The Phoenix Flyer

Miami Herald story shows dark side of South Florida’s big-money, cash-only real estate deals

By: - July 19, 2018 10:04 am

The Miami Herald has a fascinating story today: “How Dirty is Miami real estate? Secret home deals dried up when feds started watching.”  The story highlights multi-million-dollar cash buyers in the real estate market who shield their identities. A new study says that once the U.S. Treasury Department issued a temporary rule to try to strip away secrecy in Miami-Dade County and Manhattan, “two of the nation’s most attractive real estate markets to dark money,” the cash sales plummeted.

The Herald reports: “Regulators ‘shined the spotlight and at the very same time these buyers have scurried away back into the shadows,’ said Sean Hundtofte, one of the co-authors of the study, which analyzed millions of home sales nationwide collected from local property appraisers and other sources by the online real estate firm Zillow.

The staggering fall in transactions may give ammunition to federal officials who argue that secretive real estate deals allow criminals to launder stolen money into the condos and mansions sprouting up around South Florida. Those officials want to see the rules made permanent and expanded nationwide. But the study also reveals the difficulties regulators face in catching those determined to worm their money into the U.S. financial system: Money launderers are skilled at evading the latest traps set by authorities.”

John Tobon, deputy special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in South Florida, told the Herald that the economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the University of Miami who did the study “really lay out a very clear-cut case for regulating the real estate industry.”

If home buyers had nothing to hide, Tobon told the Herald, they wouldn’t object to revealing their identities to regulators.

“Only government officials have access to the information, not the public,” the Herald reports.


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Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.