Billionaires are driving South Florida home prices to new records

From Palm Beach to Miami Beach, luxury home prices in Florida’s richest enclaves are reaching new records as billionaires and millionaires continue to buy up property.

The average sale price of a home in Palm Beach topped $20 million in the third quarter, making it far and away the most expensive market in the country, according to data from Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel. The average price per square foot of homes sold in Palm Beach reached $4,554, — more than 2.5 times more expensive than Manhattan.

“The prices are mind-blowing,” said Chris Leavitt, a top Palm Beach broker with Douglas Elliman. “There is a very limited supply, especially at the ultra-high-net-worth end, where the clientele is all clambering for that amazing lakefront or oceanfront property.”

South Florida’s mansion boom is being driven by the continued flight of millionaires and billionaires from high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California, as well as the growth of the Florida economy. Since ultra-wealthy buyers usually pay cash for their real estate, they’re less affected by soaring mortgage rates.

The lack of inventory, especially for coveted waterfront locations, has powered a new surge in prices.

Palm Beach only has 53 homes on the market as of the third quarter — down 61% from the pre-pandemic levels, according to Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel. The shortage of listed homes has reduced the number of sales, which were down 31% over the past year, he said.

Tarpon Isle in Palm Beach, Fla.
Tarpon Isle in Palm Beach, Fla.CNBC

Yet brokers say the low inventory will continue to put upward pressure on prices, making trophy properties expensive even for multi-millionaires.

“You can still find a nice house here for under $10 million,” Leavitt said. “I know that sounds like an alternative universe. Because yes, this is an alternative universe.”

In late July, a waterfront home that had last sold for $7.4 million went for about $50 million. The seller was the estate of the late liquor distributor James Tigani, Jr., and the buyer was reported to be venture investor Harvey Jones.

Fashion tycoon Tommy Hilfiger this summer sold a Palm Beach mansion for $41.4 million, less than six months after he bought it for $36.9 million.

The record for the most expensive home sold in Palm Beach was set in April when luxury car dealer Michael Cantanucci paid $170 million for a 1.6-acre oceanfront mansion.

Leavitt said that while the summer was slow, buyers came rushing back starting in mid-September.

“Usually September isn’t that busy, but the market is heating up earlier this year,” he said. “These buyers move very fast. They will call and say, ‘I’m flying down tomorrow.’ They’ll fly down on their private jet, they will look, buy it and close within seven days. And they’re back in a month to move in. They want what they want, when they want it.”

Miami Beach has also seen a spike in prices from wealthy buyers — especially billionaires.

While the number of sales of single-family homes in the Miami Beach area fell 3% in the third quarter, the dollar value of sales jumped 62% due to more closings over $10 million, according to Corcoran.

The average price of luxury real estate in Miami Beach — defined as the top 10% of the market — surged to a record $25 million, according to Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel.

“The luxury and high-end housing markets seem untethered to mortgage rates and the economy right now,” Jonathan Miller said. “Both Palm Beach and Miami Beach are disconnected from the interest rate trend.”

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Tech billionaire Eric Schmidt and his wife are the latest billionaires to start amassing real estate collections in Miami. Brokers say the couple has purchased over a half-dozen homes on the Sunset Islands, spending over $140 million in all. It’s unclear if the Schmidts plan to live in Miami or what they plan to do with the properties.

Hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin continues to expand his footprint on Star Island, recently buying back a piece of property for $45.5 million. He had sold the property to retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez in 2020 as part of a land swap. Griffin also paid $107 million last year for a historic waterfront estate in Miami.


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