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MIAMI-The waterfront areas of Miami-Dade from Aventura to Key Biscayne are dotted with about 40 new luxury high-rise condominium apartment developments, reports David Dabby of Miami’s Integra Appraisal & Real Estate Economics Associates.

But go north to Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and Dabby says you can count the number of new high-end condo developments on one hand. Luxury condo sales figures tabulated by his firm for 1999 reflect this trend. A total 2,101 sales were closed in Miami-Dade, compared with 428 in Broward and 155 in Palm Beach.

Condo conversion figures for this year’s first nine months released by the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes tell the same story.

Conversion plans for a total 28 rental apartment complexes were filed for Miami-Dade-located properties. During the same period, there were just two conversion plans filed for Broward projects and only one in Palm Beach.

Dabby believes that condo apartment action has become a Miami-Dade phenomenon for two principal reasons. First, foreign buyers who comprise about 50% of the high-end condo market, prefer the greater Miami area.

Second, vacant waterfront land for developments that can command top dollar seem to be more plentiful here than in either Broward or Palm Beach.

How long this can continue is questionable. Dabby points out the supply of vacant waterfront acreage that existed a decade ago in Miami-Dade has shrunk considerably.

The dwindling supply of development land in South Florida, but especially in Miami-Dade, may be encouraging condo conversions, believe some industry observers.

The trend does not appear to be slowing despite the state’s requirement that all existing rental leases in a converted building must be honored by the conversion sponsor until they expire.

Some owners/developers doing conversions are attracted to such ventures by the immediately available pool of prospective buyers. For example, 40 apartments at a 200-unit complex in Highland Beach were sold to rental tenants at discounted insider prices.

The rest of the two-bedroom and three-bedroom units at the renamed Highland Beach Club are now being marketed to the general public at prices ranging from $249,900 to $450,000. The sponsors paid $44 million for this two-year-old southern Palm Beach County property

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