Century 21’s CEO, Ricardo Sousa, On Spain’s RE Sector

9 June 2016 – Expansión

Century 21 left the Spanish market in 2007, when the tourism group Globalia took the decision to exit the country, but it returned in 2010 at the height of the real estate crisis, at the hand of the Portuguese businessman Ricardo Sousa, the master franchisor of Century 21 in Portugal since 2004. Now, the US real estate network plans to double its business in Spain, says Sousa, the CEO.

(In Spain), the chain started out in Cataluña, before moving to Madrid and the Costa del Sol; its expansion plan is now focused on Levante.

– You took a risk by returning to Spain, but now you have 40 offices….

When we arrived in 2010, the market was correcting itself. An opportunity arose and we didn’t think twice about it. A major recession was underway, but there was a clear need to change the product to serve the people. Spain was conditioned by brick and speculation, but during the crisis we saw the real needs of Spanish families. The most opportunistic operators were exiting and have now abandoned the real estate sector. The professionals have stayed, and that service and proximity (to our clients and markets) is what differentiates us.

– What are your thoughts regarding the recovery of the sector?

The recovery started in the main markets, like Madrid and Barcelona, but more peripheral areas have also begun to emerge this year. Families are starting to buy homes again, because there is more confidence and better access to mortgages. Spain has an incredible culture of ownership and now the real estate market is coming back. Moreover, areas such as Levante, which have strong international demand, are providing a huge boost.

 – With the current level of stock, do we need to build new homes?

Nothing has been built for years, and yes, demand exists for new developments and even renovations. But we may see changes in the profile of buyers, as we are increasingly depending on overseas purchasers. In particular, the instability in neighbouring countries means that we are attracting more tourists, and that is good, but we need to be prudent and anticipate the impact of the latest trends…

– Now you are planning to grow in Levante, working together with a local company…

Spain is a country of many realities and we have to specialise in each one, in order to add value. Our collaboration with Mahersol was born out of that idea. Our business outlook extends 20 years, and so we are looking at local businesses. We started this formula in the Canary Islands and are now implementing it in Levante, focusing, above all, on the Costa Blanca and Murcia.

– Do you think the political situation may restrict this progress and create instability?

In Portugal, we experienced something similar and partnerships that once seemed impossible were made possible. There is a stronger dynamic at play, namely the residential market, which moves at the margin of politics. (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Mª José Cruz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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