In January, Steven Rodriguez, a 27-year-old pharmacist found the perfect place: a completely renovated, two-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalow in the heart of South Middle River, an emerging neighborhood north of downtown Fort Lauderdale.
“I’ve seen what it takes to do a fixer-upper, and it ain’t easy,” Rodriguez said. “I definitely prefer the route where it’s all been done for you.”
Values in South Middle River are expected to fare better than most areas of South Florida this year as price increases continue to level out across Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Real estate website Zillow.com forecasts a 2 percent bump in values this year, down from 9 percent in 2016 and 13 percent in 2015.
Rising interest rates, more homes hitting the market and concerns about affordability will combine to keep price gains in check this year, Zillow and other real estate observers say.
“I still think you’ll end up seeing good home value appreciation, but it’s just not going to be as crazy,” said Svenja Gudell, chief economist for Seattle-based Zillow.
Zillow’s median home value for South Middle River is $179,800, well below Broward’s $310,000 median price at the end of 2016, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors.
Zillow forecasts values in South Middle River to rise 4.4 percent in 2017, making it among the hottest neighborhoods in the tri-county region.
Other Broward neighborhoods to watch, according to the website, are the 441 corridor, Highland Garden, North Central and Beverly Park, all in Hollywood.
Values in Miami-Dade County’s Little Haiti are projected to increase this year by 4.6 percent, the most of any neighborhood in South Florida.
The only Palm Beach County community in Zillow’s top 10 for price growth is Palm Club Village in West Palm Beach.
South Middle River is bordered by Northeast 16th Street to the north, East Sunrise Boulevard to the south, Northeast Fourth Avenue to the east and Northwest Ninth Avenue to the west.
Rodriguez’s home — formerly a three-bedroom, one-bath property — sold for $65,000 in 2010, during the housing recession, Broward property records show.
Early last year, an investor group paid $119,000 and went to work, essentially trading the third bedroom for a second bathroom and installing a new shingle roof, fencing, landscaping, white quartz countertops and impact-resistant windows.
The investors also turned a backyard utility shed into guest quarters. Rodriguez bought the home for $285,000.
“It’s just off the central hub, accessible to everything,” he said.
South Middle River residents are only blocks away from the pedestrian-friendly Northeast 13th Street, featuring art galleries, boutiques and the Warsaw Coffee Co., a 2-year-old coffee and pastry shop that’s become a popular gathering spot.
“We want to make this a very artsy and eclectic community,” said Sal Gatanio, a past president of the South Middle River Civic Association. “It’s not a cookie-cutter neighborhood.”
“I would never mislead somebody and say there is no crime, but it’s an area on the rise,” he said. “It has a very active community association that’s organizing events and developing the neighborhood the right way.”
Young professionals, some earning six-figure salaries, view South Middle River as a lower-cost alternative to the pricey homes in nearby Wilton Manors and skyrocketing rents in Flagler Village near downtown.
Eileen Kedersha, Broker Associate One Sotheby’s International Realty – Kedersha Group 954-561-4100 Eileen.Kedersha@SothebysRealty.com