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Jason_HiggsLocated in the Malaga region of Spain’s famed southern coast, Cilo Marbella Luxury Real Estate was created by two luxury real estate experts, Jason Higgs and Dr. Miguel Horvath. From beachfront apartments to villas in the hills of the Sierra Blanca, Cilo Marbella services a wide variety of international clientele through offices in Marbella, Spain and London. Here, Higgs, the firm’s director, shares insights about the market, the firm’s strategies and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

When was the firm founded?
Jason Higgs: We have been in business for seven years as Cilo Marbella, although I’ve been working in real estate in Marbella for 19 years. We operate within a 30-minute radius of Marbella.

What makes your company different? How do you position yourselves in the market?
JH: We like to think we know the market well from our almost 20 years of experience. We prefer to work with small-volume/high-value clients for sales and rentals.

Please describe current market conditions.
JH: The market is still fairly quiet at prices above 500,000 euros (approximately $587,000). The worldwide financial crisis hit Spain especially hard. Green shoots are certainly appearing at the lower price levels, and very small levels of growth are starting to show in the middle market, as well. Some properties have been on the market for years. This tends to happen when the owner has not faced up to new market realities.

How have home prices fluctuated in recent years?
JH: Prices have stabilized in the past 2-3 years; confidence is slowly returning.

Tell us about the types of properties in your market and which are most popular.
JH: Marbella remains (together with Cannes, St. Tropez, and the entire French Riviera) the leading luxury Mediterranean resort. Accordingly, we have an array of outstanding properties. These include beachfront mansions for 50 million euros, beachfront apartments for 3 million euros, gated community mansions for 5-15 million euros, etc. Apartments under 500,000 euros are most popular at the moment.

How do you market your listings?
JH: Mostly online through portals. Occasionally, through print as well.

What is the status of new construction in your area?
JH: It is gradually picking up. This is a good barometer that activity is returning to the market.

What types of buyers do you work with?
JH: Our buyers are almost exclusively international. The Russian market used to be strong, but has dipped due to lower oil prices and imposition of sanctions. The Middle East remains of interest, but again, not as strong as before. Scandinavians are a strong segment, but they tend to purchase at the lower end, rather than the higher end.

What are the needs and expectations of homebuyers and sellers in your market, and how do you serve those needs?
JH: Buyers and sellers alike can be unrealistic in their expectations. Realistic sellers are glad to get offers in the same ballpark as the asking price. Buyers sometimes think they can get “something for nothing.” As ever, it is a case of managing expectations.

What are the firm’s biggest challenges? What role do geopolitics play in your success?
JH: We seek economic and political stability for the European Union (EU). Anything that undermines this is damaging to the real estate market. For example, Brexit was not good for business. While we are not directly impacted by U.S. politics and economics, if the U.S. follows a more isolationist approach, that will undoubtedly be damaging to the whole European economy.

What are some of your most successful strategies for promoting and expanding your business?
JH: Collaborating with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® and attending small, private shows. Being part of the network affords us credibility. We also have a strong rental department that allows us to establish relationships with potential future purchasers.

What are your plans for future growth?
JH: Nothing spectacular given current market conditions. We hope to be in a good position to benefit when the tide turns, which it is gradually starting to do. 

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