The Condo Alternitive as Prices of Single-Family Homes Hit New Highs
Anyone in the market for a single-family home in the Gables has experienced the wild rise in demand for these increasingly rare places to buy. When houses hit the market, offers appear almost immediately, usually over the asking price and frequently in cash. The resulting spike in demand has pushed the median price to $1.4 million, according to Berkshire Hathaway Homes Services/EWM Realty, a jump of some 50 percent in the last 18 months.
In search of more affordable places to live, buyers are increasingly turning to condominiums as a way to own a residence in the City Beautiful. By comparison to single homes, the median price of a Gables condo is now $546,000. “Condominiums have become a viable option for many existing and new residents in Coral Gables who are seeking a more affordable alternative to single-family homes,” says Patrick O’Connell, senior VP at BHHS/EWM.
Take Maria Martinez-Vilella and family. After selling their Gables home a year ago, she, her husband, and two teenage children spent months looking for another house before deciding on a four-bedroom condo in Merrick Manor, a new 10-story building at 301 Altara Ave. overlooking the Shops at Merrick Park. They sacrificed space, going from a 4,000-square-foot home to a 2,300-square-foot apartment. Yet, says Martinez-Vilella, “We decided we’d be better off as a family. With a house there is always something – the pool pump broke, the gardening, the painting. And we get the amenities – the gym, the pool, the common areas. It makes life less complicated.”
To be sure, the inventory of available condos is also shrinking – dropping from 215 in February of last year compared to 60 this past February – but sales have jumped by 24 percent, according to BHHS/ EWM Realty, Merrick Manor’s exclusive sales representative. By comparison, single home sales dropped by 40 percent, due to an even more precipitous drop in inventory, from 385 to 60 houses in the same period.
Buyers are purchasing condos for a variety of reasons, says O’Connell. “Some are locals, trading out of homes. Others are right-sizing,” he says. “We have retirees, empty-nesters. Many who appreciate the simplicity of condo living are professionals relocating from California or New York, those accustomed to apartment living who see condos selling for a very good price.” The 227 condos in Merrick Manor are priced at approximately $660 per square foot. As of mid-March, only 55 remain unsold.
The high-end for the condo market is also seeing brisk sales. At the new Villa Valencia, due for completion this year, units start at $1.6 million and go all the way to $14.9 million for the penthouse. Now 80 percent sold out, the units sell for an average of $1,100 per square foot.
“We had always marketed ourselves as an alternative [to single family homes] and with 3,000 square feet inside and 1,000 square feet of balcony, this is condo living without compromise,” said Rishi Kapoor, CEO of developer Location Ventures. “We are absolutely the sweet spot for people looking for value.”
In March, Miller Samuel, Inc., a New York City-based real estate appraiser and consultant reported that signed contracts for condos in Miami-Dade County were triple the number from the same period before the pandemic, with significant annual gains for the past 13 months. With that kind of pressure, condos may soon become as scarce as single-family homes. Typically, condos represent more than half the total inventory in South Florida. In The Gables today, condos now represent only 45 percent of the inventory – 80 condominiums for sale versus 96 single homes as of press time.