Widespread investment, demand for luxury resi driving South Florida market

Isaac Toledano, Lissette Calderon, Fredrik Eklund and Marcus Lemonis were among the speakers at The Real Deal’s South Florida Forum this week, which drew thousands of industry professionals in Miami. 

The three-day event began with the first annual TRD Miami Golf Classic, followed by the main forum and showcase, and ended with TRD.ai, where leaders in proptech and artificial intelligence provided insights into how the real estate industry can incorporate AI. 

More than 5,000 industry professionals attended the main forum on Thursday at Mana Wynwood. About 100 booths lined the showcase, where bellinis and gelato were doled out, fake money tossed around and photo opportunities abounded. TRD Senior Reporters Isabella Farr and Suzannah Cavanaugh recorded their podcast, “Deconstruct,” live. 

Billionaire Teddy Sagi, an investor in Related Group and BH Group projects, and Lemonis, star of CNBC’s “The Profit” and the “Renovator,” spoke one-on-one with TRD Publisher Amir Korangy.

Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, called real estate “the single greatest asset to create generational wealth for every single person in this room,” during his keynote address. 

Among the key takeaways? 

The soaring cost of insurance and financing is making the market more challenging, but not impossible. Multifamily developer Lissette Calderon said her insurance costs have surged 30 percent. Still, her projects are penciling out. 

Pricing for new condo developments is rising dramatically, with developer Michael Shvo telling the audience that buyers at his Rosewood-branded Raleigh condo redevelopment are paying between $4,000 to $12,000 per square foot. The current record in Miami-Dade County is about $6,000 per square foot. 

Sagi, a passive investor in Six Fisher Island, said in a fireside chat with Korangy that the luxury condo development’s sales are invitation-only because the developers “wanted the project to feel exclusive.” 

Eklund, of Douglas Elliman’s Eklund-Gomes team, also expects pricing for new construction condos to soar, adding that Miami is in its infancy. He spoke alongside top brokers Dora Puig and Senada Adžem, who talked about luxury home buyers’ search for privacy and security. They also touched on the recent ruling in the National Association of Realtors lawsuit. A Missouri jury ruled that NAR, HomeServices and Keller Williams conspired to inflate buyers’ commissions. 

Adžem and Puig said they have always negotiated commissions. “The plaintiffs’ attorneys tried to solve a problem that didn’t exist,” Adžem said. 

On a commercial lending panel, speakers included Highline Real Estate Capital President David Moret; Holly MacDonald-Korth, CEO of KDM Financial; and BridgeInvest Founder Alex Horn. 

Horn said his firm was doing “100 percent office construction loans” — a joke. Though office lending has slowed, MacDonald-Korth said her company is still lending. Her team is analyzing those deals with more scrutiny, and shifting their focus to light industrial and retail properties.

Speaking of retail, broker Tony Arellano said that he is still forecasting rent growth due to strong demand, citing success in the Miami Design District, on a panel alongside Pebb Capital’s managing principal Todd Rosenberg and Bahram Akradi, chairman and CEO of LifeTime. They spoke about how retail can serve as an amenity for nearby apartment buildings or within mixed-use projects. 

At Friday’s AI event, Yao Morin, chief technology officer at JLL, discussed how the real estate industry is already embracing new technologies. More than 80 percent of companies are spending more on tech, she said. 

Most speakers were optimistic in their long-term views, despite headwinds facing the real estate industry. 

Calderon, on a panel with Clearline Real Estate CEO Jenny Bernell, said she went through more scrutiny than ever before to score a recent financing, as she deals with soaring construction costs and other expenses. 

“There are a lot of moving parts to it,” Calderon said. But “I mean, who doesn’t want to be in Miami?”

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