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Miami’s ‘big boys’ banking on International Sales Group

Marketing consultant Rick Barrow has been at the forefront of the Miami condo boom since the 1990s, working with all the top developers and players.

“Through the rise and fall” and lately Barrow agrees there is an apparent major “shift in the landscape.”

Today he says, “The big boys from the banks and Wall Street hold all the cards in this market, and lately it looks like they are all putting their money on the same sales team – International Sales Group.”

Over the past six months, he says, “there have been a handful of beauty contests and shoot-outs among the top sales firms for big projects, and ISG has won almost all of them.

“It started with the Starwood (now ST Residential) purchase of the Corus Bank portfolio of a half dozen Miami projects, and their choosing ISG as their first local sales partner at Tao. That was followed with Jorge Perez’s Related Group choosing ISG for their first portfolio property in Broward, called Veranda.”

“During this same period,” Barrow continues, “you saw major players like Tom Daley and Michael Swerdlow reach out to ISG to market their properties in Bal Harbour and Daytona Beach. But the real blockbusters came late last year when ISG picked up the biggest projects in Downtown Miami and in South Beach: Rockwood Capital’s 800-unit Everglades condo on Biscayne Boulevard, and a Credit Suisse affiliate’s takeover of the Gansevoort hotel and condominium property on the ocean.”

“So you are looking at a winning streak that includes the biggest property downtown, the biggest property on the beach, and all of the biggest local players. You’d have to say they ran the table,” agrees Barrow.

According to ISG principals Philip Spiegelman and Craig Studnicky, the recent success noted here is the end result of more than a year of hard work and preparation.

“We went to the mattresses,” says Spiegelman, “digging into every property in the market, working all of our contacts and finally coming up with a major market report we called Perception vs. Reality.”

“And it opened everyone’s eyes, here and on Wall Street, because it rejected the conventional media wisdom about the condo market in Florida.”

Notes Studnicky, “We were able to show that Florida’s condo market had great underlying strength, that inventory was moving, and that we were in the fourth quarter with the goal line in sight.”

“A lot of property owners and banks saw our report and realized that the time to sit in their hands had passed, and our phones began to light up.”

ISG matched their insights with quick sales turnarounds, and meanwhile restocked an international broker network that is the envy of the industry. They also turned up and formed new strategic partnerships with major players in Europe and Asia to match their firepower in Latin America.

New partners also include top firms in construction management, receiverships, financing sources and marketing.

“We expanded our portfolio to offer the one-stop asset marketing and management all of our new clients were looking for, and put ourselves in position to solve all of the problems at one table,” says Spiegelman, “and the response has been so great that we now have the kind of inventory volume that brings every broker in the western hemisphere to our door. Our clients couldn’t be in a better position.”