Column: Fabulous? Or Basic?

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If you are a loyal reader of this publication, I can pretty much guarantee, given the option, you would rather people describe you as “fabulous” instead of “basic.”

That’s only natural; I’m the same way.

So why wouldn’t you want your home to match (or even possibly exceed) your own level of fabulousness?

I took a look at single family home sales in the last year, within two miles of Stately SFGN Headquarters in Wilton Manors. Twenty-eight percent of the sales had final prices of $500,000 or higher. And six percent of the transactions hit or exceeded the $1 million mark.

Certainly many of these residences were fabulous, in their own way.

In this column, I am going to point out some locations in South Florida where you can find something a little different, not of the “basic” 1955-70 generic one level variety. Areas, perhaps a little off the beaten track of the Gayborhood, where you (and perhaps more importantly, your friends) will say the “F” word (fabulous, people, come on) when they see your home and those nearby.

Yes some of them are a little pricey. But hey, as I said above, people obviously are willing to spend a lot to live in or near WilMa, only to end up with something that looks no different from what you would find in the Vast Undiscovered Territory (which I define as everything west of 95 or north of Jupiter).

And many of them can be bought for less than you think.

Having lived most of my life (so far) in New England, I am accustomed to seeing (and living in) homes from the 19th or even 18th Century. There was, indeed, life here in South Florida – not just in Miami-Dade, but in Palm Beach and even Broward counties – before the Baby Boom. Many of these older homes, built prior to 1940, are architecturally stunning.

So, put on your art and architecture appreciation hats, and let’s go on a drive.

You are going to find most of these homes in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. While there are some here in Broward, the history of South Florida really started in the 1920s in Miami and Palm Beach. Broward was not developed in earnest until later. But we will begin with Broward and extend outward.

 

1. Downtown Hollywood.

The only significant historic district in Broward is the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between Young Circle and (roughly) Dixie Highway. And within walking distance of that district are some staggeringly beautiful prewar homes. They don’t come onto the market often, but generally can be bought in the $300-500k range when they do.

 

2. Southwest corner of Fort Lauderdale.

Yes there are some beautiful prewar homes in Victoria Park, Colee Hammock and Rio Vista. But the preponderance of prewar homes in Broward’s principal city lay west and south of there – in the Sailboat Bend, Tarpon River and Riverside Park neighborhoods. In the time I have lived in Fort Lauderdale I have seen increased interest here. Come take a look sometime and expect to spend $250-400k for a small prewar home with a high FI (Fabulousness Index).

Next let’s venture into Miami-Dade. Here we find two entire neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places. One requires a large chunk of change, but the other is a bit more reasonable price-wise. And as I said, why spend big money on ho-hum?

 

3. Bayside/Morningside Park area of Miami.

Look east of Biscayne between roughly 50th and 60th Streets for some of the most amazing homes you will find in South Florida. These homes are usually larger and more elegant than those of the same vintage in Broward. But for those who like the energy, culture and nightlife of Miami, and can afford a premium price, I believe it to be an outstanding option. The homes are generally in excess of 2,000 square feet, and while you can on occasion get one for under $800k, you’re going to need $1 million or more to buy here.

 

4. Normandy Isle.

The other National Register neighborhood is on the east side of the bay, on a lovely island off the west coast of the Beach as you go out 71st Street toward North Bay Village. Prices here are lower than on the mainland, though the homes are typically smaller (in the 1500-2000 square foot area). Expect price tags in the 400s and 500s, but again, the fabulousness is free.

 

Now let’s head north into Palm Beach County for some grand examples.

 

5. Delray Beach downtown.

I’m a little biased, I love Delray and consider Atlantic Avenue a superior alternative to Las Olas. Your price of entry here is going to be at least $300k for a smaller home, going into the higher six figures for larger and more elegant. But you will be in an easy walking distance to restaurants and fun, and you (and your friends) will say “wow.”

 

6. Certain parts of Lake Worth.

There are a couple residential neighborhoods here in the National Register. You’re a stone’s throw from West Palm and Palm Beach, and you would not only have a cool house but would be part of the renaissance of this community. Focus on College Hill (between Dixie and Federal and north of 19th Street) and the area east of Federal toward the Lake. Inventory is generally strong. You will find many opportunities between $200 and $400k. There are also a plethora of smaller prewar homes in other areas of Lake Worth that could make excellent investment or rental opportunities.

 

7. Palm Beach.

I can hear you – Are you kidding me, James? No, I’m not, and yes I realize I’m not talking to that many of you. But if you have the means to spend in the $1 million area for a home, which would you rather tell people including your know-it-all friends from Boston and DC: that you live in Pompano (now I like Pompano, and no offense, But) or that you live in Palm Beach? Just north of the Breakers there are a couple streets of smaller (you might call them large bungalow) homes that on occasion hit the market in the $1 million area. Think about it.

 

8. And finally, any of the several historic residential districts in West Palm (for example, Northwood, Grandview Heights and Flamingo Park).

Don’t scoff until you check the events schedule at the Kravis Center, or enjoy City Place for a while. Parts of West Palm are architecturally amazing, and at prices you might find surprising. A goodly number of these homes are generally available in the $300-500k range. Expect premium prices (more than $1 million) for El Cid. Maybe you can trade up to there.

The question then becomes: what do you do with the place once you buy it? Especially at the lower parts of the price ranges, you are going to need to do some updating. You can not only have a fabulous home from the street view all the way in, but you can preserve a wonderful part of Florida’s history and do the right thing environmentally by making the workings and landscape smarter and more efficient. That’s a three-fer that will make the home maximally attractive to the next owner.

 

James Oaksun, Broward's Real Estate Geek(SM), is Broker-Owner of New Realty Concepts in Oakland Park. In addition to having degrees from Dartmouth and Cornell, he is a Graduate of the Realtor Institute (GRI).

 


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