Archive for the 'Properties in Focus' Category

Q1 Review: Closed Sales in Miami and Coral Gables Real Estate, Zip Code 33134

posted on April 19th, 2010 filed under: Properties in Focus, Real Estate Market Data

Closed sales data are key to understanding current conditions in the real estate market.  Although broad indices like the FHFA House Price Index or the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index break down the numbers by metro areas, including Miami, real estate values can be highly localized.

The table below reports closed sales of single-family houses in zip code 33134, which is mainly within Coral Gables.  Data are from tax records, and thus include transactions not appearing on the MLS.

3416 Alhambra Cir.

3416 Alhambra Cir.

Because The Real Estate Fountain focuses on mid-range to luxury properties, the table excludes sales of small homes on small lots, like the many bungalows found in north Coral Gables.

Coral Gables Real Estate -- Closed Sales -- Single-Family Homes -- Zip Code 33134 -- 1Q10Although this is a first-quarter review, closed sales from December 2009 are included.  The originally scheduled November 30 expiration of the $8,000 homebuyer tax credit (since extended to April 30 for contracts, June 30 for closings) makes December 1 a more interesting place to start the real estate sales “quarter.”

709 Majorca Ave.

709 Majorca Ave.

That said, home prices in Coral Gables, and particularly in the mid-range to luxury properties covered in this table, are high enough that the credit should not have affected buyer behavior much.

522 Alhambra Cir.

522 Alhambra Cir.

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Sold: 715 Sevilla Ave. in Coral Gables, $1.6 Million

posted on April 12th, 2010 filed under: Properties in Focus

At first blush, $1.6 million might seem like a substantial enough sum for a 4,000-sf home in Coral Gables.  But 715 Sevilla Avenue, which recently sold for that price, is not just so much square footage.  It is new, high-end luxury construction.  And based on preconstruction promotional presentations, the properties in the development were supposed to bring closer to $3 million than $2 million, let alone $1.6 million.  It’s a good subject for a cloudy background:

715 Sevilla Ave.

715 Sevilla Ave.

The back story on this property is one of those fabulous, intriguing windows onto the shadowy yet colorful history of Coral Gables.  715 Sevilla is among of a number of homes planned for a developer’s fantasy: the last two entire blocks of virgin, privately owned land in north Coral Gables.  The developer, Riviera Sevilla LLC, is a successor to McBride Family Properties LLC, which traces its ownership to wealthy businessman Arthur B. McBride.

In the 20th centruy, McBride made a fortune in various businesses including newspapers, taxicab service, pro football (he was the first owner of the Cleveland Browns), and yes, Coral Gables real estate.  McBride apparently had a few unsavory connections, but the ritzy Biltmore Hotel has no trouble mentioning its lavish Al Capone Suite (a.k.a. Everglades Suite), so all is surely viewed with nostalgia now.

For many years, the McBride family held onto these two blocks of prime residential real estate in Coral Gables, before finally committing them to development.  Nonetheless, according to the developer, the family aimed to do justice to these choice properties by building to only the finest standards.

The first development, dubbed Casas Sevillanas, includes the recently sold 715 Sevilla, and occupies the land bordered by Almeria Avenue, Biltmore Court, Sevilla Avenue and Cardena Street.  You can see 715 Sevilla outlined in red on the map below.  The new luxury homes replace a stand of old pine trees that towered over a field of grass.  You wondered how it had lasted.

715 Sevilla Ave., Coral Gables -- Casas Sevillanas Development, Riviera Sevilla

The other development, dubbed Casas Andaluzas, rests on the land bordered by Malaga Avenue, Columbus Boulevard, and the sweeping curve of Anastasia Avenue in front of the Biltmore Hotel.  Again, even a casual observer had to wonder how such a choice parcel of Coral Gables real estate remained undeveloped for so long.

Coral Gables -- Casas Andaluzas Development -- Riviera Sevilla

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Waterfront Home on Hammock Lake in Coral Gables Sells for $1.8 Million

posted on April 7th, 2010 filed under: Properties in Focus

According to public records, 5425 Hammock Drive, a waterfront home on Hammock Lake in Coral Gables, has sold for $1.8 million.  The existing 7625-sf Mediterranean house was built in 1967 and might have been seen as a teardown.  But the waterfront lot, at 64,033 sf, would alone have sold for much more a few years ago.

5425 Hammock Dr.

5425 Hammock Dr.

Indeed, the property did sell for much more a few years ago.  The seller in the recent transaction was a pharmaceutical entrepreneur turned real estate investor.  She bought the property for $3.175 million in February 2006.

Coral Gables Real Estate Photos -- 5425 Hammock Dr. (3)Coral Gables Real Estate Photos -- 5425 Hammock Dr. (2)

Sometimes you’re on the water, sometimes you’re under it.

At least she was playing with her own money.  The mortgage was only about half a mil.  No bank bailouts necessary.

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Coral Gables Real Estate Madness — The Round-Trip Tale of 2430 Indian Mound Trail

posted on March 29th, 2010 filed under: Properties in Focus

Here’s a poster child for how real estate in Miami, Coral Gables and other phony markets bankrupted the U.S. financial system.

2430 Indian Mound Trail in Coral Gables is, shall we say, a simple home.  (To some, it would look more like a garage or a storage building, but that’s true of many homes in Florida.)  It’s 2233 square feet, with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, on an 8,000 square-foot lot.  The location is excellent, amid various points of interest: Biltmore Hotel, Granada Golf Course, Coral Way, Church of the Little Flower, Salvadore Park, St. Philip’s school and church.

The little bugger sold for:

  • $185,000 in 1987,
  • $443,000 in 2003,
  • $1,155,000 in 2007, and
  • $470,000 in 2010

Here’s a mug shot:

2430 Indian Mound Trail, Coral Gables

2430 Indian Mound Trail, Coral Gables

The recent lucky seller for 60% less than the previous sale?  Nominally, Chase Home Finance LLC, but as a practical matter, maybe it was you and I, my fellow taxpayer.

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Thinking of Buying Foreclosures in Miami or Coral Gables? WATCH OUT!!!

posted on March 22nd, 2010 filed under: Financial Responsibility, Properties in Focus, Real Estate News

Buyers attracted by seeming bargains among foreclosure auctions can instead lose their shirts.  An easy way to buy Miami or Coral Gables real estate on the cheap turns out to be an easy way to lose a whole lot of money.

As the Miami Herald reported a few weeks ago, the new online auction system for foreclosures in Miami-Dade County streamlines the process of buying foreclosed properties so much that amateurs are getting involved — and getting burned.

The problem is that foreclosures are sometimes brought by junior lienholders, meaning the sale does not discharge senior liens.  If you buy the property at foreclosure, you’re still subject to the senior lien.  This can be disastrous.

Here’s an urgent case study:  601 Sunset Drive in Coral Gables.  This property will be auctioned soon.  The lender has listed its maximum bid at just under $300,000.  If you bid more than that, and more than any other bidders, you will win the auction.  It’s a decent-size house on a big lot, so even in today’s ailing real estate market in Miami and Coral Gables, it seems like a screaming bargain.

601 Sunset Dr.

601 Sunset Dr.

Public records, however, suggest a huge pitfall (do your own homework on this and decide for yourself, of course).  Citibank is the foreclosing lender.  But Citibank is foreclosing on a home equity line of credit.  That’s not the first mortgage.  And there is a whopper of a first mortgage: $825,000 to JP Morgan Chase.

So let’s say you win the auction with your bid of $300,000.  That could turn out to be nothing more than a downpayment, because public records suggest the property is still subject to the $825,000 first mortgage.  If that’s the case, you have effectively paid $1.125 million, not even counting whatever fees Chase can pile on top of the mortgage balance, plus the property taxes that Chase has apparently been paying.

The same thing happens in condo foreclosures.  Let’s say there’s a condo worth $200,000 today that somebody bought for $400,000 at the top of the real estate market in Miami and Coral Gables.  And let’s say there’s a $350,000 mortgage outstanding.  The person defaults on the loan and stops paying maintenance fees to the condo association.  The lender doesn’t foreclose, because that would mean taking responsibility for taxes, maintenance fees, et cetera.  So the association forecloses, not because they think they’ll get any money (the $300k lender is senior and gets the whole $200k in a forced sale), but to force the lender to take title and responsibility in what’s known as a “reverse foreclosure.”  If you buy the association’s lien — say, $20k — you have bought a property worth $200,000 for $20k, but it’s subject to a $300k mortgage.  You’re in for $320,000, not $20,000.

Miami has an excellent online system for searching public records, but unless you understand it all — mortgages, liens, lawsuits, forms of ownership, homestead rights, and more — you might just be America’s Next Foreclosure.  WATCH OUT!!!

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Property in Focus: 8400 SW 52 Ave. (School House Road) — Sold for $2.25M in 1999, $2.3M in 2009

posted on November 20th, 2009 filed under: Properties in Focus

The home at 8400 SW 52 Avenue (a.k.a. Schoolhouse Road) in the Ponce/Davis neighborhood of Coral Gables sold in November 2009 for $2.3 million.  That’s barely more than the $2.25 million that the seller paid for the property in 1999.

Not that the seller, Charles Stiefel, was in financial straits.  He sold his company,Stiefel Laboratories, to Glaxo SmithKline for $2.9 billion in July 2009.  Sellers at the high end may have more staying power — but they also have more going power!

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