Brazilians' buying in Miami expands to commercial sites
By Marilyn Bowden
Brazilians are shoring up the local residential real estate market, and some are moving into commercial real estate and development as well.
"Our Brazilian clients have invested all across the spectrum," said Daniela Fonseca, a Brazilian-born partner at Shutts & Bowen. "The highest interest is in residential condominiums and houses for vacation and second homes.
"The prices range from $300,000 to several millions. There are also a number of high net-worth Brazilian individuals and companies interested in institutional-sized investments that finance new developments."
The markets they prefer, she said, include Fisher Island, Sunny Isles, Aventura, Brickell, South Miami Beach and Key Biscayne. While most buyers are very wealthy individuals, "we are seeing increasing interest from the emerging Brazilian middle class."
Realtors have not been slow to respond to this demand with marketing campaigns in Brazil.
ONE Sotheby's International Realty organized Miami Week in the country last spring, with events scheduled nearly every night, said Daniel de la Vega, broker and managing partner.
"Our affiliate Sotheby's Brazil organized it with us," he said. "We prepared for it with big marketing campaigns in Brazil's large newspapers and on the web. Buyers lined up to meet with us and learn more about the opportunities in South Florida.
"We combed through over 1,000 people in one week."
Those buyers were interested in many price points, Mr. de la Vega said, from investors looking for condos in the $200,000-$400,000 range to rent out to those who wanted $3 million-$5 million condos for their own use.
"Brazilians really like high-end properties," he said. "Comparable units in São Paulo are $4,000-$5,000 a square foot, so they get a lot more bang for their buck here."
Mr. de la Vega said ONE Sotheby's is planning a return trip to São Paulo this month to market its latest project, Bellini Bal Harbour.
Representatives of Canyon Ranch Miami Beach spent two weeks in Brazil in May and June, with presentations every night, said Sales Director Michael Sadov.
"We had good influx," he said. "They tell their friends, and there's a domino effect."
Mr. Sadov is vice president of operations at Pordes Residential, which, he says, was one of the first companies to go to Brazil, marketing Fisher Island there in the 1990s.
He said he maintains good relationships with Brazilian brokers in Miami, of which there is a growing number, and they have brought a lot of clients over the past 15 months.
Like other buyers at Canyon Ranch, Mr. Sadov said, interested Brazilians are upper-class buyers attracted to health and wellness — well-educated businessmen, doctors and other professionals.
International Sales Group, known as ISG, has been pursuing the Brazilian market for the better part of a year, said Nick Grossi, director of sales at Vizcayne-Downtown Miami, across from Biscayne Park.
"ISG goes to Brazil every month to promote properties in Miami," he said. "I would say Brazilians represent about 40% of the market."
The company also works with a network of Brazilian brokers with offices in Miami, Mr. Grossi said.
He characterized Brazilian buyers as "nouveau riche and the very rich. They are buying to live here — a second or third home — and they like very large apartments.
"I've met some who used to own property here in the 1990s and now want to re-invest. They know right now is the time to buy in Miami."
Harvey Hernandez, who is developing the condo tower BrickellHouse, said he has sold 50% of its 374 units in less than four months. About 90% of the buyers are Latin American, many of them from Brazil.
Paulo Melo, founder of Integra Solutions, moved from his native Brazil to South Florida to attend the University of Miami several years ago.
"My family has been investing here for more than 10 years now," he said. "We do it on a more sophisticated level than just buying condos. We're interested in commercial and development deals."
A year ago, Integra partnered with other Brazilians to buy three of the four remaining land parcels fronting the Miami River.
"The idea is to develop the parcels at the right time," Mr. Melo said.
He said he sees Brazilian interest in Miami real estate as an ongoing trend.
"Brazil has been going through a very favorable period, economically speaking," he said. "Over the past five years, a lot of wealth has been created.
"Also, the exchange rate between the real and the dollar is very favorable.
"The third aspect is that Brazilian real estate prices have been appreciating phenomenally. Right now, a class A building in São Paulo would be twice the price as in the US. So it becomes very appealing to the Brazilian investor to invest in Florida.
"Brazil has always had a very close relationship with Florida. We feel comfortable here. The timing is great for us to position ourselves in one of the most dynamic cities in the US."
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