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Monday, June 11, 2007

High-rises, high hopes

High-rises, high hopes

BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI AND MATTHEW HAGGMAN

aviglucci@herald.com

 

COURTESY OF THE TERRA GROUP

BIG PLANS: In 2005, this rendering of the condo tower was envisioned for the area behind the historic Freedom Tower.

In downtown, from Brickell Avenue north to the Edgewater neighborhood, up the Miami River and down historic Coral Way, great chunks of Old Miami are fast disappearing in a cloud of dust. In its place, the New Miami -- a dense, steel-and-glass forest of condo towers -- is rising from the rubble.

 

The scope, scale and speed of the transformation are breathtaking. More than 114 major projects, most of them high-rise condos, are under construction or in the planning stages in the urban core along Biscayne Bay.

 

Citywide, developers are proposing more than 61,000 new condominium units -- eight times the number built during the past decade.

 

The projects encompass the tallest skyscraper in Florida, a 74-story spire higher than any residential building south of Manhattan, almost four million square feet of new retail space (nearly as much as two Aventura Malls) and parking for more than 100,000 cars.

 

''You have a wave of development underway here in Miami that is unprecedented, bigger than anything, bigger than Hong Kong in the boom years of development,'' said former Portland, Ore., councilman Charles Hales, a transportation consultant working on a plan for a Miami streetcar line.

 

Not since the post-World War II housing boom that multiplied Miami-Dade County's population fivefold, to more than one million people, has the region experienced anything comparable. But that took almost 20 years.

 

''We are building an instant city; what should take 15 years will take three,'' said Michael Cannon, a Miami real-estate analyst. The boom struck suddenly, unexpectedly, first a trickle of projects, then a torrent. Cash has poured in from Latin America, New York and, increasingly, Europe, the result of converging market forces -- slashed interest rates, a cheap dollar -- and a worldwide infatuation with Miami among the chic and moneyed.

 

It all amounts to a multibillion-dollar gamble, outdoing in risk and bravado the 1920s boom that made Miami a modern city: That given waterfront location, a sunny climate and a hip, international culture, intensive downtown residential development can catapult Miami into the first rank of world cities.

 

Elected officials, in particular Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton, are counting on the boom to reverse downtown's long decline, to turn its seedy blocks and outlying neighborhoods into a scintillating, working urban hub with a vibrant street life.

 

''Just five years ago we were broke; we had zero development,'' Winton said. ``I'm going to bet you that when we're done -- I don't know when that will be -- historians will identify this as the most significant and rapid transformation of an American city.''

 

What precisely will the boom deliver? It's too soon to tell, experts say.

 

But this convulsion of development is already remaking not just Miami's skyline, but its streets and neighborhoods and likely its population, too.

 

If it stays on track, the boom promises a fundamentally different Miami -- more urban and congested, but also more cosmopolitan and, given the high prices the condos command, probably wealthier.

 

It also raises serious concerns. In the absence of a ready plan, how will the city cope with thousands of expected new residents and the traffic they will generate, given antiquated infrastructure, limited public transit and a shortage of parks and open space? Will Miami residents, among the nation's poorest urban dwellers, be displaced or priced out of new housing?

 

That is, if the planned condos actually get built, sold and occupied.

 

As the boom takes on the feel of a gold rush, real estate analysts, bankers and even some developers fear it's a mirage, a bubble fueled by speculators looking to resell condo units for a quick profit, and not by true buyer demand.

 

If developers build too much, and speculators can't find buyers for resale, the boom could bust, leaving Miami littered with vacant and bankrupted buildings or, worse, unfinished towers and bare lots.

 

SIGNS OF FUROR

 

For now, though, signs of the furor are everywhere.

 

Sales centers for multimillion-dollar condos that tout the merits of high-rise living sprout up across the city. Brokers push Miami condos in farflung locales, from Caracas and Bogotá to New York and France's Cte d'Azur. Lavish condo parties are thrown by developers several times a week, and advertisements for the high-rises fill the pages of local magazines and newspapers, including The Herald.

 

Downtown Miami is a thicket of construction cranes. Much of the landward side of Biscayne Boulevard has been razed, and the footings and columns of what will soon be a wall of six colossal condos, each more than 50 stories, are becoming visible.

 

''Where else are you near the water, 10 minutes from Miami Beach, 15 minutes from the airport and have access to public transportation?'' said Daniel Kodsi, chief executive of Boca Raton-based Royal Palm Communities, which plans a high-rise condo called Paramount Park across from AmericanAirlines Arena.

 

There is so much building that developers are struggling to find qualified contractors and subcontractors.

 

Sales and resales in the mid-six figures, and well beyond, have become commonplace. Towers of 300 units sell out in a day, with buyers coming in the main not from Miami, but from other parts of the country and the world.

 

''Miami, New York and Los Angeles have become the three cities in the U.S. where people want to be,'' said Joe Cayre, chairman of Midtown Group, which is building eight condo towers on the site of the old Florida East Coast Railroad yards in Wynwood.

 

They are people like Sal Loduca, who plans to leave Manhattan and his family's Long Island food business to open a brick-oven pizzeria at Cayre's Midtown Miami.

 

''Everyone's making the move to Miami. How could you not? It's a great opportunity. Miami's full of life,'' Loduca said.

 

`CRITICAL COMBUSTION'

 

Real estate broker Philip Spiegelman calls the confluence of factors propelling this boom a ``critical combustion.''

 

Among them:

 

• Across the country, young people and so-called ''empty-nesters'' have been returning to urban centers, in part because of long, wearing commutes from outlying suburbs. At the same time, a dwindling supply of easily developable land in western Miami-Dade and Broward counties has prompted developers to look eastward.

 

• A shortage of waterfront property elsewhere led developers to Miami's acres and acres of vacant bayfront land.

 

• Low interest rates have fueled record home-buying, while aging baby boomers are increasingly seeking second homes in sunny or exotic places.

 

• A cleaner local government has made Miami attractive to lenders and investors who once thought the city too risky, unsafe or corrupt.

 

• The weak dollar has made Miami an alluring bargain for Europeans and Latin Americans. And compared to other urban centers like New York City, Miami remains cheap.

 

Then there is the other factor, anecdotal and unquantifiable: the speculator.

 

''As much as 85 percent of all condominium sales in [downtown Miami] are accounted for by investors and speculators,'' housing analysts at investment firm Raymond James warned in a March report.

 

Banks have started to back off lending on condo projects, or have instituted new rules to avoid giving mortgages to investors.

 

Spiegelman sold the condo units in the Marina Blue condo going up on Biscayne Boulevard.

 

''One hundred percent of the buyers were investors and speculators,'' he said. ``Anyone who tells you their projects are different are deluding themselves.''

 

ZONING-CODE OVERHAUL

 

The pace of development is so furious that it has overtaken the city's planning efforts.

 

Only now is the city getting around to a long-promised overhaul of its outdated zoning code, a complete rewrite meant to ensure that new development produces lively, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and respects open spaces and established neighborhoods, while weaving it all together into a cogent urban fabric. The rewrite, dubbed Miami 21, will be phased in over two years.

 

Yet more than 100 large-scale projects, most of them in and around downtown, have already been approved or are under construction.

 

Public-transit improvements like Metrorail extensions, a light-rail line to Miami Beach and the contemplated city streetcar are years away, raising fears of gridlock.

 

Quipped Cannon, the real estate analyst: ``Maybe we need to give every buyer of a condo in the urban core a Segway.''

 

There are other worries.

 

Some skeptics, noting the high condo prices and the out-of-town provenance of buyers, fear that instead of the diverse, working 24-hour downtown that city leaders envision, the boom will instead create a seasonal playground for the rich, a Monte Carlo on Biscayne Bay.

 

''I bet those buildings are going to be empty a lot of the time,'' said Joel Kotkin, an urban historian and consultant who has written about the rise of what he calls ''ephemeral cities'' -- places like San Francisco, Berlin and parts of New York that increasingly cater to the rich, the childless young and tourists.

 

''Maybe this is Miami's karma, to be this kind of place, a temporary, hip, cool, nomadic population serviced by a poor population,'' said Kotkin, author of The City: A Global History. But, he added: ``History shows a city has to maintain some sense of a middle-class character if it wants to thrive.''

 

`MISSING LINK'

 

Yet there's relatively little in the new downtown priced for working families. ''The missing link here is in creating housing that the middle class can afford,'' said Rafael Kapustin, a longtime downtown property owner who pioneered the conversion of old downtown offices and hotels into modestly priced condos and apartments.

 

In partnership with a big developer, the Related Group, Kapustin developed two affordable loft condos, with units averaging around $150,000, now under construction in the inner core of downtown. But their Loft II project may be the last of its kind because of the surging cost of land and construction, he said.

 

City leaders are sanguine. They say it will take years for all the planned condos to be built and occupied, allowing time to absorb new residents, build public amenities and improve transit.

 

While few city residents can afford waterfront condos, thousands of moderately priced condos and rental apartments are being built by private developers in adjacent Overtown and neighborhoods like Little Havana and Allapattah, many with direct city subsidies, according to a recent report from Miami Mayor Diaz.

 

`SELF-REINFORCING CYCLE'

 

And gradually, as new residents move into downtown, businesses, shops, restaurants, neighborhood retailers and services will follow, said Neisen Kasdin, a land-use lawyer and former Miami Beach mayor.

 

''It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle,'' Kasdin said. ``Yes, there will be a large segment of temporary residents, but as the city continues to grow as an international business city, it leads to the continued growth of a permanent community.''

 

Meanwhile, the city has instituted measures that strengthen the planners' hand in shaping an attractive, livable downtown: hiding parking garages inside buildings; lining sidewalks with shops, offices, dwellings and restaurants; and keeping garage and service entrances off Biscayne Boulevard and other main arteries.

 

'We used to sit here and say, `Someday,' '' said Miami Planning Director Ana Gelabert-Sánchez, alluding to the city's long-frustrated hopes for a downtown revival. ``Well, someday is here.''

 

Herald staff writer Larry Lebowitz contributed to this report. 

 
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Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2019


What You Dont Know About Real Estate Could Cost You

Itrsquo;s what you donrsquo;t know about real estate that could cost younbsp;when buying or selling.

bull; First-time buyers usually havenrsquo;t seen enough houses or condominium units to fully understand where real estate value lies.

They may not have been caretaker of a house and, therefore, donrsquo;t notice subtle signs of damage, sloppy construction, poor maintenance, or worn-out elements. Those who have visited friendsrsquo; houses will ra>

bull; First-time-in-a-longtime buyers may not realize that they are out of touch with advances in materials, modern design approaches, or evolving life>

This can lead them to under- or over-value new houses or condominium units.nbsp;For example, quartz kitchen countersnbsp;have gained popularity over marble and granite for several reasons. Open-concept design is preferred by those with small children or those who live to entertain, but not by those who are untidy, >

bull; First-time sellers who base resale value on their total costnbsp;of acquiring and maintaining real estate ownership, plus expectednbsp;profit, have missed the point.

Emotions, including pride of ownership, can get in the way and prove expensive. Sellers may believe that their cost of buying and transforming the property into their home, plus money spent on maintenance and upgrades, plus profit and the cost of selling, including commission, add up to their actual ldquo;bottom linerdquo; for resale value. Problems arise for sellers when this must-have sale price is not in line with market value, which is value determined by the real estate market - current buyers and previous sales. When the seller expects more than market value, this ldquo;over-priced listingrdquo; may take longer to sell, may eventually sell for less, or may fail to find a buyer. First-time sellers may lack experience evaluating how their property compares with local property values and appraising their property from the perspective of current active buyers.

Value determination and marketing - or communicating action-enticing value to potential buyers - represent two different professional real estate selling-skill sets, neither of which are usually possessed by sellers.

bull; Empty-nester and downsizing sellers may decide, in theory, that smaller and cheaper are the characteristics they desire in their next property, but some discover itrsquo;s a different story in practice.

When faced with the actual move to a smaller house in a cheaper location, they may find the mental leap too great. Downsizing is often wrongly considered me>

Many faced with wanting a change find they lack the real estate knowledge and planning expertise to make the shift gracefully acceptable and financially successfully.

bull; Newbie real estate investors may believe that crunching numbers to determine how much profit they want and what it will cost to achieve this profit is all it takes.

Creating an offer to purchase, which entices a property owner to sell for the buyerrsquo;s desired price, requires special professional expertise. Then, offering the property for profit-generating rent that will attract qualified prospective renters involves a different set of professional skills. Many new investors possess neither skill set, which are both common in real estate professionals.

The emotional element regarding what sellers will sell for and what renters will pay to live in the resulting investment property can influence financial gain and bottom-line projections. Skill and experience is essential to investors taking all this into account to create profit.

What you donrsquo;t know about property ownership and real estate transactions can cost you when buying or selling, wherever you fit in on the list of buyers and sellers above. Do you have experience with contracts, financing, interior design, renovation, conflict resolutionhellip;? Then, therersquo;s marketing - both using it to persuade others and personally fending off its effects when yoursquo;re making decisions.

What you donrsquo;t know about real estate, real estate professionals do. They are committed to studying and keeping up to date on what matters. Most have spent years on the job perfecting their expertise and learning local markets.

Would you surgically operate on yourself or drill your own teeth? Itrsquo;s that extreme an issue when you donrsquo;t engage available professional skill and knowledge to work for and with you.

Concentrate on learning what the right real estate professional cannbsp;help you achieve.

Not the least of which is discovering what you donrsquo;t know about buying and selling. When you think, my goal is ldquo;buy my dream homerdquo; or ldquo;sell at my dream price,rdquo; understand what will have to happen and what you must do to achieve the desired outcome.

If you donrsquo;t know where to start, no problem.

Real estate professionals are trained to know what needs to be done for prospects and clients every day, every offer, every transactionhellip;. Do you know what yoursquo;ll gain with professional help? How determined are you to achieve real estate goals and exceed your expectations, as quickly and hassle-free as possible?

To continue learning about buying and selling real estate, checkout more Realty Times articles by PJ Wadenbsp;The Catalyst:

bull; 4 "Big Regrets" to Avoid When Buying a Homenbsp;
bull; Trends Cost Sellers Money
bull; Ready to Talk About Real Estate?


> Full Story

5 Reasons to Buy a Fixer-Upper Instead of a Perfect Place

.It costs less

ldquo;Fixer-uppers list for an average of 8 below market value,rdquo; said LearnVest. If yoursquo;re on a budget or are being priced out in your market, this is a way to get a literal foot in the door. How much depends greatly on the location. ldquo;Fixer-uppers in Phoenix have the smallest cash discount, saving buyers just 1,000 off list price. But you can save a lot of money in expensive markets like San Francisco, where fixer-uppers are discounted an average of 10mdash;giving homebuyers 54,000 in upfront savings for renovations on the median home.rdquo;

You may be able to finance your renovation

One of the major drawbacks of buying a home that needs to be fixed up is having to come up with the cashmdash;especially after yoursquo;ve just put so much money into your down payment and closing costs. There are a few different types of loans that package the mortgage with funds for renovations, and they often come as a surprise to buyers who have only focused on FHA and 30-year conventional loans.

ldquo;Whether you need a new roof or your kitchen is outdated, there is a mortgage thatrsquo;s right for your fixer-upper,rdquo; said Bankrate. Fannie Maersquo;s Home>

It gives you the opportunity to build value

With an already-updated home, ldquo;If a seller has redecorated or improved the whole place, that seller is reaping the benefit,rdquo; said Forbes. ldquo;If the homes value has been raised, the buyer is paying for it. Also, consider this reality: A seller who re-does a whole house in order to sell is not likely putting in the highest-quality materials. Theyre cutting costs to maximize profit. But if you buy a fixer-upper, you might be able to secure an undervalued property, improve it and get the benefit of the extra equity. Its a core real estate concept. If you can find the right property, this could mean thousands of dollars almost immediately.rdquo;

You can do renovations over time

There may be a few things you canrsquo;t live with in a fixer-upper, like the grungy carpet and cruddy plumbing fixtures, but no one other than design shows says your place has to be perfect the day you move in. Taking your time to make updates as yoursquo;re able gives you the opportunity to save money and recover from all the expenses of buying the home and moving in.

It allows you to put your stamp on it

When you buy a home that was lived in and fixed up by someone else, it reflects their taste and >

ldquo;One of the primary reasons people buy fixer-upper properties is for the opportunity to make the space their own,rdquo; said Green Residential. ldquo;Instead of purchasing a home in which someone else designed the layout, chose the materials, and dictated where different elements were placed, you can buy a basic structure and then take charge. Itrsquo;s like building your own home without having to go through the lengthy process of drawing plans and constructing it from the ground up.rdquo;


> Full Story

Whats the Real Impact of the Government Shutdown on Real Estate?

ldquo;An NAR survey of 2,211 members found 75 percent had no impact to their contract signings or closings. However, 11 percent did report an impact on current clients and 11 percent on potential clients,rdquo; said the National Association of Realtors. Among those impacted by the shutdown, 17 percent had a closing delay because of a USDA loan.rdquo;

The most impacted areas of the market surround:

Buyer uncertainty

Consumer confidence is always a topic of conversation when it comes to real estate, and with rising interest rates and a roller coaster stock market, a government shutdown only makes the issues that much stickier. According to the NAR study, ldquo;The most common impact, at 25 percent, was the buyer decided not to buy due to general economic uncertainty, though they were not a federal government employee.rdquo;

Loan approvals/Closing delays

Whether or not your loan and/or closing is impacted by the government shutdown largely depends on the type of loan you are getting. ldquo;If youre getting a Federal Housing Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs loan, its likely you can expect delays in the underwriting process, and its possible your closing date will be pushed back as well,rdquo; said the Dallas Morning News.

HUD has said that while new FHA loans will be endorsed during the shutdown, ldquo;Some delays with FHA processing may occur due to short staffing.rdquo; In addition, new Home Equity Conversion Mortgages HECM, more commonly referred to as reverse mortgages, are on hold for now.

While the White House has insisted that the Internal Revenue Service IRS process tax refunds during the shutdown, itrsquo;s made no such mandate in regards to helping consumers who need info because theyrsquo;re buying a home. That means that buyers wonrsquo;t be able to requests tax return transcripts, which may be required by lenders, thereby delaying the purchasing process.


> Full Story



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