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South Florida is Hot!

The only thing hotter than the temperature is the real estate market.

Move aside, Los Angeles. Shove over, Hamptons and Greenwich. There’s a luxury real estate market even more torrid than any of you: welcome to South Florida, 2021.

Two reasons: low taxes and working from home. Residents from high-tax markets such as New York and California are flocking to Palm Beach, Miami, Coconut Grove and Fisher Island. Florida does not have a state income tax, so finance and tech executives with deep pockets are setting up shop there, since the pandemic has eased working from home.

Let’s look at some astonishing sales that have occurred in the past few months.

In March, an LLC controlled by the Ziff family of publishing fame sold “Gemini,” its 16-acre property on a barrier island in Manalapan, just south of Palm Beach. The $94 million sale is a new record for Palm Beach County. The spread spans the width of the island, with roughly 1,200 feet of frontage on the Atlantic and about 1,300 feet on the Intracoastal Waterway. Gemini had originally been for sale for nearly $200 million in 2017.

Gemini, Manalapan
Listed with Cristina Condon & Todd Peter, Sotheby’s Palm Beach Photo: Lifestyle Production Group

Ocean Boulevard divides the property in half, but there is a private tunnel underneath that the family used as an art gallery. Outside is a PGA-quality golf course, a tennis court, a basketball half court, pool, and multiple docks. The new owner, who is anonymous, will have plenty of room to spread out: the main house is nearly 21,000 square feet; there are four main buildings in all, with a combined 33 bedrooms, 34 bathrooms and 13 half-bathrooms in 85,000 square feet. 

Is Palm Beach just not quite exclusive enough? Evidently South Florida developer Todd Michael Glaser thinks so — he fell in love with a 2.5-acre private island, accessible only by a private bridge. Tarpon Island is considered Palm Beach’s most exclusive address. (Sorry, Mar-a-Lago!) Glaser spent a year trying to get its owners, William and Eileen Toll, to sell. It’s now in contract for close to $90 million. 

Glaser plans to renovate and expand the main 1930s house on the island, which will make it 22,000 square feet. (At one time, the property boasted its own seaplane ramp, helicopter pad, fallout shelter and a bar in the kitchen.) Additions will include indoor and outdoor pools, a gym, a tennis pavilion and a padel ball court. Which is…what? Padel is typically played in doubles on an enclosed court (like racketball) that is smaller than a tennis court. Scoring is the same as in tennis and the balls are similar but softer.

Tarpon Island, Palm Beach
Listed wtih Jim McCann, Premier Estate Properties

The Tolls, who paid $7.6 million for Tarpon Island in 1998, are relocating to West Palm Beach. 

In July, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and his wife Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger closed on yet another Palm Beach property at 1930 South Ocean Blvd. for a recorded $46.25 million, as first reported in the Wall Street Journal. The British colonial style mansion connects with a tunnel beneath South Ocean Boulevard to its beach parcel. The off-market purchase is the third house they’ve purchased on the island since March. The Hilfiger’s previously recorded a $21 million deal for a lakefront home on Dunbar Road, this a little over three months after the couple paid $9 million for a house on Fairview Road. This follows a recent sale of their seaside house in Miami for $24 million, and their Greenwich, Connecticut estate for a reported $45 million.

A peninsula on the Bal Harbour Marina closed in June for $55 million. The two-acre property, which used to be the Bal Harbour Yacht Club, is just vacant land. It was listed in February by Douglas Elliman agent Tony Imbesi, who happens to be the son of the property’s current owner, Joseph Imbesi. New owner is unknown for now. The senior Imbesi paid $19 million for the former yacht club in the 1990s, which included 5.5 acres of land on the beach and 10 acres on the bay. He tore down a modern clubhouse designed by well-known Miami architect Alfred Browning Parker and converted some land into residential use, selling it off in pieces. 

Bal Harbour Marina
Listed with Tony Imbesi, Douglas Elliman
Photo: LPG for Douglas Elliman

The land that sold in June included 915 feet of seawall, exposures on three sides, with, of course, amazing views, the marina docks attached to the lot, and underwater rights to the lagoon.

In January, the heirs of the late Kathleen DuRoss Ford, the widow of Henry Ford II, sold a waterfront mansion in Palm Beach for $55.15 million after just two months on the market. Mrs. Ford purchased the 1.58-acre site in 2002 and built the 26,696-square-foot home, which includes seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, six half-bathrooms, a pool, a balcony, a dock, an elevator, bar, a library, and a media room.

The buyers were David Littman and Constance Littman. David Littman is the founder and CEO of Littman Brands, which comprises several lighting brands.

Roger Barnett is the Chairman and CEO of Shaklee Corporation, the nutrition brand. He and his wife Sloan, a Lindemann heiress, have purchased over $100 million in real estate in Florida in 2021. In January, the couple bought a place on Fisher Island for $17.4 million. Evidently Fisher Island was not to their liking, because they sold the property just four months later for $23 million. Nice profit.

Undaunted, the couple in April purchased a Coconut Grove modern for close to $46 million from Miami businessman Jorge Mas. The modern house, on an acre lot, was designed in 2015 by Alejandro Landes. Outside, there’s an 80-foot boat slip and 518 feet of waterfront.

1930 South Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach

Also in April, the Barnetts paid $38 million for an original Carl Fisher mansion on Star Island, the former Star Island Yacht Club. The 1920s house was sold by Rally Manufacturing founder Marco Iacovelli, who paid $1.83 million for it in 1987. The 18,400-square-foot, 10-bedroom house boasts more than 40 rooms, 255 feet of frontage on Biscayne Bay, two private docks, a boat lift, a pool and cabana. There are even two separate staff living areas, with living rooms and kitchens.

Clearly, the only thing hotter than the South Florida temperature is the real estate market.