South Florida Home Bargains Galore. Just Don't Expect Waterfront


Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward CountiesSouthern Florida has become the capital of bargain real estate. More than 56 percent of residential properties for resale in South Florida can be nabbed for less than $250,000, far less than prices a few years ago during the boom, according to a recent report by Condo Vultures LLC. For condos and townhouses, the deals are even greater: more than two-thirds of the roughly 41,000 condos and townhomes on the market are less than a quarter mil.

Sun, palm trees and cheap homes... what more is needed to warm a homebuyer's heart?

Water, you say? Well, there's the catch. For that, you still have to pay.

The bulk of these abundant deals generally are not near the water. These bargains are located in western suburbs such as Doral and Kendall in Miami-Dade and Plantation, Coconut Creek, Pembroke Pines, and Miramar in Broward County.

"If buyers are looking for value, they have to get in the car and drive west," says Peter Zalewski, who authored the report. In general, the homes and condos priced under $250,000 are more middle-of-the-road, he said, and offer an average amount of square footage of 2,000 square feet or more.

Bargains under $250,000 located east of Interstate 95, which runs through all three counties and is generally considered the east-west dividing line, have already been snapped by second-buyers and investors over the past year, adds Zalewski. A year ago, buyers could find condos built in 2004, 2005 and 2006 on Brickell Avenue or the downtown Biscayne Blvd. corridor in that price range. Many would need only touch-ups before they were ready to move in. Prices have steadily inched higher as well as second-home buyers seek out homes close to the water and the lure of South Beach.

But the vast stock of homes to the west and north haven't moved as fast. "If you're living in New York City, you don't dream of buying a second home in the Miami suburbs," says Zalewski.

Right now, east of I-I95, $250,000 or less buys you the "handyman special" -- probably a bank-owned property that's been stripped of appliances and needs plenty of rehab inside and out before you're ready to hang artwork on the walls and break out the grill in the backyard.

But if a buyer is wiling to go north, say to Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach in Broward or Boca Raton, Delray Beach and West Palm Beach, there may be a few bargains closer to the coast in those areas. Those properties may appeal more to second-home buyers from the Northeast or the Midwest. Foreign buyers only want Miami, says Zalewski.

On the other side of the spectrum -- homes and condos priced over $1 million -- there are fewer properties on the market -- a total of 6,493. Miami alone has 2,717 houses, condos or townhomes over $1 million on the market. More than half of these properties are condos.

But unlike the sub-$250k category, they're not selling. Only 352 of these million-dollar abodes are currently under contract.

These number defy the widely held notion that the upper end of the real market does better during a downturn because buyers of these homes don't have to worry about tight credit or job loss. In a recession, it seems, everybody loves a bargain.


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