It’s no secret that south Florida has triumphed over the recession and one sign of that victory is the booming real estate industry. The 15 new pre-construction condos in Sunny Isles alone is ample sign that the real estate woes of the past are well behind SoFla. Or are they? The Fed indicates that while recovery is complete and new growth is strong, there are still many problems waiting in the wings that might derail the real estate sector. What are those issues? According to a Fed representative speaking at Coral Gables, they include rising interest rates, stagnant or dropping income levels and changing market conditions.
Real estate deals require financing. Financing comes with interest. Given the significant boom that south Florida’s seen in the past few years, there’s a lot of money tied up in interest and loans that will come due soon. For many properties, that due date is approaching pretty quickly. According to the Fed, more than $7 billion in real estate loans extended through south Florida will come due in 2015 and 2017. Most developments will seek to refinance, but if interest rates rise, that could spell trouble and eventual stagnation or even backsliding into recession. While interest rates remain low and the Fed has insisted that it will keep them there for now, they will eventually rise. It’s only a matter of time.
Another factor affecting the SoFla real estate sector is the shift from commercial to industrial space. More and more retailers are ignoring physical properties and opting for virtual real estate instead. That makes good sense since more and more consumers are buying predominantly online these days. In terms of properties, that means that more businesses are looking for industrial real estate where merchandise can be stored, stocked, shelved and shipped, and fewer are looking for physical stores.
The Income Conundrum
Rents are rising throughout SoFla, with Miami-Dade seeing an increase of 6.3%. Palm Beach and Broward County saw similar hikes. While that’s good news for property owners, it’s bad news for renters, as the income rates have not kept pace. In fact, most income rates have stagnated completely, with others actually decreasing. The impact of this trend on renters cannot be understated. Residency rates might be at all-time highs for south Florida, but things can change very quickly. The Fed representative remarked directly on the organization’s worry that people will soon no longer be able to afford rent in the area.
What does that mean for property owners, managers and other decision makers? Actually, it really just means they need to be cautious and keep an eye on the market. There’s nothing to be done yet, although quick action might be necessary if income continues to decline, or if interest rates look like they’re going to increase. Be watchful and wary, but confident, seems to be the ultimate message that came out of the Coral Gables meeting.