If you want to know the real personality of a city—not just the slogans on travel ads and brochures—talk to the people who manage its real estate. Will Delgado, vice president of the tower division at Castle Group, for example, knows that people in Miami are often young, bilingual, and tend to be very active, while people in Palm Beach enjoy a more easygoing lifestyle. Delgado also knows that understanding the differences between markets is the best way for his company to understand the customer; a person’s choice of city reveals a lot about their lifestyle and expectations.
This commitment to understanding markets and, subsequently, customers, is just one factor that helped Castle Group survive and thrive after the housing bubble burst. The property management company continued to grow through the recession, even when Florida ranked among the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.
Castle Group plans ahead—an admirable trait that insulated it during the recession. Part of that insulation is simply the nature of the property management industry; if a property has been built, it will always need a manager, regardless of economic climate. Delgado hesitates to call it a recession-proof industry, but there is certainly always a demand.
Another strategy that boosted the company’s success was the building of a 22,000-square-foot office in Plantation, Florida, to support its managers throughout the state—a unique decision for any property management firm. None of Castle Group’s local competitors has anything like it. “You look at the layout, and you understand what it takes to operate a business like this,” Delgado says. “There are a thousand tasks on every property, in any month, that someone has to manage well.” The intention that went into the office space, which includes a call center and support departments, reflects the commitment to planning that defines the company’s culture. “We plan everything here,” Delgado says with a laugh. “That was one of the characteristics that attracted me to Castle Group in the first place.”
Castle Group manages properties in a number of Florida cities including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Tampa, with most of its properties in the southeastern tri-county area of Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
Demand for high-rise housing in that tri-county area hit highs in the second half of 2013 and 2014, Delgado says, and was much higher than anywhere else in Florida. More than 150 high-rise buildings were in a phase of planning or development in that area at the end of 2014. “You look at the Miami skyline today, and you’ll see almost as many tower cranes in the sky as you did during the 2005 market, which we know was hyper-inflated,” he says. “It’s a level of building we haven’t seen in a long time.”
The first explanation that springs to mind for Miami’s burgeoning development is the weather. Northern Florida gets colder than most people assume; Tampa’s temperatures can drop into the 50s in December and January, while it’s rare for Miami’s temperatures to ever fall below 60.
Miami has also grown into a cosmopolitan city. “I couldn’t have said that a few decades ago,” Delgado says, “but it’s true now.” Communities of Latin Americans, Russians, Brazilians, and others have made the city more diverse than ever before, and with a growing population, the number of attractions has also grown.
“We’re creating a cultural identity in terms of the arts and how businesses operate here,” Delgado says. International buyers from Canada and South America drive much of the demand for housing in southeastern Florida, and many people are buying second and third homes in Miami and Palm Beach.
This growth means Castle Group has a number of plans in development but none to branch out of Florida anytime soon. With so much development in its backyard, the company won’t need to go far to continue to grow. Castle Group estimates that there are 38,000 gated communities within Florida, and its target is to manage 10 percent of that. “Just 10 percent of that market would make us a sizeable company,” Delgado says, his sights firmly set on carrying out yet another plan.