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miami real estate

Done in the Sun?
The Miami market is mirroring New York’s: a mad condo boom that may be at its peak.
By S. Jhoanna Robledo

Hang out at JFK on any given Friday, and you’ll likely run into Ron Shuffield’s clients. Shuffield is the president of the Miami firm Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors, and every weekend, he sees dozens of New Yorkers jetting south to house-hunt. He’s even willing to make a perilous declaration: “Miami,” Shuffield says flat-out, “is the sixth borough.”

Well, maybe. But it does have one thing in common with New York: It’s packed with new condos, many sold from floor plans, and buyers are wondering if it’s overbuilt. According to the Miami Herald, the average time to sell a single-family home in Broward County has, in the past six months, jumped from 34 days to 53. The financial-information company Global Insight recently ranked West Palm Beach and Miami 16th and 21st on a list of most overvalued U.S. housing markets (New York placed 76th; Naples, Florida, was first). At a roundtable for Haute Living, a local real-estate magazine, realty executives wouldn’t admit to gloom (do they ever?) but conceded a leveling-off. “It’s not a bubble bursting, it’s normalizing,” says Veronica Cervera of Cervera Real Estate, who notes that last week she sold six apartments at megadeveloper Ugo Colombo’s buzzed-about Epic Residences.

Either way, New York money is still flowing in. Christopher Mathieson, who worked in South Florida before opening JC DeNiro here, has partnered with Miami’s Carson Realty; Corcoran, too, has set up four branches there. And developers, Shuffield says, have been tailoring projects to attract New Yorkers. The MET3 condos will sit atop a mall with a Whole Foods in the basement—it’s a mini Time Warner Center, plus palm trees. The Capital Brickell on Brickell Avenue, which brokers call the “Park Avenue of South Florida,” is supposed to evoke the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. Parts of the city are calling themselves “Midtown” and “the Upper East Side.”

What’s the attraction? “As trite as it may sound, the weather,” says Shuffield; that, and a diversity and cosmopolitan quality that’s comfortingly familiar. Plus it’s a quick flight—barely longer than the drive to the Hamptons, if pricier. It also helps that the Miami market moves fast. Cervera says she recently looked at one-bedrooms in New York for her son, an NYU freshman, and everything she liked was a co-op. “They’re so complicated!” she says. “I have a 900-square-foot brand-new condo listed for $470,000. In New York, that would cost me $1.2 million. And I’d have to pass a co-op board.”

Next: Where the Stars Live

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