Nelson Gonzalez grew up watching his dad buy and sell land in his hometown of Miami and across central Florida. Today, he’s the real estate player — holding the title of senior vice president for Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors and directing a team of brokers who specialize in ultra-posh properties.
For Gonzalez, though, the best part of his day is when he’s making a deal himself. It’s where his heart is — and has been from Day One, when he went for a job interview 27 years ago at Wimbish Realty in Miami Beach.
“Before I said ‘Hello’ to the receptionist, something clicked and I knew this is what I wanted to do. “
Gonzalez landed the job and sold a house before his first week was over. He learned early on that relationships would be fundamental to his success — and that he had a knack for them: “I can develop a rapport with anyone. I ask the right questions about what the buyer or seller is looking for and really listen for the answer.”
Since 1998, Gonzalez has made EWM’s Top Producer list. Last year, he ranked first among the company’s 900 brokers in dollar volume — $262 million in sales, including $116 million at the Surf Club in Surfside.
Now, here are a few thoughts from Gonzalez on the luxury market and what’s ahead for housing:
You had 23 listings in early September. Eleven had asking prices of about $7 million or more; your two most expensive were waterfront estates for $40 million and $37 million. What are the challenges of selling such pricey homes?
On Miami Beach, $5 million to $10 million is not considered so expensive anymore (crazy!). Certainly, [for] any property over $10 million, the buyers are more knowledgeable in what they are looking for, and negotiating the deals is more challenging.
Is there a saturation point in the high-end market? What is it? How far away is it?
At this point, the inventory levels for high-quality homes are very low. The demand has continued to increase since the beginning of 2012 and the inventory levels have continued to drop. Until recently, there had been no new construction since 2007. [Now,] there are a few new high-end homes coming on the market, which is good [and will help with inventory].
How has selling luxury real estate changed over the years? And what changes do you expect to see in the next few years?
With the emergence of the Internet and especially social media, there is more opportunity for global coverage for our markets. I see that getting stronger in the next several years.
South Florida is the land of record real estate deals — nearly $3,000 per square foot, for example, for a non-oceanfront unit at Apogee South Beach, and $34 million for a penthouse at Ian Schrager’s Edition project, which isn’t even built. Are these prices realistic?
The prices are realistic and, in comparison to other top cities — New York, London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco — are still inexpensive. The buyers are the next level of buyers in that a very high percentage of deals are paid in cash. They are looking for the best and are willing to pay for it.
What’s the biggest change recently as far as the largest group of buyers coming to the market?
The high-end market is still the international buyers, but slowly the domestic buyers are buying as well. The Brazilians, Latin Americans and Russians are the largest groups. I believe Asian buyers will soon be a large part of the market here as well.
What is the most surprising thing about the South Florida market now?
I did not think the real estate market in Miami would rebound as quickly as it has, and come back stronger than ever.
What is the most troubling thing about the South Florida market now?
There is not enough inventory to fill the demand. Two-thirds of all home sales in Miami close without financing from a lender; six years ago, only a fifth of sales were all-cash. I personally have not closed a financed deal in over four years. We are experiencing another level of buyer in the market. That said, banks are finally lending again, although they are being much tighter on their requirements, which I feel is good for the market.