MIAMI — If Miami has become one of the hot centers of America’s real estate gold rush, Mark Zilbert is its latest cowboy.
A nationally recognized authority on residential real estate, Zilbert has just launched CondoFlip.com — a Web site that makes it easy for anyone, anywhere to get into the hot business of “flipping” condominium units, many of them sight unseen (flipping refers to the practice of buying a property and immediately reselling it on a rising market.)
Registration on Zilbert’s site is free — he makes money just like other real estate brokers by taking a commission when a transaction is made. He argues that his Web site will reduce condo inventory in the Miami area quickly and efficiently by bringing together buyers and sellers.
“What I decided to do was build this technology ... basically, a marketplace that lets buyers around the world see what’s on the resale market in Miami and give them the opportunity to buy condos without having to actually make the trip here,” he said.
But with an estimated 80 percent of all Miami condo buyers considered speculators and as many as 70,000 units planned for construction in the Miami area, local real estate expert Jack McCabe of McCabe Research and Consulting smells a bubble.
“I think we have an oversupply of new condominium units where we are going to see severe downward pricing pressures in the next few years,” said McCabe.
Zilbert says he isn’t aiding and abetting a housing bubble.
“The technology and the business process I have put together are not designed to encourage people to buy properties to flip,” said Zilbert. “They’re designed to address those people who have already purchased.”
Zilbert’s not the only person trying to take advantage of the white-hot housing market — a market that has seen real estate values go up an astonishing 85 percent since 2001.
U.S. Condo Exchange, another recently launched real estate Web site, bills itself as real estate’s version of Ebay. The Web site is more than a listing service — you can purchase a condo online — and it already has a handful of listings. It costs $150 a month to post properties on the site. Video: Hot properties
U.S. Condo Exchange CEO Richard Swerdlow, a real estate developer, says the Web site was designed as a transparent marketplace where buyers, sellers, brokers and developers can transact business. And it will work no matter what the housing market does.
“In a good market we’ve got buyers and sellers transacting, and in a bad market you actually have financial institutions that may have properties that they have to liquidate,” he said.
U.S. Condo Exchange has at least one new member: Phil Speigelman, CEO of International Sales Group and a 36-year real estate veteran and a broker for some of Miami’s biggest condo projects who says the site is a great way to market his units.
“We are constantly looking for new ways to reach the public,” Speigelman said. “We are prospecting for gold, except we are really prospecting for people.”
And even as many in Miami concede that the boom may not go on forever, those expecting to strike gold in real estate, like Mark Zilbert, say the real estate market still has a long way to go.
“My prediction is we’re going to have the flavor of a Chicago waterfront residential city with the excitement of Las Vegas,” Zilbert said. “We don’t have gambling, but downtown Miami will become an all-night city.”
© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved