Every month, the Miami Association of Realtors announces the top 10 foreign countries that use its website to search for Miami real estate.

As you might expect, this list typically features the “usual suspects” month after month, such as Colombia, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and France. However, the most recently published report (from January 2017) included an unfamiliar newcomer: Turkey, ranked at No. 7.

Miami has always attracted foreign buyers, and we are very used to seeing strong interest from Latin America and Europe. But this marked the first time that a Middle Eastern country was included among that report’s top 10.

While time and circumstances could make this inclusion an outlier, it is also a fairly good demonstration of Miami’s rising profile among wealthy and sophisticated real-estate buyers from that part of the world.

Last September, CBRE Capital Markets reported that commercial investment in Miami from the Middle East totaled $517 million between January and June 2016 alone, making it the 10th most popular global market for Middle Eastern investment during this time period, and the fifth most popular in the U.S.

Why Miami?

A number of factors have coincided to propel this dramatic increase in demand for Miami real estate from the region. First, turmoil and unstable governments throughout the Middle East have pushed wealthy families to seek more and varied residency options, beyond the usual “comfort zones” of London and New York.

Second, Miami is considered a relatively new city, with many recently-constructed buildings and houses that offer state-of-the-art amenities, which appeal to prosperous Arabs.

Third, with the recent addition of world-renowned luxury hotels, restaurants, architecture, retail and cultural offerings (Four Seasons, Zuma, Zaha Hadid, Art Basel, etc.), Miami now enjoys a higher level of sophistication than in years past.

And finally, more direct flights from Dubai, Doha and Istanbul have literally put Miami within reach for more Middle Eastern buyers.

Put all these elements together, and Miami is now viewed as a secure, modern, upmarket, accessible and (important for Middle Easterners!) warm American city, with reasonably-priced real estate and amenities curated for high net-worth individuals.

(Recent buyers from Turkey present specific and compelling evidence of this observation. A few years ago, there was a big spike in their attention to projects like the Four Seasons in Surfside and the Capri in South Beach — just around the time that Erdoğan was elected president and began seriously consolidating power in that country.)

Three Broad Categories

Miami’s Middle Eastern buyers fall into three broad categories:

  • Wealthy individuals seeking pied-à-terres, to enjoy a few months of leisure
  • Investors looking to purchase at big projects like the W Downtown and the St. Regis Bal Harbour
  • Students attending college, usually at the University of Miami. Our country attracts many foreign students, and let’s face it — what 20 year-old wouldn’t love to spend four years here?

The really interesting phenomenon is that many of these Middle Eastern college students become the “gateway” for other family members, encouraging mom, dad, grandma and others to join them in Miami. Family is extremely important to Middle Eastern buyers, and real-estate professionals should be prepared to find housing for them that is suitable for and capable of expansion, or has more available units nearby.

No Trump Concerns

While President Donald Trump’s Middle Eastern travel/emigration policy (or “Muslim Ban,” as it has been described) draws international headlines and lots of cable news chatter, you might be surprised to know that clients from that region pay it little attention.

Prosperous Middle Eastern individuals do not feel unfairly “targeted” in any respect and feel no need to protest or complain. Their concerns are about finding safe, secure and reliable investments should they need to flee their home countries due to political, religious or military turmoil. This would be the case regardless of who occupies the White House.

While the region continues to be very unstable and capable of dramatic change, a mass influx of Middle Eastern buyers is not expected to Miami in the near or distant future. However, the trend of more wealthy individuals choosing Miami over major U.S. cities like New York or Los Angeles is here to stay, and Turkey and other Arab countries may become regulars on that list of online real-estate Web searchers.


Source: Miami Herald

southeast-financial-center-5A company tied to Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega has paid more than $500 million for the Southeast Financial Center, a 55-story office tower in the heart of downtown Miami, according to a report in the Daily Business Review.

A source with knowledge of the deal confirmed the news to the Miami Herald.

This marks the second South Florida mega-purchase for Ortega, who owns the Zara fashion brand. Last year, Ortega paid $370 million for an entire stretch of Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Forbes lists Ortega as the world’s second-richest man with a net worth of $72.2 billion.

Financial giant JPMorgan owned the 1.2 million-square-foot tower at 200 S. Biscayne Blvd., which it put up for sale over the summer.

“It’s the largest single-building transaction in the history of Miami, to my knowledge,” said Ezra Katz, a commercial real estate investor who was not involved in the deal. “There is a very unique market for trophy properties. … It is clearly the finest location in town.”


Source: Miami Herald

High net worth investors, families, and wealth managers from Latin America, seeking to diversify their portfolios, have been on a buying binge for office buildings and single-tenant retail properties throughout Miami-Dade County during the past 18 months, real estate advisors and developers specializing in the commercial sector told The Real Deal.

“Their appetite for well-positioned income-producing assets coupled with Miami’s prospering economy are translating into appreciating property values at a faster pace than previously anticipated,” said Alex Zylberglait, president of The Zylberglait Group at Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services in Miami. “It is fueling transaction velocity across most product types. And there is particular interest in single tenant spaces.”

Alex Zylberglait, president of The Zylberglait Group at Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services

Alex Zylberglait, president of The Zylberglait Group

Zylberglait told TRD that his firm brokered the sale of six commercial properties to buyers from Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador and Italy in the past 15 months.

For instance, Zlyberglait represented the seller of a 20,000-square-foot office building at 1250 Northwest 57th Avenue that is the headquarters of Summit Aerospace, an aircraft maintenance company that generates approximately $18 million in sales annually. The building was sold in March of last year for $2.6 million to a company called Algafin, which lists Giorgio Rubini, an Italian national, as its manager.

4995 Northwest 72nd Avenue

4995 Northwest 72nd Avenue

In another Zylberglait brokered transaction in July of last year, a Brazilian-owned entity called Kireland 41 Street Doral purchased an L.A. Fitness at 10055 Northwest 41st Street for $9.9 million. More recently, Zylberglait represented the previous owner of an office building anchored by a Wells Fargo Bank at 4995 Northwest 72nd Avenue. The property was bought for $5.3 million on March 25 by St. Helena LLC, a corporation listing Frech Hasbun and Freddie Moises of La Libertad, El Salvador, as managers.

Zylberglait’s firm is not the only commercial real estate brokerage seeing more interest from foreign buyers. Earlier this month, Fabio Faerman of Fortune International/FA Commercial told TRD he represented a foreign buyer that purchased a 2,259-square-foot Taco Bell at 1650 Northeast 163rd Street in North Miami Beach.

“International investors are looking for business opportunities like this,” Faerman said in a statement. “This is a prime location with a great franchise, Taco Bell.”

Camilo Lopez, president and managing director of The Solution Group

Camilo Lopez, president and managing director of The Solution Group

The company is tearing down the old structure to make way for a Mediterranean-style office building called OFIZZINA. It will have 54 units totaling 96,767 square feet of office space, as well as three retail units at ground level and 332 parking spaces, Lopez told TRD. Camilo Lopez, president and managing director of real estate development and management company The Solution Group, said demand from Latin American buyers for commercial office space is the reason his firm is building an office condo in Coral Gables. In August of last year, Solution paid $6.6 million for a one-story office building at 1200 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, built in 1972.

“In our research meetings, we realized the office market is the least served sector in Miami,” Lopez said. “It doesn’t even reach 5 percent of the overall real estate market. Because of the very limited offerings, we decided to build a luxurious office condo building.”

The project, including the land purchase and construction, is being financed privately through a capital fund made up of investors from Latin America and Europe, Lopez said. He said the office condo concept appeals to South Americans.

Claudio Stivelman, a principal partner in Aventura-based S2 Development

Claudio Stivelman, a principal partner in Aventura-based S2 Development

Claudio Stivelman, a principal partner in Aventura-based S2 Development, said foreign investors staking claims to commercial properties in South Florida have buying power that begins in the $3 million to $5 million range.

“These are people who have likely already bought a condo or two in Miami and are looking to upgrade their portfolio,” Stivelman told TRD. “They may want to buy a Walgreens, a strip mall  or a warehouse.”

In recent months, Stivelman said, his contacts in Brazil have been introducing him to investors who are not interested in condos.

“They are seeing the strength of the commercial side,” Stivelman said. “They see an opportunity to make big money.”

Zylberglait said the foreign buyers he’s dealt with view commercial properties as a safer bet.

“The income generated from the properties is a much more stable situation than buying a half-a-million dollar condo that doesn’t produce income unless you can rent it,” Zylberglat explained. “Buying a commercial asset not only produces a stronger yield. It also allows the buyers to leverage those investments.”


Source: The Real Deal

It’s a scene that’s played out countless times here in recent years.

A working-class couple identify a home they want to buy, they work with their bank on a mortgage and prepare an offer, only to find that the property’s been purchased by a foreigner who plunked down a full cash payment. “That’s happened to every Realtor in Miami,” said Adrian Foley, a lawyer and real estate agent.

That situation is partly why Miami has become one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. to buy or rent a home. Lured by the beaches or the relative security of the American real estate market, people from around the globe have flooded the area in recent years.

 Every time the Argentine or Brazilian economy takes a plunge, Miami real estate agents see a wave of people flying north looking for a safer place to invest their money. Whenever global oil prices fall, Russians and Venezuelans start showing up. Vacationers from Europe buy properties to serve as winter retreats. “And there’s now for the first time quite a lot of activity coming from Asian buyers, especially Chinese,” Foley said.

One clear indication of foreign purchases is the number of Miami homes being bought with cash. As much as 70% of total home purchases in the Miami area were cash sales in March 2012, according to real estate research firm CoreLogic. That was down to 58% in December, but still well above the national average of 35.5%.

Miami still remains relatively cheap for buying prime property. “They are very inexpensive compared to other places in the world, be it Buenos Aires, Bogota, Paris, Germany, Russia,” said Alberto Orso, a Miami real estate agent who works with many Latin American buyers.

Another factor has been a strong push from city leaders and developers to cultivate a global, cosmopolitan environment that attracts a wide variety of wealthy foreigners. Christie’s International Real Estate listed Miami among its top 10 luxury markets in 2014. Flip through the April edition of American Airlines’ in-flight magazine and there are several Miami-area developers advertising their properties, one even promoting it as a place to buy and immediately rent out as an investment.

But when foreigners are making the decision of where to buy, it comes down to one thing. “You go to the most attractive cities,” said Geoffrey Garrett, the Australian-born dean of the Wharton School of business at the University of Pennsylvania, during a recent visit to Miami. “Globally-mobile people want to go to the most cosmopolitan places, and Miami is certainly up there.

Drawing those kinds of investors, however, has come at a cost. Developers are building mostly high-priced condos and homes to match the international demand. And with banks hesitant to hand out loans following Miami’s real estate plunge during the recent recession, local residents are left with few options.

“Ninety percent of new construction underway in Miami right now is unaffordable for 90% of the population that lives here,” said Jack McCabe, a real estate analyst with McCabe Research & Consulting. “When people talk about this great divide between the rich and the poor,” McCabe said, “it’s very evident in Miami.”

The focus on luxury projects has also left renters with few options. According to the online real estate database Zillow, Miami-area renters spent 44.2% of their income on rent in the last three months of 2014, the second-highest figure in the country, after Los Angeles.


Source: USA Today