MIAMI-Foreign investors continue to drive South Florida’s investment sales market even though the number of deals are dwindling. Those that are completed, however, are being recorded at higher prices than a year ago, according to a second-quarter analysis by locally-based Integra/AREEA Inc.

Foreign money accounted for 16.7% of all deals done in the tri-county area, the largest chunk since second quarter 1982. The value of the deals was up 9.9% from last year.

Funds from abroad totaled $205.2 million in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, down 17.1% from $247.5 million in the comparable 1999 period.

Deals in the half-million-dollar-plus category totaled 85, down 12.4% from 97 last year. But foreigners aren’t overpaying for trophy and non-trophy assets as they did in the 1970s and 1980s, the study notes.

Miami-Dade remains the most preferred submarket with 49.1% of the sales. Broward is next with 33.9%, followed by Palm Beach with 17%.

Income-producing properties top the shopping lists of most foreign buyers at 18.2%. Individual Canadian buyers or Canadian-based firms are at the front of the line.

After apartment buildings, shopping centers are the most sought after asset at 16.5%. Trailing are warehouse and other industrial properties, 15.9%; offices, 12.4%; and hotels/motels, 9.4%.

Commercial properties account for 11.7% of all purchases, rising steadily from previous years. The balance of the acquisitions amount to 15.9%. Those properties are acreage, homebuilding sites, restaurants, nursing homes and mobile home parks.

After the Canadians come buyers from Germany, Russia, Italy, France, Switzerland, Greece, Spain, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil. Money is also coming in from Hong Kong but Japanese investors, high-flyers of the 1980s, are largely absent.

Purchasers from India and other Asian locations are the smallest category, largely because they are buying or investing in properties to enable them to relocate their families, Integra/AREEA finds.

Offshore and other phantom and shell corporations, used in abundance in past deals to hide buyers’ identities, are no longer playing a dominant role.

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