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Market Watch
Who Will Be Buying in 2009?

Brokers around the state believe 2009 will be a great year for first-time buyers and moderate-income professionals. Falling prices and historically low interest rates are putting more Florida homes in reach for buyers with good credit.

“We expect first-time homebuyers will be the largest segment next year,” says Ed Forman, president Watson Realty Corp., Jacksonville. “That includes a high percentage of single women buying their first property.”

The same pricing dynamics benefit working families in their 30s and 40s who may be moving into a starter home or looking for a move-up with more space for children, according to Mike Pappas, president and CEO, The Keyes Co./REALTORS, Miami. “For these buyers in particular, lower pricing is making Florida homes very attractive,” he says.

In many Florida markets, affluent buyers are picking up luxury properties as primary residences or second homes—a trend likely to continue. “The high end of the Florida market has held up quite well,” says Brad Hunter, director, South Florida region, MetroStudy in Boca Raton.

International buyers remain an important component of the state’s market, especially in coastal areas like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Naples and Sarasota, as well as Orlando/Kissimmee.  Florida Association of Realtors research studies shows buyers from Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, South America and Europe generate more than 15 percent of Florida residential transactions.

On the other hand, the traditional flow of retiree buyers to Florida remains uncertain in the year ahead. Slower economic conditions in the Northeast and Midwest— two prime feeder markets for Florida—may make it more difficult for retirees with modest incomes to make the big move to Florida. Many retirees are also faced with less purchasing power due to declines in their investment portfolio and may opt to stay put. However, the number of baby boomers reaching their 60s continues to increase, and many of these prospective buyers will be considering Florida when the nation’s economic condition improves.

Richard Westlund is a Miami-based freelance writer.