Study finding South Florida homes are 35% overvalued sparks bubble worries

You’ve heard of Florida Man, but that may be no match for Florida bubble. Consider a new study from Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University researchers in South Florida. They found the average home in the region is nearly 35% overvalued relative to its long-term pricing costs, and they’re sounding the alarm. 

“This trend does concern me as prices are still going up in the Miami metropolitan area, but not in the rest of the measured areas in Florida,” Ken H. Johnson, a real estate economist with FAU’s College of Business, said in a statement. 

The combination of rising housing premiums and mortgage rates is “a potential worrying sign for the housing market,” the researchers said. March data from the Top 100 U.S. Housing Markets, which FAU tracks on a monthly basis, shows that home prices in South Florida are up 15 basis points, or 0.15%, from February. 

But what’s most concerning is that the run-up in South Florida home prices could be an indication of a housing bubble. This happens when home prices rise at a rapid pace, demand is up, and inventory is low. All of these are evident in South Florida’s current housing market.

“South Florida is experiencing a housing bubble,” Alyssa Soto Brody, a real estate broker and co-founder of Miami- and New York City-based real estate sales and marketing brokerage Development Marketing Team, tells Fortune. “As we continue to observe the effects of inflation and the impending recession, there is certainly potential for a housing crash in the near future as a large majority of buyers will be priced out of the Miami market.”

Why South Florida home prices are on the rise

What researchers and other housing experts agree is that South Florida’s wildly overvalued market is due to extremely low housing inventory, which is driving up prices. FAU’s Top 100 U.S. Housing Markets dashboard calculates how overvalued or undervalued the typical home in the country’s most populous cities are. Johnson and Eli Beracha, the director of FIU’s Hollo School of Real Estate, study the difference in actual average home prices in a city and compare it to long-term pricing trends. They use Zillow data for their research. 

Property prices for an area should “closely track” the area’s long-term property pricing trends, Johnson said in a statement, but that’s not the case in South Florida. This allows “purchases today to be worth more soon without worrying about home prices violently swinging above and below the trend.”

“This is a key factor in ensuring the American dream of homeownership,” Johnson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this has not happened for the last two cycles in South Florida.”

While South Florida home prices have been trending upward—and are largely overvalued—other housing markets across the state are showing slower price growth. For example, Cape Coral posted a 0.63% decrease in housing premiums; North Port posted a 0.48% decline; Deltona showed a 0.32% decrease; Lakeland dropped 0.07%; and Tampa prices showed a 0.04% decline, according to the FAU and FIU study. 

“Price growth should be tepid considering the slowdown in rents and rising interest rates, but South Florida prices continue to rise despite these market forces,” Johnson said.

South Florida’s housing market could crash

To be sure, other South Florida real estate experts see the sharp increases in home prices as more of a correction since cities like Miami have “long been undervalued,” Nancy Batchelor, a vice president at real estate brokerage Compass, tells Fortune. That’s especially since Miami and other South Florida cities have gained popularity in recent years—especially from the ultra-wealthy, like Jeff Bezos, who has purchased multiple mansions there. 

“The rise in home prices is just the city’s way of playing catch-up to its true value,” Batchelor says. “I think this is just a correction for a city that was undervalued. The market has shifted, and we won’t experience the sharp price increases we have over the past few years. It will be more of a gradual stabilization.”

Although Johnson doesn’t anticipate a “major crash,” for the South Florida housing market, it “bothers” him that home prices continue to increase despite rising mortgage rates, he said in a statement. 

“The area could be in for a prolonged period of home price stagnation, making it slightly better to rent and reinvest at this point,” Johnson said.

Subscribe to the CFO Daily newsletter to keep up with the trends, issues, and executives shaping corporate finance. Sign up for free.