Earlier this month, The Miami Herald reported that Israel’s El Al airlines will begin offering three weekly, nonstop flights to Tel Aviv beginning in November 2017. This will mark the first time since 2008 that direct flights between Miami and Israel have been available, and illustrates the ever-increasing connection between the Magic City and the Jewish State.
As a native Israeli who moved to Miami at the age of 6, I have lived, breathed, and cherished this close connection nearly all of my life. And as a veteran real estate broker, I have witnessed and experienced Israeli interest in Miami real estate — which has always been strong and consistent — increase dramatically in recent years. In this column, I will attempt to explain the reasons behind this surge, how the Israeli mindset recognizes the opportunities inherent in our unique market, and how local real estate professionals can benefit from this phenomenon.
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For over half a century, Israelis have found Miami to be a natural haven for tourism, relocation and investment. My own family moved here so that my father could get his MBA at Florida Atlantic University and my mother her interior design degree at what is now Miami Dade College. It was supposed to be a temporary stay, but for certain reasons we ended up remaining and building a life in Miami. Like many other Israeli transplants, a great source of our comfort stemmed from the city’s historically large Jewish community, but you can also attribute this affection to the similarities between Israel and Miami’s weather, diversity and generally laid-back social attitudes.
Specific data is hard to pin down, but according to a 2014 article in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, there were about 80,000 Israelis living in Miami at the time. (My guess is that this was a conservative estimate, and that the number is likely to be closer to 100,000 by now.) When compared to other U.S. cities Israelis might consider, Miami is much closer than Los Angeles and offers a more affordable lifestyle than New York. In fact, I have noticed many more Israelis coming to Miami by way of New York in recent years.
As you might expect, Miami’s Israeli population tends to make their homes along our city’s eastern coastal areas, from Miami Beach to Aventura. Aventura, in particular, is considered “Little Israel” with its multitude of Israeli shops and restaurants, such as Sarah’s Tent supermarket and the Etzel Itzik restaurant.
While the majority of Florida’s Israelis make their homes in Miami, it should be noted that they also invest throughout the state, and are often pioneers in emerging markets. They also purchase across the entire real estate spectrum, from single family homes to hotels, shopping centers and new developments. (Using myself as an example, I live in South Florida but have investments in Vero Beach, Jacksonville and other cities.)
This “pioneer spirit” is a distinctive hallmark of the Israeli mindset, which accepts risk without concern for stigma or failure. It is also the foundation behind Israel’s extraordinary economic success over the past decade, in spite of a global recession. While the international media tends to focus on the country’s military and political challenges, more attention should be paid to Israel’s amazing technology-based economy, which has been fueled by innovation and entrepreneurship, earning its reputation as the “Start-up Nation.” In the book of that same title, authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer point out that Israel has “the highest density of start-up companies in the world (a total of 3,850 start-ups, one for every 1,844 Israelis), and more Israeli companies are listed on the NASDAQ exchange than all the companies from the European continent combined.”
This attitude is very consistent with my experience working with Israelis, and their approach to investing in Miami real estate. They tend to be very sharp, “out of the box” thinkers who look at deals in terms of potential, not just face value. They take non-performing assets and make them profitable with creativity, focus and good decision-making. And most importantly, the strong Israeli economy and abundance of capital have made them eager and ready to invest.
WORKING WITH ISRAELIS
You might think that Israelis are only comfortable working with Jewish or fellow Israeli real estate advisors, but that is not the case. In fact, I have enjoyed seeing many of my Miami real estate colleagues from diverse backgrounds advising their Israeli clients, often with remarkable results. If you are a Miami real estate agent who is not familiar with Israelis, but would like to work with this rapidly emerging market, just be honest, sincere, and on top of your game, and your clients will respond accordingly.
With increasingly friendly relations between our two countries, a booming high-tech Israeli economy, Miami’s continued evolution into a world-class city, and direct flights starting in November, the Miami-Israel connection appears stronger than ever. In a few years, don’t be surprised to see Falafel Tropicals as you drive along U.S. 1.
Jeff Morr is chair of the Master Brokers Forum, an elite network of the top real estate professionals in Miami, and a broker/associate with Douglas Elliman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (786) 200-5005.
▪ This piece was written for Business Monday in the Miami Herald and does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the newspaper.
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