Miami condos are "for sale" for foreign buyers

Wed Feb 20, 2008 3:20am EST
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By Jim Loney

MIAMI (Reuters) - Canadian retiree Sheldon Kovensky felt the lure that attracts so many foreign buyers to sunny Florida these days -- falling prices for luxurious oceanfront condos that can be bought with weak U.S. dollars.

Kovensky has been scouring south Florida from Miami Beach to Palm Beach in search of a three-bedroom apartment on the sand. Armed with a Canadian dollar that has gained 25 percent against the greenback in the last two years, he is expecting a big bargain.

"We're hoping to get an apartment worth about a million (U.S. dollars) that I can purchase for about 20 percent less," he said by phone from his home in Unionville, Ontario, as he faced digging out from a snowstorm.

"The Canadian dollar is on par and the Florida market has dropped 20 to 30 percent, so you get a lot of bang for your buck," he added.

Realtors, analysts and buyers say the strength of the Canadian dollar, the euro and other foreign currencies, on top of a falling real estate market, is making the United States an enticing place for foreigners looking to buy property.

In fact, they say, the combination of the weak dollar and the allure of Miami as a cosmopolitan, multilingual city may be helping to prop up a faltering, overbuilt condo market that had been expected to crash but has seen, to date, only a small drop in prices compared to other Florida cities.

In a study by the National Association of Realtors last year, Florida was the top destination for foreign buyers, accounting for 26 percent of all transactions, ahead of California at 16, Texas at 10 and Arizona at 6 percent.

More than 7 percent of all Florida homes were sold to foreigners, the study found, and 65 percent of realtors said they had brokered at least one foreign deal.   Continued...

<p>People talk inside an apartment during the inauguration of a new building owned by billionaire U.S. condo builder Jorge Perez, in downtown Miami in this October 4, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files</p>