Sasha Kraver- An Unrecognizable West Palm Beach

For decades, West Palm Beach was viewed merely as Palm Beach Island’s nearby foreign cousin – close in proximity, but an entirely different breed. But the skyline has become unrecognizable for those who have spent many years in West Palm Beach. No longer an afterthought to the glitz and glamour of Palm Beach, it has become a haven for extreme wealth.

Over the last few years, the addition of projects like Brightline, Bristol, and 360 Rosemary has transformed the area into a bustling city. As a result, traffic has accumulated, and real estate prices have skyrocketed. West Palm Beach has become a luxury market in its own right, and millionaires in Palm Beach have begun flocking across the bridge as they are being priced out of the market by billionaire snowbirds in search of a tax break.

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Perhaps one of the most transformative residential projects was The Bristol. The ultra-modern condominium building offers some of the most sought-after views in the county: the floor-to-ceiling windows allow for a view spanning the Intracoastal, Palm Beach Island, and the Atlantic Ocean. The risky project debuted in 2017, featuring listing agents from Douglas Elliman, selling units ranging from $4m to $42m, shattering all previous records. Most shockingly, the building attracted longtime Palm Beach homeowners who traded in their prestigious estates on the North End for a luxury condo in West Palm Beach.

A shot from Historical Society of Palm Beach County archives shows western exposure of the Everglades Club.

Joe Scheerer, from Douglas Elliman, represented one of the first North End homeowners in a Bristol transaction. Scheerer, who grew up on the island and experienced the area’s growth first-hand, noted that the Bristol was a “monumental project for the area that shattered expectations and changed the way the world views West Palm Beach.”

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Scheerer notes that several factors of the pandemic also drove West Palm’s real estate markets to new heights. Florida had previously seen an influx of growth due to the obvious factors: warmer weather and lower taxes. During the pandemic, however, political factors proved to be a driving force of migration. Florida’s lack of mask mandates and open Covid policies attracted New Yorkers who had been indefinitely boarded up in their Manhattan skyrises. Many flocked to their second homes in Florida only to make it their primary residence once offices closed permanently and working virtually became the new norm.

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Victoria Brewer of Douglas Elliman, who has practiced real estate in the area for 15 years, noted that “many New Yorkers soon realized that they could sell their homes for high prices and get more for their money here.” Brewer emphasized that one of the driving factors of West Palm’s market shift is that many wealthy families are getting priced out of the Palm Beach Island market altogether. Brewer noted that many Palm Beach-turned-West Palm Beach residents have even dubbed the area “Palm West” to label it more glamorous.

As for the current state of the real estate market, prices are cooling down nationwide due to market uncertainty and rising interest rates. Palm Beach County has seen a gradual decrease in momentum compared to the rest of the country. While non-cash buyers have slowed tremendously, cash buyers are as numerous as ever. Inventory in the $10m-$20m range has continued growing as the wealthy flock south in search of warmer weather. It’s safe to say that sunny West Palm Beach may be one of the country’s most valuable real estate investments, and the city’s growth isn’t slowing down soon.

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