Real estate sales for both new and old construction seem to be picking up in the coastal areas, and local Realtors and developers say they expect the uptick to only get stronger as hesitant buyers and sellers decide it’s time to move.
“The last two weeks — literally, 14 days ago — I can tell you, it exploded,” Realtor Val Coz said March 23. “I have buyers coming out of the woodwork. The fence sitters are off the fence.”
In February statistics, released last month by the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches, overall home sales in Palm Beach County were up 32 percent over the previous February.
Statewide, the number was less impressive at a 13 percent increase.
But local numbers for Highland Beach, Ocean Ridge and South Palm Beach show some upward movement, especially in Highland Beach where sales moved from 13 closings in February 2010, to 18 in February 2011 — or a 38.5 percent increase.
These days, even an increase in the number of new listings is good news, said Realtor Sue Tauriello, whose office — Tauriello & Company Real Estate Inc. — is on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.
Tauriello says they’ve seen a definite spike in phone inquiries, showings and foot traffic.
While anecdotal foot traffic isn’t an exact science, Tauriello says it definitely shows that buyers — especially the premier, high-end buyers interested in Palm Beach County’s coastal properties — are feeling more comfortable.
Indeed, she said her office just closed on a $7 million oceanfront home. The buyer was local, and upgrading to a grander property, she said.
“In general, there’s a more upbeat mood,” Tauriello said. “California buyers think we’re on clearance.”
According to the Realtors’ report, South Palm Beach’s February closings were the same as last year, while closings in Ocean Ridge were down slightly. Of course, when examining activity in such a small market, even one less closing can force a steep percentage drop in those monthly numbers.
Still, Tauriello is a bit giddy with how busy they are at her office.
“A lot of CEOs weren’t running out and buying $10 million homes when they were laying off people,” Tauriello said. “The fear is lessening.”
Mark Anthony Mollica, the sales director for the first new development to be built in Gulf Stream in about 30 years, says interest at their 4001 North Ocean project has been impressive.
The “4001 project” — in the part of Gulf Stream just incorporated in the March election — is being built by Kolter Tower LLC. Mollica said they have deposits on 11 of the 34 oceanfront units, or about $21 million in sales if all those closings go through.
“Our highest expectations have been met,” Mollica said. “We’re hoping this will launch further development.”
Coz, a Realtor with Fite Shavell who’s been selling in this market for eight years, said she’s encouraged with the recent movement — although home prices are still down as much as 30 percent.
But those good list prices are part of what’s stoking interest.
Many of Coz’s high-end buyers are investment bankers and hedge fund professionals, who make a living on Wall Street.
“To see these guys stepping up to the plate, that’s a good thing,” she said. “They watch that stuff. They’re smart.
“And I think the smart money is saying we’re at the bottom, and it’s time to