family
Michael and Giovanna Hoeflinger, shown here with their two daughters, bought the home late in 2011 for $740,000, 51% less than it sold for at the height of the market five years earlier. [Photo: Brian Smith]

The house at 490 N.E. 96th St. in Miami Shores was built in 1941, not long after the Great Depression that followed the great Florida real estate boom and bust of the 1920s. The story goes that the two-story house was designed for a doctor who wanted his office downstairs and his home upstairs. But that apparently never happened and, instead, it's always been a residence.

The house, built on a double lot, has a pool in the shape of a B, the first initial in the surname of the then-owner. At 3,893 square feet, it's a good size for Miami Shores but not as large as other homes in the area. By the time real estate agent Robert Bourne purchased the house in 2001 for $440,000, it needed work. "It's a beautiful corner lot," Bourne says. "The master suite is gigantic. It turned out to be a good investment. That was right at the beginning."

Miami Shores is a near-in suburb of Miami known for an old-neighborhood feel. Mature trees and well-landscaped yards line the streets. Most owners are year-round residents. Some families have been in the village for generations. A mix of housing styles and sizes accommodates established professionals and young couples.

Hoeflinger house - Pool
The home's previous owner, who estimates he spent $150,000 updating the home, took a $120,000 loss when he sold it to the Hoeflingers. [Photo: Brian Smith]

Bourne fixed up 490 N.E. 96th, lived there a couple of years and sold it for $765,000, according to county records. He represented the buyers, a couple of designers, when they sold it for $1.3 million in 2005. Five months later, as prices soared in the boom, it sold again, for $1.508 million to a doctor-researcher at a Miami skin-medication company. The run-up in price was unremarkable. "That's just what was happening everywhere," Bourne says.

And, like everywhere, it all went downhill from there. The doctor took a new job out of state; real estate agents say his employer or its relocation firm absorbed the hit when the house sold for $860,000 in 2008. The buyer, Perry Gregoriou, chief investment officer at Quorum Investment Counsel in Miami, says, "I thought it was a fair price at the time. We fell in love with the house." He closed just after Bear Stearns collapsed; real estate had more downside to come. He estimates he put $150,000 into the property to bring it up-to-date — new kitchen appliances, a wall around the property, landscaping, a new air-conditioner, a remodeled bathroom, rebuilt front porch, storm windows and a long list of other improvements. Last November, a few months short of four years later, concerned about how long it would take values in the area to recover, he sold for a $120,000 loss. The $740,000 price for the house was down 51% from the high.

Hoeflinger house - Living room
[Photo: Brian Smith]

That's just about par for Miami Shores, says real estate agent Georgee Kluck, who handled the latest sale. "We're down about 50% from the peak," she says. Prices have stabilized and, in some cases, sellers whose houses have up-to-date improvements and features now are getting above appraisal, she says.

The new owners, Michael and Giovanna Hoeflinger, moved from adjacent Biscayne Park. They have two daughters, one 6 years old and the other 16 months, and wanted to move up. They like living in the eastern part of the county, closer to the beach, and there's a Catholic school nearby. "My wife and I just decided if we were going to upsize this was the time," says Hoeflinger, a financial adviser with Foldes Financial Management in Miami. His wife owns Prissy Missy Spa in Weston, a birthday party/day spa for girls. Getting a 30-year fixed loan from TD Bank didn't prove an issue with their excellent credit, nor was selling their home in Biscayne Park. They had three offers when they listed it. "I was surprised," Hoeflinger says.

Hoeflinger house - Dining room
[Photo: Brian Smith]