Million-Dollar Boat Slips
Even with boats only 35 feet long, boaters are clamoring for dock space at Fort Lauderdale’s waterfront homes.
By Kim Kavin — June 2004
Realtor John Terrill sat at his computer and listed the properties in Fort Lauderdale’s premier waterfront neighborhoods, the ones less than a half-hour’s cruise from the inlet. On that spring day in Las Olas, Rio Vista, and Harbor Beach, there were 114 properties for sale, a typical number. Only five were priced less than $1 million, which means lots with just 50 or 75 feet of waterfront and a house in need of repair or razing.
“There’s tremendous demand at that price point,” Terrill says without a hint of surprise. “We could sell property every day if we had that type of property.”
Despite their sometimes lackluster condition, prime-location waterfront properties in the $1- to $2-million range had sales up 83 percent during the first quarter of this year compared with last, Terrill says—in many cases, because of growth in the boating industry. In a city whose marinas are becoming harder and harder to get into, Fort Lauderdale boaters with vessels as small as 35 feet are buying waterfront homes simply for the dock space.
A direct study of the correlation doesn’t exist, but Terrill and others are convinced. His theory is based not only on the information that crosses his desk at Intercoastal Realty, but on his experience as the owner of a 40-footer he keeps docked at his house in Las Olas Isles—and on the knowledge of the boating market he acquired during his 20 years as a megayacht captain who traveled worldwide.
“If you consider the fact that these properties are being purchased because of yacht owners’ desire to keep the boat—and you throw in the statistics for growth in the yachting industry—you can understand,” he says. “Rarely do people look at the yachting industry as a factor affecting property in southeast Fort Lauderdale, but it’s fueling demand.”
Deborah Libster agrees. A Realtor with Galleria Collection of Fine Homes who has specialized in waterfront real estate since 1986, Libster says she’s seen prices climb as much as 25 percent since November alone—and the strong sales at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
“That plus the stabilization of the stock market has fueled a lot of pent-up demand,” she explains. “A lot of people who would’ve liked to purchase a boat in the last few years now feel comfortable purchasing the boat, and of course they need a place to put it. There are very few condominiums that have boat dockage down here, so it drives up the prices of waterfront homes.”
Terrill sees at least one other significant factor: the ripple effect of marinas pushing to get more megayacht business.
As an example, he cites Bahia Mar Yachting Center, which recently finished a reported $17- to $20-million renovation to attract more business from yachts 80 feet and larger. The marina used to have 330 slips; now it has just 250 with 100 of them designated for megayachts. Other local marinas are taking the same approach as they try to get a piece of the more than $576 million generated by megayachts in 2002 from boatyard, brokerage, and charter activities in the Fort Lauderdale area, according to a recent report in the Sun-Sentinel.
This article originally appeared in the May 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.