As president and CEO of a booming real estate company in the South Florida market, you’d expect Ron Shuffield to be a “champagne and caviar” kind of guy. But it’s not the case. “Well, I don’t drink and I’ve never cared much for caviar,” he said, laughing.
Selling to the rich and famous, and everyone who aspires to be, the Tennessee native has never met recording artist Pitbull, the self-proclaimed “Mr. 305,” but he has rubbed elbows with billionaire Warren Buffett, the CEO of Shuffield’s parent company, Berkshire Hathaway’s HomeServices of America.
Shuffield recently sat down with Islander News for a question-and-answer session as to how the local real estate industry has dealt with the COVID-19 challenge and what lies ahead for the local economy.
Among the highlights:
Q: In 2020, how did the market adjust as the pandemic became the new normal?
A: After a rocky start during the spring months of 2020, the residential market across South Florida exploded with activity over the last half of the year — especially in the high-end single-family home sector. Strong single-family sales have continued through the first quarter of 2021, expanding to condos, as well.
This surge in activity has been a boon for Key Biscayne, a community that has always been known for its affluent and comfortable island lifestyle. While the Key has historically appealed to a large number of second- and third-home owners, “Covid-Period” buyers represent a growing percentage of more permanent residents — many with families being drawn to the key’s top-performing schools. We’re seeing a continuing stream of buyers across Miami-Dade County coming from the New York and California areas, as well as along the entire Eastern seaboard.
Twenty-two single-family homes on Key Biscayne priced over $2 million were sold during the first 75 days of 2021, compared with only six sales for the same period in 2020, a year-over-year increase of 267%. At the same time, single-family inventory decreased 41% (from 90 homes for sale to 53), reflecting a supply of only 6.1 months — the lowest supply in 15 years since we’ve been keeping records. With low supply and a strong demand, we need more inventory.
The supply for Key Biscayne condos priced in excess of $2 million is 18 months, a bit higher than for single-family homes, but the number of condos sold is also encouraging — up 78% over one year ago (16 sales from 9). For all Key Biscayne properties sold in 2021 through mid-March for more than $2 million, 42% were condos and 58% were single-family homes.
Q: What trends did the industry pivot to in order to stay safe?
A: Immediately after the country-wide shutdowns, our company was one of the first in the nation to offer live-streaming virtual open house tours on Facebook and Instagram. These tours rapidly became very popular, especially during the earliest days of COVID, when we were all having to be overly cautious in keeping our distances.
We also quickly created a complimentary website to our main EWM.com website, which contained additional video tours of our listings, so that buyers could quickly scroll through complete videos of each property. This was a very helpful aid for those buyers (and sellers) who were concerned in those early days about personally touring homes.
The videos were also very helpful in acquainting out-of-town buyers with the numerous lifestyle amenities and attractions of each of our area neighborhoods — from schools, to shopping, to gyms, and even to new coffee shops down the block.
Q: Are virtual sales the new reality?
A: People love them! Not just buyers, but sellers, too. Our associates are still having many Zoom and FaceTime meetings with their sellers, in addition to the ones with their buyers. With spontaneous FaceTime opportunities, they’re becoming the new norm.
We had a family from Europe at the end of last year who purchased a $4 million home from just seeing it on our videos. They didn’t even arrive here until four months after they had closed on the transaction. Virtual buying is definitely here to stay!
Q: Was the Key Biscayne market affected differently than other areas of Miami-Dade County?
A: While most all markets across South Florida have enjoyed a spike in the number of homes and condos sold in 2021, Key Biscayne has significantly exceeded its number of condo sales. Between March 1 and 19, 2021, the increase in new contracts written (awaiting closing) for all Key Biscayne condos exceeded the number of contracts written for the same 19-day period one year ago by 717% (49 contracts vs. 6 contracts).
As a comparison, the number of contracts written for condos in the City of Miami Beach for the same period increased 288%. While these triple-digit-percentage gains aren’t sustainable indefinitely, they do highlight the fact that buyers have a very strong interest in owning a home or condo on Key Biscayne, where the median price of a single-family home has increased 24.9% in the first 75 days of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020 (from $2,002,000 to $2,500,000).
The median price of a condo is also up significantly — 25.7%, from $750,000 to $943,000 in the same time period. This doesn’t mean that every property has increased 25% in value, but that the median price (half selling for more and half selling for less) has adjusted upward, reflecting the sale of larger and/or more expensive homes and condos.
Q: As people looked for “safer” areas to live, did the demand on condos slow?
A: The abrupt shutdown of all condominium building amenities for several weeks last year, and the increased restrictions of movement within elevators and common areas, severely impacted our ability to show condominium properties. As a result, buyers became anxious about these inconveniences and their possible future impact, and the number of sales of condominiums immediately began to fall. However, once the state and local governments began lifting building restrictions, we have witnessed an astounding resurgence of sales since those uncertain days during the second quarter of 2020.
Across Miami-Dade County for the first 75 days of 2021 vs. the same period in 2021, the number of condo sales in excess of $2,000,000 had increased 202% (62 sales for the 2020 period vs. 187 sales in 2021). Single-family sales for the same periods have been even stronger — an increase from 63 sales in 2020 to 262 sales in 2021, a year-over-year increase of 316%.
Q: What is your personal take away from the industry coming out of 2020?
A: Everyone asks that question. My answer today is certainly one filled with a great deal of optimism about the future of our South Florida real estate, contrasted with an unsure opinion that I had 12 months ago in the midst of the COVID uncertainties.
The fact that so many newcomers (especially affluent newcomers) have moved their families here over the past year gives me confidence that others will follow to also sink long-term roots and new higher-paying jobs into our communities.
Whether it’s our wonderful weather, our easy-to-access airports, our growing business hubs, the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, a worldwide pandemic — or simply the long-term appeal of our South Florida communities to millions of others across the globe — an increasing number of affluent new full-time residents are moving to our hometown in record numbers.
With a growing trend to work remotely, I believe we will continue to see a re-balancing of our country’s population, whereby thousands upon thousands of people will be able to choose where they reside, regardless of where their work is based.
The latest US Census report reveals that Florida is growing by 661 “net” new residents per day, contrasted with New York, which is losing 346 residents per day, and California, which is losing 190 residents per day.
The favorable comments being voiced across the country regarding Florida’s business climate will also be a driver of growth and popularity among additional newcomers and corporate decision makers. With 16 of our 50 states shrinking in population this past year, while Florida and Texas significantly led the country in solid growth, the easy takeaway is that all eyes (and dollars) will continue to stay focused on South Florida.
Q: Which segment do you see as the biggest opportunity for buyers?
A: There are currently positive aspects in all sectors, so it’s just a matter of what property (single-family or condo) you’re seeking and your desired price range. The lower-priced properties will always be in strong demand, due to the fact that the largest portion of the buying population is limited to what they can afford.
Four times as many condos today are currently for sale over the number of available single-family homes; therefore, that also gives condo buyers more opportunities.
For the majority of today’s buyers, our historically low interest rates are as important as property asking prices. A 1% increase in the interest rate (from 3% to 4%) erodes over 11% of your borrowing power. Therefore, if the rate increases just 1% on a $500,000 mortgage, the amount you can borrow (with the same monthly principal and interest payment) will be reduced to about $442,000.
In February of 2010, the median price of a single-family home in Miami-Dade County was $155,000 and it was $455,000 last month (Feb. 2020), an increase of 194% over the past 10 years. Condo percentage gains were similar over the same 10-year period — from a median price of $96,000 to $280,000, a gain of 192%.
Of course, the recessionary period before 2010 had taken a huge bite out of our median priced home or condo’s value, but for those who had the foresight to purchase 10 years ago, they have seen a very nice return on their investment.
Q: Key Biscayne is considered as “one of the top 10 priciest beach towns in the nation.” Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
A: Real estate values in any market are dependent upon a collective agreement of knowledgeable and ready, willing and able buyers. A high-quality product offering, bolstered by a top reputation among comparable “beach towns,” is a good combination. Key Biscayne has always been a special place, but since its incorporation as a village in 1991, it has drawn more and more global attention as a prestigious place to call home.
When even the tiniest percentage of the world’s affluent population seeks to own a stake in any community, that has a major impact on the value of every average property within that community. More affluent residents in a community affect the quality of all a community has to offer, from schools, to shopping, to leisure activities. I always love driving past the Key Biscayne park in the fall of the year during soccer season, when the lights come on and you see families gathering. It’s a place filled with lots of vitality!
Q: There are many high-rise developments underway or planned across the bay for the Brickell and Midtown corridor. How does that affect the condo market on Key Biscayne?
A: Key Biscayne is a unique one-of-a-kind community that blends beautifully with its Greater Miami community neighbors. While the relaxed island lifestyle of the Key and its residents is what chiefly identifies Key Biscayne as a very special place, the urban services and amenities offered by its neighbors on the mainland add additional value to all Key Biscayne real estate.
For example, Brickell City Centre’s high-quality mixed-use development provides high-end shopping, restaurants and other amenities that are enjoyed by residents of Key Biscayne. While Key Biscayne and Brickell or Midtown each have many beautiful condo buildings to choose from, the lifestyles of the areas are very different; therefore, we generally see different buyer profiles for each area.
Q: How did the loss of the professional tennis tournament affect the island’s market and how have celebrities influenced the area?
A: The tennis tournament (from 1987 through 2018 and sponsored by Lipton until 2000) gave Key Biscayne many things, including national exposure for an iconic event. But the move (to the Hard Rock Stadium area) certainly hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of its residents for their community. The positive energy that the tournament injected into Key Biscayne during those years will be felt by generations to come. It added much to the personality of “Key Life,” upon which its reputation will continue to blossom.
Celebrities have always felt very comfortable on the key and that certainly is no different today. Their presence, either as full-time residents or as frequent visitors, has been an asset to the entire community. While the key has enjoyed the company of many well-known entertainers and sports figures, it is also home to many “celebrity” business leaders and their families tucked within its neighborhoods.
We are fortunate in South Florida to have the multiple fun opportunities we have available to us — right in our own backyard! How many Super Bowls now, eleven? Miami Art Week, boat and auto shows, concerts, marathons, pro sports, performing arts… and on and on. We often take living year-round in our sunshine paradise for granted.
I’m pretty simple. I’ve watched my kids grow up here. Now I have four grandkids who will also be enjoying what I’ve enjoyed. The real joy of living is helping others. The Chamber of Commerce on Key Biscayne is just one of the many (contributors) who do such good work to enhance the many positives of life on the Key. It takes a lot of concerted effort, but there are a lot of big hearts on Key Biscayne.
I’m grateful for what we all share in South Florida. God has blessed our communities immensely.