Gay Pride and Pizazz Drive Local
Real Estate Prices Up
By Al Gould
As the population of many Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods
become filled with gay residents and businesses,
real estate prices have increased dramatically. How much have they risen?
What neighborhoods are still hot and what will be hot in the future? The
Express talked recently with a random panel of gay
and gay friendly real estate agents to get the
answers to these and other questions important to our community.
It was not too long ago when The Shoppess
of Wilton Manors, now a gay mecca, housed empty buildings and a struggling
Piggly Wiggly. It was not too long ago when Victoria Park housed older
homes that were cheap and readily available at low prices.
In the last five years, the
neighborhoods around Wilton Drive have experienced an urban renaissance,
becoming a great place to live and work, dine and shop, and socialize gracefully.
Wilton Manors is poised to become one in a series of many real estate success
stories. In the past decade, Victoria Park has become
a home for thousands of gay residents whose homes and properties have been
restored and upgraded.
"Itís a guppie success story," declared
Hot Spots! Publisher Jason Bell, referring to the Gay Urban Professionals,
who live in these areas. Many gay and gay friendly realtors advertise in
the Express and form a substantial financial base for Scoop and Bellís
Nationwide, gay people have been buying
homes in transitional neighborhoods and turning them into showpieces. Across
the country, countless neighborhoods have seen dramatic turnarounds happen
house by house, block by block. In most cases, gay people donít have to
deal with the issue of good schools and are less concerned about security
issues (like leaving a wife home alone). Transitional neighborhoods are
less threatening then they moight be to our straight counterparts.
For these reasons, "gay residents are
viewed as trendsetters", stated Andy Weiser
of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate. "We are the demographic that
can make or break a neighborhood in transition. Although this trend is
happening nationwide, some things set South Florida and the Fort Lauderdale
area apart from the rest," Weiser noted.
Jay Hatoff, owner of Majestic
Realty in Wilton Manors commented on the basics of Fort Lauderdale real
estate. "With the Everglades on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the
other, the Fort Lauderdale area is landlocked and canít get larger in size.
This means the law of supply and demand that drives the market here is
quick to recognize good areas."
With more people relocating to South Florida every year,
the demand for property in nice neighborhoods can quickly overshadow the
supply. Hatoff stated that just about anything
in Fort Lauderdale east of I-95 is hot right now.
"It seems that when gay residents take
pride in their homes and neighborhoods, the communities they live in become
better places for everyone to live," stated Frank Rubino,
of Infante and Associates. "It is simple," he explained. "Gays have more
time and disposable income to invest in fixing up and maintaining their
properties than most couples. For one, they donít have children."
Tony Naples, of Eastside properties
agreed. "Just take a look around Home Depot on a Saturday and youíll see
all sorts of gay shoppers. They are fixing up their homes," he added. Interestingly,
when the Express inaugurated the cartoon strip Kyleís Bed ní Breakfast
last week, it featured all four main characters lumbering their way through
a ĎHouse Depotí on a Saturday morning.
Greg Culicetto, of RE/Max Partners,
added "fixing up homes appeals to our creative side, the vision" we all
possess. Getting into the home improvement spirit appears to be catchy.
Mainstream homebuyers have noticed whatís happened after gay residents
start moving into an area. The city of Wilton Manors, for example, had
an influx of gay business follow residents into town. "
After businesses started to succeed
and property values rose, tax dollars started to beautify the cityís public
areas. Wilton Manors Elementary School is now respected as a great place
for children to attend grammar school. All of the realtors that talked
with The Express agreed that straight
singles, couples and families looking for a home used words like "wonderful"
when told the area(s) they were interested in contained high rates of gay
The average home in Wilton Manors valued at $100,000 five
years ago is now worth about $150,000. Victoria Park has seen 30% increases
in the last five years. Besides places like Victoria Park and Wilton Manors,
other area gay neighborhoods have also seen dramatic
increases in property values. In the last year alone, Fort Lauderdale areas
east of I-95 have seen a 14% average increase in value. Even
Lake Ridge, just off Sunrise Blvd., has developed a powerful neighborhood
association with a strong gay presence. It was instrumental in cleaning
up prostitution along the boulevard.
The southwest corner of the city has been a stable market
in the past. In the last five years though,
the area once affectionately referred to as "Homo
Heights", has also experienced rising
real estate prices. City Commissioner
Jack Latona, who represents the southwest, said that the gay community's
presence has enhanced both the quality of life and the neighborhoods in
this section of the city.
Elsewhere, the gay presence has also worked favorably for real estate
values. Tony Naples specializes
in properties in and around the beach. "Ten years ago, you could get a
nice two bedroom condo on the beach in the low $100ís. Now you canít touch
anything in the area for less than the $160ís" Tony stated. Moreso, the
number of gay guesthouses on the beach has grown from two to twenty-five
in just a few years. Bed and breakfasts not only effectively restore dilapidated
properties to communal rentals, but put gay dollars to work in a way that
enhance the entire neighborhood.
As a community spread out over most
of Fort Lauderdale, gay residents have done a lot to make sure their homes
and neighborhoods look and feel top notch. Stated Joan Cerrito of
Eve Realty: "Gays are dependable and reliable individuals. As they move
into communities, and fix up homes, they improve and enhance property values
"Even if you own investment property,
treat it as if were your own home. That little piece of Martha Stewart
in all of us goes a long way to increase property values and
community pride in all residents," added Jay Hatoff.
Although thereís a lot more good news
than bad, there are things to consider when taking a close look at a booming
real estate market. What are the adverse effects of runaway property values?
What about renters? Is there any chance that you can purchase a home in
a gay neighborhood one or two years from now without winning the lottery?
"Yes" was the unanimous opinion of the real estate agents the Express spoke
with. "Look for pockets of transitional homes inside neighborhoods that
have already seen big increases in property values", said Frank
Rubino."These are the
good ones to move on."
Up and Coming
There are several neighborhoods that
in the past havenít generated mass interest, but are now gaining popularity
with the gay community. Based on past trends, experiences and professional
expertise, the Express panel of agents felt that several area neighborhoods
were worthy of the "up and coming" label. Mentioned areas included Poinsettia
Heights, which has already begun itís transformation, Middle River Terrace
(just below Wilton Manors) and North Andrews Garden (located near Commercial
Boulevard and Andrews Avenue). .
Properties on the water are especially likely
to increase in value, partly because there is only so much waterfront
property to go around. Greg Culicetto offered
this advice: "Start by figuring out the area you would like to live in.
Real estate really is about location,
location, location." There were also areas in Oakland Park, even west of
I-95, that were described as up and coming by the agents we spoke with.
A good sign that an area is primed to attract gay residents
is the opening of gay businesses. Although the businesses will usually
follow gay residents into a neighborhood, the reverse can also produce
dramatic results for a neighborhood. "Iíve had clients tell me they want
to be able to walk to the local bar or ride their bikes to the gym they
belong to" voiced Andy Weiser.
Interested in being an urban pioneer?
"If you are looking for good value in a home and are willing to renovate,
take a leap of faith in an area that is up and coming. Hope that others
will follow your example," suggested Kim Garvy,
the broker for Sunny Skies Real Estate in the Gateway Shopping
Center. All the realtors that spoke with The Express
felt that this trend would continue. These areas have yet to show signs
of leveling off.
If you are looking to buy in an area
that is already escalating in interest and price, Andy Weiser summed it
up best when he concluded "Even though youíre paying more today than you
were yesterday, itís still not as much as youíll pay tomorrow."
Make it Happen
So what if you already own a home and want to make
sure your neighborhood gets a piece of the action? The realtors interviewed
suggested that there are several things you can do to help put your property
and neighborhood on the A-list.
- Renovations and landscaping will always go a long
way to make your home look great.
-But besides making the outside of your home beautiful,
keep a watchful eye on the neighborhood as well.
-Join or start a neighborhood watch program.
- Put up motion lights and other outdoor lighting.
-When you are out of town, used timed lights and ask
a neighbor to take in your mail.
- Install a security system and put a sign in your
front yard that announces it.
- When you notice a problem with
the cityís drainage, stoplights, streets, etc., report the problem so it
gets taken care of quickly.
-Talk with your company about adopting a road, highway
or shore in your neighborhood that needs help. -
Got an idea to brighten up your neighborhood? Share
it with your city councilperson or other local official. Get involved
Up and Coming Properties
Other hot neighborhoods mentioned by the Express panel included
-Poinsettia Heights (from US 1 to NE 15th Avenue and from NE 13th
Street to the River),
-Coral Heights (north of Oakland Park Boulevard and West of US1)
-Coral Ridge (just north of Victoria Park)
-Hillsbrook (the area between Powerline and Andrews)
-The Landing neighborhood (Bayview north of Commercial Boulevard).
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