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From Nicaragua to Miami: A Coral Gables Realtor’s Journey to CRE Success

by | May 10, 2016


By Chris Umpierre/

MIAMI Staff

Whether it’s leaving her family, friends and everything she knew during her native Nicaragua’s civil war to study in the United States or it’s working in a male-dominated commercial real estate field, Maria Juncadella knows about beating the odds.

A successful Miami CRE practitioner, Juncadella is constantly working to help her industry attract more female leaders. Women — once viewed as unfit to sell office, retail and industrial buildings — are slowly garnering leadership positions in the industry.

Only 15 percent of women hold leadership roles in commercial real estate, according to the national Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) organization. As co-principal and co-broker at Coral Gables-based Fairchild Partners, former CREW-Miami president and 2016 MIAMI commercial president, Juncadella is working to close the gender gap. CREW-Miami runs high school and college level career programs for young women.

“We’re still in the battle of getting equal representation,” Juncadella said. “Eleven of CREW-Miami’s 25 past presidents are still actively involved. That shows you how passionate we are.”

Juncadella, who helped found Fairchild Partners with her husband in 2005, said she has never faced prejudice but she has noticed a difference in how men and women are treated. It’s subtle. Some commercial events, for instance, have featured all males as experts.

“At CREW and in the industry, we all know Fairchild Partners is a success because of Maria working with, not for, Jose,” said Margaret Nee, the vice president of development for Coconut Grove-based Sabal Hill and a past CREW-Miami president. “Maria continues to lead the industry as she continues to advocate for the best person to do the job – male or female.”

Leaving Nicaragua for a New Life

Juncadella working to close the commercial gender gap shouldn’t come as a surprise when you analyze her career arc.

Flash back to the late 1970s when Juncadella left Nicaragua at the height of the country’s civil war to study on a full scholarship at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. The then-17-year-old Juncadella left on the same runway and day as fleeing Nicaragua President Anastasio Somoza Debayle. Somoza, who left two hours after Juncadella, was later assassinated while in exile in Paraguay.

Juncadella remembers landing in Philadelphia, taking a train to Harrisburg and a bus to Carlisle. Harrisburg was the epicenter of the infamous Three Mile Island accident, a nuclear meltdown on March 28, 1979.

“My mother said, ‘You went from Nicaragua’s civil war to a nuclear accident,’” Juncadella said. “She said to call her if my hair started to frizz. All joking aside, these were challenging times.”

After two years of studies at Dickinson, in 1981, Juncadella earned a full-ride scholarship to the University of Miami. The transfer brought her closer to her mother, who had moved to Miami.

Juncadella arrived in Miami with only a suitcase in tow. She earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in 1983 from the University of Miami in anthropology and psychology. She was elected Phi Beta Kappa. Last year, Juncadella returned to UM and obtained an MBA with honors.

Juncadella’s Journey to Commercial Real Estate

Working in commercial real estate wasn’t Juncadella’s childhood dream.

“You’re not 6 years old and say I want to grow up to be a commercial real estate broker,” Juncadella said. “Typically, you’re related to somebody in the field or you’re introduced to it.”

Juncadella’s husband introduced her to the industry. With more than 30 years of commercial real estate brokerage experience and over $2.5 billion in sales and leasing volume, Jose Juncadella is one of South Florida’s top commercial real estate professionals. Recently, he was awarded the 2015 Innovator of the Year by the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR), and inducted into the Florida International University Hall of Fame.

The couple jointly founded Fairchild Partners in 2005. Maria Juncadella laughed when asked how it feels to work side by side with her husband.

“We’re both mobile,” she said. “If you’re not showing spaces, you’re not doing your job.”

Family Affair

Two of the couple’s children are in the family business. Their 29-year-old daughter, Sofia Ruzo, is Fairchild’s chief marketing officer and holds more than five years’ experience as an independent marketing consultant and brand strategist. One of their sons, 26-year-old Sebastian Juncadella, is a licensed commercial sales and leasing associate who specializes in office and industrial transactions.

Maria’s and Jose’s youngest child, 24-year-old Diego Juncadella, works in digital strategy for a company in Broward County.

The Changing CRE Mindset

Because of the work exhibited by her children and other millennials, Maria Juncadella believes commercial real estate’s longtime stereotypical views could be changing. She believes millennials, unlike previous generations, are more aware of the need to be inclusive. They believe in diversity.

Through the work exhibited by CREW Network, CREW-Miami and other organizations, Juncadella believes the number of female commercial executives will spike in the coming decade. Encouraging more women into CRE will only help the industry, Juncadella believes.

“Women bring a different skill set to the table,” Juncadella said. “We tend to be more detail oriented. Women bring adept communication and service skills to the commercial transaction.”

JUNCADELLA BIO

Name: Maria G. Juncadella

Board position: 2016 MIAMI Commercial President

Employment: Principal at Fairchild Partners

Achievements: Maria manages her firm’s day-to-day operations as co-broker and co-principal. She is a member of the brokerage team at Downtown Doral, in charge of close to one million square feet of office space. She leads the brokerage team of Kendall Summit, a 173,000 square foot office complex in addition to handling multiple other office, retail and industrial properties in the Miami area. The 2012 President of CREW-Miami. CREW-Miami’s Star Award and Outstanding Mover & Shaker winner.

Education: Received an MBA with honors from the University of Miami in December 2015. Juncadella earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in 1983 from the University of Miami in anthropology and psychology. Juncadella was elected Phi Beta Kappa.

Family: She has been married to her husband, Jose, for 30 years. The couple has three children: Sofia Ruzo, 29, Sebastian Juncadella, 26, and Diego Juncadella, 24.

Did you know? Juncadella grew up in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. She left Nicaragua during the country’s civil war to study on a full scholarship at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Getting to Know MIAMI Leaders highlights the 2016 presidents and chairmen of the MIAMI Association of REALTORS®. The leaders are: Chairman of the Board Mark Sadek, Residential President Carlos Gutierrez, Commercial President Maria G. Juncadella, Broward President Donna Reid, Young Professionals Network Chairman Jorge Guerra Jr. and JTHS President Susan Gaieski.

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