As wealthy Brazilians snap up Miami real estate, few benefit

by MPA20 Jan 2016

"We're not seeing the benefits of that income being disposed of in the local economy,'' said Ned Murray, associate director of Florida International University's Metropolitan Center. ``That impacts local businesses, and we're losing opportunities to create year-round housing for our workers. They're moving out.''

With its glamorous locale and easy access, Miami real estate offers an asset that's appreciating at a time when other investments have shrunk or turned frighteningly volatile. It's a testament to investor concern about stocks, bonds, commodities and economic growth that a stretch of land prone to natural disasters and the ravages of climate change can be coveted for its real estate potential - less than a decade after the bursting of a U.S. housing bubble.

"All of the insecurity around the rest of the world only reminds people how important it is to have assets in the United States,'' said Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, a developer who is leading sales efforts for the planned 57-story Elysee, with condo units starting at $1.65 million and personal wine storage available for residents.

No fewer than 126 residential towers are planned for construction in South Florida. One sign of the scale of wealth from abroad is that the majority of foreign purchases are being funded with cash, not debt.

Last year, foreigners spent $6.1 billion on Miami-area real estate - 36 per cent of all such investment, according to the Miami Association of Realtors. Nationally, foreigners account for just 8 per cent of sales. Brazilians are the predominant searchers for Miami homes online, trailed by Venezuelans and Argentinians, according to the association.

The influx has been sudden enough that the federal government has announced plans to monitor home purchases exceeding $3 million in Miami and New York City. Starting in March, the government will temporarily require title companies to identify buyers of property. Authorities have grown concerned that money launderers may be using anonymous holding companies to stash money in high-end real estate.

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