Meet Matias Alem, founder of BRG International, an innovative luxury brand out of Miami, Florida.
Being a luxury agent is a sexy concept. Yet the luxury market has its own unique challenges. Like any market, you have to learn to differentiate.
Matias and I discuss:
Entering the luxury real estate market
   *Reimagining the use of disappearing space by simply helping clients create new space
   *Designing the perfect space when it isn’t available through, BRG Studio, the sister company and full-service Architecture office
   *The wide range of properties available and how investing in Miami is a great bet for their future

When you’re ready, here are a few ways I can help you…

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Justin Stoddart 0:00
If you’ve ever wanted to know how to get into luxury, or how to differentiate yourself in the luxury market, then you are absolutely listening to the right episode. Today’s guest is out of Miami Beach, Florida. He deals with luxury all day long. He’s got some great insight for us as to what’s happening in luxury as well as helping you succeed in the luxury market stay with us.

Alright, welcome back to the Think bigger real estate Show. I’m your host Justin Stoddart thrilled today to have to be with a brother from another mother. He’s from Brazil, folks, for those that know me well know they spent two years of my life in Brazil. Absolutely love the Brazilian people. Maybe just maybe we might throw out a little Portuguese for those that are, you know that are tuning in. excited to introduce today’s guest before I give you his full name. He has 22 years of experience in the real estate space 15 of those in luxury. He’s out of one of the hotspots for all luxury real estate again out of Miami Beach, Florida. He’s the founder and owner of BRG International and a firm that deals with luxury as well as some other things excited to have Matias lay on the think that you really should think bigger real estate show today. Matias thanks for joining us.

Matias Alem 1:22
Thank you Justin pleasure to be here.

Justin Stoddart 1:24
What a fun connection, right? The fact that I lived in your country for two years, obviously fell in love with Brazilian people have a deep deep respect for, for you all and thrilled to now be able to talk about something that we both have in common beyond just Brazil. So again, pleasure to have you.

Matias Alem 1:39
Yes, awesome to be here. You know, I love Brazil too. But I’d be here in the US for 22 years, 23 years, actually. And, you know, I also love the US. So I love both countries are in a good space.

Justin Stoddart 1:53
I love it and love it. Now you came here originally for architectural school, right studied architecture, at what point did you realize, you know, at the University of Miami that it’s like, you know, I don’t necessarily want to design buildings, I want to sell buildings like how did that come to be? Well,

Matias Alem 2:06
actually, let me explain a little bit better. It’s the other way around. I my first job, I actually got my real estate license, I was 19. And then I worked in real estate for two years. And then I decided, well, I want to learn more about this. So I want to get into architecture. So I got into architecture school. And you know, I worked throughout the time that I was in school. So I always worked through real estate and architecture, even when I you know was in schools already doing projects, residential projects. And when I graduated architecture school was actually August 2008. So you can imagine how the market was at that time.

Justin Stoddart 2:53
Yeah, lovely tend to be in real estate, right?

Matias Alem 2:56
So yeah, there is no, there is no, you know, real estate to be done in August 2008, or architecture because nobody wants to build anything. So actually, I started going to Brazil, at that time to try to find development projects to do a development project in Brazil. And I put up a piece of property under contract was actually a farm. And I was going to do a masterplan community. But I didn’t know I didn’t have money. So I went to looking for investors in Brazil. And it took me a while because I was going back and forth from Miami to Brazil to get the investors I ended up meeting a lot of investors and my time right now with the option to buy the property. So the owner didn’t want did not want to renew my option. You know, he ended up selling the property for twice as much a week later. And, you know, that got me thinking, look, I mean, Miami, you know, one of the best places in the world. I mean, I’m, I’m suspicious talk about that because I live here but I love it. And in the real estate was depressed and because I was going back and forth to Brazil, I noticed that the realty was very valued, and the dollar was devalued. So I you know, a light bulb came up and said, Look, why don’t I focus in Miami where I have control of the real estate of the properties and control the situation. And I go to Brazil to offer these properties to resilience. So that’s how I actually got my company started, you know, the luxury real estate, I because I was just a one man show I did not have you know, a lot of agents at the time. Now we have 28 agents, but if I’m going to have any agents so I said I need to have the highest price property. You know, the luxury property so it’s just one person so I can make enough income to keep going so I basically went to the ball harbor. I don’t know if you know Miami, you know Miami, Justin? Okay, so ball harbor is one of the, you know, nicest neighborhoods in Miami, the most one of the most luxurious neighborhoods, and they were building a St. Regis, you know, the St. Regis brand. It’s a, it’s a hotel in New York. So they opened up a condo hotel in Miami bar, which is the nicest neighborhood is running front of one of the nicest shopping centers in the country, which is barber shops. So that that building was, you know, beautiful location, extremely high end. But, you know, everybody was defaulting, nobody was buying. So there was a bunch of properties available to sell, I go up to the sales manager and say, Look, you know, I’ve met a lot of investors in Brazil, I think these people might be interested in buying this building, can you help me, you know, with the materials, presentation for me to think the building to Brazil and present to people that agreed. So I went out to Brazil and I did presentations, I will do 40 minute presentations on how that moment in time was unique, you know, where the property prices were depressed, as well as the price of the dollar. You know, it never happened, where both of them were so low at the same time, for Brazilians, which the economy was doing good at the time was a, you know, golden opportunity. So I was able to influence a lot of people, you know, I actually got picked up by the media there. And I was in the cover of follow economical, which is like Wall Street Journal of the US. And ended up getting a lot of clients and selling a lot of property in in the St. Regis. But because I have the architectural background, in already had experience building properties, I ended up you know, these people would ask me, Oh, can you design my place? Can you build it, you know, so I ended up doing like, an ecosystem where I would sell the property, I would design the project, I’ll build it for them. And then they would need me to take care of it. So I opened up a property management company that would handle the property, while while they were away, some people would want to rent it. So we would rent the property. So basically, that’s how we set up, you know, VRG, beyond it’s beyond Realty Group, we do you know, these different services for our clients. And we’re able to, you know, take market share in a moment where the economy was, you know, people didn’t have a market, you know, at the time. So, that’s how we’re able to, I was able to, you know, establish myself in the luxury market, basically. And I think

Justin Stoddart 7:37
it’s really interesting lesson for everybody that that’s listening here that one way to really thrive in the real estate market. Right, let me back up. So one way to not thrive is to be like everybody else, one way to thrive when you’re dealing with people who are wealthy, wealthy people, most oftentimes don’t become wealthy by being dumb, right? They get there, because they’re smart business people. And I’ve seen some of the finest luxury agents that I know, who aren’t just marketing properties, they’re putting deals together, they’re looking for deals. And that sounds like exactly what you were doing as you became a student of the deal. Student of what’s the economy doing now? Where’s the real opportunity to gain wealth while everyone else is losing wealth? Right, I think, you know, our economy is doing some interesting things, the housing markets doing some interesting things. It’ll be interesting to see what happens here in the next few months. And, you know, several years to see what happens to the housing market. I know, nobody’s predicting that I’ve heard seriously that, you know, that there’s going to be some sort of massive bubble like it wasn’t 2008. But I everybody that I do know does believe that that housing appreciation is going to start to slow down, and could potentially even go down just a little bit. I think, again, just a great reminder for everybody that again, wants to get into luxurious, become can become a student, of even potentially what economies are doing well, when your local economy is not, that may be a great way to step in and have buyers ready to purchase properties, you’re able to put deals together, helping people to create massive wealth while helping other people to get out of a bad situation. So Good on you for taking advantage of that seeing the opportunity based on people where you were at based on where you are currently at the time. Well done. Thank you talk about just a little bit about so that’s one way to get into the real estate market. Okay, let’s say that you’re in your establish, what other tips do you have for people that are, you know, selling some luxury property, maybe even a lot of luxury property, but they want to continue to differentiate, they want to stand out from everybody else. What’s something that you’re teaching your 28 agents to help them stand out in a very crowded marketplace?

Matias Alem 9:40
Okay, so, you know, as you mentioned, the buyer and the seller and the high end market, they’re very sophisticated people, right? So they, they’re looking for people that are giving them intelligent advice, right. So so the service section of providing You know, the highest quality service for your client means that knowing your stuff, you know, you gotta understand the market. You know, this is a usual speech, I guess, of knowing your market, knowing your property, knowing not only that, but the history, what has happening, what has been happening to that property specific property or this specific building, or neighborhood, throughout time, I always tell my agents, the first thing they you know, when they join, like, the first thing you got to do is learn, there’s nothing else besides learning, that’s going to get you to do the, you know, the bigger deals, because they happen to me, whenever the clients came to me, and I was just starting the luxury market, they would ask me 1000 questions, okay, so why buy here? Why not buy there? What happened to this building? What do you think is going to happen in the future, I mean, they want to know, all this, otherwise, they could just go by the by themselves, if you’re not adding any value to them. I mean, worthwhile, therefore, you know, so, as a buyer’s agent, you got to know this stuff, you got to know the, you know, the entire all the moving variables moving parts of the deal. As far as sellers goes, you know, obviously, sellers, they want the highest price they can get for a property. So when you’re representing a seller, you need to have, you know, extremely good representation, you know, so they need to see that you are going to represent their luxury property at a level, that’s going to reflect the price you’re asking for them. And obviously, everybody has to be honest with each other, you know, a lot of sellers, they’re gonna ask for more than it’s worth, but you know, being that everything is aligned, you know, the pricing is aligned in the market. So, you have to be able to not only present the product, the best way possible, but also to communicate that to as many likely agents to have a client as possible, you know, you see a lot of people that they want to be in the, you know, the luxury space, and then they take a picture of $10 million properties with their iPhone, you know, that’s not the way to do it, you know, you have to, you know, to do things in a professional way, and you have to convey that to your, your seller. So, it’s a very different let’s say, speech for the buyer and the seller, you know, they want different things. But in the end of the day, they want your service they want, you know, accountant or professional, that knows what they’re doing, and understands, you know, the market. So I think, you know, professionalism, knowing stuff and going the extra mile doing the effort that your buyer or seller can see that you’re doing, you know, you’re gonna be fine, you’re gonna, you’re gonna take the job, you’re gonna get the project the property, you know, and you’re gonna do

Justin Stoddart 12:55
it. I think when realtor margins get squeezed, or Realtors get squeezed out altogether, is when they simply show up as a functionary to simply open a door, write a contract. But when you can add unique value in the form of unique knowledge that other people don’t have. That’s where you begin to differentiate yourself. And people realize the value in having you a part of the transaction far exceeds what it costs to have you in the transaction. If you could teach us a, you know, Mateus? What are the kind of key things that you have your agents learn? You said no gain knowledge. You know, you talked about the history, you talked about kind of what’s happening in the area, what’s expected to happen the area? Are there certain market metrics that the luxury buyer or seller really is interested in more than others? And there’s so many to focus on? What are your favorite kind of key market indicators that you watch most closely?

Matias Alem 13:50
Are you talking about a neighborhood basis or building? So? Yeah, so actually what we do in the sellers, they love this, we put together market reports, you know, a lot of brokerage, a lot of brokerages, they put out market reports, right? But we go a little bit beyond that and we localize our market reports. So for example, I just bought one year for you to have an example you know, your your viewers can see what we do. So we put out these market reports and they’re localized per neighborhood. So, this is the neighborhood that I was talking to you about barber and Surfside which are right next to each other. And you know, we would make them in a very high end look. So, you know, they can look and feel the this is the type of property work we work with. And then we localize even further by building. So like for example, this building, you can see what happened within the next quarter, you know that we went up you know, 21% on the sold price. So, as far as information goes to the Due to the sellers, for example, and the buyers, they want to know, what’s what’s happening, you know, on a timely basis, you know, so sometimes we, this gets delayed because of supply chain issues, you know, the paper didn’t arrive on time, whatever it is. And then we get owners, the homeowners, they call the office and say, Look, I didn’t get my market report, can you please make sure I get it? This is my address, you know, so when you’re asking when, when you have clients calling you asking you, hey, please keep me in the loop, you know, that means you’re, you’re, you’re providing them with the right information that they’re relying on. So this is a way to differentiate, you know, and this can be done anywhere in the US, you know, in the world, for that matter, so they’re all have high end neighborhoods, so you can work with,

Justin Stoddart 15:47
I love it, I love it. You guys in Miami right now have a lot of people moving into your market right out of the Northeast and of different places. Some of that is a political migration, some of it is just people escaping the cold, right, kind of really wanting to go for a warmer climate as our as our demographics of, you know, of the US, you know, start to age, there’s a lot of people that, you know, want to escape those those those hard, cold winters? What’s some strategies that you found Mathias to really, almost create supply where others can’t see it? Right, that’s, that’s one of the biggest things that we find is that there’s plenty of demand, there’s plenty of buyers, but finding sellers is is, you know, can be tricky. You guys have some creative strategies around that, don’t you as far as helping to almost create new space that other people didn’t see touch a little bit about that?

Matias Alem 16:33
Right? Yeah. So you know, because we have the architectural ARM architecture and construction are so we are able to help buyers buy property that they probably will not look at otherwise, right, because we give such an ease of them being able to buy, for example, we had a client that wanted a, you know, beautiful brand new waterfront home, but at that time waterfront homes are like $30 million to buy a waterfront home to the level that they want it. So they ended up buying a lot for $6 million, we’re recurrently approving a project for them. And they’re probably going to spend another six or $7 million to build a house. So you know, 12 $13 million, they’re gonna have a $25 million house, you know that, of course, you’re gonna have to wait a little longer to get a finished and build. And but, you know, at the same time, they’re saving a lot of money, and they’re enjoying the process, and they’re customizing the home to the way they want it. As opposed to just buying something that’s, you know, somebody else’s decisions. We also do that with the condos, condos, it’s much easier actually. Because commonly you just need an interior renovation, you might, you know, might come in and look at a condo that’s not well, you know, maybe it’s the old condo. And we can even customize it to a two or three bedroom. You know, maybe it’s a two bedroom we can make into a three bedroom or, you know, or open up the condo a lot more. Or even sometimes clients they just want to create instant equity and then just resell that property for more money. So as far as our brokerage is concerned, we have that ability to provide these additional services because of my background of architecture and construction, you know, high end pedestrian construction so we can produce these inventory that didn’t exist, you know that. That’s obviously we don’t have access to it.

Justin Stoddart 18:33
I love it. I think people are gonna want to know anybody that’s moved to Miami like yeah, that’s a problem, right that I can’t find property. Let’s do it before I forget. Let’s let’s, let’s get your website for anybody that wants to invest in Miami property or wants to move there, right. Let’s BRG. In fact I’ll put it in the comments here the website for anybody that’s looking to go that way looking to find somebody who can help you create you know, market that supply that isn’t there. So great stuff. Love it. Let’s let’s talk really quickly about kind of buying in Miami, like what advice do you have and just to the two questions built into each other like what are you seen with the Miami Real Estate market right now? Obviously in 2008 it was hot, hot, hot, and then it went stone cold right dropped to the floor. What are you seeing with Miami Real Estate right now? What are the opportunities and then even if you could talk kind of more globally when it comes to not internationally necessarily but but just luxury in general? What what input do you have what are you seeing economically that might be an opportunity for whether it be buyers or sellers.

Matias Alem 19:38
Okay, so So Miami has gone through a fundamental change as far as the city goes, you know, it’s a pretty young city in the United States you know, if you compare to other major cities like New York, or LA so what happened to Miami is originally you know, historically has been a second home location where people would come either to retire or to buy a second home, a condo house, you know, to use it during vacation during the season. Right. And then, as you mentioned, you know, there has been a migration of the Northeast scenarios, people moving for tax reasons or political reasons moving to South Florida. And that that had happened, you know, from a while back, and it was slow moving, but then COVID accelerated that, especially because of the, you know, we didn’t have as much restrictions as the rest of the country, you’re in COVID. So that was a, you know, accelerated. And what that made was, you know, a market that was originally a second home market has become a first home market. And what people are willing to pay on a second home is much different to what they’re willing to pay for their primary home. Interesting. So that has shifted the market. So with that, I believe that there’s still plenty of opportunities here in South Florida, I mean, there’s much less inventory, right. But the the advantage of of my hand is that during the season, people do travel, like automated during the, you know, the summer months, usually people are not here. And when they’re very wealthy in the luxury market, for example, even more so because they, you know, they tend to go to The Hamptons, or to Europe, or, you know, they’re not really chained to anywhere. So it becomes much easier to do deals during the summer. So like, right now, if you come July, August to Miami, you’d be able to find property and be able to buy property, much easier than you would, if you were to come here and see during the season, you know, December, January, February, becomes crazy, because you have a lot more people here than you have properties. So I think, on the basis of, if you compare the price per square foot of Miami, I mean, obviously, there’s there’s things that the pricing is already high, but there’s a lot of product here, there’s a lot of properties that if you compare the pricing per square foot of premium oceanfront properties here, compared to maybe, you know, in front of Central Park property in New York City, or London or in Paris, there’s, it’s still a lot cheaper, you can still sell your property in New York, looking at them dumpster and buy for much less a property here looking at beautiful ocean, you know, so I think we’re still a value proposition to a lot of people, luxury, you know, buyers from all over the world. And if you look at asset inflation, you know, you mentioned beginning inflation. A lot of these properties have not been adjusted, you know, to replace a lot of the buildings today, it would cost a lot more than he did when, you know, when they built it. So, the pricing has not been, you know, adjusted yet. So I think that even though everything has increased tremendously, we did, we did suffer a little bit of a downturn in 2018 19. Miami, because of the trade wars that were happening, China, the dollar got extremely strong, and we had a lot of foreign national, especially the Brazilians, they stopped buying. And they were trying to sell their property. So we actually, we were Medanta, Miami as a localized market. And then we came out of it. So we’re like, we’re coming out of it. You know, so I think still a lot of opportunity out here for people like good locations, good buildings, good property.

Justin Stoddart 23:51
You know, I think you’ve opened everybody’s eyes Matias to, and I teach this a lot inside my book, The upstream model. There it is on that side. And just how to differentiate in this market is that oftentimes, when we don’t differentiate, we’re simply trying to build a better mousetrap, right? We’re trying to say, How can I list the property more competitively? How can I market better when you can say, okay, here is the silo of work that is expected of a real estate agent? And then you can say, okay, what are the concerns that a client has prior to this? And what are the concerns that a client has after this, and you start to in in most, add those, the resolution of those concerns into your value proposition? Like, for example, I can’t find property, right? Okay, then we’re going to help you find a property that can be built, right. And then, you know, once they get in having the construction ability to be able to help people improve a property. I think that’s how we all need to be thinking is that if that seems like there’s too much competition, then you just need to change your value proposition to potentially include other concerns that that client has well as As you start to do that, people will choose you not necessarily because you have a better price, because you’re faster, but because you’re taking care of more of their concerns by them choosing you, and I love what you’ve done with that. Matias, it makes total sense why you guys are, you know, really building a great brand, in a competitive real estate space, I guess someone can all learn from

Matias Alem 25:18
Thank you. And, you know, just to make it easier for you know, some of the agents out there, they might not have an architecture degree. But you know, if, if a buyer comes in, you know, in a place where there’s no inventory, if you’re the agent, that you’re knocking on everybody’s door, and you know, all the sellers, you know, all the owners, and you cost a contract to them. I mean, you’re gonna have a lot more value to the buyer, you know what I mean? So you can do, there’s lots of things that you can do that you can add value to your client. And you should just be looking at that, like, how can I do it?

Justin Stoddart 25:49
I love it. And I think creative partnerships as well. Right. One of the things I talk about my book is, you know, the power of creating upstream partnerships, anytime you can take a look at other professionals that are dealing with your client first, right before you get there, those are great people to bring in. And that coupled very nicely with what I just talked about when it comes to adding more value to your value proposition doesn’t mean that you have to own the firm or as you mentioned, Mateus have a degree in architecture, but you can find someone who does right, add big value to them. And through that partnership doesn’t have to be a formal partnership, right? It can just be an arranged referral arrangement to where you’re, you know, your your your value propositions are somewhat integrated. You can you can cover a lot of ground really differentiate yourself. So I would encourage anybody if that topic is of interest to you, then join me inside of my Facebook group successful real estate agents where we really go deep on creating strategic referral partnerships, scaling and referral business. We’d love to have anybody out there that’s listening that’s not in there yet. Mateus I won’t ask you one more question here that really ties in with with the theme of this show to think bigger real estate show? What is it that Matias does to continue to be a big thinker to continue to expand your possibilities. What does it what does what does growth for you look like? How do you do it teach us

Matias Alem 27:09
I think you know what I’ve been talking about. It’s what I you know, it’s pretty simple. It’s just learn, learn things in focus, there is two main things that I keep doing. And whenever I go, you know, we’re looking actually on opening up offices, in other locations, for example, other high end locations here in Florida. Learning and focusing and being like, on point on that, for me has been enough for me to be able to grow my business and grow my clientele and expand to the areas that I’ve been trying to expand you know, so whenever I’m trying to do a new I mean even even just running the business, you know, just running the real estate brokerage I had to learn so I couldn’t have been run the broker on day one. So I had to stop and you know, had many times where you get discouraged. And you know, we get challenged and you just gotta you know, take the initiative to press forward by understanding things and try to understand things and learn things as you go and not lose focus.

Justin Stoddart 28:20
And we to bone more with more with regard aquatera visitado me Nessie Jia no Think bigger real estate show. Ting Ting. See the green enterprise they’re great presenters

Matias Alem 28:33
with regard to Justine

Justin Stoddart 28:36
with presume it is alright everybody, thank you so much for tuning in. Matias, again. Thank you so much for coming on and teaching us so much about the luxury market, how to differentiate. It’s such a pleasure excited to have you in my network, be able to continue to learn and grow together. And for those that are tuning in today, learning from Mateus, please give him a shout out say thanks for the comments. Be sure that he knows that we appreciate his time. And my final requests of everybody listening in to their three simple words. And they are go think bigger. Matias, thanks for helping us do that today, my friend.

Matias Alem 29:05
Thank you, my friend. I really appreciate it. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. God bless