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The dark side of the South Florida real estate boom

A 1930s condo complex in Surfside called Seaway Villas is at the center of an ugly fight between developers and the remaining condo owners who won't sell to them. The property occupies a prime location on Surfside Beach. Amid allegations of high-pressure schemes and conspiracy, the first apartment building ever built in Surfside is at the center of the city's attention, exposing the recent real-estate boom's dark side.

One long-time resident who has lived at Seaway Villas for 20 years is one of the holdouts that refuse to sell. There are two others, but he is the only one who actually lives there. One other owner is a Bal Harbour councilwoman and the third lives in Italy and uses the condo as a vacation home.Other owners have accepted offers to purchase that are many times what their condos are worth. Offers range from high six figure amounts to over a million dollars, depending on the size of their condo, according to some of the owners. According to the website of the county appraiser, the units are worth approximately $150,000 to $300,000 plus. This buyout offer equates to a serious financial windfall for some of them, many of whom are elderly.

In September, the Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation board took a vote and is considering giving the property historical preservation status. At a contentious meeting of the board on Oct. 15, that status was discussed after residents received a premature demolition notice. For now, demolition is on hold and a public hearing is scheduled for November.

When individuals and families find themselves involved in real estate disputes, it can be quite confusing and they might feel intimidated by outside parties like developers. A real estate lawyer could help by advising them of their rights and negotiating on their behalf.

Source: Miami Herald, "Surfside condo owners battle over selling to developer", Andres Viglucci, October 18, 2014

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