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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: Wednesday, December 2, 2020


6 Tips to Help You Sell a Home During the Holidays

Typically, the winter holiday season is not an optimal time to sell a home.

The weather isnt conducive to showings, its the middle of the school year, and most people think about holiday planning and travel.

Of course, there are some possible benefits. For example, if you sell your home in the winter, theres less competition because most people sell in the spring and summer. People also have time off work around the winter holidays, meaning more time to see homes. Buyers may be motivated too.

If you have to sell your home during the holidays, there are things you can do to make it an easier process.

Stage It Accordingly

One unique benefit of selling a home during the holidays is that you can actually use it to your advantage when it comes to staging. You can warm up a space during the holidays and that might make it easier for potential buyers to picture themselves there.

Add tasteful but simple holiday decorations. Dont go overboard and block the homes features.

Focus on the cozy features like the fireplace, and of course, its a great time to use the >

Clean-Up the Curb Appeal

While the winter makes it tougher to sell your home because people cant see the landscaping, that doesnt mean you should neglect the curb appeal altogether.

Shovel the walkways, illuminate pathways, and make sure that theres a mat at the door so people coming to see your house can wipe their feet.

Price It Accordingly

Your listing agent can work with you to develop the right pricing strategy based on their assessment of the data. Many variables go into pricing, but you may need to go a little lower than youd like if you are selling around the holidays.

If youre selling during the holidays, its not the time to haggle. During this time of year, its often better to price it right from the start instead of making price reductions later.

Work with a >

The last thing you want is to work with an agent who goes MIA during the holidays. Be very clear with your agent about your expectations for communication and how much theyll work during the holidays. When youre choosing an agent, you might ask them if theyve ever sold a house during the holiday season before.

Be Flexible About Showings

During the holiday season, everyone is busy and may have more plans than usual, but if youre selling your home, you need to be flexible and accessible when it comes to showings. Its a challenging time so if someone wants to see your home, you need to do everything you can to facilitate that.

Focus on Outdoor Features

If you live somewhere with harsh winters, selling your home around the holidays can give you the chance to show off some of the exterior features that make it well-equipped for winter weather. For example, maybe potential buyers go outside to take a look at your homes new roof. You could also show off convenient winter features like updated heating and attached garages.

If you can manage your expectations before you put a home on the marketing during the holidays, its going to help you stay more >
> Full Story

Five Questions for a Fresh Seller Perspective

In this time of supreme uncertainty, how can sellers decide whats the best thing to do now or next with their real estate?

Real estate sellers are trying to guess what the future holds as much as everyone else:

When they are wrong, sellers may put their home and other real estate at risk.
When they are right, sellers may add wealth and security.

Talking to local real estate professionals has always been a great way for sellers to start when charting plans for the future. This is still a good launching pad, even when no one, including professionals, currently knows what is coming next. However:

Real estate professionals have the facts about what has happened locally since March 2020 and what was going on before that.
Choose the right real estate professional and youve found someone who is well-connected locally and through the industry to ensure you learn about current key trends in time to take advantage of them.
Real estate professionals are committed to filtering pressures and impact of the pandemic and other social and economic changes through their real estate lens to make sense for each individual property owner-client.

Five Questions for a Fresh Seller Perspective on NOW amp; NEXT

Aim to achieve clarity about what you can live with and without.

1.nbsp; What can you see ahead?

Project and expect the worstWhat exactly would that mean to you?or project and expect the bestHow could that materialize for you? Your choice.

In your world, you control some things and not others. Direct your future where you have more control and the outcome may involve more of what youd favor, but it may also be more of the same. Select a path less traveled, with a move outside your comfort zone, and risks may increase, but benefits may also take a giant step forward.

Your attitude and stage of life determine what the future holds for you. Glass-half-full thinkers may look for some good to come out of the pandemics interruption of life and career; glass-half-empty thinkers may concentrate on what has been lost or disrupted so looking forward may mean settling for less. Couples have the potential to complement each other with their attitudes and recovery strategies. What would you like to see ahead? What steps can you take in that direction?

2. How will you emerge financially from the pandemic?

Even if youve managed to hold onto status quo through the pandemic, theres no guarantee that will continue. Those whove had a tough haul so far may find things leveling off. Regardless of your path to date, it may be too soon to forecast how youll emerge financially. If pressures mount, ask your real estate professional and your financial advisor how selling nowbefore the pandemic is overmight improve your financial situation and life>

Your biggest financial asset may be your earning ability. Post-pandemic job security and business sustainability may not yet be evident. Dramatic change is to be expected in some areas and industries. The restaurant, hospitality, and travel industries were hard-hit by the pandemic while other sectors thrived or at least chugged on. Which industries does your earning power revolve around? Can online learning top-up your earning credentials?

Select your own track. Sellers who chose to live near their workplace and, thanks to telecommuting, will no longer need to, may consider a move. Those who are making a life>

You may repeatedly change your mind about the next step as the nature of the pandemic alters in your area. Taking time to see where things are headed before you plunge into the market may be wise. Reversing real estate decisions is much more difficult than making them in the first place.

3. How will you stay safe in the meantime?

One great way to get a fresh look at your real estate, is to try and get out of your home in less than 2 minutes. Have you planned a fire-escape route lately? Do you know at least two ways out of each room and from each level? In planning a 2-minute fire-escape route, youll see how well spaces work and dont. This intimate exploration will help you decide whether this is the ideal place to live or not.

Cooking, a popular Covid activity, is also the number one cause of home fires. As the holiday season approaches with its candles and inflammables, and colder weather drives us inside, fire safety becomes an even more significant issue.

With a safety overview in mind, take a long hard look at your home and what needs to be done to ensure it is safe and comfortable. Even if your last renovation was fairly recent, there can be things that need attention or repair.

nbsp;House Fires: Less Than Two Minutes To Survivenbsp;
nbsp;Is a Silent Killer Lurking?nbsp;

How your community manages Covid-19 outbreaks is vital to your safety. How well do available medical and hospital capacities serve the population?

4. Will your pre-Covid home suit your post-Covid life>

What issues does that question bring to mind? Covid-19 has irreversibly changed some lives, but not others. The pandemic has altered many aspects of life temporarily and just as many permanently. Normal is being redefined.nbsp;

What do you want to return to and what would you like to improve on? As you flesh out this exploration to see if a move makes sense, consider the full cost of owning and maintaining your current property and the complete cost of moving not me>

5. How quickly can you react?

If you suddenly had a good reason to selllike a red-hot market or a distant job offerhow quickly could you get your home listed and on the market to earn top dollar? If there is a dramatic market change due to the pandemic, sellers may have to react quickly or be left behind.

Do you have a real estate professional who you continue to work with or will you have to interview to find a compatible match?
How ready is your home? Is it a cosmetic do-over or major make-over that will be required to earn top dollar?
Do you understand what you would net from the sale of your property? Would it be enough to acquire your desired next home or to finance your next venture?
Have you researched the practicality of purchasing or renting your next desired home? Low listing inventories are common in this stay-at-home time.

Talk to your real estate professional to determine who will buy your home. Whos the target buyer for your neighborhood and type of property? Once you learn how your real estate would fare in the current local market, take an equally-detailed look at what choices you have for your next home.

Keep in mind that an ideal market for selling may not be an ideal market for buying the particular type and value of real estate youre interested in. For instance, low inventory of listings may inflate your sale price, but when youre the buyer there may not be much to choose from.

Your home may sell very quickly, so make sure you have all the choice you need for your next purchase before you sell.


> Full Story

Can You Negotiate a Real Estate Commission?

In a real estate transaction, there are typically three main parties involved. There are the real estate agent, the buyer and the seller. The takeaway for the agent is a commission, but many people experience confusion about things like how much it is and how its paid. They also wonder if they can negotiate a commission.

What is a Typical Commission?

Most people think theres a standard percentage across real estate for commissions. There isnt a fixed price. There is an average prevailing fee in most states thats around 6 of the final sales price of a home, however. If an agent sells land, they may get a higher commission of anywhere from 10 to 20 because it takes more time and a larger marketing budget to sell land.

The seller of a property is typically the one who pays a commission. It goes to the listing agent, and then the listing agent gives a portion to the agent representing the buyer. The home buyer doesnt pay anything.

Most real estate agents only work on commission and dont earn a base salary.

So what it might look like if you were to sell a 200,000 home is that the listing agent would charge a 12,000 fee. That would be a 6 commission. Then, they would split that with the buyers agent, so the agent representing the buyer gets 6,000, and the listing agent gets 6,000.

Then the agent has to share part of that 3 with their brokerage office. Sometimes that amount could be as high as 40 of the 3.

Agents also pay for a lot out of the fee, including their marketing and insurance costs. Commissions are paid at the time the title transfers for the home.

Can a Seller Negotiate?

Legally, a commission is negotiable. However, sellers have to be careful here. While an agent might be willing to negotiate in certain circumstancesfor example, the property is high-end or it may help them break into a great neighborhood, in many cases, they wouldnt be.

If a real estate agent is too willing to settle for a lower commission for seemingly no reason, you have to think about how their negotiation skills will look later on when theyre working on a deal for you.

The entire goal of hiring a real estate agent is to get the best price for your home, along with the best terms. A real estate agent who quickly agrees to take a lower commission may not achieve those goals. Also, the marketing costs will come from that commission, so in taking a lower fee, will the agent be cutting corners on their efforts to advertise your home?

Its not unusual for an agent to be unwilling to negotiate their commission simply because they dont have to. They may be so busy that theres no reason for them to take a lower commission. They can simply move onto other sellers.

What if the Same Agent is Handling Selling and Buying?

If youre going to sell your home and then the same agent will help you buy another one, they earn both commissions. Its possible that you could get a discount in this situation, but again, maybe not. Both transactions are separate from one another, and both require their own work. It doesnt matter to the agent if the seller and buyer are the same people because the workload would be the same as if they were different people.

What if the same agent represents you and the buyer?

This is a situation known as dual agency, but not all states allow this.

In this case, if its legal, an agent could earn the listing and selling fees. You might ask a listing agent if they will lower their commission fees, although again, theres no obligation on the part of the agent.

While negotiating is possible for real estate commissions, its not always the best idea nor will it always result in a discount for you as a seller.


> Full Story



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