Sales are up in this tropical oasis.By Gina Kramer
Amidst white-sand beaches, lush mango trees, some of the area’s most pristine water views and the vibrant restaurants, art galleries and boutiques of a very chic yet relaxed Atlantic Avenue, is the South Floridian village of Delray Beach. Whether for full-time or part-time living, more and more people are calling Delray Beach their home. Even as the Gulf Stream bends away from the shoreline, the current warms the town’s beaches to Caribbean-like standards. But what truly sets this town apart from its tropical neighbors is that despite the growing number of residents and seasonal vacationers, Delray Beach always has managed to preserve its culture and avoid over-commercialization.
“This area offers all walks of life a phenomenal lifestyle like no other in a beautiful tropical location that cannot be duplicated,” says Sergio Commisso, broker and owner of JSM Realty Services in Boca Raton, Fla. “There is so much to offer in every aspect and nowhere I’d rather live in the world.” Originally from the New York Metropolitan area, Commisso has been living in the Delray Beach/Gulfstream area for over 20 years now. “Aside from normally very long work days, I still feel like I’m on a tropical vacation.”
Location is an important factor for both buyers and sellers alike, but in Delray Beach the culture of the town itself is the real deal for families, retirees and anyone looking for a vacation-like atmosphere without the touristy feel. “People love it. It’s laid back, it’s fun, it’s relaxed and it still has what people come to Florida for,” says Pascal Ligouri, broker associate for Premier Estate Properties and a 12-year resident of Delray Beach. Ligouri currently has listings for the only island development in Delray — Seaside Estates — an enclave of four newly constructed homes designed by GE Architects Inc., and built by Seaside Builders, with prices starting at $1.995 million. Just nearby, Gulf Stream’s Harbor View Estates, a second development by Seaside Builders, will offer six luxury units with deep-water dockage and deeded beach access. With the high season approaching and new projects underway, real estate specialists within the area feel that this trend will not only continue, but that it is expected to grow due to the vast unique amenities and opportunities that Delray Beach has to offer.
“It is evident that affluent buyers — especially foreign buyers who are attracted to the state’s climate, available product and discounted pricing — have contributed to the increase in sales over the past year within the luxury waterfront market,” says Commisso. He describes how downtown Boca Raton, Mizner Park and Delray’s convenient proximity to Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Miami and numerous international airports are all major perks for its location. “We are currently poised for property-value stabilization and a strong rebound. There is only one ‘beautiful’ South Florida and only a limited amount of ocean and waterfront properties that are now more affordable than ever.”
In addition to the increase of foreign and domestic buyers — who most commonly relocate from New York, Michigan or Canada — Delray Beach is also seeing an increase in waterfront sales among residents who already own waterfront properties within the area. Judi Lukens, another broker associate for Premier Estate Properties, has been living and selling real estate in Delray Beach for 38 years. Lukens explains that current waterfront homeowners are beginning to upgrade to different types of waterfront properties — sometimes even within the same neighborhood — whether it be for leisure use or simply the desire for wider views and a different location. Proximity to the town’s renowned Atlantic Avenue is also an attractive amenity.
Atlantic Avenue extends through the heart of the village directly toward the shoreline. “A plethora of funky, ethnic and edgy restaurants line Atlantic Avenue, featuring al fresco dining at every price point,” says Lukens. She explains that Atlantic Avenue is the scene for many of the town’s events and highlights. Every year, Delray Beach hosts “Savor the Avenue,” an outdoor dining and fundraising event where local restaurants contribute to a dinner table stretching out for five blocks. Residents purchase a dish from any restaurant’s prix fixe menu and celebrate with friends and neighbors until midnight to aid The Office Depot Foundation, supporting non-profit organizations. “The great thing about Delray is that there’s something for everyone,” says Lukens. “There’s just nowhere here where you can’t have fun.” Now, with the addition of Pineapple Grove, an artsy new area branching off Atlantic Avenue offering more options for dining and nightlife, there are more options than ever for current and prospective Delray residents.
“The luxury single-family and newer condo waterfront market is on the verge of a comeback,” says Commisso. “Inventory is rapidly being absorbed and buyers are understanding that the strong opportunities in this market are back and I believe this ‘season’ will prove to be a strong indicator of stabilization of the luxury waterfront market in South Florida as a whole.”
Delray Beach, like the rest of the southern region of Florida, is approaching the middle of its “busy season,” which generally ranges from November to March or April. According to Lukens, lower prices can be found around May, as sellers who have waited until after the high season become motivated, while October usually sees large purchase numbers for the winter getaways.
“Although the overall housing market in the U.S. has taken a tremendous ‘hit’ over the past few years and property values have plummeted, the luxury waterfront market has just about stabilized in South Florida,” continues Commisso. “The Delray Beach, Gulf Stream and Boca Raton markets have seen significant strengths over the past year within all sales brackets. It seems that all types of buyers are realizing that we have truly ‘hit the bottom’ in these locations for all products, within all sales brackets. It is evident that sales have increased and educated buyers are taking advantage of the drastically discounted sales points.”