Miami’s residential sector is continually evolving, and at the heart of this evolution is Manny Angelo Varas, CEO of MV Group. This month’s main interview finds Manny sharing insight into his career journey; from the impact of the 2008 recession to crafting multimillion-dollar residences, as well as the secret to MV Group’s success – meticulous attention to detail. We learn, from this conversation, that collaborating with A-listers like Lil Wayne and overcoming industry challenges are the norm at MV Group. As the company celebrates its 15th anniversary, he guides us through the intersection of innovation, craftsmanship, and the future of ultra-luxury living in Miami.
Manny, to kickstart the conversation, how did you come to establish MV Group?
Well, I started the company back in 2007. I’ve always had this dream to develop and create amazing homes. I then earned my GC license at 25 years old, and rather than working for a company, I opened my own. I partnered with an architect named Charles Sieger, of Sieger Suárez Architects, and we helped establish quite a few special buildings in Miami. I was a good friend of his and he got me started on apartments and the interior fit outs. I was doing tile and flooring, and miscellaneous finishes.
Then there was the 2008 recession. It was a blow to many but, fortunately, it gave us a lift off because I fell into – and subsequently became very successful in – this little niche of interiors. Most of the buildings in Florida come ‘designer ready’, which means completely raw walls. Well, the bank used to allow those raw spaces to be closed on and then the owner to build it out. Because of the recession, the banks required those spaces to be finished before closing. So, we became the in-house company at most of the buildings and we got approved by Starwood, Starwood Residential, and Starwood Capital during that time to start working on the fit outs for the end users of each one of these buildings. That led us to begin working on the interior build outs and meeting a lot of designers. We had done a few units for record producers and music producers, and then I met Lil Wayne’s mom and we actually built his home. One thing I think we became renowned for is attention to detail, and that detail resonated in our homes. Now, we’re actively doing about $50 million to $60 million a year.
The company is celebrating 15 years in the industry this year. Congrats! What does a milestone like this mean to you?
Honestly, it’s a reflection on what we’ve been able to achieve. It’s also a motivation for how we can continue to innovate, create better processes, and help establish amazing spaces with our design teams. We’ve brought spaces and buildings to life like Residences by Armani/Casa, Fisher Island, Paramount Miami World Center, St. Regis, and more. Although it has been an incredible 15 years, I’m looking forward to how much more we can achieve. Sustainability, for example, is something we’re taking into account for future homes, while also considering how the pandemic heavily influenced the way people experience their living spaces.
When you look back over 2023, how would you describe the year gone by?
I would say that for our business in 2023, we reached heights I could never have dreamed of! We’ve gone from five or ten million-dollar homes to $30 million super structures. Just this morning I had a call over a property being purchased for $35 million, with a $15 million construction spend planned on it, and I think this is a testament to the ways in which Miami as a city is developing. Formula One, soccer, Amazon are all growing right here and that has brought in more people as a result.
Furthermore, I think people have changed their perspective on what is important in life, and this has elevated Miami as a top choice for wealthy families to spend their time. The whole area has gone from being a vacation hotspot, to a permanent residential location, and that’s been brilliant for us!
What piece of advice has been critical to your leadership style and the company culture you endeavor to create for MV Group?
There is one thing I say so many times I sound like a broken record, and that is: ‘you have to believe in your project, and love it.’ Every home, every condo, every hotel, you can tell the difference between something that has been created with care and attention to detail, and something that hasn’t. The example I use is if you go to a Michelin-star restaurant, and you have the best chef cook you their favorite dish; if you notice dirt on your plate when it arrives, or the glass is stained, it ruins your entire experience. In the same sense, if one of my team is having a bad day, and rushes through something like a marble installation, and that then chips in the corner, we’ve ruined the whole home. So I always say that true craftsmanship is in the finest detail, and I think that approach has influenced why we’re an industry favorite, because we stand by that ethos in everything we do.
On that note, what is it about MV Group that makes you renowned for some really impressive projects?
I would say collaboration. Understanding the vision that everyone has within their craft is what allows us to work on the 100-million-dollar homes. I think what we’re especially good at is being able to work alongside the client and curate a space that is special to each of them. We’re able to assemble great teams, which is another aspect I think sets us apart. For the sort of clients we work with – billionaires, or owners of sports teams, for example – we have to be able to collaborate and listen to a range of designers and architects to bring to life one vision.
And the homes are indeed beautiful. Are there any projects that you are particularly proud of?
One project stands out because we successfully introduced the first modern home in a traditionally Mediterranean-style neighborhood. It’s called Casa Costanera, and is the first B&B Italia custom furnished and designed home in the US, resting on 0.45 acres of land located in Cocoplum. Miami Beach is known for its contemporary, flat roof waterfront homes, where as the Coral Gables suburb was more Mediterranean, with terracotta-tiled roofs, and we had to get planning permission and advocate for this flat-roof home to be designed and built in a more traditional area. But we were doing something special, and we succeeded. We worked with Francesco Farinas, the CEO of B&B Italia, to create some special components for indoor and outdoor living. This project is one of my favorites because we proved that you should never let limits hinder your design abilities. Some might say that building in cities is a hindrance because of their bureaucratic nature, but if that’s your outlook, you’ll never achieve new innovations, nothing will evolve. So, we learnt that if we have a vision, and we believe in the vision enough, we can make it happen, and that’s exactly what we did with Casa Costanera.
When you consider the homebuilding industry overall, what sort of restrictions or challenges are currently influencing growth in the industry?
I think documentation and management within the permitting process could be more standardized. At the moment, every city has a different set of rules depending on the State you’re in. This makes procedures within the building process slower than it really needs to be. Hopefully, with the future of innovative smart homes, that might help. Furthermore, in the affordable housing sector, streamlining processes will improve costs and efficiency, which means we can lower the cost for the client.
Finally, what is your five-year vision for the company?
As long as we can continue to create beautiful homes, I’m happy. I’d love to see us strengthen our collaborative approach and become experts in the ultra-luxury sector, and that will mean focusing on our ability to bring together the dream teams for the most unique properties around the world.