Inside “Million Dollar Listing Miami” with Samantha DeBianchi
The season finale of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing Miami” airs on Wednesday night. In advance of the episode, cast member Samantha DeBianchi — founder of DeBianchi Real Estate — chatted with The Real Deal about how she transitioned from the hospitality industry to luxury real estate and her experience on the show. Fellow cast members Chad Carroll and Chris Leavitt spoke with TRD earlier in the season.
DeBianchi, 30, received a bachelor’s degree in communications and sociology from Florida Atlantic University when she was 20 years old. Two years later, she got a master of business administration from Nova Southeastern University. After several years working for nightclubs as a VIP host and director, DeBianchi changed careers in 2011. Today, she runs a company with 20 full-time agents covering the high-end markets in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
TRD: What made you want to get into the nightclub business?
When I was very young, around 8-to-10 years old, I knew what I wanted to do. I was that weird nerdy girl who didn’t have a lot of friends, but I loved the idea of making money and running businesses. I started out as an intern at [nightclubs] Pangaea and Gryphon at the Hard Rock [in Hollywood, Fla.]. Most people do internships for money or college credit. I just really wanted to learn that business. There was an opening for a day manager and I got the job. But I really wanted to work the door. When I have my eyes on something, I’m obsessive. There was an opening for a nighttime VIP host. After doing that for a year-and-a-half, I wanted to experience South Beach. So I went to Dek23 and started out as VIP manager before transitioning to general manager. Coincidentally, [scenes from] the last episode will be at Dek 23. So watch how that all comes full circle.
I loved examining the psychology of why people go to these places and spend so much money. I’ve never drank, never tried a drug in my life, never even smoked a cigarette. I saw people spend thousands of dollars on bottles of alcohol when they are so much cheaper in a store. The atmosphere at the club created that sale. It’s the same with real estate; the little features make a big difference.
TRD: How did that experience shape your approach to real estate?
I’ve had my real estate license since 2009. I was still in the nightclub world at that point. In early 2011, I had a conversation with my sister about how everyone knew me as “Sam Nightclub.” Her advice was so simple: ‘No one will invest in you and believe in you until you invest in yourself.’ I then quit everything that had to do with nightclubs and started my company. I committed to it and used all of the public relations and marketing knowledge I had from my nightclub experience. I knew a lot of people, and when I commit to something, I’m extremely focused. I believe in three H’s: heart, hard work and hustle.
I don’t like Realtors, and I don’t like saying that I’m a Realtor, with the whole connotation that you can’t trust them and they are just after the commissions. So I wanted to bring something different to the table. I focused on the educational aspect. I decided to go the route of really becoming an expert in this, rather than just getting clients to do deals. I mix in wacky ideas like taking clients by boat or even paddleboard to visit homes. I try to make it educational and fun.
TRD: You went through a personal tragedy (the death of her dog Chloe Chanel) on the show. What was it like to deal with that in front of so many viewers?
Obviously that wasn’t planned in any way. We filmed for nine months. I was really depressed after that for a few weeks, even longer than that. My dog was my everything. She was with me for eight-and-a-half years. It seemed on the show like she died, we had a funeral and I went back to work. But it was extremely difficult for me. You have your business and filming and everything going on, but you need that mourning period. The production company was really amazing to me during that period. When I saw the episode, reliving that was extremely difficult. I got so much love and support from people after it aired, and I still get messages about it to this day.
TRD: You were friends with Chad Carroll well before the show began filming. But the two of you had a few heated arguments during the season. What’s the status of your friendship with Chad these days?
Watching Chad on the show, we do things very differently, which is fine. He believes he’s the Almighty. I don’t need to have any confirmation like that. In my mind, I feel I’m the best at what I do. I don’t need to shout it from a mountaintop. I always call him Hulk because he walks and talks like the Hulk.
I haven’t spoken to him in a while, so I don’t know [if there are hard feelings]. But that’s probably the last thought on my mind. I had so much stuff going on; I bought a new house and am extremely busy with the business. If there’s an issue, I wouldn’t even know, but I wouldn’t care. I’m not in tears over not speaking to him for a bit.
TRD: What do you hope viewers take away from the season when it comes to the Miami real estate business and how you do your job?
I feel like a lot of people hear how hot the market is and how great it is, but they never get to truly see what it’s all about. The show has done a great job of showing different areas of South Florida, not just Miami. They are taking a bird’s eye view into these condos and homes selling for ridiculous amounts. We have the highest amount of international buyers in the country. There’s a reason behind that.
With me, I definitely hope people see that what can happen if you commit your mind, heart and soul to something. I feel I have so much room to grow, but I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish. I hope I can inspire people to focus on their dreams and go after them. This season wasn’t picture perfect for me. I had ups and downs personally and professionally. You have to get away from the noise and go after it. It’s about so much more than just doing deals.