Provide exceptional service, and you will be successful. That’s real estate maven Alicia Cervera’s advice when it comes to best serving clients, and it appears to be working. Over the past 50 years, she and her two daughters, Veronica Cervera Goeseke, CEO, and Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, managing partner, have built and grown Cervera Real Estate into a leading Miami-based real estate company, which has represented exclusively more than 120 luxury buildings in the city and has multiple offices to handle its luxury real estate resale business. The company’s success is built on long-term, trust-based client relationships, half a century of understanding the local market in Miami, understanding cultural nuances in a diverse city and a commitment to strong family values.
We recently sat down with Alicia Cervera, Veronica Cervera Goeseke and Veronica’s daughter Alexandra Goeseke Cervera. Alexandra and Alicia Lamadrid Paysse, another third-generation member, are already asserting themselves as the next generation of leaders. During our conversation, we spoke about playing the long game when it comes to best serving clients, navigating the complexities of a family business and planning for succession.
Brown Brothers Harriman: Alicia, tell us about your journey to starting Cervera Real Estate.
Alicia Cervera: My husband and I came to the United States in the early 1960s because of the turmoil taking place in Cuba. For the first few years, I was in limbo; it was a different culture and a big adjustment. After being here for five or six years, I realized that I was going to be in the United States for a long time – possibly forever. I decided I had to get a job, but I had never worked in my life and didn’t know where to start.
One day, I ran into a friend, and she started telling me about her husband, who was a real estate broker. It sounded interesting, and I went home and told my husband I wanted to get into the real estate industry. There were a couple aspects of my upbringing that I thought would help me succeed in this career. My mother used to build and sell houses in Peru, so I grew up looking at floor plans. In addition, my father was an attorney and ambassador who had us live in various cities, including New York when he served in the United Nations. My international upbringing was an important factor in Miami, which was destined to become an international city. I decided I was going to create a platform for developers to attract global clients, which no one else was doing.
I had a vision that Miami was going to shift from a city of single-family homes to include high-rise luxury condominiums on the water. So, during those early days, my husband and I sold everything we could part with and purchased a piece of waterfront land in the Brickell Avenue neighborhood, which we got rezoned from single-family use to high-rise buildings – something that had not been done before. Eventually, we sold the land for a significant profit, and this was our first big sale. I knew then that instead of listing single-family homes, someone had to sell the high-rise buildings coming to the market, so I chose to create a company that would specialize in this.
One day, I read in the paper that Harry Helmsley, who owned the Empire State Building, had bought a piece of land in Miami, so I wrote to him and described my background and experience. To my surprise, I received a call from him three days later – I thought it was a prank at first because it happened so fast! We arranged a meeting, and before I knew it, he had hired me to sell the first luxury condominium building on Brickell Avenue in Miami, which I did quickly. That was my first experience living my dream of selling high-rise condominiums to an international audience.
Working with Mr. Helmsley helped get my name out there, and I started to be hired as the exclusive broker on projects all over the city.
BBH: What have been some key projects over the years that highlight Cervera Real Estate’s success and influence on the Miami market?
Veronica Cervera Goeseke: In Miami, we have helped developers to sell and market more than 120 high-rise buildings. The platform Cervera has designed to handle these project sales is what we are known for. We work with developers from the start of a project, and instead of them hiring in-house staff, we manage their sales operations, including input on floor plans and pricing. We also provide an experienced salesforce specializing in project sales. This approach, combined with our international focus and in-depth understanding of the Miami market, differentiates us.
There are many projects that demonstrate our approach works successfully. We are experts at identifying where the next Miami neighborhood will be. For example, we have sold the majority of luxury residential real estate in the Miami Beach South-of-Fifth neighborhood and helped pioneer that neighborhood during its revitalization. We were the exclusive broker for the most expensive building there – the Apogee South Beach condominiums.