In a true demonstration of global fortitude and opportunity, approximately 150 real estate professionals from 19 countries gathered in Berlin, Germany Oct. 11 – 13 for the 2015 International Symposium of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® and Luxury Portfolio International®.
“Each year, we choose a dynamic city where some of the most successful and forward-thinking real estate professionals gather to build productive relationships and engage in a thought-provoking educational program,” says LeadingRE President/CEO Pam O’Connor. “By coming together, we strengthen our network in ways that solidify our position as a global real estate leader.”
Representatives from Canada, the Cayman Islands, China, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Mauritius, Mexico, Panama, Portugal, Qatar, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States were in attendance for the conference, which focused on global real estate trends, and strategies for servicing a global, luxury clientele.
Speakers included Rasmus Ankersen, performance specialist and author of “The Gold Mine Effect”; Matthew Ferrara, speaker and philosopher; Simon Henry, Co-CEO for Juwai.com; Eric Mendez, director of investment research for Vernal Point; Paul Morelli, founder and managing partner for Vernal Point; and John E. Featherston, president and CEO of RISMedia, Inc., who interviewed eight brokers from across the globe about market trends and best practices in their respective countries.
Building a Global Real Estate Business
On October 12 and 13, Featherston hosted The World of Real Estate, Parts I and II, where he delved into the business models and practices of eight dynamic real estate leaders from across the globe:
- Ron Stader, President, CIR REALTY, Calgary, Canada
- Roland Kampmeyer, Owner, Kampmeyer Immobilien GmbH, Cologne, Germany
- Andrew Yeandle, Partner, Strutt & Parker LLP, London, UK
- Jeremy Hurst, Owner, IRG – International Realty Group Ltd., George Town, Cayman Islands
- Alex Himmel, Owner, Atlantic Homes Portugal, Porto, Portugal
- Berry Everitt, Managing Director, Chas Everitt International Property Group, Johannesburg, South Africa
- Eduardo Aleman, Director, Siuma Realty, Panama City, Panama
- Rainy Hake, Executive Vice President, Alain Pinel REALTORS®, San Francisco, Calif., USA
“One of the most amazing traits of successful real estate professionals is their collaboration with their colleagues, which is most likely attributed to their desire to improve the overall experience they provide to their clients,” says Featherston. “This collaboration is not just happening in North America. The Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® symposium in Berlin proved this point once again as they brought together 150 real estate leaders in a great setting with a thought-provoking agenda with the participation of dozens of innovative brokerage leaders, and the result was a fantastic collaboration. Attendees of the LeadingRE International Symposium came to Berlin to solidify as well as build new relationships and better-equip themselves to compete in today’s global marketplace. Thanks to the efforts of Pam O’Connor, Paul Boomsma and team, 150-plus brokerage leaders accomplished their mission.”
Keeping Agents Happy: Ron Stader, President, CIR Realty, Calgary, Canada
CIR REALTY was started by Ron Stader’s father, Karl, in 1983; Ron and his brother Ray later joined the firm. Today, CIR REALTY is Alberta’s largest independent real estate brokerage with over 650 REALTORS® and staff, corporate offices in both Calgary and Red Deer, and 10 satellite offices.
According to Stader, many similarities exist between the Canadian and U.S. real estate markets, starting with the expectations REALTORS® have of their brokers.
“REALTORS® today expect to have more provided for them by their broker, so we offer way more services,” he explains, such as a proprietary intranet developed by Stader’s brother, training managers, a state-of-the-art classroom, and 8 – 12 classes each month.
Stader also realized that the office environment was a very important component in keeping his REALTORS® happy—and for recruiting new ones—and therefore, updated and modernized each of the firm’s offices.
Stader reports that about 30,000 people are relocating to Calgary per year, driven largely by the oil and gas industries. And to serve these and other real estate consumers, Stader relies on Canada’s MLS system. “Canada has one MLS system, so the statistics we have are fantastic,” he explains. “It’s easy to evaluate price because we have really good data.”
Consumers First: Roland Kampmeyer, Owner, Kampmeyer Immobilien GmbH, Cologne, Germany
Roland Kampmeyer started Kampmeyer Immobilien in 1995, which specializes in selling and renting real estate in the metropolitan region of Cologne/Bonn.
According to Kampmeyer, supply and demand are “mismatched” in Cologne. “More people are moving to Cologne than away from it.”
A concept that U.S. real estate professionals are all too familiar with, Kampmeyer describes the market in Cologne as hyperlocal, where schools and infrastructure play a large role in desirability and price. However, the rate of ownership in his market is only 18 percent, a trend he does not see changing anytime soon. “Since 2012, purchase prices have risen faster than the rental market,” he explains, “but real estate in Germany is considered a very safe investment, more than any other investment.”
Technology has also risen quickly in Germany, and Kampmeyer is known for its innovation in the digital realm. “When I started in 1995, the copy machine was the most important machine. Today, we have the Apple Watch and the iPad.”
But before technology comes people, emphasizes Kampmeyer. “You have to create trust prior to people knowing what they want; that way, when they want it, they’ll come to you. Every contact is a potential client.”
Negotiating Worldwide: Andrew Yeandle, Partner, Strutt & Parker LLP, London, UK
Andrew Yeandle specializes in commercial investment and development, and for the past 10 years, has focused on the real estate requirements of Middle Eastern clients targeting the UK. He now runs Strutt & Parker’s Property Wealth Management department. Strutt & Parker, founded in 1885, handles both residential and commercial properties, as well as rural properties and estates. Today, the firm is comprised of 47 offices and 264 sales associates.
Yeandle reports that London’s real estate market is bustling, significantly impacted by geopolitical issues in other countries.
Given the depth and breadth of the company and the global playing field it operates on, it’s no surprise that its clients require real estate professionals to serve as trusted consultants. “The consultancy side of the business is very important,” Yeandle explains. “People need a lot of looking after.”
Yeandle’s firm also works closely with developers from other countries, such as China. “We represent three of the largest Chinese companies,” he explains, adding that in these dealings, “you have to be rifle sharp. This is an important market for us going forward.”
Residency on the Rise: Jeremy Hurst, Owner, IRG – International Realty Group Ltd., George Town, Cayman Islands
Jeremy Hurst relocated from England to the Cayman Islands in 1987. He established International Realty Group in 1994, the Cayman Islands affiliate member of the global Knight Frank network. IRG services the residential, commercial, investment and development sectors.
According to Hurst, the real estate market in the Cayman Islands has enjoyed significant growth, in large part due to the country’s off-shore marketing efforts. A recent report by Knight Frank shows the Cayman Islands market gaining momentum, with a 2.5 percent increase in the median sales price for luxury homes.
The Cayman Islands has also demonstrated strong resilience. “In 2004, we got hit hard by Hurricane Ivan, but today, the diversity in the economy has created a boost of confidence in the market,” says Hurst. “More people are looking forward to investing in the Cayman Islands as opposed to just visiting.”
What’s more, the best real estate tax advantages go to residents. “You have to live here as opposed to visiting your condo once or twice a year,” explains Hurst. According to Hurst, investors in the Cayman Islands can get up to 75 percent financing, while residents can receive up to 95 percent.
The upper end of the market in the Cayman Islands averages over $1 million in price point, where properties on Grand Cayman’s coveted Seven Mile Beach range from $1.5 million – $6 million.
Advantages for Investors: Alex Himmel, Owner, Atlantic Homes Portugal, Porto, Portugal
A real estate and tax lawyer in Porto, Portugal from 1993 – 2006, today, Alex Himmel is the owner of Atlantic Homes Portugal, with two offices and seven sales associates specializing in Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve.
According to Himmel, thanks to Portugal’s Golden Visa program, investors from non-EU countries are increasingly buying properties in his country. Under the program, which was instituted in 2012, non-EU citizens who make one of the government’s approved investments will qualify to obtain a residency permit in Portugal. This residency permit will allow the investor and his family members to enter and/or live in Portugal and travel freely within the vast majority of European countries. For real estate, this means buying a property above 500,000 euros or above 350,000 euros if the property is more than 30 years old or located in areas of urban renovation. To make the program even more attractive, investors only need to live in Portugal seven days out of the year to take advantage of residency status.
While the luxury market had been slow, it started picking up again in 2014. According to Himmel, luxury properties are almost always sold to foreign clientele. “That is why LeadingRE is very important to us. LeadingRE is also important on the listing side of the equation. If you explain to a client that his property is going to have worldwide exposure, you’re going to convince him to list with you.”
With a safe, friendly climate and attractive fiscal incentives, the question seems to be, why “not” buy property in Portugal?
International Presence, Family Feel: Berry Everitt, Managing Director, Chas Everitt International Property Group, Johannesburg, South Africa
With 136 offices employing more than 870 sales associates, Berry Everitt runs his organization like a corporation. Under Everitt’s leadership, the company—founded in 1980 by Everitt’s parents Charles (Chas) and Tilla—grew from a family business to a national group, becoming the first real estate organization in South Africa to introduce a formal, technology-based customer relations management program, the first to advertise on satellite T.V. and the first to operate an in-house mortgage origination company.
But despite the corporate-like business model, Everitt still emphasizes the family values on which the company was founded. “When it comes to our clients, we never lost that family touch—we know what cake they like, which books they read. We keep the same warmth because warmth is what makes our intentions special. If we take care of our agents, we believe they’ll take care of the customers. Everything is about pleasing the customer, not about pleasing the business.”
Everitt doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market, but simply adjusts the way he speaks to his customers. He supports all the portals and maintains the highest quality when it comes to promotion.
He also chooses new recruits and interns for the firm based on personality. “I pick them based on their interpersonal skills, confidence and drive,” says Everitt. “We pay them on salary.”
Anticipating Big Growth: Eduardo Aleman, Director, Siuma Realty, Panama City, Panama
Leaders in the real estate and brokerage sector of the Panamanian market, Siuma Realty began operating in 2000. Today, with an expansion planned for the Panama Canal in 2016—intended to double the canal’s capacity, thereby creating a new lane of traffic to accommodate more and larger ships—Aleman reports that Panama is poised to enjoy increased population and investment in real estate.
Currently in Panama, Aleman reports a seller’s market in the residential division where there is less inventory, and a buyer’s market in the commercial arena.
Understandably, in Panama City, the luxury market is largely focused in beach areas, says Aleman. “International buyers are mostly coming from Venezuela,” he explains, “and we are attracting buyers through LeadingRE. Our agents can learn things from LeadingRE that they can’t learn anywhere else.”
Servicing a Global Clientele: Rainy Hake, Executive Vice President, Alain Pinel REALTORS®, San Francisco, Calif., USA
Alain Pinel REALTORS® is the largest privately-owned and independent residential real estate company in California, with 31 offices and 1,359 sales associates throughout San Francisco’s Bay Area. The company was founded in 1990 and was ranked as the fifth largest residential real estate firm in the United States based on 2014 sales volume in RISMedia’s 2015 Power Broker Report.
According to Hake, the San Francisco market continues to be a hot spot for buyers and investors from both the U.S and the world. Clearly a seller’s market, Hake reports that properties are currently averaging 18 days on the market (at press time), and it’s common to see selling prices 10 – 12 percent over the asking price with multiple bids. International business is also a key component of Alain Pinel REALTORS® business in the United States, where, according to Hake, a capital investment in a local business enables an investor to get a visa and buy real estate.
Hake explains that marketing and technology are crucial to the Alain Pinel brand. “We don’t see a distinction between the two,” she says. International marketing is also a high priority for the firm’s clientele. “We have the local expertise, and the global reach. We have a 360-degree approach to marketing, and everything is translated into Chinese. It’s important for our local clients to get international exposure.”
An Ongoing Global Strategy
Other sessions at the LeadingRE International Symposium offered in-depth discussions on the preferences of today’s real estate consumers, including luxury market insights and understanding the global affluent. Technology trends were examined, focusing on how digital and mobile solutions are essential for the contemporary real estate consumer. Best practices in wealth management were also reviewed, relating to the investment potential of real estate.
For the network members in attendance, the Symposium not only provided top-shelf education, but an invaluable chance to network with global peers, something LeadingRE offers on an ongoing bases. LeadingRE network affiliates will convene again February 20 – 26, 2016 in Miami for the LeadingRE Conference Week.
“We became huge believers in LeadingRE and Luxury Portfolio,” says Stader. “We wanted to get into the network for 28 years, and finally about seven years ago, we did. Having to wait 20 years makes you really want to promote that affiliation. So everything we do is stamped and branded with LeadingRE.”
According to Everitt, LeadingRE is also an important retention tool for his agents. “You have to be part of a global network. We can get that structure from LeadingRE.”