Lifestyle

Inside South Florida real estate during the pandemic: The state's top-selling team says snowbirds are still flocking south

  • Florida is among the states hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 637,000 confirmed cases.
  • Despite becoming an epicenter of the pandemic this summer, the state's top real estate team says the luxury real estate market in South Florida has seen steady demand. 
  • The Jills Zeder Group told Business Insider that domestic and international buyers, including snowbirds, are still flocking to the state to take advantage of Florida's favorable tax regulations. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Florida is among the states hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 637,000 confirmed cases.

With Miami-Dade ranking as Florida's hardest-hit county and 52% of Floridians dissatisfied with Gov. Ron DeSantis' handling of the pandemic, uncertainty in the state could point to trouble in the local real estate market. 

But that's not totally the case, according to The Jills Zeder Group, Florida's number one real estate team and the number two team in the US. 

Serving Miami and Miami Beach, in addition to the area's surrounding islands, the team specializes in South Florida's most elite multimillion-dollar luxury properties, and they had a lot to say about the state of the luxury market activity amid the pandemic. 

"Even though the summer months are typically slower in Miami because the weather gets warmer, the last three months have been very strong, with a lot of momentum, for the luxury market," said team cofounder Jill Hertzberg.

As the numbers of COVID-19 cases began to climb in in the summer, "we have noticed a slight slowdown," she said, but it has felt "more like a pause than a complete halt."

"It seems buyers, especially the out-of-towners, are trying to figure out what is happening with the virus and thus are postponing their travel plans for a few days," Hertzberg added.

"Many of the buyers who are already in Miami are proceeding with their home-buying plans, and deals are moving forward. Others are in the process of narrowing their purchase options and might make their decisions soon." The reality is that COVID-19 has expedited the purchase decision process for many buyers, she said, "particularly the tax-driven ones."

"Many are ready to relocate now that they have embraced working remotely. This trend is definitely bringing a large number of high-worth individuals to our town." 

Despite coronavirus, 'demand has been remarkable,' Hertzberg said

Hertzberg said there has been an increase in demand in both luxury rentals and sales. Entering 2020, there was a noticeable surge in the highest end of the market, she said, with demand by both renters and buyers for all types of properties.

For the needs of the pandemic, she said South Florida offers the larger homes, work spaces, fitness spaces, and larger outdoor spaces that are in demand now. "Buyers are looking for a home that meets the needs of their daily lives, whether we are fully open as a community, or fully or partially confined to our homes. The health crisis nationwide has the consumer looking for the best long-term options for housing," said Hertzberg.

It also offers, of course, the particularly attractive features of no state income tax and positive homestead laws. 

"Demand has been remarkable," according to Hertzberg.

As for where the demand is coming from, cofounder Jill Eber said existing Florida residents and out-of-towners are buying first and second homes. She said she was surprised by the "major sales that occurred, as well as the variety of buyers that continue to focus on South Florida for their primary and secondary/tertiary homes."

"We are seeing domestic buyers from the Northeast, buyers from the Midwest, particularly Chicago and Detroit, and then a strong surge from California," Eber said. "In addition, we are seeing activity from Brazil, Mexico, and even the Far East. The attraction to our lifestyle and amenities, along with the economics of living in Florida, seem to be the biggest drivers."

Snowbirds are still flying to Florida

A long-known destination for snowbirds, Miami is still of interest, according to Eber.

"Each year, seasonal visitors typically flock to town from November through April, drawn by the warm weather, the beaches and the area's unique attractions," she said. "However, this has been an unusual year for South Florida, as many seasonal visitors prolonged their stays for months or even permanently."

Noting that the surge in single-family home sale seems to be continuing, Eber said many snowbirds seem to be renting in areas they're interested in before they purchase. 

"When it comes to reasons driving snowbirds and people from out of state to move to town full time," she said, "it seems that tax flight and COVID-19 are intertwined."

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