Is it the sunny disposition? The infectious laugh, perhaps, or the charming French accent? Sandra DeBuire is ranked sixth on the list of highest-grossing agents in Florida. She’s in the top 1 percent of Coldwell Banker agents, worldwide. Does she have a secret? The customized approach? Her deep knowledge of the Miami market?
“I work maybe three or four times harder than most people,” DeBuire says. And while she seems absolutely fun-loving, the list of what the Paris native brings to the table should begin with her tireless focus. “My way of working is, when I list a property, I want to sell it. I don’t care to have 100 properties to sell if I am not able to sell them,” she says. “Because I work in a boutique shop, I give 100 percent of myself. When my clients give me a listing, I do everything I can. For my buyers it is exactly the same. I am not going to be the Uber driver taking them all over the place. I will take them directly to a good place for them and their family.”
This year, DeBuire’s career total crossed the $100 million mark, but it has not always been easy. She had worked in real estate on the French Riviera and in Monaco, but had plenty to learn when she started in the United States. She secured her work permit in July 2014 and signed on with Coldwell Banker (“the most American real estate company, I guess,” she says) in October 2014, and then endured a couple of tough years. Part of it was a typical adjustment to a complex market, and part of DeBuire’s challenging acclimation was cultural.
“It’s a totally different business in the U.S.,” she notes. “What people expect from a real estate agent here is more diverse—and more interesting. You need, of course, to not only master the market, and do a good job showing the property, but you also have to be a really good marketer, and you need to have some legal knowledge. You need to understand the contract.”
And, more than likely, you’ll skip lunch. “In America, it’s business first and friendship after,” she says. “The way we work and make deals in Europe is, ‘Let’s develop a relationship of trust first, and after, we do business.’ That’s why we spend so much time going for lunch. Here, I barely eat.”
At present, DeBuire’s evolution means she has some of the most dazzling listings on the market, including two in Oceana Bal Harbour. The first, listed for $28.8 million, offers bold contemporary design in two combined units. The second, a four-bedroom condo with nearly 6,000 square feet of living space, features a 32-foot-long rooftop pool as well as ocean, bay, and city views. The $22 million property, DeBuire says, is unique, “because it’s really a house in the sky with a lot of privacy. And, of course, all the service that comes with the luxu1ry building.”
At the Mansions at Acqualina in Sunny Isles, DeBuire has a 9,218-square-foot, four-bedroom tower suite, listing for $10.5 million. With floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor kitchen, the full-floor property has commanding 360-degree views.
Despite those impressive asking prices—and the multi-year run of ever-climbing prices in the Miami area—DeBuise says the city still offers great value as well as opportunity. “Is there a shortage? Yes. That’s why you need to have a good agent,” she notes. “I would say it’s a very, very active market right now. But have the numbers reached the roof? I don’t think so. Our top prices are $20 million, $30 million. In California you have $50, $60, $100 million.”
The real driving force behind Miami’s robust real estate market, DeBuire says, are the ways the city itself has changed in the past decade. “Single-family prices have risen but it’s still underpriced compared to the value,” she notes. “Miami is not a resort anymore. It’s not secondary homes, vacation homes for people; it’s their main residence. Now you have to be on the waiting list to have your kids accepted in the private school. You can find a great condo for $500,000—and where do you find that? In New York, you are in a shoebox for that price. And I come from Paris. In Paris you’d have nothing. You’d be in a studio, under the roof.”
DeBuire shares the common lament about Miami’s relative lack of high culture, but she believes the influx of a wide variety of people from a wide variety of places (and a wide variety of incomes) is sure to transform the city further. “I’m comfortable selling a $200,000 [condominium] and selling a $20 million condo. I am still the same and I provide the same service,” she says. “My clients—I like to feel their joy when they find their new happy place.”
DeBuire’s Take on Five Hot ’Hoods
Bal Harbor Village: “I handled the biggest single-family home sold in Bal Harbor Village. It’s where I have sold my most impressive properties. This is a very wealthy area on the ocean, next to the famous Bal Harbor Shops, where you have Chanel and Gucci.”
Miami Shores: “I personally love this area. It’s very family-oriented. It has a lot of trees, and nice homes. You have schools, parks, supermarkets and some restaurants in walking distance.”
Wynwood: “This neighborhood is very trendy for young people—lots of restaurants, places to hang around. My clientele would not live in Wynwood. They would go out in Wynwood but would not live there.”
North Bay Village: “Really undervalued. It’s good for middle-class people and has super nice views and a natural breeze.”
Mid-Beach: “There are some buildings that I really do like in Mid-Beach (between 24th and 60th streets). You can buy here for, let’s say $1,300 to $1,400 per square foot, and I think it will get to $2,000 very very quickly.”