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It was once a hub of excess, the playground of America's rich and famous and the chosen retirement destination for scores of millionaire businesspeople. Now the US state of Florida is perhaps the most dramatic example of the effects of America's sub-prime crisis, with homes selling for as much as 70% below their peak value and cash investors walking away with unprecedented bargains. 

In the tourist metropolis of Orlando - home of theme park giants Walt Disney World and Sea World and America's most visited city in 2009 - median house prices dropped to a staggering $94,950 in January, their lowest level since way back in November 1997. According to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, 75% of sales for the month were for distressed or foreclosed properties, priced at rock-bottom to attract cash buyers looking for a bargain.

Further south, market conditions are similar. Lack of finance available on the domestic market means few locals have the funds to buy, while foreclosures and short sales by the banks are still rife. This is having an effect on the pace of new build sales in South Florida in particular. Most builders I talk to say that their main competition comes from homes being sold off by banks, instead of by other builders, said economist Brad Hunter of housing research group MetroStudy Inc.

Of course, this is good news for investors - as developers race to reduce their prices in competition with the glut of short sales, a range of quality new build homes are coming on the market for next to nothing. International property firm Assetz has recently released a range of tenanted villas located between Miami and the scenic Florida Keys, which buy-to-let investors can purchase for as little as $69,900.

Constructed in 2007, the villas are now being sold at a 65% reduction to their original price. The unbelievable discount has already attracted considerable interest from buyers - all four-bedroom properties from the release are already sold, with just a few three-bedrooms remaining. Like most of the bargain opportunities in Florida at the moment, though, this is strictly a cash-buy affair.

Assetz' range of South Florida buy-to-let villas are currently listed for sale on The Move Channel.

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