The Real Deal Miami

Inside “Million Dollar Listing Miami” with Chris Leavitt

Douglas Elliman broker chats about show’s impact on his life, challenging deals

July 14, 2014 03:00PM
By Eric Kalis

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Chris Leavitt

Chris Leavitt

Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing Miami” premiered last month. In addition to weekly episode recaps, The Real Deal will chat with the brokers featured on the show throughout the first season. The latest cast member to speak with TRD is Chris Leavitt, a broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Leavitt, 41, is a 20-year real estate industry veteran who has worked out of Elliman’s Miami Beach office since 2009. One of his most notable South Florida listings is the pending $34 million sale of two triplex penthouses at Ian Schrager’s Residences at the Miami Beach Edition.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

TRD: How have things changed for you since the show began airing last month?

I have a lot of people calling me saying they want to give me their listings. Some are compelling, some aren’t. You have to be honest and say you can’t service that kind of listing. A woman called me today and said, “I really liked what you said in the second episode that comps don’t matter.” People are taking what I say literally, and using my advice from in front of the camera and applying it to their own real estate. I think it’s kind of cool, saying things that make an impact.

I’m not coming at this from an ego point of view, but I’m getting mobbed everywhere I go. I’m in L.A. right now, and it has been crazy. People are like “You’re the guy from the show! What happened with that [Boca Raton] penthouse?” It felt really nice and I hope it lasts.

TRD: Has anything surprised you about the first few episodes?

No, because I’m not a spring chicken. I’ve been in the business for a long time, and I was myself the whole time [on the show]. I don’t think you can edit someone who is true to themselves. People accused me on social media of being like an actor, being fake. Actually, this is truly how I operate. It may seem over the top, but I do truly work hard and go to the spa to balance it out.

TRD: In the second episode you were challenged to come up with a price for a Boca Raton penthouse when no comparable units existed in that market. How do brokers like you work around the lack of comps?

Just because a building next door is selling for $1,000 a foot doesn’t mean you have to sell it at that or anywhere near it. You have to look at what the product is and how it’s changing the market. Everything else in Boca has a low-rise, Mediterranean/Spanish feeling. You don’t compare that to this sleek glass structure with the best views in Boca on the inland. The finishes they did were unparalleled to anything I have seen in the building. The TV doesn’t capture as much of the detail.

TRD: You advised Samantha [DeBianchi] to tell Gil Dezer to lower the asking price of his Trump Royale condo in Sunny Isles beach, or walk away from the listing. If you were in her shoes, what would you have done differently in that first meeting with Gil?

In that area, comps do matter, because there is Trump 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. You have to look at the comps in that building unfortunately. I would have really come equipped and discussed those with him. If that apartment was really off, I would have educated him a bit on that. I would not have said “I Google you and stalk you.” I think she’s very green like that. She should listen to people like Chad [Carroll] and myself.

The bottom line is, you have every right to be in the game. But take a moment to step back and learn from people and see how they operate.

I interned for a guy named Larry Moens [owner of brokerage Lawrence A. Moens Associates] in Palm Beach when I was in high school. I learned his ways. He is really a genius. When I moved to New York and sold real estate, I learned from Sharon Baum, who was an old school, grande dame of high-end luxury real estate. She took a liking to me and would refer me business at 22, 23 years old. I sat and watched her and listened. My ego didn’t blow up. Even now, I am really humble. It may not seem that way, but I’m humble about this experience. I’m grateful for it.

TRD: We’ve seen a few elaborate open houses thrown already this season. What’s the craziest open house you’ve thrown or experienced?

I don’t think I had ever been to an open house that had a bikini contest. Before that, I went to an open house in Key Biscayne where they chartered a yacht and drove guests around the property, so brokers could get an amazing sense of the approach from the water. That was expensive and elaborate, but a way to get people excited.

Brokers are cheap. The reality is, a smart broker gets sponsors and utilizes those sponsors. You reach out to your contact and come up with a mutually beneficial thing to have an open house and expose that brand. You have to take risks. We did that in Boca and hopefully, if people tune in, they will maybe see us reap those rewards.

Every broker is vying for their property to be featured in magazines and media outlets. There’s a lot of competition. You have to make people come. These days, one problem is there are so many brokers in Miami, that you get newbies [at the open houses]. To get the big ticket brokers in, you have to wow them.

TRD: When do you think we’ll see your $34 million condo pricing milestone eclipsed down here, if at all?

I think you’re going to see more and more of that pricing, and maybe see it trumped. There is stuff coming online that will be very noteworthy.

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