Along the coast: Agents see movement returning to real estate market

By Christine Davis

What goes around comes around, and, when it comes to coastal real estate, it looks like it might be coming around again, observes Judi Lukens, a Realtor with
Premier Estate Properties in Delray Beach.

“Across the board, we are getting busier,” she said. “I see a definite uptick in showings and pending contracts in the last few weeks. And more and more clients
aren’t getting their first choice; I haven’t seen that in a while.”

For the first quarter of 2010, Premier Estate Properties — a boutique real estate company that lists properties of more than $1 million — was involved in 13
closed transactions in the eastern corridor from Delray Beach north to
Manalapan. It now has 19 listings worth a total of $58 million, along with
three pending contracts.

Lukens, who sees herself as “the eternal optimist,” points out that her sales record so far this year shows one sale a month. “That’s not bad if that keeps up.

“I think people are getting their confidence back, and that will translate to more transactions for more agents.”

Another signpost that predicts sunnier days: Lukens sees builders entering the market again.

“Right now, four land parcels are under contract in Delray’s Seagate area — secured by builders, with homes coming on the market in 12 to18 months. This is huge — a
cool statistic that speaks volumes.”

Marc Julian, owner of Marc Julian Homes, has a spec house at 1001 Harbor Drive under contract, two 6,000-square-foot Intracoastal homes underway in Gulf Stream and
Delray Beach, and is about to start on two spec homes in the Seagate area in
Delray Beach.

“2010 offers enormous opportunity for developers with the ability to start new projects,” he said. “Land costs are at 2004 levels, construction costs are down
25 percent and the availability of large crews can drastically shorten the
delivery time of new homes.

“Also, many developers’ inability to secure financing for new projects means new inventory levels will be become very limited over the next 18 to 24 months.
None of this guarantees a profitable project; however it does provide a great
opportunity for those prepared to take the risk.”

Bunny Hiatt and Jack Elkins, a Realtor team with Engle and Volker in Manalapan, have closed five properties since October 2009 for a total of $36 million.

“It hasn’t been as busy as years past, but it is much stronger this year as compared to last year,” notes Hiatt.

Their ball got rolling with a $1.9 million land deal in Delray Beach on the ocean. Then, in 2010, they closed two houses in Delray Beach in the $5 million range
and two in Manalapan — including the late Generoso Pope’s mansion at 1370 S.
Ocean Blvd. on Feb. 25 for $12 million.

“Overall, we had a good season. We are showing properties and there’s a definite possibility that we’ll close on a few properties very soon,” Elkins said.

Steven Presson of the Corcoran Group specializes in east Delray Beach through Manalapan real estate.

“Look at the real statistics,” he says. In the last six months, there were 36 sales transactions from east Delray Beach through Manalapan priced at $1 million

“Go to the same period in 2005 — the height of the market — and there were 39. Of those 39 sales, there was only one transaction over $10 million.

“In the last six months, three sales were $10 million plus — the most recent closed April 5 for $12.65 million. It has 150 feet on the ocean on two acres and has
been elegantly restored.”

On Hypoluxo Island, a custom-built home on half an acre sold for $1.3 million in late April, he said. “That’s the highest price per-square-foot ever off the
water on the island.

“These are very significant statistics right off the MLS, and how many were distressed? Not one of those 36 sales was a short sale. That’s a strong

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