'Dock Condos' again becoming popular

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX AllStars SL 3252654

Before the Great Recession, some South Florida developers were selling storage units for boats just like condominiums.

The financial crisis stymied that, as demand for boats and storage shrunk.

Now, with the economy recovering, sales of "dockominiums" are making a comeback.

A Dania Beach marina held a grand opening this month, offering its covered dry-racks on land for prices between $35,000 and $90,000 each plus monthly maintenance fees, said sales agent Ginger Hornaday.

And The Bluffs Marina in Jupiter reports 17 slips on water sold so far this year, an improvement from last year. It now sells a 60-foot wet-slip for $148,000.

"When real estate markets heat up, it always comes around," South Florida marina owner Andrew Sturner, chief executive of Aqua Marine Partners, said of "dockominium" sales.

The new Dania Beach offerings show the uptick in South Florida, home to a large concentration of pleasure boats, marine industries and private boat docks.

This summer, an investor group bought the North Bryan Road marina out of receivership. They added a tiki bar, upgraded a social room and brought in new management to encourage sales of "rack-ominiums" in what they call the Dania Beach Boat Club.

The new owners enlisted Hornaday of real estate company Douglas Elliman for sales, thanks to her experience selling boat racks at the successful Port Marina in Fort Lauderdale nearly a decade ago.

Hornaday sees several reasons why "dockominiums" are worth a look again.

Boat sales are picking up, and interest rates remain low. And in Dania Beach specifically, several marinas have closed to make way for the nearby airport expansion, tightening supplies of docks and storage.

"The way the price for rentals is rising, it may make sense to buy," Hornaday said. Monthly rentals of boat racks in Miami's Coconut Grove now can run $22 per foot and in Dania Beach up to $18 per foot – or more than $1,000 a month for a 60-foot boat.

By purchasing rather than leasing, rack owners at the Dania Beach Boat Club can recoup their purchase price in a few years while also enjoying the club, complete with TV, Wi-Fi and other amenities for themselves and guests. Maintenance fees now run $140 per month, making ownership attractive long-term, she said.

Purchases of dock units long have been popular in Europe, where marina space is limited and rental prices high, marine industry leaders say.

But in South Florida, the "dockominium" trend has been spotty since the 1980s, restrained at various times by a luxury tax and dips in the economy.

The Port Marina on Fort Lauderdale's 17th Street Causeway capitalized on the real-estate boom of the early 2000s. It uses a computerized crane to handle boats, replacing forklifts that operators drive. Buyers have paid as much as $300,000 for a 52-foot dry-storage rack, said general manager Ben Stinchcomb.

Back then, Sturner and his partners planned a similar storage project with crane technology on Fort Lauderdale's Marina Mile. They envisioned selling racks for 90-foot megayachts for up to $2 million each. The partners bought land, but delayed their Vertical Yacht Club project when the recession hit.

"We're still awaiting the return of the 'dockominium' market" for megayachts, said Sturner. "We're not there yet, but we're getting close."

Marina consultant Richard Graves of Fort Lauderdale is less bullish, since sales of boats still trail pre-recession levels, and maintenance on dockominiums can run high in South Florida.

"It's a question of supply and demand," Graves said. "The demand for purchases is not there."

But Hornaday at Dania Beach Boat Club sees the limited supply of boat storage stoking demand, as the economy lifts and marine traffic gets heavier.

"It's like buying a parking spot," she said, "for your boat."

Copyright © 2014 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Doreen Hemlock. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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