Luxury homes: Buyers say bottom has passed | Armonk Homes

Semi-retired hotel executive Howard Friedman and his wife, Connie, paid nearly $1 million for a three-story townhome in downtown Boca Raton. They don’t have an ocean view, but they love the urban setting that keeps them close to the city’s nightlife.

“We have maybe 50 bars and restaurants within walking distance,” Friedman, 57, said of his new digs in the 200 East development along Palmetto Park Road. “We felt that this environment was very, very attractive.”

A resurgence of sales of high-end homes and condominiums is helping South Florida’s housing market recover from the six-year downturn.

During the bust, luxury properties valued at $750,000 and above didn’t fare any better than more modestly priced homes. In some cases, it was worse.

Sellers waited months, sometimes longer than a year, slashing prices time and again with no takers. Even with the chance to buy trophy homes on the water or in gated communities at 50 cents on the dollar, prospective buyers feared the falling market.

“Back then it was awful,” remembers David Serle, broker for RE/MAX Services in Boca Raton. “Sellers really had to change their mindset.”

But now most buyers believe the bottom has passed, brokers say. The 200 East project sold nine units in nine weeks for $7 million. The condo-townhome community is roughly 90 percent full, said John Poletto, principal at Nestler Poletto Sotheby’s International Realty in Boca.

Higher price ranges also are doing well.

Broward County last year posted 464 sales of homes and condos valued at $1 million or more – the third consecutive annual increase and a 51 percent jump since 2009, according to an analysis of property records by Focus Real Estate Advisors in Coral Gables.

The 2012 sales volume in Broward hit $768 million, up 47 percent from 2009.

Palm Beach County last year had 791 sales of $1 million-plus properties, down slightly from the year before but still 33 percent higher than in 2009, the Focus data show.

Miami-Dade County has by far the biggest share of the region’s luxury market because of an abundance of foreign investors and ultra high-end condos in downtown Miami and along the coast.

Across South Florida, the high-end market has rebounded with the help of investors buying up nearly all of the excess condos that were built during the housing boom.

“The absorption of the overhang of inventory opened the opportunity for new construction to enter the marketplace,” said Philip J. Spiegelman, principal of International Sales Group.

Developers have announced or started building 99 condo towers featuring nearly 14,500 units in the tri-county region, mostly in Miami-Dade, according to, a Bal Harbour-based consulting firm.

One of the first announced projects in the past two years was Apogee Beach, a 49-unit Hollywood condo where prices start at more than $1 million. The development by Jorge Perez is sold out and expected to open later this year.

New construction remains soft in Palm Beach County because it doesn’t have as big of an economic base as the two counties to the south, said Craig Werley, president of Focus Real Estate.

Paulette Koch, an agent with Corcoran Group Real Estate, said a shortage of homes for sale is a problem on the island of Palm Beach just as it is in other parts of the county.

Koch expects the luxury market to continuing stabilizing, albeit slowly.

“We are not going to see enormous (price) gains over the next several years,” she said. “But people have gained confidence in the marketplace.”

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