Billionaire Buyers Like Jeff Bezos Have Supercharged Miami’s High-End Home Market

From a Wall Street Journal story by Katherine Clarke headlined “Billionaire Buyers Like Jeff Bezos Have Supercharged Miami’s High-End Home Market”:

Since the pandemic sent some of the country’s richest people fleeing to Florida, Miami has seen a series of megadeals, including the city’s first sale over $100 million. Most recently, billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in June bought a $68 million Miami home, joining the ranks of other uber-wealthy Miami property owners such as Citadel chief executive Ken Griffin, Kayak co-founder Steve Hafner and private-equity billionaire Orlando Bravo.

These sales have propelled the city’s luxury market to new heights, pushing its real-estate market closer to those of New York, Los Angeles and Palm Beach, which have seen nine-figure deals for years. Another similarity with many of the country’s priciest real-estate markets? Some of the highest prices were paid for teardowns.

While luxury deals in Miami have slowed recently—high-end sales in the Miami metro area fell 40.14% year-over-year in the three months ended June 30, according to Redfin—that’s largely due to a lack of inventory as opposed to a shortage of demand, real-estate agents said. Indeed, median sales prices for luxury homes in the area actually grew by more than 5% during the same period, Redfin’s data show.

Citadel’s Ken Griffin set the record for a Miami-Dade County property last year when he paid $106.875 million to buy a 4-acre estate from the philanthropist Adrienne Arsht. The deal was the first in Miami history to cross the $100 million mark, and came in the wake of an announcement that Griffin’s company was relocating to Miami from its longtime home in Chicago.

The property, which sits directly on Biscayne Bay, had been asking $150 million. It includes two separate houses, totaling 12 bedrooms and roughly 25,000 square feet of living space. The older of the two homes, a Mediterranean Revival-style house known as Villa Serena, dates to 1913, when it was built for politician William Jennings Bryan. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The newer house, known as Indian Spring, was built by Arsht about two decades ago. Indian Spring has 20-foot-high ceilings and formal entertaining spaces, such as a dining room with seating for up to 20 guests.

Since purchasing the property, Griffin has floated a proposal to relocate Villa Serena off the property, meeting resistance from preservationists.

The Arsht purchase wasn’t the first in Miami for Griffin, who was born in Florida and is a prolific collector of luxury homes across the world. In January 2022 he paid $75 million for a home on Miami’s ultraexclusive Star Island, a small spit of sand connected to South Beach via a causeway. Records show the seller was Lourdes R. Sanjenis, a doctor whose late husband, Modesto Mora, bought the property for $1.4 million in 1987. The estate spans close to 2 acres and includes a roughly 15,000-square-foot, nine-bedroom mansion dating to the 1990s. Local agents said the home was likely a teardown and would be replaced with a more contemporary residence. The house has since been demolished.

The home is one of several Griffin has purchased on Star Island, at least one of which he has subsequently resold to former Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez. The island has also been home to stars like NBA commentator Shaquille O’Neal, hip-hop artist Sean “Diddy” Combs and singer Gloria Estefan. Elizabeth Lima of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty represented Sanjenis. Hertzberg and Eber represented Griffin.

In June, Bezos quietly closed on a deal for a waterfront home in Miami’s Indian Creek Village for $68 million. The seller was MTM Star International, a company tied to former hotelier Tulia Soucy de Gonzalez Gorrondona, which purchased the property for $1.4 million in 1982, property records show.

Bezos’ new, roughly 3-acre property includes approximately 10,000 square feet of living space, according to records. Indian Creek, a man-made barrier island, has long been popular with the city’s elite, drawing boldfaced names such as NFL legend Tom Brady, billionaire Carl Icahn and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. The roster of high-profile owners has earned the island the moniker “Billionaire’s Bunker.” Bezos also owns trophy homes in locations such as Beverly Hills, Calif., and the Hawaiian island of Maui.

In June 2021, a trust tied to private-equity executive Nathan Leight and his wife, Elizabeth Leight, sold a waterfront property in the Coconut Grove section of Miami for $48 million. The identity of the buyer couldn’t be determined.

The deal was completed off-market, so there is little information publicly available about the property itself. Tax records show it spans about 2.2 acres and has about 19,000 square feet of living space. Leight is a managing partner of Miami-based Terrapin Partners, according to his LinkedIn profile. The Leights bought the home in 2011 for $13.4 million, records show.

Steve Hafner, co-founder of the Connecticut-based online travel company Kayak, paid $40 million for an apartment at Palazzo Della Luna, a luxury condominium complex on Fisher Island, a private island south of Miami Beach. The price was just shy of the $48 million the project’s developers had been asking for the unit.

Fisher Island has long been popular with celebrities and athletes. It is accessible only by ferry or other boats, and residents get around by golf cart.

Palazzo Della Luna was developed by PDS Development and Miami developer Heinrich von Hanau. Dora Puig of Luxe Living Realty headed sales at the project.

English musician Phil Collins sold a mansion on sought after North Bay Road in Miami Beach to billionaire Orlando Bravo, who heads the private-equity firm Thoma Bravo. Collins had paid $33 million in 2015 to buy the property from entertainer Jennifer Lopez.

The roughly 1.2-acre property included curved coconut palms and a 6,000-gallon koi pond. The house, a 10,769-square-foot Mediterranean Revival estate built in 1929, was considered a teardown. The property has since been demolished, according to Daniel Ciraldo, executive director of the Miami Design Preservation League.

Katherine Clarke covers residential real estate for The Wall Street Journal. She is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Trinity College Dublin. She is the author of a forthcoming book on New York’s Billionaires’ Row.

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