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Did recent weeks of ‘crummy weather’ in Palm Beach dampen real estate activity? Could be.



Presidents Day weekend is typically busy for Palm Beach real estate pros, who say weeks of dreary weather kept buyers at bay. But activity has picked up under the recent sunny skies.

Palm Beach agents are used to shaking plenty of hands each Presidents Day weekend and during the week that follows — traditionally the height of the town’s real estate season, when properties are toured, negotiations ensue and contracts get signed. 

With the federal holiday approaching on Monday, however, agents might have to uncross their fingers before extending their hands to shake those of house-hunters and home sellers. 

And why might their fingers be crossed?  

They’re hoping for clear, sunny skies, of all things. Those have been in remarkably short supply this winter. Blame an unusual  El Niño weather pattern that has temporarily made South Florida’s “dry season” a misnomer.

The past week, however, saw the sun finally return to much of the Sunshine State, although more showers are forecast for Palm Beach County this weekend. 

Several agents and brokers who spoke to the Palm Beach Daily News agreed that the weeks of unseasonably cloudy, soggy weather have literally dampened property showing and sales activity after a relatively robust fall. 

“The weather has really had an impact on whether people were looking for houses,” said broker Jessica Shapiro, whose duties at Sotheby’s International Realty include overseeing the agency’s Palm Beach offices. “People cancelled their trips (to the island) and showings.” 

High-end clients who are out of town have the resources — and often easy access to private planes — to change their travel plans at the last minute after checking the forecast or talking to friends in town about the weather, seasoned agents and brokers said. 

“We had such crummy weather in late December and the better part of January,” said Premier Estate Properties agent Jim McCann, a former president of the Palm Beach Board of Realtors. “I had one family that I’ve worked with for years who were here over Christmas and New Year’s, and a week into January they finally said, ‘We’ve had enough,’ and left town.” 

The good news is that February has seen much better weather, moderate temperatures and even low humidity. 

“The last two weeks, things have really picked up in terms of showings and activity, with some offers being written,” McCann said, his statement confirmed by other agents and brokers. 

“We would have anticipated the market would have really picked up by mid-January, and that didn’t happen,” McCann added. “I think we have some catching up to do to make it a really successful season.’ 

And weather may have another effect this weekend — but not the weather in Palm Beach. Early this week, New York City and other parts of New England battled a significant winter storm, with more bad weather on the way. 

But storms up North can be good news for Palm Beach. “When it’s like that, people want to come down here,” McCann said. 

Still, the Palm Beach market is dealing with many of the same troublesome issues it has dealt with for several years. The supply of better-quality homes — including new, newer or newly remodeled properties and those on the water — remains tight, agents agreed. 

Consider the single-family homes and townhouses being marketed early this week in the multiple listing service. That number is hovering in the upper 90s, which is more than real estate observers have seen in the past couple of years. Last year at this time, there were 75 such listings, and the year before that, 45.

But the number of properties being marketed in the MLS is still far below pre-pandemic levels. There were more than 150 listings for single family homes and townhouses in February 2020, about a month before the World Heath Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic.

Even if real estate activity has picked up over the past couple of weeks, at least one agent is noting what could be a longer-term reticence among would-be buyers. 

“There’s a lot of angst about the world in general,” said agent Bill Yahn of the Corcoran Group, who mentioned the wars in Ukraine and Gaza as issues of concern.

The contentious 2024 presidential race also is likely a factor. And a new economic analysis that showed year-over-year inflation was up again at the end of January spurred a strong negative reaction on Wall Street amid interest-rate worries. 

“People are unsettled. Their footing is not sure,” Yahn said. “They’re a little more reticent to pull the trigger” to close a real estate sale. 

Global conflicts, domestic worries and even unusual weather aside, it ultimately comes down to how much a buyer wants a home in Palm Beach. 

And whether this Presidents Day week proves to be an active one that ultimately results in signed contracts remains to be seen. 

Broker Christian Angle of Christian Angle Real Estate said that house shoppers who see a Palm Beach home they like are in the driver’s seat. 

“In the last few weeks, I’ve found overall that if people engage and start a dialogue (with home sellers), then deals are getting done,” Angle said. “But the buyer has to take that first step.”

McCann, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic. “Assuming that the pace continues at what it is now,” he said, “it will be a good next few months.”

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Darrell Hofheinz is a USA TODAY Network of Florida journalist who writes about Palm Beach real estate in his weekly “Beyond the Hedges” column. He welcomes tips about real estate news on the island. Email dhofheinz@pbdailynews.com, call 561-820-3831 or tweet @PBDN_Hofheinz. 



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