Real estate developers, increasingly faced with a bevy of competition, are choosing well-known luxury lifestyle brands to entice buyers with more than just bricks and mortar.

With five luxury brand-affiliated buildings set to open in South Florida by 2021, the sunny region has seemingly become the unofficial home of the branded building, helped in large part by its international buying demographic. The trend is not quite so en vogue in long-established luxury markets. In London and New York City, for example, branding partnerships lean soundly toward hotels as opposed to luxury fashion and automobile brands. But London’s first fashion-brand partnership, a collaboration between Versace Home and the AYKON London One tower in the city’s Nine Elms regeneration zone, is headed to the capital in 2020.

Meanwhile, newer markets like Dubai and Beijing have long been the targets for luxury-branded developments. Dubai’s Armani hotel opened in 2010; last year, Armani’s eco-friendly complex with Smart Hero Group in Beijing was completed. The fashion house is also working on the interiors at Century Spire in Manila, Philippines, set to be completed this year. Meanwhile, Fendi partnered with DAMAC Properties for the interiors of Dubai’s DAMAC Residenze, which opened in 2017.

Miami Likes The Flash

The popularity of the branded-building in the Sunshine State though, boils down to one simple thing, according to one developer.

“Miami is more of a flashier type of city, than other areas like New York or Chicago that are a little more conservative,”  said Jon Paul Perez, vice president of Related Group, one of the developers behind Residences by Armani/Casa, set to open in the city in 2019.

The Porsche Design Tower may be one of the most well-known projects to emerge onto the Florida market. The building on Sunny Isles Beach, a barrier island north of Miami, is a collaboration between Dezer Development and high-performance German car manufacturer Porsche.

The 60-story building—designed by Sieger Suarez Architects—was completed last year and comes with a high-powered automobile elevator that transports drivers and their cars from street level to parking at their apartments. Only six of the tower’s 132 residences remain unsold, according to Gil Dezer, president of Dezer Development. Sales launched in 2012.

The automobile collaborations don’t end there. In downtown Miami, British luxury vehicle company Aston Martin has partnered with Argentinian developer G&G Business Developments for their own tower. The 66-story building, set for completion in 2021, will be topped with a triplex penthouse and have amenities like a fitness center and spa, a pool deck and a marina.

But it’s the fashion-conscious buyer that’s really being catered to in the sunshine state. Italian fashion house Fendi paired with developers Château Group for the Fendi Château Residences, the inaugural Fendi-branded residential project. The 12-story building in Surfside was completed in 2016 and houses 58 units, including three penthouses with private rooftop sundecks and swimming pools.

Armani is set to hit the South Florida residential scene in summer 2019 with their Residences by Armani/Casa project. Roughly five blocks away from the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach, the 56-story building is over 75% sold. It’s expected to be finished in the summer of 2019 and the tower will have over 35,000-square-feet of amenities, including a wine cellar and cigar room.

Missoni Baia, in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood, is a partnership between the fashion house known for its colorful style and developer OKO Group. Designed by Hani Rashid of Asymptote Architecture, the 57-story building is slated for completion in the fall of 2020. It will have 229 residences, ranging in size from 776 to 3,788 square feet.

Why South Florida?

A branded building in South Florida “is a sign of distinction,” said Edgardo Defortuna, the president and CEO of Fortune International Group, the exclusive broker of Missoni Baia.

With so many high-end new buildings from which to choose, being able to distinguish a building is important for developers. And in Miami, where many developers don’t even begin construction until they’ve hit 50% in pre-sales to secure funding and guarantee interest, branding becomes even more important, according to Mr. Defortuna.

“In New York City, you build and then you sell. In Miami, we sell before the building becomes a reality,” Mr. Defortuna said. “To be able to ‘sell the dream,’ so to speak, it’s important to have something to point to.”

Those well-known—and well-respected—brands can theoretically get those buildings built more quickly.

Recipe For Success

Partnership conditions vary from deal to deal, but typically the developer will pay the brand a percentage of sales, typically 2% to 5%, which is paid at the closing of each unit in the building, according to Mr. Defortuna.

“For that fee, the developer has the right to use the name—subject to brand standards—and the brand provides either design or management services, according to the agreement worked out between the parties,” Mr. Defortuna said.

“But for a brand to make a successful foray into real estate, it has to be one that people associate with not only luxury but a certain type of lifestyle that people can relate and aspire to,” Mr. Perez said. “At the same time, it has to be a brand the developer can work with. The brand and designer can have amazing ideas but you have to be able to build those and make them a reality.”

Not only does a partnership have to be chosen with care, but the brand must translate clearly and recognizably into the project.

“In the Aston Martin Residences, it’s not as if the place is emblazoned with wings,” said Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s chief creative officer and the lead designer on the Aston Martin Residences project, referring to the sports car’s logo. “It’s much more subtle than that.”

Signature materials from the brand’s cars are found in the tower’s interiors, common areas and amenity spaces, like the hand-stitched leather door tabs—sourced from a Scottish village—and  the carbon fiber lobby furniture.

“Obviously there’s a design aesthetic,” Mr. Reichman said. “The units remain more neutral. If a customer comes along and is buying, they can make a choice to create their own environment or talk to us and we can advise them or create for them. However much of Aston Martin you want, you can have.”

Not only does the aesthetic matter for the brand itself, but it’s crucial to brand loyalists too, who inevitably become an important section of buyers.

“There’s a real sense of connection with the brand and for our traditionalists that’s brilliant,” Mr. Reichman said. “Buyers so far have been a 50/50 split between customers that know the brand and those who have just come to the showroom regardless of the connection. The real estate venture allows Aston Martin to secure “those new and different customers that we haven’t looked to talk to before because they haven’t come from the traditional automotive channels.”

Who’s Buying?

Foreign buyers purchased $7.1 billion of South Florida residential properties last year, up from $6.2 billion a year ago, according to a recent report by the Miami Association of Realtors. In Miami alone, foreign buyers accounted for 35% of closed sales and purchased 15,400 properties last year, a 41.3% surge from the year before (10,900).

Argentinian buyers led the way, accounting for 15% of South Florida foreign purchases, followed by Venezuela (11%), Canada and Colombia (9% each). It’s for this reason that internationally recognized brands are key.

“Your buyers a lot of the time are from out of the country and associate a lot with these brands,” Mr. Perez said. “They know Armani, even from just going to the stores, they can feel how that is going to transition into the building they’re buying in.”

Of the sales to date at Residences by Armani/Casa, Mr. Perez said 80% have been from international buyers. Robert Thorne, CEO and founder of Miami-based The Wellness Habitat Co., is one of the other 20%. He bought a two-bedroom unit on the 25th floor at Residences by Armani/Casa about two years ago for $1.4 million, as soon as sales launched at the building. The apartment will be Mr. Thorne’s Miami base, he told Mansion Global, now that he primarily lives in Mexico City.

“An important factor in his purchase was the developer,” Mr. Thorne said. “But the brand was the main thing. We had seen the Armani building in Dubai and were convinced by the style. I’m not 100% Armani, but I follow the brand, we have stuff at home from Armani, I wear Armani suits. Just knowing that the brand is behind it, it makes sure that everything else is going to be of quality. We knew our investment was going to be secure.”


Source: Mansion Global

Wealthy buyers from Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina have fueled a real-estate frenzy in Miami in recent years, sending luxury-condo prices soaring. Now, Miami developers and real-estate agents are setting their sights on a more distant part of the world: China.

A rendering of the Brickell Flatiron. Illustration: Brickell Flatiron

A rendering of the Brickell Flatiron. Illustration: Brickell Flatiron

In April, representatives for several Miami condo buildings made the 8,000-mile-trip to the Beijing Luxury Property Show, a trade show that attracted more than 5,200 wealthy Chinese to look at international properties. Sales agents for the Fendi Chateau Residences, a luxury development going up near Florida’s Bal Harbour, handed out brochures in Mandarin for condos priced from $5 million to $22 million. Nearby was Lauren Marks, the marketing coordinator for two luxury-condo buildings: Palazzo Del Sol and the forthcoming Palazzo Della Luna, on Miami’s Fisher Island.

“I’m here on a fact-finding mission,” said Ms. Marks. “I’m trying to decide if this is the right place for us to facilitate a meaningful relationship with Chinese buyers.”

Executives of the Miami Association of Realtors, the largest local group of the National Association of Realtors, were there, too, handing out Miami market data and gold palm-tree pins attached to a card with the tagline, written in Chinese, “Enjoy the unique taste of life.”

Part of the reason for their journey: South American buyers, who comprise the largest foreign buying group in Miami, aren’t buying as rapidly anymore. A recent study by the Miami Downtown Development Authority found that sales of new condo units still under construction have slowed, in part because South American investors have less buying power, due to the increase of the U.S. dollar compared with South American currencies.

Meanwhile, Chinese buyers are beginning to take a closer look at the city.

“The Chinese are coming along very strong,” said Simon Henry, co-founder of, a China-based website that connects wealthy Chinese with overseas properties.“Miami looks relatively cheap compared with some of the big cities like San Francisco and New York.” Juwai says the average budget for Chinese buyers shopping for overseas properties on its site is $2.3 million.

Karen Xu, a Shanghai resident, is looking at one-bedroom condos in the U.S. as an investment. She says she didn’t consider Miami until she saw a marketing table at the Juwai Agent Summit in Shanghai in May for Brickell Flatiron, a downtown Miami development where one-bedroom condos cost $500,000 to $750,000. The deputy director of a boutique investment firm, Ms. Xu, age 35, was initially interested in a Manhattan home, but said she’s priced out. “Two to three years ago, prices were OK,” she said. “Now people are saying, ‘Buy in Brooklyn.’ I don’t want Brooklyn.”

Vanessa Grout, president of CMC Real Estate, which is developing Brickell Flatiron in downtown Miami, traveled to Shanghai in May to meet with investors and real-estate agents who could help connect her to Chinese buyers.   Photo Credit:  Alexia Fodere for The Wall Street Journal

Vanessa Grout, president of CMC Real Estate, which is developing Brickell Flatiron in downtown Miami, traveled to Shanghai in May to meet with investors and real-estate agents who could help connect her to Chinese buyers. Photo Credit: Alexia Fodere for The Wall Street Journal

CMC Group, which is developing Brickell Flatiron, is marketing the property to the Chinese via local brokerages, says Vanessa Grout, CMC Real Estate president.

Currently, only 2% of international buyers in Miami come from China, according to the Miami Association of Realtors. But potential changes in Chinese investment policies, and the relatively strong Chinese yuan, are making the Chinese look like a good bet to Miami developers. The Chinese government is expected to begin raising annual limits on how much an individual can invest overseas from the current $50,000 cap—a rule often skirted.

Lauren Marks, marketing coordinator for Palazzo Del Sol and the forthcoming Palazzo Della Luna on Miami’s Fisher Island, attended the Beijing Luxury Property Show in April. She is shown here in the Palazzo Del Sol sales office.  Photo Credit:  Alexia Fodere for The Wall Street Journal

Lauren Marks, marketing coordinator for Palazzo Del Sol and the forthcoming Palazzo Della Luna on Miami’s Fisher Island, attended the Beijing Luxury Property Show in April. She is shown here in the Palazzo Del Sol sales office. Photo Credit: Alexia Fodere for The Wall Street Journal

Lauren Marks, marketing coordinator for Palazzo Del Sol and the forthcoming Palazzo Della Luna on Miami’s Fisher Island, attended the Beijing Luxury Property Show in April.

And Chinese buyers have become an increasingly dominant force in U.S. real estate overall. According to the National Association of Realtors, Chinese buyers recently surpassed Canadians as the top foreign buyers of homes in the U.S., purchasing $28.6 billion of properties in the 12-month period ending in March.

The Miami Association of Realtors forged a partnership with Soufun Holding’s, one of China’s largest real-estate portals, several years ago. The relationship allows association members to offer special pricing to the website, said Teresa King Kinney, CEO of the Miami  association.

One of the largest booths at the Beijing Luxury Property Show belonged to OneWorld Properties, which is marketing Paramount, a condo tower in downtown Miami with more than 500 units priced from about $650,000 to more than $6 million. Peggy Fucci, CEO of OneWorld Properties, says Miami’s luxurious image and thriving art and cultural scene appeal to Chinese buyers.

Still, there are plenty of challenges for Miami brokers trying to target the Chinese market. One of the most pressing issues is the lack of a direct flight from Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong to Miami.

“There were no direct flights to Hawaii until last year and up until that point foreign investment was almost nonexistent,” Mr. Henry said. “Now the Chinese are the second largest buyer there.” Spokesmen for American Airlines, which has a hub in Miami, and Cathay Pacific Airways, based in Hong Kong, both said there are currently no plans for new routes from greater China to Miami.

Ms. Grout, who spent a week in Shanghai in May, said it’s difficult to figure out what appeals to Chinese buyers, because there are many contradictions and not all buyers think alike.

During the Juwai summit, Ms. Grout said a Chinese real-estate agent asked her which direction the Brickell Flatiron units face. She told him they were east facing, toward the ocean. “He walked away right after I said that, saying facing east is bad for Feng Shui,” Ms. Grout said. “I had never heard that before.” (Feng Shui consultants say a south-facing unit is most preferable, to get ample sunshine, but a window facing east, for example, could create good energy for early birds.)

A rendering of the Fendi Chateau Residences in Miami. Agents for the development handed out brochures in Mandarin at the Beijing Luxury Property Show. —Venegas International Group

A rendering of the Fendi Chateau Residences in Miami. Agents for the development handed out brochures in Mandarin at the Beijing Luxury Property Show. —Venegas International Group

Monica Venegas, principal of the Miami-based real-estate firm Venegas International Group, has been coming to China property shows for the past seven years. “People finally recognize my face here,” Ms. Venegas said during LPS in Beijing. She added that she’s learned to be patient, as Chinese buyers rarely buy on the spot, and often are swayed by the advice of their friends.

Real-estate agents estimate that bringing a sales team and setting up a booth at a mainland property show can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $150,000—making it a pricey trip if a there’s no sales outcome. Aside from travel and accommodation costs, developers also must pay for translation services and shipping materials to China ahead of the show.

A few weeks after returning from Beijing and Hong Kong, Ms. Marks, of Palazzo Del Sol, said she hadn’t heard of any sales as a direct result of Miami developers attending the Beijing expo.

“I have a hunch our marketing dollars are going to be better served in Hong Kong with more intimate gatherings of ultra-high-net-worth individuals and less red tape,” said Ms. Marks, emphasizing that her development is looking for residents, not investors. “The only way to really grasp that was to go there and experience China in person.”


Source: The Wall Street Journal