Catering to high-end buyers of exclusive, luxury properties on pristine islands. A real estate consulting group has found a strategy for success, despite a real estate slump and an ongoing recession.
With a fashion-forward sensibility, Lisa Basire and Naomi Cambridge of Cardea Consulting have achieved high-revenue sales in a tough real estate climate.
Headquartered in London, they set up shop in December 2009. They have since opened offices in the Caribbean, with locations in Anguilla, Antigua and St. Lucia.
Cardea courts buyers that want exclusive, luxury real estate on pristine stretches of relatively virgin beaches. Basire and Cambridge are developing a well-respected small business with a strong word-of-mouth reputation.
Previously, the two collaborated on The Cove Residences at Blue Waters in Antigua. The duo sold out the 28-apartment project in eight weeks. Their partnership kicked off with a cool $15 million in sales on that project. And their reputation and results have surpassed expectations.
Of course, it helps that the large-scale residential and hotel developments are located on some of the most stunning pieces of beach real estate in the world.
Cardea, however, is cautious about the clients it does business with and strategic about where it dedicates its expertise. The properties they consult for have developers with very deep pockets. They work with buyers with the money to purchase such luxury properties.
So how have they managed to position themselves in such a lucrative and exotic playing field? Here's what worked for them.
Walk the walk
Basire and Cambridge worked in sales and marketing in the real estate industry for years before going solo. Whatever they don't know, they research thoroughly and quickly become experts.
"We know the market very well," says Basire. "We know our clients and their needs. And we know everything about our projects, including how each foreign government operates—procedures, laws and legal loopholes.”
“Our work speaks for itself,“ says Cambridge. “We can show the results of our work, the finished product ready for sale or to be sold. We advise on all levels of the projects, from marketing and sales to financing and architecture. We know every step of the process from conception to completed sales.”
Be true to your standards
A few years ago, developers were overly confident about the state of the market. As a result, there are a lot of unsold properties, especially second- and third-rate sites.
“First, we really scout out what we feel are first-rate sites,” says Basire. “We always stayed far away from those who got carried away building wherever they could and thinking someone would buy. All of this starts with the site: You need an amazing site.”
For example, the Zemi Beach resort is on Shoal Bay Beach, which the Travel Channel declared to be one of the world’s best beaches. The project runs along three miles of that perfect beach and the residences are located at the very end of the beach, next to a five-acre national park.
“It is said to have the original fountain of youth inside a cave in the park,” says Cambridge. “The Arawaks discovered it 3,000 years ago. There are paintings in the caves and … three pointed stones, which are called the zemi.”
Second, Basire and Cambridge work only with people who are experienced in developing properties. The developers need enough money to complete the project.
“It can’t be one or the other,” says Basire. “Both have to work. We don’t collaborate with people who will run out of money halfway through the project. Our research is very comprehensive.”
Last, Cardea work with people they work well with.
“At the core, it is how well we will work with the people," says Basire. "We must have good relationships with the developers. Otherwise it's not worth it to us. We would never sell anything that was less than amazing to us.”
For Zemi Beach, they are working with a family of developers that spans three generations: Sheldon, Jeffrey and Joshua Goldstein. For Sugar Beach, they joined forces with Roger Myers, the former accountant for the Rolling Stones.
Convert the non-believers
Typically, they are the only women involved with the projects. Cardea battles any gender bias by coming armed with extensive knowledge about the clients and the potential project.
“After 20 minutes with us, minds are changed," says Basire.
"There is a lot going against us because we are competing in a male-dominated industry," says Cambridge. "Plus we're in our early 30s. We have to work doubly hard to get over any initial prejudices.
"Without fail, whenever we first meet new developers, we go through the same thing. We enter the room with a group of men who … don't think we'll know what they're talking about."
Take big, thoughtful risks
Cardea is paid to consult. To Basire and Cambridge, that means being honest and blunt, even if it’s delivering news their clients don’t want to hear.
“We’re paid to tell the developer when they’re doing something wrong and when something won't work,” says Basire. “A lot of people collect their fees and tell the developer what he wants to hear, whether it's correct or not…. We stand by what we know works because we want the best for the project. It is, after all, a reflection of all of our hard work.”
Treat business like a marriage and be picky about your unions
Cardea doesn't take just any projects they are offered. They research to figure out whether they can benefit all parties involved.
“We think about the project from the developer’s point of view, and not just about what sells,” says Cambridge. “That is obviously where we make our money, but it's more productive for us to think about all facets and needs from all angles.
"It is up to us to concern ourselves with how the developers make money, how the hotel operator is going to make money, and how the clients are going to make their money. It is that symbiosis of caring about all those things that makes us stand out.”
Image credit: ZemiBeach.com