How was RE/MAX affected by the crisis?
We began to experience recovery in 2013, and this year we have had growth of 55%. We are Portugal’s leading company and adapt rapidly. The banks had stopped lending, but had to sell off properties. So we latched on to this. Then, last year, golden visas and tax cuts for Europeans settling here invigorated the market.
What makes Portugal attractive, compared to, say, Germany or France?
Prices have fallen almost 40% in two years. You can buy a house on the Sintra rail line for 40,000 euros – of course, not luxury properties. The average price in Lisbon is around 1,700 euros per square metre and there is no other city in Europe, except Eastern Europe, with these prices. Portugal is peaceful country with great infrastructure, an ideal climate, friendly people and fantastic food.
How do you explain your market leadership?
Right now we have 190 branches and 3,000 sales staff. The sector is very fragmented, with a lot of small agencies. RE/MAX has 22% of the residential, while the second agency, ERA, has a share of 11%.
How did the golden visa affect you?
Last year 423 golden visas were granted – 300 due to us. This accounted for 9% of our turnover. This should bear fruit for three more years, because more than 50% of business done this year with China were business investments, buying up entire buildings. The Chinese came in with 500,000 euros for the visa and are now coming with 20 to 30 million.
What kind of service does REMAX offer Chinese customers?
We were the first to tackle this issue, and we know what the Chinese want and need. RE/MAX Expo is the best prepared company. We are training new staff every week – this year we expect to take on almost 600. Prices are lower than 30 years ago so the investment is safe. And the yield is good: 6-7%.