For ONE Sotheby’s International Realty agent Jeff Miller, real estate has been a decades-long passion that started during a summer job at a local brokerage. Only 10 years old, Miller’s job included helping junior brokers prepare for open houses, appraisals and inspections by opening doors and tidying up. Those few months left an indelible impression on Miller, who excitedly recounted his experience touring listings.
“I was 10 and seeing all these big, beautiful houses and apartments in New York,” he said. “My eyes were opened up to a whole other world that I didn’t know physically existed.”
“It was very memorable for me throughout my life,” he added of the experience. “I’ve always, always wanted to be in this field.”
After Miller moved to Florida and graduated from Florida International University, real estate came roaring back into his life when a family friend suggested he become an agent. The friend, who also worked in real estate, told Miller he had the intelligence and personality to succeed in Miami’s booming luxury development market.
“He was kind of a mentor to me and encouraged me to get into the real estate market because he was so successful in it,” he said. “Through their encouragement, I kind of had a flashback at that point to when I was 10.”
From there, Miller fought his way up the ladder as a 23-year-old real estate newbie. He was able to drum up business through rental deals for friends, family and other people in his sphere, but Miller said it was difficult convincing them he could handle multi-million dollar transactions.
“It was difficult for a young person to break into the market,” he said. “I was doing rental [deals] for my friends, and I was selling apartments on Miami Beach for $200,000 to $400,000, which was, back 20 years ago, was a pretty big sale.”
“But there was the next price point that I wanted to get to, and the best price point was really around that million-dollar price point,” he added. “It’s sounds inexpensive now, but back in 2001, I really wanted to get into that market.”
Miller said today’s young agents have the benefit of social media to build their brands and presence, and clients are much more willing to work with a 20-something than when he started. He recounted “chasing” a specific client in hopes he’d let him list his $1.5 million Miami Beach condo — the client declined, but allowed Miller to list another property for rent due to his persistence.
“He said, ‘You have a great career ahead of you, but you’re too young, and you don’t have enough experience to handle the sale of my apartment, and I’m going to work with a senior broker,’” he said. “But, I kept after that client, and he agreed to let me list his property for rent, and I rented the property for him for $10,000 a month.”
That client’s rental offer would open the door for him to do the kind of deals he dreamed of. He started listing other apartments in that building and built a solid reputation among Miami’s young professionals, who then connected him with more established buyers and sellers.
“I continued to work with my friends, which were at a different, younger point of their life and they were looking to buy apartments for $100,000,” he said. “Once I was able to get my foot in the door and gain that market, I quickly realized that if I did a great job for those clients, those clients introduced me to their friends who were a little bit older than I was and more successful in life.”
Within seven years, Miller had become one of Miami Beach’s top real estate agents and had found “his sweet spot” doing $1 million to $2 million-dollar deals. Then came the 2008 stock market crash that sparked the Great Recession and burst the housing bubble.
“The Dow dropped all the way to [7,552] points, and you know, the world was completely [turned] upside down,” he said.
Instead of panicking, Miller said he told current clients about the opportunity to purchase homes at a discount and educated new buyers about the same opportunity. By the end of 2008, Miller said he’d done 10 times the amount of volume he’d done in 2006 and 2007 combined.
“It created such an opportunity for buyers to jump back in and to buy at the bottom of a market,” he explained. “When you have big events like that, that’s when the super-wealthy jump back in and invest in real estate or in the stock market. That’s when you take advantage of those opportunities.”
His experience in 2008 helped Miller glide through 2020’s volatile real estate market and start the next chapter in his career with a move from Brown Harris Stevens to ONE Sotheby’s in January.
“I had worked with my previous company for over 10 years,” he said. “The move the Sotheby’s has been very recent and what I’ve experienced over the last 15 days, it’s just been amazing.”
“When I call clients and say, ‘Hi, this is Jeff Miller calling from Sotheby’s,’ the reaction that I’m getting from the clients is something that I haven’t experienced in my previous 15-year real estate career,” he added. “I’ve been doing this for over 15 years, so I’m really good at calling people and talking to them. But now they really want to listen to what I have to say.”
Miller said the move will allow him to expand his international reach, and although he’s still exploring all that Sotheby’s has to offer, he’s excited about his future with the brand.
“Truthfully, we have such a powerful international marketing platform, it’s certainly a little overwhelming learning all of the resources that we have available to us. We’re getting up to speed and learning,” he said.
Outside of his career, Miller said he’s involved in philanthropic work with the Miami Police Athletic League, a nonprofit that provides free academic and athletic programming for children in disadvantaged neighborhoods. He’s also enjoying extra time with his wife and two sons, who he thinks have caught the real estate bug just as he did as a child.
“My boys are now seven and nine, but from the ages of like three to five, we would drive through the neighborhood on the weekend and see open house signs for a beautiful house,” he said. “They would walk out of the house and say, ‘You know, let’s paint the wall, this color and let’s change the floor.’”
“So I have a feeling that they’re going to have a similar type of experience [to mine] when they get older,” he added. “They’re going to remember wanting to get into the business. We’ll see what happens.”