Miami's Brickell Area Revived by Foreign Buyers

The dismal housing market seems to have no silver living, except for the news coming out of Downtown Miami, particularly the Brickell corridor. It's been a beacon of the luxury condominium market since the early 1980s, when South Americans started snapping up units as second homes.

The area was not immune to the hard hit at the end of the last decade, when recession sent the real estate market into a nosedive. Recently though, Fortune International Realty, one of the area's defining real estate agencies, is hitting its stride again.

Its president and principal broker, Edgardo Defortuna, told HousingWatch: "Most of the sales we are reporting now, 70 percent to 80 percent of them are foreign buyers from the Latin American market, including Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, where in some cases the political situation is dismal, but the economy is doing well."

Fortune's expertise with foreign buyers is why they are credited with making a significant contribution to the internationalization of Miami and its reputation as a global business, trade and vacation hub.

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In 2001, the company successfully launched Jade Residences at Brickell, a luxury condo development; unfortunately, 2007 and 2008 were not forgiving. Ron Shuffield, president of Esslinger Wooten Maxwell, has been doing business with Fortune International Realty for about 25 years and saw them deal with the controversy of that building, mainly due to recession.

"As developers they always face controversy of some kind and Jade Brickell, which was one of the first buildings Fortune built, was right-sizing kind of building that went through a lot of foreclosures when it was built, mainly due to the market," Shuffield told HousingWatch. "It went through very tough times when it was finished and foreclosures were filed against many of those buyers."

Although the foreclosures tainted the building for a while, now that the units have been resold to new buyers, it's strengthening again. "It seems to be regaining its stature in Brickell," Shuffield said.

Once again, Fortune International Realty is posting impressive unit sales, bringing people to the area to experience the booming restaurant and nightlife scene -- once nonexistent.

Even so, news reports suggesting a double-dip recession is something Fortune International Realty are following closely. "So far we haven't felt it, but we are watching it and are certainly concerned more from a perception point of view," Defortuna said, "particularly with the foreign buyer who might think that it's going to go down again."

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