Coldwell Banker comes to Portugal

 In Investment, Property

With almost 30 years’ experience in the Greater Lisbon real estate market, the Luxus agency has recently teamed up with one of the leading American networks in the sector, Coldwell Banker.

The first of 40 Coldwell Banker branches due to open across the country in the next five years was ­recently inaugurated in Cascais (on Avenida 25 de Abril) and will have around 50 agents. The next (larger) one will follow within three months, with ­almost a dozen agencies expected to open in the Portuguese capital. Responsible for managing the franchising is Luxus, the Portuguese luxury real estate agency that has dealt with the sale of iconic properties such as Quinta do Patiño and Beloura, and several others in the Parque das Nações area. Within the geographical area of the capital and its surroundings, the branches will bear the name of the Portuguese estate agency.

Across the rest of the country, the Ame­rican giant, which is associated to the transaction of some of the most famous and expensive properties on the planet, is looking for partners that are “locally known for being successful”. The overall aim is to reach a turnover in the region of €600 million by 2020, with the luxury segment responsible for around 25% of the total revenue.

“In terms of agencies, we invest in quality over quantity, and in a concept founded on technology and modern spaces, along with the constant training of our agents and brokers,” Frederico Abecassis, executive director of Coldwell Banker Portugal, told Essential.

The operation, which brought the centenarian American network to Portugal, involved the acquisition of the ­respective representation rights by the Abecassis family holding, Libra SGPS, which owns the Luxus brand.

This represents a new stage in the activity of the Portugal real estate agency, which, after making necessary adjustments due to the recession of recent years (which led it to hold “road shows” abroad to sell their stock), has been working “essentially as a luxury boutique, very focused on AAA clients”, with an ­office in Cascais and consultancy teams in “the town of kings and fishermen” and in Lisbon.

Coldwell Banker’s arrival on the scene brings an expansion of the market value of the properties garnered. The new brand also aims to focus on the medium segment, and not just the medium-high and high segments that characterised Luxus.

Frederico Abecassis explains that the new real estate player in Portugal combines the best of both worlds, i.e. the ­international prestige and dimension of the American chain, and the in-depth local knowledge of the Luxus brand, which “continues to work in the same market in which it has always been positioned and where it has always stood out because of the projects it has been ­involved in”.

“We champion the global ‘network’ combined with local market knowledge. And it’s that spirit and that strategy that we want to implement on a national level,” adds the director.

The return of large real estate projects

In regards to the luxury segment, it is expected to correspond to 25% of the turnover, benefitting from a specific ­programme that the US network conceived for this area, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury. The director highlights that it has been a player in the sale of “the most expensive houses in the world”, in the region of hundreds of ­millions of euros, among them the ­famous Playboy Mansion, along with properties of several Hollywood stars.

The investment comes at a time when the Portuguese market “is very ­dynamic” and shows signs of remaining that way. “The stock that was left to sell during the recession period has been sold in the last few years. The main ­estate agents started to develop small projects, but nowadays, large-scale projects are starting to appear again [like those that existed in the ‘90s, such as Parque das Nações, Quinta da Beloura and Parque dos Príncipes in Telheiras],” notes ­Frederico Abecassis.

As examples, he highlights developments that are underway in more peripheral areas of Lisbon, namely in Marvila, Belém and Ajuda. On the other hand, “there is still some offering in the historical centres of Lisbon, and it’s worth bearing in mind that many of the buildings there are old rental contracts, which are now being terminated, and that offering will come up soon”. The director also notes that, “in areas such as Estoril and Cascais, we’re seeing projects that convert old houses into apartments with four or five storeys”.

With all this dynamic in mind, Portu­gal is on the international investment radar: “The large real estate investors are starting to arrive, so there will be brand new supply, and it’s a little from that ­perspective that new opportunities will emerge.” Within this context of increa­sed supply, “the market will adjust and update in terms of sales prices”, therefore stimulating transactions.

“The client is changing” 

Now settled in Lisbon, Coldwell Banker wants to conquer its place in an “ever-more demanding” national market by showing the sales strength of a global brand, present in more than 50 countries and locations, through around 3,300 agencies.

“Today’s client is global, especially when we’re talking about a luxury client, who is usually attracted to a very specific, very special product,” believes Frederico Abecassis, using the example of the ­Turkish market, which “is very dynamic in purchasing properties in Portugal and which will certainly be a channel we can really explore”. In other words, he promises: “We will be where the clients are.”

However, there is also the awareness that “the client is changing; today they have different concerns to those they had a few years ago, particularly the ­Millennials, who increasingly value the technological component incorporated in the real estate product, including its qualities from an environmental and ­energetic efficiency point of view”.

But the service offering of the new real estate company is for every profile, whether they are more or less modern, notes the executive director of Coldwell Banker Portugal, and is based on the “customer experience” concept: the desire to provide “a truly extraordinary ­experience, both for the owners and the buyers”, whether it’s in strictly urban ­locations or more peripheral areas, or even rural (Sintra, Comporta, Alentejo, the north of the country…), a new or ­renovated product, in luxury segments or more affordable ones.

“Strategically, in terms of expansion, our goals include being present firstly in the Greater Lisbon region, then in the North and the Algarve, followed by the other areas,” reveals Frederico Abecassis, for whom the entire country has qualities that should be good guarantees of success.

“We started setting ourselves apart from other countries as an investment destination due to our fiscal incentives [such as the Golden Visa]. But today, those aren’t the main draws for investors at all. Security, namely, has been a very important factor. The cost of living in Portugal also remains very low in comparison with the main European cities. Then, there is our culture, our good ­humour, our welcoming attitude towards foreigners…” Summing up, “Portugal is the perfect place to live at every level”.

In this respect, the director highlights and appreciates the American ­investment, which “already represents 6% of foreign investment. This is signi­ficant because this is a client that would otherwise have never invested in Portugal, so I believe that this slice of the market will be even bigger in the coming years”.

Generally speaking, in terms of ­demand, “the French market continues to be a leader, as well as the Brazilian market”. Taking into consideration the specific experience of the Luxus agency, the Brazilian client is the most active, but several other nationalities have joined in the search of a luxury place in the sun in this Atlantic coastal garden, such as South Africans, Russians and Scandinavians.

“Around 85% of inves­tors in the luxury market are foreign, but there has been more demand from the Portuguese in the last two years, which has to do with changes in the economy, which is more dynamic. There is more confidence, along with the fact that the banks themselves are more open to lending, something that didn’t happen a few years ago,” adds Frederico Abecassis. Considering this reality, he has no doubts in stating: “The real estate growth is certainly sustainable; it might not be as sharp as in the last three years, but it will continue to evolve in a positive manner.”