November 16, 2005
Fisher Island Properties, A Few Other Developments Are Real Luxury Condos
By Marilyn Bowden
In a market where many condominiums carry the tag of luxury, the priciest buildings in Miami-Date County stand out as truly exceptional, according to local Realtors.
David Dabby, principal of valuation firm the Dabby Group, sets the bar for an ultra-luxury condo unit at $5 million. "There have been 18 sales in Miami-Dade in that category since 1994," he said, "so it's an exclusive club."
With eight $5 million-plus sales, Mr. Dabby said, Fisher Island has the most. Other pricey properties he listed are Il Villaggio, One Bal Harbour, the Continuum, the Setai, and the Bath Club.
Based on their own criteria, Realtors who serve the luxury market chose some of the same properties as Miami's grandest.
"There are several factors that make a unit special," said Diane Lieberman, owner of South Beach Investment Realty. "Location is a key factor. Buying on the waterfront is a good bet to ensure value."
Developer name recognition is important, she said. "It makes people feel comfortable, like buying an Armani suit."
New buildings are preferable to older ones, Ms. Lieberman said, "because they will have updated amenities such as hurricane-proof windows."
Finally, she said, the unit should offer something special such as a wine refrigerator, a steam shower, a 24-hour concierge or a beach valet.
"What differentiates the best condos, in my opinion, are the location, finish of the building, the level of service and the amenities," said Kevin Tomlinson, a condo specialist at Esslinger Wooten Maxwell.
Carlos Garcia, a broker at the Keyes Co., said a luxury condo is defined by "the amenities, the view and the location. Who the builder is has a lot to do with it, too. So does the size of the unit."
The Setai, where a penthouse set a record when it was sold for $9 million, is "probably the highest-priced," Ms. Lieberman said. "Every finish is over the top, and so are the services they offer. It's outpacing Fisher Island."
The Setai, 101 20 th St. in Miami Beach, has prime location, Mr. Garcia said, on the ocean and at the edge of South Beach. Built by the Setai Group of New York, the resort-condo property features three beachfront pools, a fitness center and an upscale spa as well as top-of-the-line kitchen and bath furnishings.
A cluster of new towers on Fisher Island, a private island in Government Cut, formerly owned by the Vanderbilts, probably will set a new ceiling for condo prices in the county.
Sales Director Phyllis Winick says units at Fisher Island's Residences at Palazzo del Mar have sold for $1,000 to $1,300 a square foot, with the largest apartments selling for more than $9 million. Two planned buildings, Palazzo del Sol and Palazzo del Luna, will go on the market at higher rates.
Among the high-end amenities those properties offer are concierge services, private elevators, private valets, individual garages, guest suites, a Pilate's studio, private steam and massage rooms and a movie theater.
One Bal Harbour, by WCI Communities, is scheduled for completion next year. "Not only does it have a trendy address," Mr. Tomlinson said, "but it's also got prime placement on the ocean."
The Bath Club, 5937 Collins Ave., "is one of the finest condos I've ever been in," he said, "from the maid's quarters and room service with French catering onsite, an anomaly because there is no hotel component."
Built by Peebles Atlantic, the Bath Club includes six oceanfront villas priced at $5 million and more.
The South Tower of the Continuum, Ian Bruce Eichner's condo project on Miami Beach's South Pointe Drive, recorded a sellout of more than $350 million, a county record. According to Mr. Tomlinson, a beachfront cabana there sold for $850,000 in February.
Units in the North Tower, now under construction, are listed for $1.5 million to $15 million. Amenities include a sporting club, a beach club with service attendants, a tennis club with three clay courts and a three-story spa/gym facility as well as 24-hour valet and concierge services.
Ms. Lieberman, Mr. Tomlinson and Mr. Garcia all cited the Related Group's Apogee, under construction on South Pointe Drive, on their lists of Miami's finest, an unusual entry because it's not on the ocean.
The features that make the difference there include higher-quality building finishes, double-insulated rooms, a residents-only lobby and huge rooms.
"These are units," Mr. Tomlinson said, "even a phenomenally wealthy person would find acceptable."