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Homes you can buy for under $80,000

Not that long ago, during the depths of the real estate slump, less than $50,000 could buy you a fairly decent home in deep South Miami-Dade. Prices had plummeted so low, and foreclosures were so rampant, that the area was flush with available housing.

Today, the picture has changed and the “For Sale” signs — particularly for foreclosures — are harder to find. Inventory is way down, and the price threshold has risen with the tide of buyers, who often flood properties with multiple offers.

“There are fewer foreclosed properties on the market,” said Tony Garcia, district sales manager for the Keyes Co. in Homestead. “We had a point in 2010 where 80 percent of the properties we were showing were foreclosed properties. We forgot how to show properties with people in them — they were all vacant.”

A recent review of active single-family home listings in unincorporated deep South Miami-Dade, Homestead and Florida City revealed just four foreclosures and 24 short sales priced from $50,000 to $80,000 — with most of them at the high end of that range.

The offerings are catch-as-catch-can, and many are in dire need of work. They may look good in the Multiple Listing Service photos, but may be missing appliances, have a damaged roof or require a total interior remodel.

That scenario is duplicated in pockets of Broward County, where a smattering of homes priced under $80,000 — mostly distressed — can be found. The top five markets in that price range are Fort Lauderdale, Tamarac, Davie, Hollywood and Pompano Beach, said Kenny Giacco, a Realtor for the Keyes Co. in Fort Lauderdale.

“You can still find homes under $80,000 in Broward, but they are few and far between,” Giacco said. “The condition of the property needs to be examined very closely. The good stuff is gone very quickly.”

Still, across both counties, buyers seem to be biting, and Realtors say listings are moving quickly. Lower-priced properties are scooped up in about 30 days, sometimes ending in a bidding war, Garcia said.

“Everybody has had to up their ante. If they’re looking at $70,000, they have to go up to $90,000; if they’re looking at $100,000, they have to go to the mid-$100s,” Garcia said. “The prices have changed and there’s no inventory. Now we have people ready, willing and eager to buy, and we don’t have enough properties to show them.”

Juliet Restrepo, Realtor associate and top producer with Prudential Bishop Realty in Homestead, said she sees properties priced under $100,000 fetching 10 bids and selling within two weeks.

“There are lots of buyers and not enough inventory at that price level,” she said. “So when they come out, if they’re good, they go.”

One of Restrepo’s clients, Gabriel Cortes, a contractor who lives in Homestead, has recently bought three homes there, each for less than $80,000, so he can fix them up and resell them at a profit.

“The prices are good right now,” Cortes said. “This is the place right now to buy a property.”

Indeed, deep South Miami-Dade, a microcosm of South Florida, has seen its boom and bust days. And now, like much of the area, it is stabilizing and on the upswing.

In the boom days, speculators were signing pre-construction contracts for $100,000, and then flipping them once the final coat of paint had dried for as much as double the price, said Garcia, whose Keyes office had swelled to 89 real estate agents in 2008.

By the fall of that year, the market was spiraling downward. Garcia remembers silence in the office, deals falling through, banks changing their lending rules.

“The party was over,” he said. Soon, the office’s agent count dropped to 40.

Now, on a recent afternoon, the same business, on U.S. 1 in Homestead, was bustling. The office’s current roster of 58 real estate agents is closing 25 to 35 deals a month.

Buyers, Garcia said, tend to be first-time homeowners or families moving from other parts of Miami because they can get more value for their money.

On one recent afternoon, The Herald went with Garcia to check out four single-family homes priced under $75,000 in unincorporated South Dade, Homestead and Florida City.

The properties included one home in foreclosure that had been rehabbed by a bank, two home that were short sales — one with a hole in the roof and the strong odor of mold, and another with the floor dropping out — and one manufactured home in good condition.

Together, they provide a snapshot of the low-end market, one that still offers some of the cheapest available property in South Florida.

“Everybody wants Homestead,” Restrepo said, “because that is where you find the good prices.”

Sample properties:

•  25585 SW 138th Pl. in unincorporated Miami-Dade: A three-bedroom, two-bath home of 1,199 square feet with a nice-sized yard, priced at $74,900. In 2006, the house was listed for $293,900.

Built in 2004, the foreclosed home is owned by Wells Fargo. It has been rehabbed, with fresh paint, a ceramic tile floor, mica counters and a new refrigerator and oven.

•  16730 SW 300th St., Homestead: This turquoise, three-bedroom, two-bath home of 1,345 square feet is under foreclosure and priced at $59,900, recently lowered from $69,900.

Plan to spend at least $25,000 rehabbing it, and bring a face mask. The ceiling in the master bedroom has caved in, scattering debris on the floor and leaving a strong stench of mold. A front window is boarded up, the kitchen cabinets are rotting, and it is missing an oven and refrigerator.

Built in 1970, the home on a quiet street near U.S. 1 has a tall royal palm at the edge of the front yard. Once fixed up, Garcia figures it could sell for $95,000.

•  327 NW Third St., Florida City: This yellow two-bedroom, one-bath home of 1,034 square feet is a short sale, priced at $69,000. Garcia said it is worth $30,000. The electricity is turned off, and there are gaping holes in the tile floor. The stove sits on the front porch.

Expect to completely remodel it on the inside. Located near Krome Avenue, the home has a good-sized yard with a lush mango tree.

•  35250 SW 177th Ct., Unit #13, Florida City: This double-wide manufactured home in Gateway Estates, an age 55+ community, is 2,000 square feet with five bedrooms and two bathrooms, priced at $55,000.

Surprisingly spacious for a pre-fab home, it has tile and laminate floors, and the master bathroom has a Roman tub.

The split plan includes a room that could be used as a den or office, located just off the master bedroom. The kitchen is open, and it has appliances, except for a dishwasher.

The home is owned by Miami Management Group, which purchased it for $16,000 in 2009. The community complex includes a clubhouse and pool.