Miami Beach is a 15-mile island in southern Florida that lies between bustling Miami to the west, and the vast blue stretch of the Atlantic Ocean to the east. In essence, it’s a friendly, laid-back city with a lively arts scene that welcomes tourists, snowbirds, and year-round residents of all kinds. It’s connected to the mainland by a series of bridges and is a cosmopolitan paradise, with pristine beaches, a year-round warm climate, and the most expansive collection of art deco architecture in the world — more than 800 protected buildings, to be exact!
The urban, self-sustained city of 90,000 is a melting pot of transients from around the world, creating a cultural island that’s home to more than 150 ethnicities — and a housing market just as diverse. There’s a range of residential offerings at all sizes and price points, from luxurious manors to beachside bungalows. Being the demographically unique place it is, the biggest consideration buyers face when they buy a house in Miami Beach is choosing the right location — for a few blocks’ difference can determine whether you’re right in the middle of the bustling nightlife or tucked away in a quiet, residential neighborhood.
To get you the inside scoop on this hot place to be, we’ve spoken with local experts, including top agent Julie Sidorevskaya, who has 20 years of experience in Miami Beach real estate. In this how-to guide, we’re covering all the important details you’ll want to know to ensure you score your perfect dream home when you buy a house in Miami Beach.
Know your budget (and allot for these hidden costs!)
PayScale reports that Miami Beach has a 33% higher cost of living than the U.S. average, with housing coming in as the biggest expense at 117% higher than the national average (as of 2021.)
The good news is, you don’t have to be a millionaire to live on this slice of paradise. “You could be in the $100,000 range and you could be in the $1 million range, and there will be a home for you in Miami Beach,” Sidorevskaya says. Although the lower end of the budget may not land you a high-rise condo with an oceanfront view, it can still get you a decent place that’s within walking distance to the beach. To help narrow in on your ideal budget, first determine how much you can afford.
To give more insight into the cost, around 82% of the homes on the island are apartment complexes and in 62% of those renters pay an average of around $2,000 per month, as of January 2021. For those looking to buy a house in Miami Beach, you’ll be competing for a piece of the 9% free-standing residencies available on the island, and can expect to pay a median housing price near $370,000, according to a 2020 report from BestPlaces.
Additional Florida property expenses one should consider include:
Know the housing styles and current market
Even with recent development, more than 46% of homes in Miami Beach were built from 1940 to 1969, and you can expect to find much of the beloved retro, pastel-colored Art Deco architecture still thriving throughout downtown and residential neighborhoods today.
As for housing styles, options include apartments, condos, bungalows, single-family homes, and a fair share of mansions. Interiorly, Sidorevskaya says that quartz countertops, spacious kitchens, and zen-style earthy tones are currently trending. She also notes that where apartments and condos have always been the predominant homes buyers want, 2020 changed this trend.
“In single-family homes, we’ve had about a 25% appreciation just in our general marketplace over the last year,” Sidorevskaya explains.
“Everybody before always wanted to have a second home in Miami. But it’s become like, ok — this is no longer going to be a second home option. This is now going to be my primary residence.”
So, what does that mean for buyers?
It means that although the available housing hasn’t drastically increased on the island, the demand has — and players are competing from all over for a slice of the Miami Beach pie. Buyers can expect steep competition and price tags above asking price.
“The range that people are willing to pay, it’s insane,” Sidorevskaya says. “We just had a deal where the buyers paid $30,000 above appraised value just to get the house.”
Know what to watch for during an inspection
There are specific red flags buyers need to watch for during the inspection stage when they buy a house in Miami Beach. Here are the biggest concerns that plague the Miami Beach region:
“Mold is just part of life here, it’s nothing to get freaked out by; however, you want to know what you’re getting into,” says Joe Hrbek, franchise owner to SERVPRO of Miami Beach, a five-star rated, locally owned and operated damage restoration company.
His advice to homebuyers? If you want to buy a house in Miami Beach, be sure to get a good inspection company.
“We do a lot of mold remediation. There are some home inspection companies that take samples for mold but they don’t do a real full, mold analysis. There are a select few home inspection companies that are trained and savvy to inspect for mold.”
According to Hrbek, windows and roofs are the real troublesome contamination zones, either because of their original installations or simply because they’ve weathered and aged — and this applies to old and new buildings.
“The construction quality isn’t always as good these days as maybe in the olden days,” he explains. “I’d almost rather take something old than something new in terms of building quality.”
According to FEMA, 93% of Miami Beach buildings lie on an SFHA (Special Flood Hazard Area). Always check if the property is in a flood zone, and know that your mortgage lender may require flood insurance, which can average $500-$750 per year. That said, flood insurance is recommended for all buyers, and Sidorevskaya suggests chatting with neighbors to gauge what their experience with flooding has been like in the area.
Hrbek also notes how flooding in the coastal regions, especially in the lower-lying areas, have become a large concern in the region.
“You could have a nice, healthy rain and experience problems. You really need to check the flood zone areas, because it’s just a matter of time when even a good heavy rain that isn’t a hurricane could cause flooding from the ground in. And that’s a serious problem, and it’s getting worse.”
A common pest problem in the southeast because of its climate, additional termite inspections are vital to Florida homebuyers. Expect to pay anywhere from $75-$200 for a full inspection.
Damage by hurricanes
Miami is known for hurricanes, and Sidorevskaya recommends that buyers should always have a seller disclosure to state if they’ve experienced flooding or mold.
Know common quirks to Miami Beach houses
- Lot sizes and storage space: Small lot sizes are commonplace for most residencies in the area, and because of the older nature of many homes, closets are often … well, lacking.
- Limited parking: With a shortage of available parking spaces that fill up fast, parking on the island can be tricky — to put it mildly. Many of the older, garden-style, walk-up buildings don’t include dedicated parking for residents.
- Transportation: Miami Beach is a pedestrian’s paradise with a boardwalk that stretches from North Beach clear to South Beach. With an average walk score of 75, many opt out of owning a vehicle entirely and turn to walking, biking, or Vespas as the preferred means of transportation.
Know the neighborhoods
Miami Beach has three neighborhoods: South Beach, Mid Beach, and North Beach (… not including the surrounding residential islands!) Each area includes smaller pockets that are host to a culture all their own. This creates one incredibly diverse island with a neighborhood suitable for all ages and lifestyles.
“Miami Beach has options for any type of appetite,” explains Sidorevskaya.
“So, I think it’s just important to be true to yourself, and sit down and say, you know, these are the things that I’m looking for. These are my non-negotiables.”
Let’s take a further look into the highlights of each neighborhood:
The southernmost tip of the island, this is the area most people picture when they hear “Miami Beach.” Full of fine dining (like The Bazaar with famed chef José Andrés), high-end shops, and home to the Art Deco Architectural District, the area offers front-row views of Biscayne Bay and Fisher Island (one of the most expensive private islands in the world!) It’s a tourist hotspot frequented by models and movie stars with a happening nightlife, and bars and restaurants that stay open all hours. Properties can range between $200,000-$800,000, depending on how close you are to the beach and Ocean Drive.
South of Fifth (SoFi/Ocean Drive) is a small pocketed neighborhood in South Beach where one can expect luxury real estate, multi-million-dollar condos, fine dining, shops, a beautiful beachfront, and nature parks.
This urban yet family-friendly section of the island offers minimal shops and restaurants, but a wide range of single-family homes and waterfront apartments and condos that range from $200,000 to into the millions. It’s an upscale slice of the island featuring luxury accommodations for tourists like the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel. It’s primarily full of residential neighborhoods and an expanse of waterfront, high-rise condos known as “millionaire’s row.”
Mid Beach includes Bayshore (West side of South Beach), a quiet, residential area for many primary and secondary homeowners with highly rated schools. Here, you’ll also find Alton Road, which is a popular waterfront area where rental costs are 98% higher than Florida neighborhoods, and West Avenue, which is full of high-rise condos and apartments with views of Biscayne Bay.
If you’re not one for late nights, you’re best steering clear of the central south beach neighborhood, otherwise known as “party central.” But if lively nights and being in the action are your jam, then this is the area for you. It’s also a popular spot for tourists, as it has a great selection of oceanfront hotels and Washington Avenue, which is a popular strip of shops and restaurants.
In this quiet section of the island, buyers can find apartments, condos, single-family homes, and mansions right on the ocean and tucked away from all the hustle and bustle. It includes properties in a range of price points and is a primarily residential area with Miami Modern (MiMo) architecture and high-rises.
With a smaller selection of restaurants and shopping, North Beach remains the least touristy and most inexpensive stretch of Miami Beach, although it still includes its fair share of gems. Take The Strand Bar and Grill at Carillon for instance, which is a local restaurant that sources farm-fresh ingredients and is said to provide one of the best oceanfront dining views in Miami. As for growth, North Beach has planned new development that will soon add to the value of the area.
Normandy Isles, a small neighborhood in North Beach, includes new waterfront condos, luxury homes, and historical homes built in the 1930s. It’s also a hotspot for local businesses and free community events for the whole family like regular farmers markets, live music, and seasonal cookouts and festivals.
Know the best time to buy
According to market trends, early summer in Miami Beach is when the market is at its peak, placing homes 4.82% above average price. This makes June the worst time for buyers, but the best time to sell. January comes in as the best time to buy, as it’s the least competitive month, with home sales falling 6% below average price. October and November aren’t far behind at 5% below average.
Know the right agent
There’s a lot to consider when you buy a house in Miami Beach, whether it’s competing with worldwide buyers, landing in the right locale, or ensuring you’re following all the specific rules and regulations (like not violating a short-term rental restriction that’ll stick you with a $20,000 fine! Yikes!).
That’s why it’s important to work with a buyer’s agent when you look for your perfect beachside primary or secondary home. Top agents in Miami Beach save buyers on average $79,009 and secure homes 1.7 times faster than other real estate agents. By partnering with one, you’ll have someone in your corner working around the clock to land you the perfect oceanside escape (in your ideal location!), at the best possible price.
Header Image Source: (pisaphotography / ShutterStock)