South Florida's appetite for luxury, the region's appeal among Latin Americans and "a little bit of brains and a lot of luck" are behind Property Markets Group's ability to succeed, in good times and in bad.
"We like the residential luxury market, it's what we are good at, it's what we know," said Ryan Shear, managing director for South Florida's Property Markets Group.
As the residential market heats up, the New York-based real estate acquisition and development firm has five South Florida projects in different stages of development.
The company re-entered the market in 2010 to buy up waterfront construction sites. It's been moving forward ever since.
Echo Brickell, originally billed as the tallest residential building in the city at 60-plus stories, was trimmed to 57 stories to accommodate larger units.
"We wanted to make larger units. To make them, I had to widen the building to get more space, so we put more square footage in the units themselves," Shear said.
Of the units released, Echo Brickell in Miami's financial district is 80 percent reserved with the ground-breaking set for the first quarter of 2014.
Among the Latin America buyers is a large contingent of Mexicans. Many are finding South Florida a safe place to invest given the violence across the border.
Its other Echo project, Echo Aventura, a 190-unit condo on Biscayne Bay at 3250 NE 188th St. launched sales last fall and broke ground in July. It's close to 70 percent sold, and Shear expects to begin delivering units by spring 2015.
That project was a joint venture with JDS Development Group in New York. The construction loan came from New York-based NorthStar Real Estate Income Trust, a real estate investment trust.
To avoid the financial challenges that helped bring the South Florida condo market to its knees last time around, most developers are turning to the buyer-finance model prevalent in Latin America and Europe.
PMG is no exception.
Buyers put up 20 percent at contract, 10 percent at groundbreaking, 10 percent when the pool deck starts and 10 percent at top off. PMG added a twist to its Aventura project offering interest on deposits.
"Aventura is more of a slow and steady market. We wanted to entice people more to Aventura," Shear said.
Keeping more to its tradition of building smaller projects with larger units, PMG also has two others in the pipeline: 95th on the Ocean and Hollywood Sage Beach.
Adjacent to Bal Harbour Shops, 95th on the Ocean is "just about finished," Shear said. It features seven luxury four-story residences.
Hollywood Sage Beach, a boutique condominium with 24 beachfront, two- and three-bedroom condos plus six penthouses is expected to break ground next year.
Shear also has a project planned for Sunny Isles Beach. On Sept. 9, his company closed on the $30 million purchase of an 0.85-acre parcel in the 17100 block of Collins Avenue. Plans for the site have yet to be finalized. But in a statement, Shear said his firm's next Florida development "will be high-end and beachfront."