12686797053?profile=RESIZE_710xSpacious homes with large lots and mature trees, like this single-family home in Manalapan being shown by Realtors Angelo and Antonio Liguori, continue to bring high prices. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

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By Charles Elmore

Headwinds like higher interest rates have slowed single-family home sales nationally, but high-end buyers, many paying cash, continue to make a splash along Palm Beach County’s southern coast despite a limited inventory, agents say.

A Boca Raton waterfront mansion sold for $40 million this spring, reported as a high for the city. A $50 million sale in May in Highland Beach ranked as the loftiest price in that town, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office website.

And a town record was set June 27 in Gulf Stream, with the recording of the sale of a 12,717-square- foot residence at 3223 N. Ocean Blvd. for $39 million, county records show.

“The market peaked so high with COVID-19 that when it leveled off, people thought, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s going to crash,’” said Pascal Liguori, broker associate with Premier Estate Properties in Delray Beach.

“It didn’t.”

To be clear, not every municipality has exceeded its top individual home sale price reached during or shortly after the pandemic, as reflected in appraiser records.

Delray Beach’s highest price was $34 million in October 2021.

For Ocean Ridge, the top price shows up as $27 million from December 2021.

Manalapan’s blockbuster $173 million sale from June 2022 remains its top number.

12686798691?profile=RESIZE_710xOut-of-town home buyers, like one seen here at a Lake Ida property with Realtor Antonio Liguori (right), continue to be curious about total lot size and the ability to expand their new homes. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

Compared with the most intense moments of the pandemic, buyers have tended to be a bit more methodical, less inclined to jump at just any offering, and the overall number of homes sold has been limited by how few are for sale, real estate professionals say.

For context, existing home sales nationally fell 1.9% in April compared to March and to the same month a year before, according to the National Association of Realtors.

It’s hard to blame sellers for testing the top of the range in asking price, though some properties can sit for a bit while buyers shop around or wait for a price reduction, said Nick Malinosky, sales associate for Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

“It’s got to be accurately priced and hit the target,” Malinosky said.

For example, a property he thought was priced correctly at around $5 million in Boca Raton attracted plenty of interest recently, he said.

“We showed it 16 times in two weeks and now it is under contract,” he said in mid-June.

“That’s a very healthy market for this time of year.”

It would be difficult indeed to match the mania from the period after COVID-19 prompted lockdowns and states of emergency. If people had to work from home, those with means in places like New York, Chicago and California figured the time had arrived to get near the water in a location with no state income tax.

Luxury home sales in Palm Beach County increased 115% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier, the biggest jump in any major U.S. market tracked by Seattle-based real estate firm Redfin Corp. Redfin defines luxury as homes in the top 5% of market value in a metro area, which can be a county.

Such upper-end sales can have ripple effects across communities. They can raise home values for others, perhaps welcome for those who want to sell. At the same time, such higher valuations can drive up property taxes and insurance costs for those who want to stay put and make it difficult for people with more typical incomes and resources to find affordable places to buy.

The influx of avid buyers kept coming until the push factor of COVID-19 eventually eased and the market began to readjust.

Take Ocean Ridge. Its median sales price for homes of all types peaked at $3.6 million in October 2022, according to Redfin, compared to $2.9 million in May 2024.

In number of homes sold, Ocean Ridge’s recent high was 23 in March 2022, falling to five in May 2024, Redfin reported. Inventory remains tight.
Delray Beach’s median sales price for single-family homes stood at $925,000 in May, up 15% from the same month a year earlier but below a spike to $1.4 million in January 2023.

The number of Delray Beach homes sold in May was 80, unchanged from a year earlier and below a five-year high of 112 in May 2021, according to Redfin.

Highland Beach’s median sales price sat at $815,000 in May, under a recent peak of $1.5 million in March 2023, using Redfin’s numbers. The number of homes sold was 13 in May 2024, about the same as the 14 sold in March 2023, but far less busy than the 55 changing hands in April 2021, for instance. The median days on the market in Highland Beach stood at 167 in May, up 79% from the same month of 2023.

Boca Raton’s median single-family sales price dipped slightly to $1.1 million in May, from a five-year high of $1.2 million the month before, Redfin said. The number of homes sold in May 2024 was 128, down 10% from a year earlier and well below a five-year peak of 245 in June 2021.

The median number of days a home was on the market in Boca Raton landed at 85 in May, up 20% from a year before.

Unlike the COVID-19 boom, when anybody who ever thought of selling was giving it a whirl, it’s a time of tighter inventory, said Corcoran Group agent Steven Presson in Delray Beach.

“I would have 30-plus listings before, now I have 10 or 12 or 15, because there’s less listings to be had,” he said.

If people like the homes they are in, those who have a mortgage are not necessarily eager to trade one with near 2% interest for something like 7%.

It shows in the number of properties on the market.

By Presson’s count, there were 20 properties for sale in Ocean Ridge in mid-June.

Make it 10 in Gulf Stream.

Those numbers might be double at other times, he said.

It adds up to a market where volumes are settling down, but big-ticket sales are still happening.

“During COVID, we were driving like 95 miles an hour,” Presson said. “Now we’re going 70 or 75.”

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