The Lay of the Land

Ron Lennen has been selling ultra-luxury properties in the South Florida market, specifically in the Fort Lauderdale area, for 24 years, so he’s seen his share of trends come and go. This year, he’ll serve as president of Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors, so who better to ask about the real estate market for 2017—especially with the arrival of a new U.S. president who began his career in real estate?

Do Fort Lauderdale and its surrounding cities continue to be desirable places when it comes to buying real estate?
Yes, we are a good investment and will continue to be. International buying has slowed because of the strong U.S. dollar, so we’re not seeing as many international buyers come in. The hottest market right now [is] locals moving around. These are couples who have two incomes, and they are wanting to buy homes. We’re seeing an increase in that market.

When interested buyers come to Fort Lauderdale from outside of the area, what is it they are attracted to?
People come here for the yachting and the marine service areas. We have the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and Yacht Show. We’re close to Miami and Palm Beach, and we have great airports. The ultra-luxury buyer, whom I’ve worked with for the past several years, likes to invest money here because it’s a safe investment. Our taxes are lower, too. I have buyers from California coming here because of the lower taxes.

Property-Wise, What are potential buyers interested in?
The $185,000-to-$460,000 range is the hottest market. This inventory doesn’t stay on the market long, and we’re seeing two reasons for that—people want to buy before interest rates go up, and, because it’s a very desirable market, properties sell fast in that price range. The higher-end properties, from $750,000 and up, aren’t selling as quickly as we’ve seen in the past. And the ultra-luxury market, $3 million and up, is also a bit slow now.

Is the interest in new construction or existing homes?
New construction that has a contemporary or coastal style is very desirable right now, and these are the homes that are selling the fastest. Buyers in the ultra-luxury sector want a turn-key situation, however. Homes that are staged, where the buyer can walk in and see how everything lays out, is the trend.
International buyers like the expansive lots and gated communities like you’ll find in Weston and out west. They are used to big lots, the homes are newer and they are on a lot of land.

Do you think the presidential election will have any impact on sales in the Fort Lauderdale area?
We’re hoping with President-elect Donald Trump being very pro housing and construction that we will see an increase in the amount of sales in ultra-luxury homes. The market definitely slowed pre-election.

What is the biggest trend you are seeing, and what trend do you think will continue?
What we’re finding is that people are downsizing and moving to places where they can enjoy their life.
I have one couple who has a 10,000-square-foot house and 150 feet of deep water, and they want to downsize into a condo. I have a client with 245 feet of waterfront and an 8,000-square-foot house, and they want something that is less work. They want something smaller that they can spend time enjoying. These are people who have raised children in these larger homes and now want a luxury lifestyle on the ocean in a new building.
Sales are brisk at condominium communities like Auberge and Paramount because people are moving out of the homes out west and want something on the beach.
We’ll continue to see this trend of locals moving around. We’ll always see the international buyer coming here, too. I just finished with a buyer from Sweden who closed on a property in 10 days.

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