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Priced out of Paradise: City in Transition
Miami-Dade is the most expensive metro in the U.S. for renters and one of the costliest for home buyers. This series explains why that’s so and what it means for the region and its residents. Our interactive tool helps renters and buyers match their budgets to affordable neighborhoods. Future stories will explore solutions to South Florida’s housing crisis.
For more than 30 years, Kim Scales drove the hourlong, round-trip commute from her home in northwest Miami to her job teaching humanities at the K-8 Center on Key Biscayne.
Then a few years ago, she and her husband decided they needed a change of scene.
“I just didn’t want to be over there — the trucks, the gunshots. ...,” she said of her old northwest neighborhood.
She knew what she wanted, having grown up in suburban Washington, D.C.: Trees, a pool, an area to bike around. Scales is also a cancer survivor and wanted to be someplace tranquil.
She and her husband began looking north of downtown, Miami Shores and Biscayne Park. Both proved too expensive.
They found the perfect fit just a bit farther north: a 4-bedroom, 3-bath house in North Miami, completely refurbished by a local self-taught fixer upper.
The price: Scales declined to say, but put it at more than $400,000. She said her daughter, a Stanford-trained lawyer, helped pay for it.
If $400,000 seems steep for North Miami, you haven’t woken up to the realities of the state of South Florida’s real estate market.
According to Zillow, the median sales price for a home in North Miami is now about $250,000, up 6 percent from last year. One reason: North Miami is officially the fastest-growing city in Miami-Dade.
In reality, according to Benny Taveras, a Realtor and refurbisher who remodeled Scales’ home, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find something as nice as what the Scales family found at that price. Some of the homes listed on Zillow for less than $300,000 are in pre-foreclosure. Others have what another Realtor, Luis Padilla, described as “funky” layouts, like a three-bed corner lot with a large, cave-like living room, or additions not up to code.
Taveras says he purchased the property Scales’ home now sits on at about $150,000, and estimates he put in about $200,000 worth of work.
“Most of the places around here, you’re just getting four walls,” Taveras said. “The electricity is going to be about 60 years old, the plumbing is going to be between 60 and 70 years old.”
“In North Miami, [$350,000] is not going to get you anything,” he continued. “These are houses you’ve got to put a hundred grand into to make them decent.”
Most of North Miami was built immediately after the war; Taveras says that one of the projects he’s worked on turned up original clay pipes. One 3-bedroom, 2-bath crammed into 890 square feet on a corner lot is listed on Zillow as having “lots of potential.” Recent asking price: $249,900.
For Scales’ family, the price was right. Taveras installed quaint touches like a cement portico and a wood-paneled address sign out front. He also completely rehabbed the pool and added a stone-step walk-up. The kitchen and bathroom were completely redone to be bright and airy.
And then there’s the area itself: Scales says her neighbors are friendly, with an increasing stream of new arrivals. In general, she finds the city “adorable,” something the city itself seems to recognize. Its new slogan: “To NoMi is to Love Me.”
▪Median age: 35.3
▪Main intersection: West Dixie Highway and NE 125th St.
▪Drive time to downtown Miami: 21 minutes
▪Average School Grade: C
▪Personal Crime Index: 227
▪Property Crime Index: 161