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High-end buyers boost Florida condo market

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Jeff Horwich: At the height of vacation season, many well-off families are retreating to newly purchased second homes. The National Association of Realtors reports brisk sales of luxury vacation homes.

Kate Archer Kent of Red River Radio met some eager buyers in Florida, and asked them, what’s the rush?

Kate Archer Kent: Joy Siegel is shopping for a beachfront family compound. Or, as she puts it, a party house. On a recent showing in Longboat Key on Florida’s Gulf Coast, her realtor knows location will close the deal — a great view.

A property she saw recently has not just that, but 100 feet of beachfront.

Siegel is 49. She owns a title company in Bethesda, Maryland. Her husband is a builder. They’re about to become empty nesters and want to spend more time at a fancier vacation home. Siegel is moving quickly because she senses competition for these luxury homes. She’s lured by low interest rates and what she thinks is the tail end of bargain deals post housing crisis.

Joy Siegel: I think the corner’s going to turn very quickly. Usually by the time you look back and say, Where was the bottom?, it’s already way beyond you.

Agent Barbara Ackerman found them their first vacation home in Sarasota six years ago. Ackerman sees a new type of luxury buyer. Instead of retirees, they’re like the Siegels, professionals in the thick of their careers who don’t want the fuss of a fixer-upper.

Barbara Ackerman: In a lot of cases, the buyers don’t have the time or the vision. They want it now.

And they have the money. Unlike many Americans, these buyers have healthier stock portfolios now, leading to more demand. The chief economist at Florida Realtors John Tuccillo says this wealth is one reason why the luxury market is heating up around the Sunshine State.

John Tuccillo: Buyers now are essentially coming around sniffing at these houses. When you see the sales go up, this is going to embolden sellers to put the houses on the market.

Joy Siegel is ready to jump on any home she falls in love with — almost. She says her family will take a vote before making any offer. And she’ll give up square footage for the Gulf of Mexico lapping at her backyard. 

I’m Kate Archer Kent for Marketplace.

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