Hialeah, a working-class suburb of 230,000 people that was devastated by South Florida’s foreclosure meltdown, has emerged as one of the top destinations for real estate investors scouring Miami-Dade County for distressed condo deals.
As the quantity of unsold developer condo units and distressed residential properties in coastal Miami-Dade has been absorbed during the last few years, cash buyers — both domestic and foreign — are increasingly focusing on alternative markets such as Hialeah for real estate investment.
The growing interest in working-class neighborhoods located away from the coast comes as investors push north, south, and west with the hope of expanding their portfolios of distressed properties at a time when the South Florida condo market shows signs of stabilizing.
Distressed properties — short sales and bank-owned units — on the resale market have slipped to less than 15 percent of the overall condos and townhouses currently available in Miami-Dade, according to the Southeast Florida MLXchange.
Contributing to the investor interest in distressed properties in alternative locations is the growing number of proposed developments — nearly 90 new condo towers with at least 13,000 units and counting — slated for sites near the coast in the tricounty South Florida region of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
Fewer than 3,100 new condos remain unsold out of nearly 49,000 units created during the last boom-and-bust cycle in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties as of Sept. 30, 2012, according to Clerk of the Court records from the respective counties.
Unlike condos near the coast, with asking prices of more than $300 per square foot, resale units in the working-class locations of Miami-Dade County start at less than $75 per square foot, translating into more buying power for investors.
The arrival of investors into South Florida’s working-class areas creates the potential that alternative markets such as Hialeah could finally begin to experience the real estate recovery that has been occurring in South Florida’s coastal neighborhoods.
Until recently, residents of working-class areas such as Hialeah who were hard hit by the real estate meltdown have been stuck in neutral as the quantity of distressed real estate weighed down pricing, and consequently limited financing options for individuals who might otherwise want to purchase.
These market conditions have meant that residents of many working-class neighborhoods had no other option than to rent.
As a result, the demand for rental units has led to a nearly 13 percent increase in the median lease rate in Hialeah to $1.17 per square foot monthly in 2012. By comparison, the median lease rate was less than $1.05 per square foot monthly in 2009, according to the data.
The jump in rental rates in Hialeah coupled with attractive resale prices has caught the attention of investors.
In Hialeah, buyers acquired about 725 condo and townhouse resales at a median price of more than $70 per square foot in the first 10 months of 2012. More than 80 percent of the transactions involve either short sales or bank-owned units, according to the data.
An additional 500 units are under contract at a median asking price of $68 per square foot waiting to transact in Hialeah.
If the completed transactions and the pending deals are combined, investors are on pace to purchase an average of more than 120 condos and townhouses monthly in Hialeah in 2012, according to the data.
Buyers in the last year of the South Florida real estate boom purchased an average of less than 50 units per month in Hialeah during the same period of 2006. The median purchase price at the time was nearly $200 per square foot, according to the data.
There’s a similar trend in other working-class areas of Miami-Dade County, where buyers have purchased an average of more than 65 units per month at a median price of nearly $50 per square foot in Homestead; 30 units per month at a median price of more than $70 per square foot in North Miami; and 13 units per month at a median price of nearly $45 per square foot in Miami Gardens in the first 10 months of 2012, according to the data.
Barring a dramatic change, indications are the working-class areas of Miami-Dade County could finally be on the mend from the South Florida meltdown that first began in 2007.
The unanswered question is whether banks, with a stockpile of repossessed properties from the foreclosure meltdown in South Florida, will continue to slowly resell units or suddenly do an about face and attempt to unload their shadow inventory at one time.
Peter Zalewski is a principal with the Miami real estate consultancy Condo Vultures. Zalewski, a licensed Florida real estate professional since 1995 and founder of CVR Realty and Condo Vultures Realty LLC, advises developers, lenders and institutional investors.