As wealthy Brazilians snap up Miami real estate, few benefit

by MPA20 Jan 2016

Purchases by Brazilians paused briefly last year, when the nation's currency, the real, tumbled against the dollar. But as Brazil's economy has worsened, developers say sales have picked up again even though the weaker currency means Miami homes cost them nearly 50 per cent more in dollars than in late 2014.

The average luxury condo price in Miami Beach has surged 35 per cent from a year ago to $3.7 million, according to the real estate brokerage Douglas Elliman.

Anthony Graziano, executive director at Integra Realty Resources, who has analyzed the Miami market, expects sales to remain strong for properties worth more than $1 million, outpacing those in the $400,000-to-$800,000 range. Graziano describes a wave of wealthy buyers who seem intent on investing in properties that can protect their money from volatile markets.

"There really is no other place to put your money,'' he said. ``Stocks are getting hammered. Bonds are getting high. What is your equity play if you're an ultra-high-net-worth investor? Buy one-of-a-kind luxury real estate.''
Downtown Miami is ``beginning to shift, but the question is, to whose benefit?'' said Arden Shank, executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida. ``It doesn't benefit the people who have been there for a long time.''

The metro area's unemployment rate is 5.5 per cent, compared with 5 per cent nationally. Average hourly earnings have dipped 0.4 per cent to $22.57 from a year ago. By contrast, the national average wage has risen more than 2 per cent in that time.

The influx of wealthy real estate investors does mean some benefits for the area, notably a miniboom in the city's creative community. Murray's research shows a growth of 21,568 jobs in the design, film, media, performing arts and museum sectors from 2010 to 2012.

Government figures show that the number of Miami-area jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector has jumped 28 per cent since the recession began in late 2007. Even so, seven of the top 12 occupations in Miami-Dade's tourism-driven economy produce less than half the median family income, Murray said. For many families, 65 cents of every dollar earned gets spent on housing and transportation costs - a crushing burden.

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