Will History Repeat Itself in Miami?
Earlier this week, I showed a few condos at Villa Regina to a lady who has owned a unit in the building since 1983. She and her husband purchased their condo in November of that year. She told me that for the first year and a half to two years only 25 condos were owned of the 208 total units. The bust had happened and nobody wanted to buy. The developer, Nicholas Morley, eventually went under and the building was later taken over by the FDIC. Nicholas Morley, was a big-time developer back then who was the equivalent of today’s Jorge Perez or Ugo Columbo.
She said that nobody would touch Villa Regina with a ten-foot pole for the first two years after she purchased because the building was either in receivership, meaning that it was undergoing foreclosure proceedings, or it had already been foreclosed upon. As a result, the common areas were under-maintained. The building didn’t have any security, air conditioning in the hallways, a concierge in the lobby nor valet service.
Before the building went into receivership, she, her husband and the condo owners who represented the other 24 units met each month to resolve the problems. They wanted answers. No, in fact, they wanted action. Each month, the condo board sent requests to the developer stating that they themselves would pay to have the building maintained 100 percent. The developer never answered their pleas.
After Villa Regina was foreclosed upon, there were rumors that Nicholas Morley wished to acquire the building from the FDIC for 10 cents on the dollar. The condo board sent letters to the FDIC to prevent this from happening. Nicholas Morley had made them suffer long enough and they didn’t wish to take any chances.
An investment group stepped up to the plate and purchased the remaining units at Villa Regina from the FDIC, a few years after she and her husband had purchased their condo. She stated that “almost overnight, there was interest in buying condos at Villa Regina”. I asked her for how much the investment group purchased the remaining units. She didn’t know but guessed that it was around 50 cents on the dollar. The level of maintenance that was initially promised had finally been restored. People wanted in because the dark cloud that hung over Villa Regina had been lifted. The investment group was then able to sell the remaining units for a profit.
It was especially interesting to hear, from the above source, that the building fell into the hands of the FDIC. This indicates to me that the bank which loaned the money to the developer also went under as well. I don’t expect buildings in Miami on the horizon, however, to fall into the hands of the FDIC for too long, if at all. The world is too widely connected nowadays. Information exchanges hands at such a rapid pace. Investment groups will act much faster in today’s era than that of the 1980s. If a bank yells, “Help!”, several investment groups will be there to say, “Help has arrived, but how bad do you need it?”.
There’s been talk that the current boom and bust in Miami is worse than had existed in the early 1980s. I’ve advised my readers time and again to watch out for the new digs. If you feel like buying, then look for those buildings that were built prior to 2000. They have much more stability because most units in those buildings are owner-occupied. Investors/speculators flocked to the new buildings and those that were yet to be built. The possibility of the above occurring in a new condo development in Miami is likely within the next couple of years. That’s why I’ve been keeping a close eye on each new development’s ability to close units. If you are interested in buying in a new development then you must be aware of the default rate that is occurring there. Those with a default rate higher than 30 percent, in my opinion, will be ones to stay away from until much of this excess supply is purchased.
The oversupply problem in Miami does indeed currently exist and is worse than that which existed in the early 1980s. However, the level of demand that currently exists far outpaces that of which was evident in that decade. Miami is now on the map. Miami now has world-wide attention. The strength of foreign currencies relative to the U.S. Dollar has made it more alluring for foreigners to buy here. It has also become a mecca for second-home buyers, retirees and those who wish to live in tropical climes throughout the year.
The opening lines of the movie Armageddon says, “It happened before. It will happen again. It’s just a question of when”. It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself in Miami and, if so, then to what extent.