The Return of the End-User
by jim baxter
Managing broker Mark Zilbert believes the Miami market has truly turned a corner, enticing clients with remarkable deals the city hasn’t seen in years.
Where are your buyers coming from these days?
Half are coming from Europe, paying cash for their piece of South Beach. The rest are from South America and the US. Within the last six months, US buyers have gradually returned to the market: They feel the worst is over, prices are palatable and they’re buying to use and enjoy the property. Of course the waterfacing units in the better buildings are being absorbed faster. They’re nearly gone, and no more will be built.
What happened in the Miami market over the past few years?
The run-up in the real estate market we experienced was no different than other times in history, when new opportunities or technologies presented themselves. As more people heard what was happening, more people wanted to jump in Everyone wanted to get involved, often for the wrong reasons. It was unsustainable, and there were too many investors buying units they had no intention of closing on. People were reading about buildings and e-mailing me instructions to write up a contract for signature and send it back to them by e-mail. That was not a normal, sustainable market. Now all of our buyers are end-users and 95 percent are paying cash.
Your website, zilbert.com, is a great real estate tool. How did it evolve?
Prior to real estate in South Beach, I lived in Los Angeles and worked in corporate Internet strategy and sales. When I started here in 2002, the Internet seemed the way to go, and was not being utilized effectively in the real estate business. I created my site as a go-to resource that’s advanced, yet easy to use. It’s tied into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and Miami-Dade County public records. It lists closed sales as well as available properties, and is easier to navigate and faster than the MLS. It’s updated in real time at least once a day, and gets nearly 50,000 visitors every month. Most users viewing the site are not going to buy from me, but I provide it as a service, and do terrifically well with the clients who do buy.
IMAGE: This three-bedroom, 3,100-square-foot unit at Apogee commands a sweeping view of Fisher Island.
What can you tell us about the price differences from the peak of the market in 2007 to current levels today in some of the premier buildings?
Well, of course there have been significant decreases in price levels as the market has adjusted. For example, in some of the more significant buildings in the South of Fifth Street neighborhood— such as the Continuum South—we have seen a drop from its average peak price of $1,123 per square foot in 2008 to a current of $791 so far this year, for a total price adjustment of nearly 30 percent. The Icon South Beach hit its peak in 2006 at $870 per square foot, but now sells at $533 per square foot, indicating a drop of 39 percent. In 2007, the Murano Grande was selling at $739 per square foot, but is now at $513 per square foot—down 30 percent. This is less the case for Apogee—the drop there is around seven percent. But remember these are averages: Waterside units with direct views will generally sell for more than cityside or lower-floor units with inferior views.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARK ZILBERT