Escape from Florida

    I am just back from Florida. My wife, daughter and I attended a wedding this weekend at the lush and comfortable Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key, midway along the string of Florida Keys.  On Saturday, on the way down the Florida Turnpike from Miami International Airport, we drove past a ghost town
"For every lot and home that is vacant, there is also a family that wishes they could leave south Florida. That really doubles the potential inventory." - Terry Molnar, Schaffer Realty

of new homes, many appearing to be finished and others partially completed.  None, however, appeared to be occupied (no cars in the driveways, no people on the streets).  I half expected to see tumbleweed careering down the streets.
    Another development a few miles closer to the Keys sported a large banner indicating an auction that weekend.  A billboard in front of another community, within commuting distance of Miami, indicated town homes starting "in the $100s."
    Florida housing prices are among the nation's leading indicators of recession.  At a JP Morgan Chase investor presentation in late September, its housing experts predicted Florida prices would drop an additional 16 percent on top of the previous 28 percent drop.  But the bankers added that if the nation's recession turned out to be more "severe" than they were predicting three weeks ago, Florida's prices could plummet another 36 percent.  In that worst-case scenario, Florida's peak to trough drop would be about 57 percent.  Yikes.
    Florida's migration numbers are in reverse for the first time in decades.  Today, about the same number of people are leaving as are moving to the state, according to such sources as United Van Lines, which counts shipments into and out of all 50 states.
    "For every lot and home that is vacant, there is also a family that wishes they could leave south FL," says Terry Molnar who publishes a blog for Marian Schaffer Realty in Chicago.  "That really doubles the potential inventory."
    I understand the sentiment, from my admittedly personal point of view.  The roads in much of Florida are crowded, the temperature humidity index is stifling during all but maybe three months a year, and much of the state is utterly unprotected from hurricanes that can approach it from two directions.  
     It was a beautiful outdoor wedding ceremony at Hawks Cay, followed by an outdoor reception around the pool, but I kept retreating to inside the hotel to get out of the heat and humidity (and also to check the score of the Phillies/Dodgers playoff game).  The air conditioning was a cold blanket over a layer of sweat.  I felt like a refrigerated clam.  I awoke this morning with a sore throat and a desperate desire to return to Connecticut.  
    Florida has plenty of real estate bargains right now but, sorry, southern Florida is no bargain to me.

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