STEVE INSKEEP, host:
If you want to know what's happening with the economy, you could do worse than to chat with a realtor. So we're calling brokers in different parts of the country. We begin with John Paul Rosser, who does deals in Miami. Last year, he surprised us by saying the mortgage crisis had not stopped condo construction.
Mr. JOHN PAUL ROSSER (Realtor): At one point I counted 75 cranes in the sky. After that I lost count before I could finish.
INSKEEP: That was last year. We've asked Rosser to tell us what he sees in Miami today.
Mr. ROSSER: Well, you still have construction going on, but probably the number of cranes are less than half of that, and maybe even only a quarter of that.
Some of the cranes have come down because the buildings are finished, and I think some have come down because the money's run out. I'm not sure.
INSKEEP: Are there half-finished buildings around Miami?
Mr. ROSSER: I wouldn't say half finished. They usually seal the outside, so you really can't tell. You know, they'll put the windows in and secure it from the elements.
INSKEEP: And are the people who were building these condos, or in other cases, I suppose, office towers and that sort of thing, are they able to fill those buildings now that they're getting finished, the ones that do get finished?
Mr. ROSSER: No, not at all. I've read that there's upwards of 50,000 condos on the market for sale, and just two days ago in the Daily Business Review here, they were noting that a young University of Miami law student rented a penthouse in one of these buildings for only $2,400, the 42nd floor.
INSKEEP: Good time to rent.
Mr. ROSSER: Well, yes, and why would you buy and have a, you know, 5,000, 6,000 a month payment when you can rent the same condominium for $2,400 a month?
INSKEEP: Do you believe there are 50,000 people who want a place to live in Miami?
Mr. ROSSER: There's people that want places to live, but not at these prices. Now, I did have an interesting thing happen here, a gentleman that owns nine condominiums on the Miami River, and he got them for about 25 cents on the dollar from what the developer was asking, and only about 40 cents on the dollar from what they were selling at last November, and what's interesting is I think he's got them for less than what it would cost to build them.
INSKEEP: Are you near that bottom where things would start to stabilize or improve?
Mr. ROSSER: Last year, I gave you my Key Biscayne Index, where the free-standing homes on Key Biscayne had peaked at about $1,450,000 for a tear-down '51 vintage home. I have one of those little houses that's a tear-down on the island.
I had been offered, two years, three years ago, $1.7 million for it, and today I think I might be able to get maybe 950,000 for it.
INSKEEP: Are you still able to be philosophical and think this is a bad downturn but there'll be an upturn at some point?
Mr. ROSSER: Oh, there will be an upturn at some point, as soon as we get capitulation. Everybody admits, okay, these properties are not selling. They're not worth what I think they are. Let's lower the price.
INSKEEP: Meaning that there are some sellers who are still hanging on and trying for that higher dollar, and that's clogging up the market?
Mr. ROSSER: Right, and that's why the number of homes for sale is astronomical compared to what they used to be.
INSKEEP: I'm remembering from our last conversation that you had had dealings with a woman who had an opportunity to sell some property at a ridiculous profit. She said no and then had come back to you after the market tanked, needing then to sell. How did that turn out?
Mr. ROSSER: We've had absolutely no interest at all. Someone - I think we made a verbal offer to her at less than half of that now, which would be another 30-percent off from the price we brought her, and she held on and said no.
So she's sitting there saying she wants to sell, but the price is still too high for anyone to have any interest at this point.
INSKEEP: John Paul Rosser in Miami. Thanks very much.
Mr. ROSSER: You're welcome, sir. Nice to talk with you again, Steve.
INSKEEP: We're getting a read on the real-estate market from a few of the nation's realtors, and we will check in tomorrow with Southern California.