Properties listed in the MLS are far scarcer than usual for home shoppers in Palm Beach for Presidents Day weekend.
Darrell Hofheinz Palm Beach Daily News
In case you didn’t notice — and it’s certainly been hard not to notice — the demand for Palm Beach real estate has shown few signs of cooling after a red-hot, record-setting year of sales and skyrocketing prices.
And there’s no reason to expect that would-be home buyers won’t be on the prowl this Presidents Day weekend and in the coming week, traditionally the busiest time of the year for real estate activity on the island.
But whether shoppers will find what they are looking for is another matter entirely. They will face a market with smaller inventory — and larger asking prices — than they would have encountered a year ago, at least for properties advertised in the Palm Beach Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.
A search of the MLS Wednesday showed 41 active single-family homes and townhouses, not including the three listings marked as “pending” sales with contingencies, meaning the contract isn’t yet set in stone.
By comparison, last year’s MLS showed 54 active single-family listings at this time. And the year before that — back before the coronavirus pandemic revved the market into an overdrive that would have stripped the gears off a Lamborghini —there were 172.
“We’re in unprecedented times,” acknowledged Palm Beach real estate broker John Pinson, president of the Palm Beach Board of Realtors.
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On the single-family scene, nearly a third of the listed houses are priced at $18.95 million or above. The category tops out with a $79 million listing for a newer house on the “corner” of the Atlantic Ocean and the inlet at the north tip of the island. The least expensive asking, meanwhile, is just under $5 million for a 1940s-era house at 231 Cocoanut Row.
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The number of condominiums and co-ops for sale in the MLS has dropped even more precipitously than single-family homes, a year-over-year comparison shows. Shoppers in town for Presidents Day Weekend last year found just shy of 200 units on the market, down from about 300 the year before.
This week in the MLS, there were just 56 listings for condos and co-ops, the lowest number in recent memory. Those units range in price from just under $20 million for an oceanfront penthouse in Midtown’s Winthrop House to $349,900 for a South End apartment in a building at 3590 S. Ocean Blvd.
And the top prices assigned to multi-family units don’t appear to be scaring anyone away. Just this week, a three-level condo that resembles a townhouse in a Midtown quadplex at 221 Brazilian Ave. landed under contract, barely a week after entering the market at just shy of $18 million.
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Even with the constrained MLS-listed inventory, home shoppers this weekend should bear in mind the higher-than-usual number properties that have sold over the past year without ever hitting the MLS. Those have changed hands privately via texts, phone calls and emails between brokers and agents with the inside scoop on off-market properties, especially when a suddenly irresistible offer meets a previously immovable seller.
The lesson is that this weekend may not be the time to go shopping without a professional in tow.
And whatever shoppers are looking for, bear in mind that finding the home of one’s dreams may be a longer-term proposition than in the past — especially if the dream involves waterfront, as so many do. The supply of properties on the water is stretched tighter than an angler’s fishing line with a 200-pound swordfish on the opposite end.
“When you look at the basic economics of supply and demand, there are only so many properties on the lake and on the ocean on the island of Palm Beach proper,” said Pinson, who runs John D. Pinson Inc.
So here’s a note to house-hunters over the next week: Keep your eyes peeled — and have that checkbook ready.