Florida boat show a target-rich environment for real estate agents

Sun SentinelNovember 2, 2013 

FORT LAUDERDALE -- Real estate agent Jill Eber figures anyone buying a megayacht this weekend may be in the market for a mansion, too.

And it doesn't hurt to at least ask.

Buoyed by a rebound in luxury housing, Eber and other real estate agents will be cruising for clients at the 54th Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The annual event opened Thursday and continues through Monday.

"You have very substantial people in town looking at incredible boats," Eber said. "Anytime you get that kind of audience, it makes it very conducive for marketing homes."

Eber will attend the show to meet with potential buyers and hand out brochures. She also took out a newspaper ad that includes half a dozen listings underneath a headline that says, "We Have a Home for Your Yacht."

One of the listings is a $32 million estate in The Harborage development in Fort Lauderdale. The two-story, 17,000-square-foot home has more than 500 feet of waterfront dockage and offers a backyard view of the boat show.

The home sits on three lots and has six bedrooms and seven and a half bathrooms. Amenities include a movie theater, gym, executive suite and an infinity pool.

Eber and her business partner, Jill Hertzberg, are known professionally as "The Jills." The Coldwell Banker duo has listed hundreds of multi-million-dollar properties across South Florida, racking up $2 billion in sales since 2005. They've represented Miami Heat owner Micky Arison and former Heat star Shaquille O'Neal, among other celebrities.

Another agent of luxury homes, Tim Elmes, also is going after well-to-do boat buyers this weekend, scheduling a series of open houses

and hobnobbing with yacht brokers who send him to clients looking for homes.

His marketing efforts work. A few years ago, he put three mansions under contract during the show.

Elmes said affluent visitors often skip the show on Saturday and Sunday to avoid the big crowds. That's when they do their house-hunting.

"Without question, this is one of the wealthiest weekends in the county for the entire year," he said.

Like the overall housing market, high-end home sales have gained momentum in recent months as buyers show renewed confidence in the economy.

Lewis Goodkin, a longtime South Florida real estate analyst, said many wealthy buyers sat out the housing downturn. While they still could afford a luxury home, they spent their money elsewhere -- even helping their children and other family members who were hit hard by the recession.

Those buyers now are returning to the market, encouraged that lenders are more willing to offer home loans. Goodkin said even well-heeled buyers want mortgage financing these days.

"It's low-cost and it's tax-deductible," he said.

Steven Presson, an agent in Palm Beach, said buyers are latching onto high-end listings because there are so few available.

Presson had a $4 million home in Manalapan, Fla., that went under contract in 10 days. The buyer had missed out on other bidding wars and didn't want to risk losing another, Presson said.

"There's a sense of urgency out there, which, for the longest time, you didn't see," he said.

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