Inside Man

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For close to a year, the abandoned, foreclosed, 9-bedroom, 13-bath massive mansion on 70 Palm Avenue collected weeds, overgrown bushes, swampy green pool water, and looks of disdain from the neighbors. No one seemed to be able to sell the place.

But real estate agent Brett Harris had a buyer. He pursued the property for nine months, and before the bank was going to put it on the market, Harris and his client—Russell Weiner, the creator of the Rockstar energy drinks— made a cash offer and closed the deal on the spot. Harris convinced his client to wire the money the very next day and without ever stepping foot on the property.

“I said, ‘Trust me; we can make it nice,’” Harris recalls. And Weiner said he would only buy it under the conditions that Harris ran the entire renovation project. So Harris assembled a team of contractors, vendors, electricians, lighting technicians, carpenters, designers, and decorators, and within six months and millions of dollars later, the approximately 19,000-square-foot distressed property on 3/4 of an acre is now the property on Palm Island. With a 25-foot ceiling entrance into the grand foyer, a volleyball court, revamped pools, garages for eight cars, gym, a billiard room with a full bar and pool table, a 12-seat movie theater, an outdoor kitchen, red and white wine cellars, an elevator, full-suite rooms, and a completely new façade, 70 Palm Avenue, now dubbed Villa Rockstar, is truly one of a kind. It’s the perfect residence to live and party like a rock star.

And this is what Harris does. The independent Miami Beach real estate agent makes off-market, luxury waterfront real estate deals and then heads as the project manager to renovate the home. “I see everything from beginning to end,” he says. “This particular client was adamant about having the house ready by the season, so I was here all day, every day for six months. People don’t realize how muck work it takes to renovate a home. It’s thousands of man hours, and critical decisions are made daily.”

With more than 20 years of local retail experience, Harris found his niche in off-market luxury homes within the last five years, and has sold around 20 Miami Beach properties to a referral-based clientele. “I don’t take a lot of listings, and I am not going to walk around looking at 100 houses,” Harris says. “My clients contact me. They know their budget and what they’re looking for. Then I’ll aggressively and persistently pursue the houses, whether they are listed or not. I know almost everybody in town—I’m always one degree away from getting any deal going.”

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