Mary de Laosa can point to the spot where she learned to do a headstand as a kid, right in her next-door neighbor’s southwest Miami backyard.
She eventually bought the house with her parents as an investment, moved in when she got married and had her two daughters while living there.
Now a Kendall resident facing the possibility of graduate school for those daughters, de Laosa is selling the home at 220 SW 51st Ct. with her mother, Elaida Rincon, who still lives next door. The home is listed for $315,000.
But de Laosa, associate vice provost for human resources at Miami Dade College, still sounds a little nostalgic about the cozy 2/1 with a converted garage, arched entryways, wood floors and tree-dotted yard.
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“A lot of the properties have land, compared to zero lots today,” she said. “It’s not the cookie-cutter approach. Every little house is different.”
Buyers seem to be catching on to the area, which is more affordable than nearby hot spots such as Shenandoah, Silver Bluff and especially Coral Gables.
Nestled north of Coral Gables and west of Little Havana, the West Flagler neighborhood — which stretches from 57th Avenue to the west, Northwest Seventh Street to the north, 27th Avenue to the east and Southwest Eighth Street to the south — is experiencing some of the strongest single-family home value growth in Miami and Miami Beach, according to Zillow.
In June, the median value for a single-family home was $255,300, up 16.5 percent from the previous year. Condo and townhouse values increased nearly 10 percent year-over-year in June to $129,600, Zillow data shows. While the value growth is outpacing the county’s rate of 8.6 percent, homes are still affordable compared to the county median of $278,000.
During the economic recession, the picture wasn’t so optimistic.
Broker Wesley Ulloa of LUXE Properties in Coral Gables said she started working in the area selling foreclosures in 2008 and 2009.
While prices have increased significantly since then, she said homes in the neighborhood are still a good value, especially compared to nearly areas where prices have skyrocketed.
“A lot of people are getting priced out,” she said.
And while a drive through West Flagler’s streets shows that bars on the windows are still common, Ulloa said those measures are vestiges of decades-old security concerns.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the neighborhood now,” she said. “Little by little, they’re coming down.”
Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, whose district includes the neighborhood, said West Flagler emerged as a suburb of Little Havana and a popular place for Cuban families to spread out and establish roots in the 1960s and 70s.
“It is a multi-generational sort of neighborhood where now you have, depending on how you want to look at it, third-generation or second-generation Cuban Americans sort of inheriting or taking over the homes in many case from their parents or grandparents,” he said.
Those longtime owners are joined by new young professionals looking to make their own start, he said.
“It’s still affordable enough, it’s close enough to the urban core, it allows you to have that sort of American dream of being a homeowner,” Suarez said. “It’s relatively low crime, decent-sized homes and decent-sized lots.”
Most buyers in West Flagler are young, either singles or couples buying their first home or trading up to a home from a condo, Ulloa said. Homes tend to be small, mostly with two bedrooms and one bath; amenities often include original hardwood floors and yards with fruit trees.
16.5 percent increase year-over-year in median home value
But the biggest amenity, aside from price, is proximity, Ulloa said, naming off nearby destinations and the time it takes to get to them: five minutes to Coral Gables, 10 to Coconut Grove, 15 to Brickell, 20 or 30 to Doral.
“Traffic is a killer right now,” she said.
Within the next year, Suarez said, the city plans to add another option for traffic-averse residents: a trolley line that will extend from downtown west to 37th Avenue along Flagler Street and then back east along Southwest Eighth Street. He said another priority for the area is general sprucing up: adding trees and landscaping and installing traffic control devices.
Restaurants, supermarkets, motels, bakeries, pawn shops and travel companies — especially those that specialize in Cuba — dot major roads. Magic City Casino sits within the borders. And new businesses are moving in.
It’s still affordable enough, it’s close enough to the urban core, it allows you to have that sort of American dream of being a homeowner.
Francis Suarez, Miami city commissioner
Vicky Bakery plans to open its 15th location in the Shops at Flagler and Douglas, possibly by the end of this year.
“The area is a great fit for us just being on Flagler, such a main street and so much volume,” said Yvette Cao, director of marketing for the family-owned company with more than 40 years of history in South Florida.
Cao said the proximity to Coral Gables and largely Hispanic population nearby was also a plus for a bakery that was founded by Cuban immigrants and remains known for its pastelitos.
“That location, we’re really excited about it,” Cao said. “We think it’s going to do well there.”
Background: West Flagler’s good prices and convenient location near Coral Gables and Little Havana make it an attractive neighborhood for home buyers. Many are young couples and professionals buying their first home or trading up from a condo. It stretches from 57th Avenue on the west to 27th Avenue on the east, and from Southwest Eighth on the south to Northwest Seventh Street on the north, including the ZIP codes 33125 and 33135. Crime statistics and Florida Department of Education school grades are average.
Median single-family home values: $255,300 in June, up 16.5 percent over the previous year. That’s one of the fastest rates of growth in Miami-Dade County.
Median condo/townhome values: $129,600 in June, up 10 percent over the previous year.