Florida Real Estate: A Booming Market for Fun in the Sun

A home in Miami, Photo: fotoluminate/123rf

The East End isn’t the only real estate market that’s booming right now, with Florida, especially the Southwest region, seeing an immense rise in sales this season. The real estate experts for this Southern paradise share their insights on new remote viewing techniques, trending amenities and more.

What has surprised you the most about your market over the summer months, and what are you looking forward to as we head into fall? 

That some club buyers from the North are moving forward with their Florida purchase sooner than later.
— John Jorritsma, The Club at Ibis

How many people from Manhattan, Long Island and New Jersey are looking to relocate to South Florida. With interest rates at an all-time low, quality of life and lower taxes will make my market even stronger than before.
— Sheldon Jaffee, Sheldon Jaffee, LLC

This summer we have seen a tremendous amount of virtual activity. Young families are reassessing their space needs and choosing options that provide them greater flexibility with “lock and leave” environments. Summer is normally our “off-season”, but we have experienced a very busy summer with over $25 million in sales. With the lifting of quarantine for out-of-state visitors, we are booking more appointments and we expect a very busy fall season. We anticipate buyers traveling to South Florida earlier this year.
— Marisela Cotilla, ALINA Residences Boca Raton

This summer, we have seen a tremendous amount of activity and interest from buyers in the North and locally. As we offer immediate occupancy, buyers are virtually touring our residences on a live FaceTime with our on-site agents. This fall, we look forward to continuous activity as buyers do not want to be in the Northern states experiencing cold weather.
— Rebecca Spooner, Akoya Boca West

What are two or three essential questions every buyer and seller should be asking right now? 

For a country club community, buyers should be asking: What amenities does the club have when we’re not golfing or playing tennis? How have you reinvested in your club recently? Are you expecting any member assessments?
— John Jorritsma, The Club at Ibis

How soon can I move in? Do you have turnkey residences available?
— Rebecca Spooner, Akoya Boca West

What type of outdoor amenities do you offer? How close are you to the beach and restaurants? When will the building be delivered?
— Marisela Cotilla, ALINA Residences Boca Raton

For sellers: What does the market look like right now, and is it the right time for me? Am I willing to price my home properly so that the market chases me up rather than down? What do I need to do to get my home ready to sell for the best price possible?

For buyers: What am I really looking for and what will be its use—vacation home, low maintenance, community, move in ready or project home? What matters most to me—getting a deal for the lowest price or finding the right home that will make us feel comfortable and safe during this time? What are the features I absolutely must have?
— Valerie Tutor, Kingfisher Real Estate, Inc.

What is the best advice you can offer to potential real estate investors? 

Location, location, location!
— Sheldon Jaffee, Sheldon Jaffee, LLC

Do your research and work with an experienced realtor in the area you are targeting—one that also has good relationships with local lenders, investment advisors and property managers who can help to advise you. Our market is nothing like where you may be used to doing business. We are a unique area. You are well advised to work with the local experts. SW Florida is a desirable vacation destination and there are properties here that can provide a good ROI if you have the right perspective and listen to the experts.
— Valerie Tutor, Kingfisher Real Estate, Inc.

What are some of the amenities that have become increasingly in demand for homes in these times, and which do you think are helping sellers move their properties best?

Privacy, good schools, desirability of neighborhood.
— Sheldon Jaffee, Sheldon Jaffee, LLC

Expansive outdoor amenities and private terraces have increased in demand. Buyers are looking for walkability within lower density environments. Buyers are looking for flexible workspaces within their homes.
— Marisela Cotilla, ALINA Residences Boca Raton

Offering new construction has been a big selling point. Twenty-four-hour front desk, private elevator foyers and valet offer the residents privacy and security of a full-service building.
— Rebecca Spooner, Akoya Boca West

In SW Florida coastal communities and the islands, more and more buyers want completely updated homes with high-end finishes—things like luxury tile floors (so practical when you live by the beach) and impact glass windows; fabulous swimming pools are almost a must in Florida and boating or beach access is usually high on the list. Certainly now, they are looking for smart homes with connectivity and technology features built in. Many of our homes here were built 20–30 years ago and those sellers that spend the money to update these homes and condos end up getting the best prices and selling their homes faster than those that are not. New custom construction is popular as well.
— Valerie Tutor, Kingfisher Real Estate, Inc.

What is the state of new home construction in your market—the demand, the challenges, the potential for buyers and investors? 

Modern seems to be the trend, but older and new construction needs to have impact glass and doors for storm protection.
— Sheldon Jaffee, Sheldon Jaffee, LLC

Buyers are looking for new construction, in which a residence has not been lived in. Buyers are also looking for flexible workspaces within their homes and expansive outdoor amenities.
— Marisela Cotilla, ALINA Residences Boca Raton

New home construction is in high demand in Boca Raton. Akoya offers owners the ability to move into a fully furnished, turnkey residence available immediately.
— Rebecca Spooner, Akoya Boca West

New construction is hitting it out of park right now in our market. A recent local news article, citing the demand for new homes, commented that people want a home that “has not been sneezed in!” The good contractors and newer communities here are busier than ever and many have reported sales increases of 35–45% in the past two months! The challenge is keeping up with the demand. Permitting, finding quality subcontractors and the increasing cost of materials, as well as supply thereof, are constant challenges for new home construction. The potential for buyers and investors is huge. Working with quality builders, particularly in the custom home market, to build a home that has all the features your family needs with the latest finishes and one that is completely up to the latest Florida building codes is a real draw for many. Our codes are constantly updated and provide for a safe home, not just during a pandemic, but during storm season as well. Florida, with our current codes, is arguably much better prepared to withstand weather related events, than any other state in the nation. We have the experience here. Prices will continue to rise. Florida real estate, especially anything near the water, has increased substantially over the years. It is getting harder and harder to find. The recent uptick in sales has seen our inventory decrease dramatically.

The coastal SW Florida region including the islands, remains one of the best investments you can find. Sanibel Island, a luxury destination, is a sanctuary island with a strong environmental stewardship record. We have 15 miles of gorgeous, shell-laden, world-renowned beaches, lush vegetation, 26 miles of bike paths and incredible boating and fishing, and due to our status as a wildlife sanctuary, we are at about 94% buildout so lots are at a premium and in demand. Our sister island, Captiva, is only about five miles long and is popular with tourists from all over the world. Both islands are home to several artists, celebrities and heads of business who come here for the privacy the islands really do afford. While we are also a tourist destination, the island vibe is very laid back and our more famous residents can enjoy themselves here free from the pressure of the media or well-meaning fans. No one here cares who you are, just that you fit in and are good neighbors.
— Valerie Tutor, Kingfisher Real Estate, Inc.

How are you handling remote viewings and closings, particularly for clients who may not physically be in Florida right now? What have been some of the most successful aspects of how you have changed the way you do business, especially for non-local clients?

We send buyers to our website, clubatibis.com. It has a lot of content that helps buyers determine if we have a fit.
— John Jorritsma, The Club at Ibis

FaceTime, virtual tours, 3D videos and virtual staging if unfurnished.
— Sheldon Jaffee, Sheldon Jaffee, LLC

During the beginning stages of development, the developer of ALINA residences, Elad Group, understood the importance of technology and has offered virtual presentations and virtual tours from inception. The sales team has the ability to provide a virtual experience of each residence, views and amenities to prospects and agents via Zoom, FaceTime, etc. ALINA led the market in this virtual ability and will offer closings Q1 2020.
— Marisela Cotilla, ALINA Residences Boca Raton

Akoya offers videos of our model residences, live virtual tours and private on-site showings. Our sales team provides live tours of model residences, unfurnished residences, on-site amenities and Boca West Country Club amenities. This has proven successful as buyers are now purchasing virtually.
— Rebecca Spooner, Akoya Boca West

We are well-equipped here to handle remote viewings and closings—we were doing that even before the pandemic. As a vacation destination for our Northern neighbors as well as a strong international clientele, we are used to dealing with customers who are not local and may not have the time to get here. It is not uncommon to have offers and purchases made sight unseen. We have ramped up our work with professional videographers to provide detailed video walkthrough tours as well as 360° tours, and we often use FaceTime, Zoom or other applications to show homes to those who are not physically here. Our closing process has been largely electronic for some time now and remote closings are really easy. The Florida Association of Realtors and the Florida Bar Association, as well as the title services professionals in Florida, have done a great job clarifying and streamlining our procedures so they are uniform and consistent as well as fair to both seller and buyer.

Putting more content on the web—such as photos, aerial tours, videos—and learning to use the video conferencing applications have been very successful for us in working with non-local customers and giving them the opportunity to purchase a safe home in paradise. Another aspect for me is that I am a “full-service” realtor. I will handle all aspects of the sale including representing the buyer during inspections, repairs, remodels, cleaning, you name it. I have home building experience and work with several local vendors, contractors and interior designers, so I can connect my customers with them and oversee any upgrades, decorating or other activities necessary prior to the buyers arriving to stay in their new home. My service does not end with the closing. As a native Floridian, islander and self-professed “mermaid,” I want everyone who makes a choice to live here to love it as I do and start out having a contact and friend in me. I want them to be thrilled with their new home and tropical lifestyle!
— Valerie Tutor, Kingfisher Real Estate, Inc.

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