Florida Luxury Homeowners Flip Properties During Boom


Greg Norman and Tommy Hilfiger (Getty, iStock)

Greg Norman and Tommy Hilfiger (Getty, iStock)

South Florida’s luxury real estate market has seen a huge jump in sales over the past year, as the uber-wealthy continue to move from high-tax states. In turn inventory has declined and homeowners are cashing out.

Seasoned veterans like Steve Wynn and Todd Michael Glaser have dominated recent headlines by flipping properties, but “a new breed of buyer” in South Florida also has emerged. Some buyers, including athletes, executives and celebrities like Tommy Hilfiger, are trading not just homes, but towns, moving to other parts of the tri-county region.

Ed Rabin, a former president of Hyatt Hotels, relocated from a condo at Miami Beach’s Apogee to a house in Palm Beach. Serena Williams moved to Jupiter after selling a house in Palm Beach Gardens for $2.8 million in January.

Similarly, fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger and his wife, handbag designer Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger, sold their waterfront Golden Beach mansion for $27.5 million in May, then purchased a waterfront home in Palm Beach for $21 million shortly after.

Yet, some buyers even stay in the same building, like Pierre Brondeau, who moved up a few floors at Palazzo Del Sol on Fisher Island. Former tennis No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and ex-NBA player David Lee did the same.

“I see three, four, five transactions with the same clients,” Stacy Robbins of Stacy Robins Companies said. “It’s a new breed of buyer in Miami.”

Robins, who helped Rabin sell his Miami Beach condo, said that a main factor in her clients’ decision to switch locations is lifestyle fit. For those who like the nightlife and culture South Florida has to offer, Miami Beach may satisfy their needs, while those who prefer a more quiet life might find Palm Beach to be just the right speed.

Longtime film and television producer Douglas Cramer moved across Biscayne Bay. Cramer and his husband traded their La Gorce Island property in Miami Beach for a home in Miami’s Morningside, while Richard Wackenhut uprooted from Palm Beach to Boca Raton.

Robins compared the housing market to the stock market, with some homebuyers expanding their portfolios. More is to come, she said.

Nutrition power couple Roger and Sloan Barnett have been assembling a collection of South Florida homes this year. In April, the couple purchased a Coconut Grove mansion for close to $46 million, and a Star Island mansion for $38 million. They sold their unit on Fisher Island for $23 million in May, four months after buying it.

“Some [buyers] want to be close to the action,” said Joanna Jimenez of Compass. “For others, waterfront property is more important.”

Robins also attributes the steady stream of deals to out-of-town buyers who may be used to owning properties around the country. “New Yorkers are used to leaving the city,” and enjoying beach getaways in the Hamptons or other nearby places, while still enjoying everyday city life, Robins said.

Faced with little inventory, some buyers are choosing teardowns or lots, aiming to build their dream home. While they wait, they’ll pick up a smaller house or a condo.

Music executive Tommy Mottola and his wife, Thalía, a singer and actress, bought a La Gorce Island teardown about two weeks after flipping their Surfside condo, having lived in it for less than a year.

Financier Gary Siegler, too, scored a renovation project after buying a Miami Beach teardown for $8.3 million. Days earlier, he sold an Indian Creek home for $27.9 million.

Out of town buyers are pushing pricing up, in some cases leaving sellers with few options of where they can move.

In the first quarter of 2021, residential sales volume in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties totaled $15.8 billion, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.

“Locals are taking advantage of the market by selling and moving,” said Danny Hertzberg, of The Jills Zeder Group at Coldwell Banker. Hertzberg represented a seller who flipped a waterfront Venetian Islands home in February.

Gary Pohrer, a top agent in Palm Beach, said he now has to find homes for his sellers before getting their listings, as a result of the huge decline in inventory. Off-market deals also abound.

Prime 112 restaurateur Myles Chefetz sold his waterfront Venetian Islands home on a 17,000-square-foot lot in an off-market deal in April, and bought a non-waterfront Miami Beach spec home on a nearly 9,000-square-foot lot in May.

Former pro golfer Greg Norman also downsized with the recent sale of his 32,000-square-foot Palm Beach Gardens estate. He and his wife Kiki bought a 11,837-square-foot mansion in Jupiter.

“We’re seeing a reshuffling in markets,” Hertzberg said. “If I had to guess, I think in 12 to 16 months, many people who came will sell their homes to find neighborhoods that are a better fit.”


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