If I were to stand on a milk crate at the intersection of Clematis and Olive and announce to passersby with a megaphone that the real estate market this year has improved over last year, I doubt I would be making much news. (To quote most of the GEICO commercials these days, “everybody knows that.”) But just how “up” is the market around here, really? I had my suspicions, but decided to do a little homework to find out for sure.
Any of you that have visited us at LiveWPB.com know that our focus is on the downtown West Palm Beach scene, and the real estate options that surround it. To that end, our site features a total of 22 different buildings in the downtown area, and thereby covers all of the condo options that most folks would consider downtown living. Having dived into the numbers, I’m pleased to report that most folks who own something here have had a very prosperous year.
So, just how prosperous are we talking, you might ask. . . Well, in setting out to crunch the numbers, I looked at the year-to-date figures so far this year (through October 9, specifically), and compared them with the same January-to-early-October period last year. The stats were revealing to say the least.
For starters, the notion that “inventory is down” certainly seems to be true. The numbers of actual transactions this year compared to last year certainly would support that. In those 22 buildings featured on our site, the total condos to have changed hands this year has been 194, down from 227 last year. That’s about a 15% drop. Fortunately, those fewer deals were done for, by and large, more money.
Two City Plaza tops our list as being the most active of all of the buildings downtown. A total of 23 units have been sold so far this year, more than any other featured on our site. It’s a big, tall building, so this isn’t a complete surprise, but for the fact that the figure is down 40% from the same period last year. Median sales, fortunately, have trended upward. Prices of those units to change hands this year are up 33% over last year, suggesting that folks who have owned there since early 2013 have certainly grown some significant equity.
Esplanade Grande has also had a banner year. Units there represent the priciest of any condos we feature downtown. The median sales price through three quarters last year was $925,000, and that figure has jumped up to $1.25 million so far this year. That’s a 35% increase, which is remarkable in a building this snazzy.
CityPlace South Tower makes our list as having the biggest jump in the number of transactions compared to the same period a year ago. As of October 9, a total of 16 units there changed hands, compared to only 6 for the same window a year ago. Those 16 had a median sales price about 41% higher than in 2013, suggesting that this building has become a hot property.
For the Budget Conscious
Two buildings in particular seem to offer the most affordable forms of downtown condo living. Sales at The Whitney remain somewhat stagnant, as the building comes off its Chinese drywall reparations. Last year, only 2 units changed hands there, at an average sales price of $115,551. Only one has been sold there this year, and it went for $95,200. According to management there, the drywall work has been completed. Will unit prices jump up in line with their surroundings, once the word gets out? If so, the Whitney may actually be a good investment for those hoping to capture its rebound. Otherwise, cost-conscious buyers would likely turn to the next most affordable location, which is currently Flagler Pointe. Twenty sales have been recorded there so far this year, at a median price of $147,250.
Only two buildings have recorded lower numbers this year than during the same window of time last year. Both 610 Clematis and The Strand have experienced a decrease in the median sales price from 2013 to 2014. One must wonder whether units in those buildings have actually decreased in value, or whether these stats are to some degree outliers. By all accounts on the street, both buildings are doing fine, suggesting that these numbers reflect sales of apartments that have been smaller, with perhaps lesser views, than those changing hands in 2013. It’s no reason for folks at 610 or 255 to panic, but it’s worth keeping an eye on these statistics. My hunch is that the numbers in these seemingly thriving condominiums will bounce back, with gusto, in another quarter or two.
The Final Countdown
Yammering on about a bunch of statistics is tedious enough without posting actual tables and graphs, so I’ve refrained from doing that here. But rest assured that I have them. . . If you want to know how a particular building is performing so far this year, or how your unit measures up against those around you, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll be happy to give you the nitty gritty. Otherwise, take solace in knowing that the downtown West Palm Beach real estate scene appears to be thriving, and most owners here have built up some serious equity this year. Let’s hope that trend continues as we wade through the holidays and go charging into the high-season of 2015.