Lennar looks to Latin America for condo sales
By Samantha Joseph
Lennar Corp., the country's largest homebuilder, expects to make millions this year from Latin American buyers interested in developments such as the Colonnade in Kendall.
The company last week was host to nearly 80 Latin brokers to which it hopes it will sell its condominiums to affluent clients in Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela.
"I'll probably write 50 sales in the next 90 days," said Craig Studnicky, a partner at International Sales Group, which markets Lennar's condos and arranged last week's five-day visit with the Latin brokers.
Considering that the average price of a Colonnade condo is $450,000, he expects the meetings to bring about $22.5 million in business by September.
"Those are three big countries with significant motivating factors in wanting to move their money to South Florida," Mr. Studnicky said. "My job is to keep the pipeline full of buyers."
Political and economic instability have led many wealthy and middle-class South and Central Americans to look to the US for investment opportunities to safeguard their money.
Carlos Migoya, regional president of Wachovia Bank, a major real estate financier, estimated in June that foreign investors own about 60% of all condos in Miami-Dade high-rise developments.
International Sales Group Associates said Latin buyers account for half of all its sales. Most of those investors come from the three countries Lennar targeted last week.
Roberto Cavanzo, a broker whose Colombian firm, Global Brokers, sells about six Miami-Dade condos each month, said his clients want low-risk ventures and a safe investment environment. Miami's real estate, priced below other internationally known markets such as New York and London, meets those criteria, he said.
The county's 300,000 Colombian residents is another selling point.
"Everyone has friends or relatives here," Mr. Cavanzo said. "Almost every person at a certain level of income has been to Miami at some point."
Lennar's standing as a major US developer contributes to the Colonnade's appeal to prospective Colombian buyers, he said.
The Colonnade's 570 condos range from $300,000 to $550,000. The property includes four 10-story buildings at 7240 SW 82nd St., just north of Dadeland Mall and overlooking Snapper Creek.
It's "not one of the best sites," Mr. Cavanzo said, but the area is well on its way to becoming a prime real estate location because of its proximity to the affluent Coral Gables community, the mall, Metrorail, restaurants and other amenities.
"It is very attractive," he said. "When you sell real estate abroad, you can't sell a project that won't deliver what it promises. You'd be in trouble if you did that because your credibility would be at stake."
Lennar's marketing director, Bonnie Bernstein, said company officials thought it was important that the brokers tour the Colonnade and neighboring sites.
"They're used to selling waterfront properties," she said, "but we wanted to show them that when we pick areas, we do so strategically."