The hurricane of cash that flooded South Florida during the pandemic may have slowed, but the real estate brokers who rule its pimped-out properties say the market is still flying high. Miami-Dade County brokers had a record year in 2021 and already had posted their fourth-best year ever by November 2021, according to the Miami Association of Realtors. Better still, South Florida had three out of the nation’s top 10 most expensive home sales of 2022. Celebrities who have bought or rented in the area in the last couple years include Sylvester Stallone (who paid $35 million for a Palm Beach estate in late 2020), Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez (who briefly rented a $130k a month waterfront mansion in Miami Beach last year via Corcoran) and Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber (who spent $9.6 million on a Miami Beach home in 2021). And designer Tom Ford was recently revealed as the buyer of a $51 million property in Palm Beach in a deal that closed last month.
“In the past year and a half, people started moving not only their families down, they started moving their companies down,” says Joseph Liguori, co-owner of Premier Estate Properties. “So whether it’s from California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or Chicago, they’re moving hundreds or thousands of employees down to this marketplace.”
As cheap debt dries up and a recession looms, it’s not hard to understand why: “Taxes,” says Dora Puig of Luxe Living Realty. “We’re very attractive to high-net-worth individuals because we don’t have a state income tax — and our weather is absolutely stunning right now.” And looking toward 2023, some Florida brokers are expecting increased sales due to the recently passed Measure ULA (United to House L.A.) that increases taxes on $5 million-plus properties in Los Angeles.
But if anything is putting the brakes on the market, it’s inventory. Across Miami, the supply of luxury single-family homes was down roughly 50 percent in the third quarter from pre-pandemic levels, according to Douglas Elliman reports. Meanwhile, the number of luxury condos on the market declined for the ninth straight quarter.
The bright side of a supply crunch? Surging prices. The average price per square foot of a luxury single-family home hit a record high in the third quarter, and two deals in 2022 topped $100 million. (Here’s looking at you Ken Griffin and Larry Ellison.)
“I don’t think we are going back to 2021 when there was that sense of urgency,” says Jill Eber of the Jills Zeder Group at Coldwell Banker. “But it’s a healthy market. People love the Miami lifestyle.”
THR scoured celebrity sales, crunched numbers and peeped into the biggest waterfront listings to anoint Miami’s and Palm Beach’s top brokers.
Senada Adzem, who escaped war-torn Bosnia to become one of South Florida’s most visible brokers, is set to close 2022 with more than $350 million in sales. To get numbers like that, “Buyers have to know that you are authentic,” says Adzem, who regularly appears on CNBC and Fox Business and focuses on Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach and Boca Raton. “You have to have great media and lifestyle connections, too.” That means forging relationships with the world’s top jewelers, yacht brokers and exotic car dealers to ease the transition to Florida for her super-rich clientele. “Our clients move from New York or California, and they don’t have the perfect contacts here,” says Adzem. “So if they want a $2 million car, having the ability to facilitate an introduction is important.” It’s a winning strategy. In October, she set a record in the town of Weston when she sold Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert Moirán a $12.3 million waterfront mansion. “Every time that you set the market, you’re doing something extraordinary that no one has ever accomplished before,” she says.
“I just closed a deal right this minute,” says an exuberant Lourdes Alatriste. “It was one of my babies, a penthouse at the Zaha Hadid building [One Thousand Museum] that I’ve been marketing for a year and a half.” That deal was “only” $18.25 million, she says. Alatriste banked around $210 million in deals last year, with transactions that include co-brokering the sale of a $34 million Coral Gables mansion bought by the parents of Jeff Bezos, according to public records. Her favorite deal of 2022? Selling a four-acre waterfront Coral Gables estate for $38 million. “To be number one, you have to have knowledge,” she says, noting that she started her career in the title business. “And you have to have timing. You have to be available. Your clients have to know you’re working for them and giving them the service and the privacy they deserve.”
Oren and Tal Alexander
The mega-selling Alexander brothers — who exceed $5 billion in career sales and operate in both New York (where Tal lives) and Florida (Oren’s home base) — rocked the industry in June when they decamped from Douglas Elliman after a decade to launch their own brokerage, Official. (In 2021, their deals accounted for an estimated 3 percent of Elliman’s total sales.) Oren’s big transactions in Florida in 2021 (while still at Elliman) included repping the buyer of a $36 million condo sold by Kayak CEO Steve Hafner and selling billionaire Shari Arison’s Bal Harbour estate for $41.5 million. “The key to our success in Miami is knowing the intricacies of the market,” says Oren, who notes his work includes helping transition new residents to a different lifestyle. “I’m introducing them to board members at schools, getting them everything from their masseuses to personal trainers to tennis pros, taking them spear fishing. I help them feel comfortable. I want them to feel a part of the community and really enjoy themselves.” Oren also shares that Official plans to next expand to Aspen and Los Angeles.
CHRISTIAN ANGLE REAL ESTATE
Palm Beach isn’t the seasonal market for suntanned socialites it used to be. Today, it’s a polestar for primary residences. “Buyers are asking me, ‘Where can we put our children in school?’ ‘Where can I get office space?’ ” says Christian Angle. Currently, he’s looking for a buyer for 10 Tarpon Isle, Palm Beach’s only private island, where a 21,406-square-foot mansion is under construction and is asking an incredible $218 million. “People are spending $200 million for one-of-a-kind artworks. People are spending $100 million for a one-of-a-kind Mercedes. This is a one-of-a-kind island. Once it’s sold, it’s gone,” he says. Angle, who repped Sylvester Stallone in his purchase of a $35 million mansion in Palm Beach in 2020, banked more than $850 million in closed or pending sales last year. Those deals include a $50 million spec mansion near Mar-a-Lago; a $23.85 million mansion at 101 Gulfstream Road sold by hedge funder Mark Massey; and a $56 million off-market mansion at 325 Via Linda. “We know about properties before anybody else knows about them,” Angle says of his success since launching his firm in 2006. “We bring a service that’s second to none.”
A mainstay on THR‘s top 30 agents in Hollywood list, Santiago Arana — who has done deals with such celebrities as Lady Gaga and LeBron James — led The Agency’s expansion into the Miami market last year, launching the brokerage’s 34th franchise in Bal Harbour. “We had partners and agents from around the world come to attend our launch and tour some amazing real estate,” says Arana, who stars on Netflix’s new real-estate reality show Buying Beverly Hills. Arana has found a strong Miami market where streamlined, turn-key real estate in exclusive communities is at a premium for folks around the globe. “Buyers and renters from around the U.S., Canada and Latin America,” he says, “are seeking a relaxed oceanside lifestyle-coastal contemporary-style homes, ample outdoor space, amenity-rich offerings and the state’s famously low property tax rates.”
In 2022, Nancy Batchelor, whose career sales top $1 billion, represented the sellers of a $4.3 million Palm Island home to Major Food Group co-founder Mario Carbone and sold a four-bedroom oceanfront condo at Four Seasons Surf Club for $21 million. “Real estate has become all about concierge-style white glove service; you must have a well-equipped ‘black book’ of top designers, contractors, art experts, legal advisers, accountants, etc., all accustomed to dealing with high-net-worth individuals. Having solid vendor relationships that can support their luxe lifestyle is essential,” says Batchelor, who also is known for her philanthropic work via The Batchelor Foundation, run by her husband, Jon, which focuses on grants to support children, animals and the natural environment in South Florida.
ONE SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY
Sky-high interest rates don’t have Elena Bluntzer worried. The CEOs and business executives she specializes in servicing don’t finance the $15 million-plus properties they snap up. “I haven’t had financing contingencies in my contracts for many, many years,” says Bluntzer, who started her career in private banking. “If you want to negotiate the best deal you can, be a cash buyer.” Those cash deals tallied up to $90 million in sales in 2022, including a penthouse at the Four Seasons Residences Miami that included $2 million in artwork. That $15.9 million deal set the record for the Brickell Financial District. She’s currently listing an eight-bedroom estate in Coconut Grove for $48 million — $20 million more than it was asking just three years ago. “We’ve had two offers very close to asking,” she says. “My motto in Miami is work like a New Yorker.”
Eloy Carmenate and Mick Duchon
The founders of the Carmenate/Duchon Team made waves in 2022 with a $93 million megadeal in which they repped the buyer of three contiguous properties in Golden Beach, Florida, helping bring their lifetime sales volume to more than $4 billion, including $230 million in sales last year. They are currently repping a $22 million modern home in Miami Beach owned by Brent Saunders, the former CEO of Botox maker Allergan, and a double lot on Biscayne Bay owned by Full House creator Jeff Franklin, listed for $26.5 million. “The fact that Mick and I are accessible 24/7 ensures our clients know that we are accessible to them regardless of their busy schedules,” says Carmenate. “It makes them feel important and heard.”
Chad Carroll, a former star of Million Dollar Listing Miami, has closed upward of $4.5 billion in career sales, with more than $628 million in 2022. In 2022, he sold a penthouse for $23.5 million to billionaire Adam Weitsman, who saw the property on Instagram (where Carroll has 500,000 followers) and purchased it without physically touring it. Says Carroll, “This deal speaks to the power of social media and branding in real estate.”
Mirce Curkoski and Albert Justo, The Waterfront Team
ONE SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALITY
“Be respectful. Know your market. Know the product you are selling and be discreet,” says Albert Justo, half of Sotheby’s The Waterfront Team, of the duo’s recipe for success. Last year, he and Mirce ‘Miki” Curkoski crushed $259 million in deals, including selling a $38.5 million Miami Beach mansion once owned by NBA star Chris Bosh. In 2021, they also repped the seller of the house bought by Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber. Current listings include the 55th floor penthouse at the Marina Blue at 888 Biscayne Blvd. that was featured in the 2016 film War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill.
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOMESERVICES EWM REALITY
Ashley Cusack broke records in 2022, in September selling The Arsht Estate — a two-home, 4-acre waterfront compound owned by businesswoman and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht, with previous ties to Ziegfeld Follies star Peggy Hopkins and former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. The property went for $107 million (after listing at $150 million) to hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, setting a single-family-home-sale record for Miami-Dade County and becoming the first Miami home to cross the nine-figure price tag. Arsht has expressed plans to donate the proceeds to charity. “It underscored that record-breaking sales continue to happen in Miami — and the world is watching,” says Cusack, a Miami native who totaled more than $212 million in sales from November 2021 to October 2022.
Carmen D’Angelo, Gerard Liguori and Joseph Liguori
PREMIER ESTATE PROPERTIES
When your business focuses exclusively on $1 million-plus properties, the numbers add up fast. Over the past three years, the three co-owners of Premier Estate Properties — who started the firm three decades ago — have stacked up sales in excess of $6 billion in South Florida. In 2022, they sold a mansion once owned by race car driver Jeff Gordon for $36 million, a record price for the town of Highland Beach, according to The Wall Street Journal. “People come to us because we are the go-to guys that have the best houses,” says D’Angelo. Their current listings include the Delray Beach mansion of Kevin James, on the market for $17.9 million.
Jill Eber, Jill Hertzberg and Judy Zeder
THE JILLS ZEDER GROUP, COLDWELL BANKER
Hertzberg and longtime business partner Eber already had closed billions in sales in their hometown of Miami under their iconic trademark, “The Jills,” before joining forces with another one of Miami’s best brokers in 2019: Zeder. The result is sales of $6.6 billion since becoming The Jills Zeder Group and $1.6 billion in deals last year — not to mention the founding of a multi-family realtor dynasty, with each member pulling considerable financial weight. In September, Hertzberg and Eber represented trophy home-obsessed hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin in his $107 million purchase of the 12-bedroom Arsht Estate. The group also kept the stars happy, selling the Venetian Islands home of Grammy winner Emilio Estefan in May for $13.7 million. “There’s not exactly a secret sauce to these deals,” says Eber. “But they come to us because we have the collective knowledge, we care and we protect their privacy.”
Fredrik Eklund and John Gomes
EKLUND | GOMES, DOUGLAS ELLIMAN
With more than $20 billion in career transactions, the power duo of John Gomes and former Million Dollar Listing star Fredrik Eklund go to great lengths for their clients. “There is nothing we wouldn’t do to secure our clients the deal they want, short of breaking any laws or the code of ethics,” says Eklund. “I remember a time when we sent a helicopter for a client to fly in for a showing.” Although the Eklund | Gomes Team also has footholds in New York, California, Texas and Nevada (the team has been on both THR‘s New York and L.A. top agents lists), Gomes asserts there is something unique about the Miami/Palm Beach market: “There are not many world-class cities that offer a bustling city and a pristine beach,” he says. They are currently representing condos in the Waldorf Astoria Residences Miami, part of a 100-floor tower scheduled to be completed in 2025; 87 percent of the units already have sold.
Suzanne Frisbie, who had $742 million in sales in 2021 and who is part of a family that owns private real estate investment firm the Frisbie Group, is a Palm Beach specialist. Her big deals include selling 10 Tarpon Isle in Palm Beach for $85 million, while her current listings include a $79 million waterfront mansion.
“In my opinion, Miami is still undervalued compared to the other major markets. It offers a fantastic lifestyle: a no-tax state, a burgeoning restaurant and art scene, the ability to live on the water, incredible beaches,” says Carl Gambino, who is licensed in New York, California and Florida and broke a price-per-square-foot record on Miami-Dade’s Fisher Island with the sale of a $21 million condo (co-listed with Dora Puig). Gambino, a regular on THR‘s list of top L.A. agents, also holds the listing for Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner’s $17 million waterfront Miami mansion. But his big deals come at a cost. “I personally make myself available to my clients at all times,” he jokes, “often to the annoyance of my wife!”
Dina Goldentayer has something big to look forward to in 2023. “We already have an offer,” she says of 355 Ocean Blvd., a 32,000-square-foot oceanfront manse in Golden Beach that she is co-listing with Ryan Serhant for $100 million. “This price point is the start of a new trend in Miami, but it’s not going to be the norm,” she adds. Last year, she did $750 million in sales after hitting the same mark the previous year. Not bad for an immigrant from Moldova who got her real estate license at age 23. “I had to grind my way to the top … and this was my second-best year ever,” says Goldentayer, who also sold a $16 million home bought by Future last year and sold radio personality Tom Joyner’s beach house on Golden Beach for $19 million. “It’s very rare to get an oceanfront single-family there, because there basically aren’t any,” she says of Joyner’s sumptuous spread. “It’s like a Malibu beach house and I repped the buyer and the seller.”
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOMESERVICES EWM REALITY
Nelson Gonzalez‘s bold-face clients over the years have included Jimmy Page, Billy Joel, Phil Collins and Cher. “I sold Cher four different properties in Miami,” says Gonzalez, who studied to be an architect. “She was the most wonderful person and just super down-to-earth and super cool.” In 2022, Gonzalez closed $178 million in sales (with more than $3 billion over his career) by moving properties like 2608 Biarritz Drive, which sold for $15.5 million in October, shattering the sales record for Normandy Island. “The secret to working with celebrities is to earn their trust,” he says. “Don’t be pushy, but educate your buyer. Phil Collins didn’t want to spend a penny over $15 million. But I showed him [5800 North Bay Road] and said, ‘Listen, what you’re paying is land value. The house is virtually free.’ He ended up spending $33 million.”
Hillary Hertzberg Benson, Felise Eber, Danny Hertzberg, Kara Zeder Rosen and Nathan Zeder
THE JILLS ZEDER GROUP, COLDWELL BANKER
This quintet of agents may be related to the founders of the high-powered Jills Zeder Group, but don’t think they are resting on any nepo laurels. Danny and Hillary (children of co-founder Jill Hertzberg) bring, among other things, digital know-how to the business, with Danny also involved in the sale of two out of the three homes that comprised a $93 million transaction in Golden Beach in June, a deal that took more than a year to put together. Nathan, a former pro tennis player, co-founded the Zeder team with his mom, Judy Zeder. Kara — who is married to private equity executive Rick Rosen, of H.I.G. Capital — joined her brother Nathan and mother Judy in 2009 after working in commercial real estate development. Felise also is a founding member of her sister Jill Eber’s team, bringing 25 years of real estate experience to the game as well as expertise in interior design, antiques and fashion.
A Miami native, Liz Hogan co-listed Christian Slater’s Miami home last year, selling it in three days for $4.258 million (at 10 percent above asking), as well as represented a waterfront mansion in Hollywood, Florida, that sold to a firm led by international soccer star Sergio Leonel Agüero, landing at a city-record $15 million. Relationships are a key to success, says Hogan, who has $1.5 billion in career sales and brought in more than $159 million in 2022. Says Hogan (who counts past clients in telenovela star Ana Karina Manco, NBA player Victor Oladipo and musician Niles Rodgers), “Miami’s luxury market continues to thrive with the influx of wealthy buyers and corporate relocations.”
Julian Johnston, who moved from Australia to Miami in his early 20s to work in nightlife as a VIP concierge, has notched more than $5 billion in lifetime sales and handled luxury rentals for such stars as Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, Jay-Z, Drake, Kylie Jenner and singer Maluma. His deals last year included a $20 million condo at Zaha Hadid’s One Thousand Museum and repping a buyer who spent $29 million on a Tuscan estate formerly owned by Madonna. Johnston credits his “knowledge and integrity” for his ability to give clients honest advice. “This business is not only about real estate,” he adds. “There are people who have moved to Miami Beach from other states and they need help getting adjusted to the community. I connect them with the best architects and contractors in the city, but I also make introductions to directors at schools and private beach clubs.”
Dana and Paulette Koch
This mother-son team, with more than $5 billion in career sales, is consistently behind some of the biggest deals in Palm Beach, such as repping the buyer of an 18,000-square-foot home at 901 N. Ocean Blvd. for $95.5 million last year and selling the historic El Solano estate in 2020 for $36 million. Built in 1925 by iconic South Florida architect Addison Mizner, El Solano was previously owned by Harold K. Vanderbilt and later John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Previous clients have included basketball great Michael Jordan, drummer Max Weinberg and producer Sidney Kimmel. In 2023, “we hope that many of the headwinds we’ve been dealing with will start to subside,” says Dana Koch. “For us, smooth sailing means that inflation goes down, mortgage rates become a little more reasonable and the markets see less volatility.” The pair also just sold a $23.75 million condo to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. “Having a second generation with complementary skill sets has allowed us to expand dramatically and enhance our business,” adds Dana. “Along with Corcoran, over the last 19 years we’ve become a very successful ‘brand within a brand.’” Last year, the team did $400 million in deals.
After proving his chops in New York and Miami real estate, Chris Leavitt found it took a while for Palm Beach to warm up to him. “In high school I knew I wanted to sell real estate, and it was my dream to sell in Palm Beach. Later, I got on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing Miami, and Palm Beach did not love that. It was like, ‘Who’s this flashy realtor on that stupid reality show?’ It wasn’t until I got sales under my belt that people were like, ‘All right, this guy knows what he’s doing,’ ” says Leavitt. His deals continue to speak for themselves. Leavitt did more than $600 million in sales in 2021 and more than $550M in 2022. While he won’t comment on it, Leavitt is reportedly one of the brokers listing Larry Ellison’s North Palm Beach Estate for $145 million — after just selling him that home in 2021 for $80 million. In 2021, he set a record at the time for a Florida home sale when he sold private equity bigwig Scott Shleifer a mansion for $135 million. In March, he brought the $45.4 million buyer of the Palm Beach mansion of Princess Alia bint Al Hussein — daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan — according to the New York Post. “I know how to psychologically handle clients: when to push, when to pull back, when to not speak, when to not get my opinion,” he says. “I make them feel comfortable. I’m a professional and they trust me.”
LAWRENCE A. MOENS ASSOCIATES
When private equity mogul Scot French decided to flip his “billionaire’s row” mansion in May, he tapped Lawrence Moens. That South Ocean Boulevard spread is now on the market for $115 million — aiming for $51 million in profit on French’s initial $64 million investment. Not every broker can pull off that type of financial magic trick, but decades of deals prove Moens just might. The owner of his eponymous firm since the 1980s, Moens is one of Palm Beach’s most prolific brokers. Despite — or thanks to — his famous anonymity (he never has publicly released a photo of himself), he has worked with billionaires including Donald Trump, Steve Wynn and Ken Griffin. But it was his record-breaking $173 million deal for Larry Ellison in Manalapan in June — the biggest residential property sale in the U.S. last year — that put him on everybody’s radar. Although his true sales volume is unknown (Moens declined to comment for this story), The Real Deal estimates his 2021 deals to exceed $1 billion.
LUXE LIVING REALTY
“I had a terrific first four months, then, when the interest rate hikes started with the Fed, it started to soften a bit. My client’s portfolios were down $100 million, you know, that affects people’s purchasing decisions,” says Dora Puig, who did $500 million in sales in 2022 and $970 million the prior year. “But my biggest year prior to 2021 was $386 million,” she says. “So I think $500 million is outstanding.” She got there by setting records — including the $40 million sale of a penthouse atop Palazzo Della Luna on exclusive Fisher Island. She repped the seller of the unit, achieving the highest price and the highest price per square foot in Fisher Island history for her client. The buyer was Kayak’s CEO Steve Hafner. But her favorite deal of the year went down at 55 East San Marino Drive on one of the ritzy Venetian Islands. “No one thought that it would trade at $20 million, or even $18 million at the time, because it was a shell,” she says. “But I was able to sell it to a Northeast family for $21.5 million.”
Evan Nicole Brown, Kirsten Chuba and Hadley Meares contributed to this report.
A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.