Upsize, downsize

December 2, 2015

Whether your family is expanding—and so is your need for more space—or you’re ready for less square footage (and upkeep), the options available in South Florida’s real estate market are plentiful.

Young couples growing their families, and older empty nesters whose children have gone off to college and careers, are fueling the booming Broward County residential market. Whether buyers are seeking larger homes to accommodate their kids, or downsizing because couples or single parents now need to live on their own, lifestyle changes directly affect the real estate market. Trends in this area are specific and especially relevant in the luxury corridor, where developers are building beachfront towers with less density and bigger units offering stellar amenities.

For example, if a family decision-maker decides to sell the large suburban house in western Broward County because the children are grown and living elsewhere, and the parents have no use for such a large space, they are looking for somewhere new because they have the means to do it. “Their motivation to downsize is not financial and not necessarily defined by age,” says Bradley Deckelbaum, principal of Premier Developers, the company creating Riva, and contemporary waterfront condo in Fort Lauderdale across from the Galleria and close to the beach and Las Olas Blvd. “Rather it’s about wanting a lifestyle upgrade. These buyers want to come east and live on the water and be close to downtown restaurants and cultural activities.” They also want the most modern new design, with large rooms, bright and open floor plans, and large terraces for outdoor living. They don’t want to spend their time and money commuting and taking care of a large home. (Been there, done that.)

Rather than the goal of downsizing just for a smaller space, it’s more about discovering a new quality of life. And usually, this involves living on the water. “There are many luxury products being built on the ocean now,” says Mark Behar, real estate investor, broker, bodyguard and private concierge to the rich and famous. “Beachfront properties are in the highest demand in Broward County, with prices going above the listing—especially units with deeded boat slips.” These new Fort Lauderdale condo projects are addressing the needs of empty nesters who have money to spend on the good life.

Peggi Fucci, CEO of OneWorld Properties and exclusive broker for Paramount Fort Lauderdale Beach, a development-in-progress, has seen an influx of West Broward buyers who are trading the suburbs for a beachfront lifestyle. They’re seeking a carefree existence where they have the flexibility to do more now that they have become empty-nesters. “They stress the walkability of a high-rise tower like Paramount and its location, where they have access to the beach and to the area’s dining options and entertainment scene,” says Fucci.

Ocean Land Investments, a developer revitalizing waterfront properties in East Fort Lauderdale with luxury boutique condos in Las Olas Isles and along the Intracoastal Waterway, is also seeing a great deal of interest from empty-nesters. AquaVita, a 22-residence building sold out within eight months of launching sales, according to its developers. Numerous buyers moved from expansive estates in South Florida, including five from Weston. The company has three other projects, AquaLuna, AquaMar and AquaBlu, with residences ranging from 2,136-5,717 square feet and selling from $1.4 million to more than $3.75 million. Amenities at these buildings include boat slips, heated saltwater swimming pools and state-of-the-art fitness centers. The individual units have 10-foot ceilings, gourmet kitchens and large terraces. “Our Aqua-branded condominiums have attracted empty-nesters who want to eliminate the upkeep of their large homes without sacrificing space and amenities,” says Jean Francois Roy, president of Ocean Land Investments, whose buildings are mostly smoke-free. “Baby Boomers want to continue enjoying an active lifestyle, going out on their boats or to the beach, entertaining family and friends, and indulging everything else Fort Lauderdale has to offer.”

Another haven for empty nesters is Auberge Beach Residences & Spa in Fort Lauderdale. This luxury project is being constructed on the 4.6-acre site of the former Ireland’s Inn Beach Resort, an iconic hotel where many locals and visitors loved to stay and play. The Related Group and Fortune International Group of Miami have partnered with Fairwinds Group, the third generation owners of Ireland’s Inn. Together, the developers are creating an unusual, luxury-on-the-sand residential property. Overseeing every aspect of living will be Auberge Resort Collection, the Mill Valley, CA-based luxury hotel operator known for creating intimate and understated elegant destinations on the U.S West Coast. This development will offer private swimming pools highlighting select terraces overlooking the ocean. Kitchens are being designed with Italian cabinets, stone countertops, Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, and an integrated espresso cappuccino maker. Master bathrooms will feature deep soaking tubs. All residences have 9’6” ceiling heights and floor-to-ceiling windows with ocean, Intracoastal and city views.

“Auberge is ideal for empty-nesters who want to embrace the sophisticated yet understated lifestyle while still remaining connected to the vibrancy of the city of Fort Lauderdale,” says Carlos Rosso, president of the Condo Division of the Related Group. “For those looking to downsize, location and space are still key when you have children. Auberge has become the go-to-luxury destination for those who desire the comfort and perks of resort living in a beachfront setting, and still have ample space and vibrant atmosphere for when family comes to visit.” This approach is proving to be very much within specific demands of the Broward County market.

Still, the other side of this market is also buzzing with activity and impacting sales. The upsizing segment is attracting domestic buyers as well as those from outside the U.S., like South America, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela. These buyers are looking for a safe and sophisticated haven where they can live and raise their families, which continue to grow. In addition to having their own children, other family members, for a variety of reasons, often move in.

Foreign buyers, who like to pay cash, have propelled in the South Florida real estate market for several years. But they are being joined by domestic buyers who want to live more lavishly in larger spaces. “People are actually asking for space over location,” says Patricia Lake, who works with luxury homes at Karma Realty in Fort Lauderdale. “With three or four kids, they want to be relaxed and comfortable. These buyers are moving west because nothing east is big enough, and prices are crazy.”

Small houses don’t work for these kinds of buyers. They want a movie theatre in the home so they don’t have to go out to the public complexes and expose their children to the danger that could be lurking in the aisles. They want to host big house parties, and they want the space to do it in style. “I showed one man a big house that he liked but when he discovered there was no movie theatre he said no,” says Lake.

She believes Weston is a hot market in Broward County. Buyers like the family feeling of the community and the abundance of fine schools and restaurants. They want to live in a sun-filled town where they can use the swimming pool and tennis courts on a regular basis.

“These buyers also want enough space to be able to build a basketball court at their own house,” says Lake, who also sees that people request lakefront views. “Younger couples want big homes for their growing families. They want to celebrate New Year’s with everyone of all ages in their family at their own homes.”

To find a comparable-sized house with a movie theatre and other high-end truffles on the east side of Broward County, a buyer eager to upsize would likely pay the same price for a three-bedroom house as for a larger home in the western areas. “A buyer looking for a new and modern five-bedroom home in Miami-Dade or other areas on the water are looking at $10-$20 million for the same size/quality as they could get in Weston for a five- to seven-bedroom mansion,” says Pyrinvova, in-house sales executive at Botaniko Weston. “Out here, they get bigger and better values for their money.”

That’s because cities like Weston hold their property values, even in a down economy. “As a real estate investment, it makes a lot of sense to target a city like Weston,” says Pyrinova. “But I am not seeing a lot of pure investors in Weston. It’s mostly big families with two or more kids and the in-laws. They are buying for themselves.” They want an active and fulfilling family life with enough space to make everyone comfortable.

More at InWeston Magazine.