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Colombian Native Beats the Odds to Excel in Miami Commercial Real Estate

by | May 15, 2017



By Chris Umpierre

MIAMI Staff

               

José María “Chepe” Serrano had just landed in a new country with a new language. The 22-year-old Colombian native had no family and friends around and needed help.

Chepe’s flight from Bogotá to Ohio, where he planned to attend Xavier University, was diverted to Phoenix (he thought the airline employee meant Phonics, the teaching method). When he finally landed in Cincinnati, the Xavier classmate who was supposed to pick him up wasn’t there.

It was 1 in the morning and Chepe panicked. He asked passengers and airport officials for help. They looked at him as if he were an alien. They didn’t know Spanish. They didn’t care.

Exhausted and devastated, Chepe plopped down on his black suitcase and cried.

“I am stranded here,” he told himself in Spanish. “Stranded.”

A Good Samaritan finally helped Chepe and directed him to a hotel, but the experience left an indelible mark on his life. First, he had to learn English. Second, he had to excel in school. And third, he wanted to help strangers and mentor people in the community the way his parents taught him.

Community service has been a hallmark of Serrano’s life. Serrano — the founder and owner of New Miami Realty, Corp. — not only volunteers his time to the MIAMI Association of REALTORS® (MIAMI), where he is the 2017 commercial president, but he teaches real estate classes locally and statewide, is very active in his Catholic church and assists other Realtors attain commercial real estate’s highest designation, Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM).

“It is in the giving that you receive,” said Serrano, who owns a CCIM designation. “That’s why I volunteer for the MIAMI association and put a lot of emphasis in my church. Everything that I have is because somebody created opportunities for me. Sometimes we forget the people who help you in life.”

 

God, Family and Work

Chepe jokingly says if you invite him to dinner he will bring his wife, kids and extended family. With everything he’s accomplished in life, he says his three biggest accomplishments are marrying his wife, Simona, and having two children (son Nicolas and daughter Daniela).

Chepe’s credo: God, family and work.

A devout Catholic, Chepe is an active member in his Miami parish. Chepe is in the Archdiocese of Miami’s lay ministers program. He helps his church in the married couples ministry “Matrimonios en Victoria/Marriages in Victory” and in the marriage preparation ministry “FOCCUS.”

Chepe met his wife Simona 32 years ago while studying at Florida International University. Simona is a Realtor at New Miami Realty.

Chepe partnered with his older brother, Gabriel, to launch New Miami Realty, Corp. in 2003. Gabriel had started several companies before and convinced his brother to get a real estate license. The team has worked hand-in-glove for the last decade.

 “I don’t think I could have a better companion, brother and friend,” Gabriel said in Spanish. “We are a good team. He’s accompanied me for so long and he will always be next to me.”

 

Chepe: The Teacher

New Miami Realty has a real estate school. Chepe teaches classes there as well as Miami Dade College, MIAMI headquarters and for the state and national Realtor associations. Chepe, who taught a history of economics course at the Universidad Tadeo Lozano in Bogotá, Colombia, loves to teach.

At the Universidad Tadeo Lozano, he pioneered a program for journalists. He also serves as a faculty member for Florida Realtors. In 2010, he was named MIAMI Commercial Educator of the Year.

“I try to teach as much as I can,” Chepe said. “The more you teach, the more you learn.”

Most of Chepe’s students end up having successful careers. He tells the story of a Realtor in his office who received his real estate license a year ago.

“You can see he’s going to make it,” Chepe said. “I taught him the class in Spanish and his English was bad. I love that challenge.”

 

Working with his Brother

Chepe is able to teach so much and be active with the MIAMI association because of his great partner/brother Gabriel Serrano. The brothers — believe it or not — never fight.

“Chepe and I are always together so I know how he thinks,” Gabriel said. “Do we fight? No. Do we debate? Yes, of course. When he starts a conversation, I know where he’s going.”

Back in Bogotá, Chepe and Gabriel shared a room. Chepe said they make the perfect team because he is great at opening the deal and Gabriel excels at closing the deal.

“You take my brother to any business meeting and you will have a signature,” Chepe said. “Whether it’s leasing or a contract, he will get it. For me, closing is the tough part.”      

 

The Chepe Legacy

Chepe’s nickname is a longtime family nickname. His grandfather and uncle were also named José María and nicknamed “Chepe.”

Today, José María is the last Chepe in the family. He uses the nickname with pride.

As he runs his Miami real estate firm with his brother, Chepe often thinks of his parents and how proud they would be to see them succeeding in the United States.

He said it was his father who taught him to look out for others and be involved in the community. When Chepe and his siblings were growing up in Colombia, their father worked in the tire business but he still found time to help in a parent-teacher organization at Chepe’s high school.

When Chepe’s father retired a few years ago, he moved to Miami and helped out with the family business. It was a reunion in many ways. Gabriel and his father worked for 20 years in Colombia before Gabriel moved to America in 1989.

Last year, Chepe’s father passed away. In January 2017, José María “Chepe” Serrano was installed as MIAMI Commercial President.

“My father was so proud when I got into the leadership of the MIAMI association and started getting recognition,” Chepe said. “It’s very sad he’s no longer here.”

 

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CHEPE BIO

Name: José María “Chepe” Serrano

Board position: 2017 MIAMI Association of REALTORS® Commercial President

Employment: Founder and owner of New Miami Realty, Corp.

Achievement: 2013 MIAMI Commercial Broker of the Year; 2010 MIAMI Commercial Educator of the Year

Did you know? Serrano studied at the prestigious Universidad Javeriana in Colombia. He also studied at Xavier University in Ohio and later earned a B.A. in economics at Florida International University.

 

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Getting to Know Our MIAMI Leaders is a project by Chris Umpierre highlighting the 2017 presidents and chairmen of the MIAMI Association of REALTORS®. The leaders are: Chairman of the Board Christopher Zoller, Residential President Christina Pappas, Commercial President José María Serrano, Broward President Ellen R. Mitchel, Young Professionals Network Chairman Alberto Carrillo and JTHS-MIAMI President Lynne Rifkin.

 

Read all the profiles at www.miamire.com/MiamiLeaders

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