COVID-19 Boosted Number of Rich New Yorkers Moving to Fla.

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August 13, 2020
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Fla. is a winter retreat for New York’s upper class, but over the past few years, some relocated permanently to escape high tax laws. Now the pandemic-created desire for living space gave them another reason to relocate, and even more upscale New Yorkers are making the move.

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) – Lavish Florida retreats were a popular escape for rich New Yorkers riding out the COVID-19 lockdown. Now, many are rushing to make things more permanent even while the virus surges in the Sunshine State.

Sellers in places like Miami and Palm Beach are getting flooded with offers, and the supply of available properties is plunging. Florida’s favorable tax laws have long been a draw for high-net-worth individuals, but the pandemic’s disruptions – to work, school, public safety and northern states’ budgets – have increased the allure, pushing many of the wealthiest to finally make good on aspirations to relocate.

Purchase contracts in South Florida soared across all price ranges last month compared with a year earlier, when there was no contagion to worry about. At $1 million and above, deals more than doubled in Palm Beach and Broward counties. In Miami-Dade County, they rose 68%.

Deal momentum

That momentum is continuing, even as Florida sets records for COVID deaths. In the first 20 days of July, 162 contracts were signed for Miami-Dade homes priced at $1 million or more, an 88% jump, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.

In Palm Beach, where the inventory of luxury homes tumbled 75%, there’s so little to buy that even properties that had languished on the market are finding takers.

Office tower

Related, the New York-based developer behind Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, is building an office tower in West Palm Beach on a bet that firms seeking a foothold in Florida would favor modern space. Since the COVID outbreak, lease talks have accelerated with some potential tenants, including private equity firms from New York and Chicago, said Gopal Rajegowda, the Related senior vice president overseeing the project.

Himmel, chief executive officer of the company’s mixed-use division, Related Urban, said the pandemic has inspired well-heeled executives who can work from anywhere to seek out the area’s year-round “resort lifestyle.”

Residents of posh New York suburbs may have added incentive to relocate: Their large homes that lingered on the market for years are now finding eager buyers, said Laura Beck, chairman of the private clients group at law firm Cummings & Lockwood LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“If there are people knocking on my door offering me money for my house,” Beck said, “maybe now is the time.”

© National Real Estate Investor, by Bloomberg. Oshrat Carmiel, with assistance from Amanda Gordon.