While Florida as a whole has taken the heat (no pun intended!) for being one of the hardest hit real estate markets, there are still segments of the market and certain neighborhoods that have held their values more than others and where investing now makes sense, since these area are also poised to be the first to come back. With location obviously of great importance, we asked local experts where they think today's best real estate opportunities exist:
Sun-Sentinel: To what degree are you starting to see investors reenter the market?
Carl Van Eyssen (Realtor®, Campbell & Rosemurgy, Broward): We have investors out looking, but they're holding on to their money. They're all worried about the economy. There's also going to be an additional three million REOs to hit the market nationwide in the first quarter, with lots of investors wondering if they'll get a better deal if they wait a little longer. The bottom line is that we could be in a buyer's market for the next seven years or longer. And, if you're not in the business as a foreclosure agent, you may not be in this business soon.
To give you an example of how bad it is, the city of Lighthouse Point is servicing approximately 350 homes that have been abandoned but are not yet in foreclosure. And the other day I drove through Pompano Isles on the water; there had to be at least 100 homes that obviously weren't being maintained by anyone. I'm sure most of these homes will be coming on the market at some point soon as foreclosures.
SS: What's your advice for anyone buying right now?
Mickey Caruana (Realtor®, Century 21 President South Broward Broker Council, Broward): If it's going to be a primary residence, and you've always dreamed of living on the ocean, there's some really great buys now. I know someone who recently purchased a seventh-floor, two-bedroom, two-bath condo with an ocean view for $176,000. It's an older building, but I still didn't think I'd see a day when people could buy on the ocean here for under $200,000.
For strictly investment purposes, I tell buyers to focus on properties you can purchase with 20 percent down and a 15-year mortgage so you're cash positive from day one. If the numbers work -- even if the values drop another five or 10 percent -- it's hard to lose. In most neighborhoods now, we're back to prices where rents cover mortgages.
SS: Which neighborhoods/areas/communities poised to make the best comeback, and why?
CV: If you see a good deal on the ocean, and you can buy right, I'd say that's going to be your best investment, with anything on the Intracoastal second. East locations near the beach will always do best -- and those areas are starting to get close to the bottom.
Los Olas, Lighthouse Point and Harbor Beach are all areas that should come back strong, but East Pompano is the true gem, with the 350-slip marina project that's planned. And, if Fort Lauderdale can pull off the downtown renovation between Broward and Sunrise on Federal that's been stopped for now, that area will be a good bet.
Stuart Pall (Broker Associate, Coldwell Banker, Plantation): I believe that places like Weston and Plantation that were once so strong because of their excellent schools and the family life they offer will be among the first places to come back -- but we're talking a few years from now. Right now, those places are still overpriced, so we'll still see them come down a bit.
SS: Where are the hot pockets in today's market?
CV: Lake Point Drive in Tamarac is really the best deal right now for condos. We just sold three REOs there for $30,000, and the nice thing is they can be rented right away. There are also great opportunities in Sunset Hills in Lauderdale Lakes. Two-bedroom condos are in the $20,000s and $30,000s; we just sold a one-bedroom for $23,000.
Weston has a lot of foreclosures, and Boynton Beach and Riveria Beach are starting to see more, too. There are also a lot of opportunities in Hollywood along A1A. Our office is selling condos there with direct Intracoastal and even ocean views for just $150,000.
SP: You seem to get the most for your money right now in Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Miramar and Pompano Beach. There are two- and three-bedroom, single-family homes, townhomes and condos for under $200,000. With taxes and insurance, the monthly payment for something like this will only be about $1,500. The prices in these areas don't have room to fall much further.
Gordon Bernstein (Realtor®, Prudential Florida First, Broward): We're starting to see two-bedroom, two-bath homes in areas likes Poinsettia Heights, Coral Ridge Isles and parts of Wilton Manors not going much lower than $200,000. People are realizing that prices in these areas are not going to tumble much further, and that they should be among the first to come back. They've always been popular eastern neighborhoods, with close proximity to I-95, beaches and more.
MC: There are a lot of great opportunities right now in East Hollywood and also Downtown Fort Lauderdale where properties that were once $90,000 to $110,000 and shot up to $300,000 are back down to $60,000 or $110,000 with all the foreclosures. Areas that are east or located in historic neighborhoods are good bets. How much further can they come down?