Florida is expected to see more real estate litigation following Hurricane Ian and as transactions continue in an in-demand market.
Many South Florida law firms are expanding their real estate team, citing an increase in demand for legal services as deals are made.
One of the latest firms to do so is AVILA in Coral Gables, which hired attorney Daniel Sanchez-Galarraga as senior counsel for its real estate, zoning, and land use practice, where he will focus on commercial and residential real estate transactions.
The firm’s decision to grow its team is timely as Florida is expected to see more real estate litigation following Hurricane Ian and as transactions continue in an in-demand market.
“I think we’ll see more investment from business owners,” Sanchez-Galarraga said. “Increase the likelihood that you can survive some kind of event and the property can be more robust and durable if faced with this kind of storm. That will be at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds and something people will take into account.”
Legal issues that arise from events such as the pandemic or hurricanes include landlord-tenant disputes and insurance problems when the market is disrupted.
Juan Carlos Cura, a partner at AVILA, said he’s seeing more litigation surrounding leases.
“A lot of issues with health pop up with leases. With respect to termination of leases, people are unable to move out, people unable to pa, they’re out of a job or unable to pay because of illness, so that has always impacted the market,” Cura said. “With a hurricane, a lot of people leave the property because of its damage and the owner does not have the income they were depending on in terms of a rental. Not only that but the costs of repairs if insurance doesn’t cover it.”
Cura said although Southeast Florida wasn’t directly impacted by the hurricane, its real estate market could be affected in the short term when it comes to buying and selling commercial and residential properties due to rising interest rates and inflation.
“In terms of past trends, you always see a dip in purchasing, especially in the residential market, in transactional work. A lot of people get turned off by the idea of purchasing a home when they know there are a lot of issues with respect to repairs and pending insurance claims. You might see a dip in the market post-hurricanes, but it’s still too early to tell,” Cura said. “We dodged a bullet a bit. Miami is still a brand. It’s almost like saying ‘I have a Gucci bag.’ Everybody wants to buy in Miami. We are still a very attractive area.”
The question now, as Sanchez-Galarraga sees it, is where the market is headed as far as affordability, pricing and mortgage rates.
“It’s still a robust market. From what I’m seeing, things are stable, not increasing at the rate they were but that was unsustainable, I think,” Sanchez-Galarraga said. “We’re a little more resilient here than the rest of the country because of the supply of inventory and the amount of demand that’s coming in.”
Cura said he’s seen some large deals fall through due to rising costs.
“Miami has always been very robust with foreign purchasers from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Canada. And now we have seen a lot of the locals from New York, California, Texas that were buying in Miami very quickly and very fast, especially during COVID, now I’ve seen it slow down,” Cura said. “Those were things that were helping us tremendously to get us to a market that’s now unsustainable with respect to pricing, but I see a lot of the slowdown happening for economic reasons. we still have good unemployment rates, people are still earning money, and there’s still a good job market. I think the doomsday mentality is playing a part in the psyche of people in terms of making a decision to buy or not.”
Cura said it’s important for law firm to prioritize strategies to keep business going on a long-term basis, despite a potential hurricane or economic slowdown.
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