Jonathan Adler considers himself first and foremost a potter rather than the owner of a global home furnishings business. His creative side is what drove Mr. Adler and his husband, Simon Doonan , to buy a home on Palm Beach Island in March 2020.
“Palm Beach just has a singular place in my blood,” said Mr. Adler, who also has homes in New York City and Shelter Island on the Eastern End of Long Island in New York. “We had an apartment here for years, then took a break. This year we realized we wanted to own a home on the island to add a sundrenched getaway to our rotation.”
But for many recent Palm Beach purchasers, the allure is just as much about business as it is about leisure.
“Financial services leaders have been buying second homes and moving part of their businesses here for years,” said Kelly L. Smallridge , president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County. “But once the pandemic hit, we’ve had at least one new company a day looking to open an office here.”
The turning point came when executives decided to shelter in Palm Beach with their families during the pandemic and realized that they could work just as easily from here as from New York, Ms. Smallridge said.
“Before the pandemic, many executives felt their employees wouldn’t relocate from New York, but now they’re telling me their employees are encouraging them to move,” Ms. Smallridge said.
Among the financial services companies that have become part of the “Wall Street of the South” are Elliott Management, Point 72, Colby Capital, Virtu Financial, Citadel and Moelis & Co.
Tal Bar-or, co-founder of Lantern Real Estate, a New York City-based real estate investment and advisory firm, moved to Palm Beach on a trial basis in the summer of 2020. He and his wife and their three children, ages 2, 5 and 7, never looked back.
“In the summer of 2020, Florida looked good, and New York City didn’t in terms of the pandemic,” Mr. Bar-or said. “We didn’t want our three kids doing school online in our apartment again. We wanted in-person school and an active outdoor lifestyle.”
Mr. Bar-or was able to get his two older children accepted to Palm Beach Day private school.
“Over 90 new families came into Palm Beach Day in the fall of 2020,” said Erin Sykes , chief economist with Nest Seekers in New York City and Palm Beach. “Now the competition for private schools here is starting to look like Manhattan.”
Competition for homes is heated, too. Ms. Sykes said that single-family homes in Palm Beach, which cost an average of $7 million, often sell the day they are listed. From the first week of December 2020 until the end of March 2021, prices rose 30% for luxury homes priced above $5 million in the Palm Beach area, Ms. Sykes said.
“We’re seeing some crazy flips, too, with one house that sold for $4.5 million in the spring of 2020 now listed for $9.9 million after having minimal work done,” she said.
The spike in demand for homes this spring means that on Palm Beach Island in April there were just 11 homes available for less than $10 million, four of which were already under contract, said Simon Isaacs , broker/owner of Simon Isaacs Real Estate in Palm Beach. Normally about 50 single-family homes are available.
“There’s definitely a ‘FOMO’ effect happening,” Ms. Sykes said. “If entrepreneurs and business leaders see someone they look up to as a savvy leader moving to Palm Beach, then they’re more likely to want to buy a place, too.”