Florida attracting foreign buyers


The foreign love affair with Florida continues to surge. So where are buyers heading? Serena Templeton reports.

While other US States lay claim to successfully attracting foreign buyers, few have yet to enter Florida’s league. In 2014 the Sunshine State scooped 24% of all international home purchases in the US; traffic largely attributed to the State’s rich macro-environment which is extremely attractive for long-term investors, according to Maria Wells of the Florida Realtors Association. “Rental yields are running at about 9%, but the real return is from capital growth, with hard-core investors getting steady, strong appreciation. Inventory choice is also unrivalled with everything from gated communities to waterfront living and modern condominiums; the notable difference being an upsurge in demand for resort property where families have access to a raft of tailored on-site facilities in a home-from-home community environment.”


Charlotte Harbour and Gulf Islands
Nestling between Tampa and Naples and home to the second largest harbour in the States, improved international air links to Fort Myers bolstered by competitively priced property have fuelled real estate growth in scenic Charlotte Harbour. Voted by Money Magazine as the best place to live in south Florida, the area boasts one of the largest protected marine estuaries in the world, white sandy beaches around Englewood and Manasota Key and a slice of upper crust cachet on Gasparilla Island.

The community of Rotonda has homed in on the hi-spec golf course market, with land subdivisions including Rotonda Lakes and Long Marsh now being built out for home sites. “Buyers to date are largely from Canada, the US and Germany,” adds Frank Sakalosky of agents Michael Saunders, “with building lots overlooking freshwater canals, golf courses or preserves. Many are just under a quarter of an acre in size, which is generous compared to modern developments, with an average house price coming in around the US$300,000 mark.” Short-term rental restrictions are also few and far between. “A three-bed family villa with private pool can net in the region of US$2,000-2,500 per week,” confirms Sakalosky.

The Gulf Coast enjoyed gains of 12-16% in the latter part of 2014, the loftiest prices being asked in Naples with few locations more prized than the city’s canal-carved Port Royal and the beach-bordered Gordon Drive where a land-locked detached home will set you back upwards of $US5.4m and an extra $US15m just for a water view; prices that real estate entrepreneur Barron Gift Collier could only have dreamed of when he settled there in the 1920s and become the largest landowner in the region. Downtown Naples is still a subtropical, genteel playground for millionaire retirees, but the area’s profile is moving with the times to penetrate younger markets.

Developers catering to the new influx of 30-something ‘value conscious’ buyers are moving outward to less expensive land, where the same quality home can be snapped up for a fraction of the price.

“Resort communities are now selling east of main 1-75 motorway as far north as Fort Myers and south towards Marco Island,” says Wendy Jensen of Boca Executive Realty. “Many of the established developments have already experienced rapid appreciation and are slowly adjusting to the area rate with an average house coming in around the US$795,000 mark.”


Fort Lauderdale
Criss-crossed by canals, creeks and rivers and boasting over 300 miles of navigable waterways, Fort Lauderdale’s renaissance unofficially began a little over a decade ago with the revitalisation of Las Olas Boulevard, the city’s hub of hip. This former quaint district of small shops has exploded into a lively downtown village, with upscale restaurants, designer boutiques and urban chic property taking hold. “The market has changed greatly from this time last year,” says Rob Rose of Rob Rose Real Estate. “Mixed-use projects-combining high-rises, luxury townhouses and commercial space are the most prominent real estate trend, driven by a conscientious city government keen to ensure efficient use and sympathetic restoration of existing downtown residences.”

Part of a master planned development at the heart of Fort Lauderdale – Ocean Land Investments is marketing Acqua Vita Las Olas, 22 luxury waterfront residences with boat slips, access to a fitness studio, heated pool and water taxi service. One to three bedroom apartments and deluxe penthouse units have large balconies, vaulted ceilings and king size baths. Prices for a one-bed apartment start from US995,000 rising to US2,284,800 for a three-bed.

The place to watch the world go by, Miami epitomises the ‘anything goes’ philosophy. The last few years have seen an influx of design-conscious hoteliers breathing new life into neglected Art Deco buildings, with tasteful pockets of construction a telltale sign that the real estate sector means business. Property prices range from the affordable to the stellar, a quality apartment in a good area setting you back upwards of US$1m but more than likely offering great views due to the Miami obsession with high rises.

On a wow-factor scale and designed by award-winning architects Foster and Partners Faena House is an extraordinary, 18-story oceanfront luxury condominium situated on the widest stretch of white sand in all of Miami Beach – bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Collins Avenue to the west. Envisioned by Alan Faena, the project is a vision of true indoor-outdoor living – with breakthrough architectural advances allowing panoramic views from ocean to bay with glass walls. Property prices range from US$5m to US$50m.

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