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After Imploding, Florida Real Estate Market Improving With Foreign Investment Help

Call it an inter-coastal breeze of change. Gary Cohen’s eight acre, undeveloped private island is back on the market.

For $49.5 million.

“What would NOT be great about owning your own private island?” he rhetorically asks.

Cohen pulled the island -- accessible by land bridge or boat on South Florida’s inner-coastal on the Broward-Miami-Dade County line -- three years ago when the real estate market crashed. At the time, he had plans to develop it, parcel it off for 17 multimillion dollar mansions and make a bundle of cash. After selling five units, though, the buyers dried up.

But in April 2011, he senses that the worst is over, and the real estate psyche is improving dramatically.

“I think the confidence level has come back,” Cohen says. “People are more receptive to spending their money and they’re looking for places to put their money, other than a bank where they can get less than one percent interest.”

His realtor, Scott Patterson, says interest in the island is coming in from around the world.

“Rich Mexicans, rich Brazilians, rich Canadians, Romanians, a lot of clients from France,” says Patterson. The Miami Association of Realtors agrees, reporting increased sales, competitive bids and 65 percent of deals being done in cash.

Comparing single-family home sales in Miami-Dade County this March versus March 2010, sales are up 58 percent.

It’s even better news for condominium sales, which are up 84 percent last month over March of 2010.

“We see the prices going up and we see people being assured it’s okay to buy now,” says Ralph De Martino, Residential President of the realtor association. “Most of the foreclosures, when they come on the market, they’re sold in a matter of days.”

In South Florida’s boom years of condo construction, about 27,000 units were built between 2003 and 2007. Since then, many of the shiny, condo towers that crowd the Miami skyline dropped in value by 30-40 percent. That led to massive foreclosures, a glut of bank-owned properties and no more high-rise cranes on the horizon.

But today, for the first time in years, a major developer, The Related Group, announced plans to build a new 35-story condo tower in Miami’s glitzy Brickel Key.

Out at Cohen’s for-sale private island, Patterson sees a major turnaround happening right now, with real estate here once again red-hot—just like the island itself when the ocean breeze comes to a halt.

“The world is focused on South Florida.”

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Phil Keating joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in March 2004 and currently serves as FNC's Miami-based correspondent.