Working it out in a new market

If the first principle of real estate success is location, the second
principle is relationships. Particularly in a market that’s inching
its way back from collapse, where business as usual no longer works,
local real estate leaders recite that mantra as a path to survival.

From architects to attorneys to power brokers, the themes that run
through South Florida’s industry shop talk today are relationships,
passion, trust, service and experience. It’s still about a close, but
the means, in these days of scant opportunity, are more important than
the end.

“Your perspective has to be about the client’s business as opposed to
just doing the deal,” said Tere Blanca, president & CEO of Blanca
Commercial Real Estate in Miami. “You have to [take] the time to
understand client goals so you can continually look out for your
client’s interests.”

John Sumberg, managing partner at the Miami law firm Bilzin Sumberg,
said that level of attentiveness goes beyond the relationships you
already have. He said his attorneys get out in the community and
actively work on developing new relationships and strengthening
existing ones. In so many words, they have to adapt or die.

“A lot of investors and developers are changing their models, so
there’s an opportunity for brokers, lawyers and others to develop
relationships around those changes,” Sumberg said. “You have to be out
there building relationships more than ever before.”

In terms of changing models, Sumberg said working with distressed
properties on such a large scale creates new opportunities, but only
if these new paths can be navigated. Banks and other lenders are
understaffed, which gives brokers an opening to make things happen for
them as conduits to developers who need profitable workout strategies.

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Workouts, it appears, are South Florida’s new condo towers. Jack
Studnicky, a vice president at International Sales Group, an
Aventura-based luxury broker who has worked with several Trump
Properties, did his first workout in 1975, leaving him with a unique
perspective on today’s distressed market.

“Experience is important, and so are relationships and trust,”
Studnicky said. “Emotions generally run high when people are fighting
over big money. People have to know you are going to do what’s best
for their business. Every deal requires individual analysis.”

Bernard Zyscovich, president of Zyscovich Architects, a Miami-based
architecture firm that developed the master plans for Downtown Miami
and Midtown Miami, also adds experience to the relations-trust
equation. With fewer buildings to design, he said, clients are looking
for architecture firms that go the extra mile — and then some.

“Things are tough out there. People need to know they can trust you.
You need experience and relationships,” Zyscovich said. “And it’s not
just enough to provide good service anymore. You have to provide
exceptional service.”

Exceptional service is rooted in demonstrating enthusiasm for clients,
prospects and every other relationship, according to Blanca.
Relationships, trust, service, experience and attitude may sound like
a simple formula, she said, but the strength is in the basics.

“Persistence, discipline, perseverance — all of these things are vital
to surviving and thriving in this economy,” Blanca said. “This is the
equation for business success. Every cycle represents opportunities
for success. You just have to be proactive.”

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