Quick Hits: If you’re planning to buy a home, do it now, because prices are going up for the next few years. Investments in single-family rental properties have good potential in Broward County. Apartment developments have the best potential in Miami-Dade. Mortgages have higher risk even though prices are rising. Best bets for investments in retail or restaurants are in Palm Beach County, which also needs medical office space.
With a large number of second homes and condos, South Florida is prone to boom and bust cycles that stem more from investment hopes than housing needs. Add an expanding Latino population and waves of baby-boomers – two million retiring every year – and you get both risks and opportunities. Demand for Florida housing is always growing, but is it growing slower or faster than the supply?
The percentage of second homes increases as you head north from Miami, to 20 percent in Palm Beach County. This large pool of empty properties is the swing vote in home prices. It can swamp supply during a downturn but also represents the desire of future retirees – and South American investors – to buy while they can.
The economy of Miami itself is diversified – with an important finance sector – but as you go up the coast more jobs are in retail and services. Healthcare is the largest creator of jobs in all three counties, and growing rapidly.
Home prices were strong in the last three years – up 40 percent – and I expect they’ll keep rising 10 percent a year. But… How much of that 40 percent was from speculation in foreclosed condos? How much from ‘real’ demand? There are strong reasons to believe that from here on we are looking at prices going higher than they ‘should’ – especially in Broward County – in other words a mini-boom that will fizzle after a few years. If you’re looking to buy for the long-term, do it now. If you’re looking for a short-term investment, be very, very careful.
Because rents held up better than home prices during the recession, buying a property to rent out is an attractive option despite the recent rise in prices, less so in Palm Beach County, more so in Miami-Dade and Broward. Almost half of households in Miami are renters. With most the new healthcare and retail jobs paying low wages, the renting population will increase. In urban areas it makes sense to buy a single-family house and split it into rental units. Apartment buildings are a good option in Miami – at the right price.
Mortgages are a difficult investment right now. Because home prices will keep rising the next few years, the equity cushion for new mortgages will grow quickly; on the other hand, prices are almost too high in Broward and Miami-Dade already, which means these mortgages will have a rising risk of default. Just because the last bust is over doesn’t mean a new one isn’t around the corner. Lenders should back away from high loan-to-value mortgages during this period. The same is true for construction loans; new projects should be financed in very careful stages.
Population is growing at an uneven pace, slower in Miami, faster as you move up the coast. Over the next three years I expect a 10 percent increase in housing needs in Palm Beach County – 30,000 owner properties and 23,000 apartments. I expect 25,000 of each in Broward, and in Miami 30,000 houses and 36,000 apartments.
The climate for investments in retail businesses and restaurants is best in Palm Beach County, where demand has grown quickly the last two years and average income is the highest. All three counties, but especially Palm Beach will need office space for the growing number of healthcare workers.