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Real Estate

Why celebs love South Florida

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The view from hip-hop singer/rapper/producer Pharrell Williams’ 40th-floor penthouse is quintessential Miami.

It’s no secret that celebrities love spending time in Miami and throughout South Florida, and many of them even own a chunk of the sun-kissed paradise.

But why do so many of our famous friends opt for South Florida versus the Big Apple or City of Angels, and how did Miami become the go-to sandy playground for the rich and famous?

Humble beginnings

Rosie O’Donnell was a part-time South Florida resident for many years, most recently living in this 11,000-square-foot Miami Beach estate, which is currently listed for $17.5 million.

It all started in the 1800s when South Florida emerged as an escape from the Northeast’s winter doldrums. Standard Oil founder Henry Flagler built a railroad just to get people to the Sunshine State, and then he constructed world-class hotels for them to stay in.

Fast-forward to the 1960s, when the first images of glamorous fun in the sun sealed the deal. Everyone from the Kennedys to the Beatles frolicked in the Atlantic waves while the rest of the country froze, and South Florida was forever burned into the nation’s consciousness as the place to escape cold weather and a complicated life.

More for the money

New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez recently listed his custom-built modern masterpiece for $38 million.

So, other than summers that can be a bit on the warm side, the weather is a definite draw for celebs. But good weather alone isn’t enough to make someone fork over a penthouse down payment.

Another perk that attracts the rich and famous is bang for the buck: They can live a five-star lifestyle on a three-star budget.

Even multi-million dollar residences in prime locations are far more affordable than similar-sized properties in NYC or L.A. And according to Zillow’s breakeven analysis for South Florida, it takes 1.6 years for owning a property to make more financial sense than renting the same home, so South Florida living is definitely a great investment.

Anonymity and amenities

Piano Man Billy Joel bought this 9,200-square-foot mansion in 2005 and listed it for $14.75 million in 2012.

Another major plus for everyone from the Kardashians and Kanye West to Billy Joel and Barry Gibb is the relative anonymity they can enjoy in South Florida. The locals are so used to living in an altered state of reality — they’ve seen it all: weird news, eccentricity, tourists and beautiful people — that they are much less likely to mob or harass famous residents.

And then there’s the endless list of area amenities:

  • Every major sport has a South Florida team.
  • Fabulous food awaits around every corner.
  • Thriving film, modeling and music industries create a diverse culture with an international flair.
  • Boating and water sports abound.
  • Gaming and some of the hottest nightlife and entertainment in the world are minutes away.
  • The Florida Keys are an hour away, and it’s a quick plane ride to paradise in the Bahamas.

It’s not hard to understand why celebs are compelled to own a piece of South Florida. The good news is it’s still affordable enough that you can, too!


Samantha (Sam) DeBianchi is a Realtor and founder of DeBianchi Real Estate. Her expert real estate advice and straightforward approach can be seen and heard on FOX Business. Always keeping it REAL, you can follow Sam online on Twitter and Facebook.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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