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House Hunting in Fort Lauderdale

27 May 2009By Matt Gomez

If you are among the fortunate and thrifty crew with cash on hand, this may be a great time to invest in real estate in the U.S., according to many real estate analysts. With the housing market, especially in Florida, still reeling from foreclosures, banking bailouts and credit crises, there are real estate deals to be found in and around the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.

Crew from countries all over the world have long been active in real estate markets near bustling superyacht marinas. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area typically holds a special attraction because of the mix of terrific weather, waterfront property and a reputation as the superyacht capital of the U.S. Captains and crew searching for long-term investment opportunities are sure to discover a surplus of available homes at attractive prices in the area.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the median home price in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area in 2008 was US $285,100. Median home prices are down 22 percent so far in 2009.

"Interest rates and property values are at all-time lows,” says Sergio Contreras, president of Hometerra Real Estate in Plantation, Fla. “This is a really great time to make an investment in real estate. There are unbelievable deals right now.”

The U.S. housing market peaked in 2005 and has been in decline ever since with record numbers of housing foreclosures and loan defaults by over-extended home buyers. But where there are challenges, there also are opportunities. The sheer number of homes for sale makes this a buyer’s market, either for investment or immediate occupancy. Crewmembers with cash on hand can buy into the market when the prices are low and, if they are patient, reap the benefits when the Florida real estate market bounces back.

“I don’t see property prices rising any time soon,” he says, “but I do see the real estate market stabilizing by the end of the year. Prices will stop going down, so we may be seeing the bottom right now. The market will recuperate. There’s nowhere to go but up as an investment.”

Still, Contreras cautions against anyone blindly investing in real estate. After all, that’s what happened before the real estate bubble burst.

Instead, he and other real estate investors recommend researching the best deals. Though glitzy condos with waterfront views may seem sexy, they also come with hefty condo association fees that can run up to $1,600 a month on top of the monthly mortgage payment, according to Bankrate.com, a Florida-based aggregator of financial rate information. It may be tough to earn a profit from renters due to these additional out-of-pocket expenses. As a result, single-family homes in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area may ultimately provide a better investment.

“Foreclosures offer the best deals,” Contreras says. “Though crew may like the amenities that come with community living, it is tough to get financing for condos. Fort Lauderdale has plenty of condos, but those communities are struggling. Lenders do not want to extend loans within communities that have more than 15-percent delinquency, and that’s nearly all of them at the moment.”

Real estate investors also suggest that single-family homes, even ones without water views, will have higher value when the market rebounds. As the global economy improves – whenever that happens – these homes will be in demand.

Contented crew, if they are wise and patient investors, can find themselves sitting pretty on board a superyacht as they reap the benefits of a rebounding housing market on shore.

Do you think this is a good time for real estate investment or just wishful thinking? Let us know.