Miami developers, agents seek returns in untapped markets

by Andrew Morrell

As Miami’s condo market sent mixed signals over the last year, one prominent resident saw firsthand how price fluctuations could impact sellers. Jorge Pérez, CEO of the Related Group, one of the most prominent developers in the U.S., relisted his Miami Beach condo at a 45 percent discount to its original list price three years earlier.

“My expectations were way too high, I admit,” Pérez said in an interview with Mansion Global. “But I was responding to what I saw in that moment in the market, without any immediate need to sell. Now, I’m saying, ‘Boy I should have sold.’”

But other developers in Miami, including Pérez’s son and heir-apparent Jon Paul Pérez, are hardly bearish on the Miami real estate market. The younger Pérez, a vice president of development at Related, told Miami Agent Magazine that while he recognizes the adversity developers face today in segments of the market, he still plans to press forward and capitalize on new opportunities. One area of focus right now is Wynwood, where Pérez said he is “doubling down.”

“When you drive around on a Friday or Saturday night and look at where people are hanging out, it’s Wynwood,” he said. “We think it has some of the best growth potential of any other neighborhood in Miami, better than more established areas.”

Under the direction of Pérez, Related is on track to deliver the first major residential project in Wynwood, called Wynwood 25, a milestone for an area that until this point had been dominated by industrial parcels. Related is working with East End Capital to coordinate financing for the project, which will include 289 rental units, 31,000 square-feet of retail space on the ground floor and 340 parking spaces.

“Interest rates are low right now for construction loans, but Miami and Wynwood especially are growing,” said Jonathon Yormak, founder and managing principal of East End Capital. Yormak also noted that parking transactions are up 25 to 30 percent in the area, a key data point that demonstrates why Wynwood is such an ideal development opportunity. Pérez said Related wants to add another 1,500 residential units to the area, along with at least 250,000 square feet of new office space in the near future.

Why luxury condo agents are still bullish

Even though the son of Miami’s famed “Condo King” is focusing more on rental developments these days, the condo market continues to thrive thanks to a shift in favor of buyers. Karen Elmir, leader of the Elmir Group at Cervera Real Estate, has made a name for herself closing high-end condo deals. Elmir’s recent multi-million dollar sales at Brickell Flatiron, Grove at Grand Bay and Biscayne Beach have broken price records in their respective neighborhoods, and she hopes to keep her hot streak going even as Miami condo prices cool.

“Luxury clients are not looking for a salesperson,” Elmir said. “My job is to facilitate that high-end experience in any way I can. If they need to charter a boat or a plane, or need an interior designer, or a luxury car rental, I have all of those people on speed dial.”

In addition to her focus on service, Elmir is optimistic on her business prospects thanks to the recent influx of buyers from the Northeast and California, who are decamping to Florida and especially Miami in droves to capitalize on new tax laws.

“Miami is evolving and growing,” Elmir said. “Before [my buyers] were all international clients or investors. But in the last year and a half, most of my clients are from New York, Chicago, Boston — people who want to eventually move here full-time.”

Elmir has her sights set on East Edgewater as the next in-demand Miami neighborhood for luxury sales prospects. This follows the recent trend of growth seen in markets that until recently had gone untapped by developers, particularly high-end residential buildings.

Expanding the horizons of luxury

David Wolf, president of development marketing and sales firm ON Collaborative, sees plenty of potential all around South Florida, too. Wolf is leading his company’s first foray into the South Florida market, starting with the $1.5 billion mixed-use Metropica project in western Broward County. ON Collaborative, which is part of Coldwell Banker and NRT, took over sales and marketing for the residential component of Metropica from another firm, spotting an opportunity to leverage Coldwell Banker and NRT’s scale in a new way.

“What the project lacked was support from the local brokerage community, which is normal in new construction projects early on,” Wolf said. “Because of our integration with Coldwell Banker and ON Collaborative’s marketing acumen, we could increase engagement with the local broker community. That’s given us an all-star sales team, and we saw the results immediately.”

Wolf and ON Collaborative also consult with the development team (led by prominent local developer Joseph Kavana) on what they call “placemaking,” or creating a vibrant community that can stand on its own, replete with retail, hotel and office space as well as a public park. Its residences — expected to total 2,250 condo units across eight towers — will also come fully appointed with balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows and community amenities like tennis and basketball courts, a movie theater, bike paths, a spa and fitness center, and much more.

“The No. 1 amenity is the community,” Wolf said. “This is an urban concept in a suburban area. We are finding a lot of people in suburban environments who are sick of single-family living, between the extra space and maintenance.”

For residences that easily qualify as luxury, and especially considering what comparable properties sell for closer to the shore, Metropica’s condos are reasonably priced. Listings start in the $400,000 range and span up to $1.1 million for penthouse units, although a three-bed condo can go for around $580,000.

“If you define luxury based on price alone, this would not qualify,” Wolf said. “But from a quality and design standpoint, it rivals or even exceeds anything else you will find in Miami. Everybody who’s bought so far has bought because of what the community will look like once it’s complete.”

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