Ghost Homes: 200 Buyers Lose €3M in Mallorca’s Biggest Real Estate Scam

30 August 2018 – The Local

Scores of budding homeowners on Spain’s biggest Balearic island have been defrauded out of their life savings after putting forward money for apartments that were never built or never existed.

On paper, real estate group Mallorca Investments offered clients the chance to buy apartments through local developer Lujo Casa for a price below the market average.

Budding homeowners would then give an advance of at least 10 per cent of the property price to the developer in order to supposedly tie down one of the apartments before it was built.

The new proprietors would even check that the plans were presented at city councils on the island, which would often instigate a request for a higher percentage from the developer, El País reported.

Some people put forward as much as €200,000 to own a luxury home in a coastal neighbourhood of Palma, Mallorca’s capital.

However, as time passed, construction work on the commissioned apartment buildings never seemed to get off the ground.

When the buyers demanded explanations from developer Lujo Casa, whose offices were shared with Mallorca Investments, no proper explanation was given.

“When we went months later to ask for explanations, the real estate agency had changed address and there were no employees from the building company either,” one of the buyers who put down first €23,500 euros and then €70,500 euros when the plans were presented at a town hall, told the Spanish daily.

“When we managed to contact them the real estate agency would ignore us or tell us they had no new information and that they had also been cheated.

“Nobody at the developer’s answered our e-mails either”.

This nonchalant and evasive reaction was part of the modus operandi of the property group, which according to Spanish Civil Guard sources could be behind the biggest real estate scam in the history of Spain’s Balearic Islands.

Following numerous official complaints from 50 of the disgruntled buyers – young, old, local and foreign – a covert investigation was carried out by Spanish authorities which led them to understand how the estate agency and the developer were operating together and how they were run by the same businessman.

A quick check online confirmed that the suspected scammer, an Italian man, was continuously sharing pictures on his social media accounts of his ostentatious jetsetter lifestyle, travelling business class to Dubai, popping bottles of the most expensive champagne and driving lavish sports cars through Mallorca.

The man, called M.P. by Spain’s Civil Guard, has been arrested and is awaiting trial for numerous counts of fraud.

But for the 200 people who put money forward for the ‘ghost homes’, many of whom sacrificed their life savings, there is little indication as to whether they’ll ever see their money or their properties materialize.

Original story: The Local

Edited by: Carmel Drake


Mission Accomplished For 2017: DonPiso Opens Its 100th Branch In Spain

7 November 2017 – Eje Prime

Mission accomplished for DonPiso in 2017. The Spanish real estate agent has fulfilled the plans it set out for this year to have 100 branches and to sign 3,000 operations.

The company’s new delegation in Barberà del Vallès (Barcelona), plus the three franchises it signed recently in Madrid, Pamplona and Badalona, take the number of branches operating under the DonPiso brand into the three digits.

Of DonPiso’s establishments, 76 are franchises and 24 are owned premises. The real estate broker has increased its number of branches in Spain by 24, which has allowed it to grow its transactions statistics by 20%.

“Our objective this year was to grow in a sustained way and in line with the market. The real estate sector has shown itself to be very strong over the course of the year”, said the Deputy Director General of DonPiso, Emiliano Bermúdez.

Similarly, the company has explained that its most recent commitments respond to the “high dynamism” of the Madrilenian, Catalan and Navarran markets. In the first two cases, the investment is justified since the regions are the motors of the Spanish real estate market, whilst in the case of Pamplona, the supply and demand for housing in the city makes it one of the most stable markets in the country.

Founded in 1984, DonPiso is currently in the process of investing €22 million in the residential segment, to build fifteen developments and extend its network of branches to 120 in 2018.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Solvia Plans To Have 55 Estate Agent Branches By YE

7 September 2017 – Eje Prime

Solvia is fuelling its high street estate agent business. The servicer arm of Banco Sabadell plans to have more than fifty branches in Spain before the end of the year. The company already has 19 branches of its own spread all over the country and it plans to open around thirty franchises before the end of the year.

According to Cinco Días, Solvia’s strategic plan includes opening 180 franchises and 36 own offices all over Spain between now and 2019. The network of Solvia Stores sold 1,850 homes during the first seven months of the year, worth €233 million.

Moreover, as EjePrime revealed, Solvia plans to open offices in prime locations. The company opened a flagship store in the Spanish capital, on Calle Alcalá (in the heart of the Salamanca neighbourhood) during the first half of the year and has just opened an iconic establishment in the heart of Barcelona, at number 16 on Ronda Universidad, just a stone’s throw from fashion retailers such as Zara and Desigual, and the Apple flagship store in the Catalan capital.

In this way, Solvia is completing its strategy with a physical presence on the high street. For the time being, it has stores open in cities such as Sevilla, Madrid, Alicante, Oviedo, San Sebastián, Valencia, Marbella, Torrevieja and Badalona, amongst others.

The last line of business to be developed by Solvia is that of real estate broker on behalf of companies and investors. The company is boosting its advisory and broker team, in a move that will allow it to compete with the major consultancy firms in Spain, such as CBRE, Aguirre Newman, Cushman & Wakefield and Knight Frank, for example.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

DonPiso: Invests €22M In Residential & Plans To Have 120 Offices By 2018

29 June 2017 – Eje Prime

It is one of the survivors of the property crisis, but with differences. DonPiso, founded in 1984, has lived through several economic crises and has seen itself both grow and contract. It has changed hands several times and has reached a new economic cycle, in which, finally, the real estate business seems to be getting a break. (…) It plans to have 120 offices operational this year and invest more than €22 million on the construction of around fifteen residential developments, as Emiliano Bermúdez, Deputy General Manager of DonPiso, explained to EjePrime.

DonPiso was one of the first real estate agencies to be founded in Spain, along with Grupasa, although it was not until 1997, that it began its expansion through franchises, achieving penetration across the whole of the Spanish market. Its mixed model, based on intercalating the opening of own offices with franchises, allowed it to leave Barcelona and begin expanding across the national market. “The results broke all expectations”, recalls Bermúdez.

In 2001, DonPiso was acquired by Ferrovial and, in 2006, it changed hands once again, on this occasion to be controlled by the real estate group Habitat. It was then, when the firm had a network of almost 400 offices, that the economic crisis hit its business, forcing Habitat into creditor bankruptcy and, whereby, leaving DonPiso in a delicate situation.

“Luis Pérez, José Antonio Pérez, Miguel Ángel Vázquez and I (Emiliano Bermúdez) joined forces and took control of DonPiso for €1.8 million”, said the Director. The distribution network was cut to fifty offices.

“We now find ourselves in a new era for DonPiso” – added the Director, “We have been born again and we have managed to weave a network of 90 establishments”. “The company is smaller, but it is not unreasonable to think that, at some point, we could be as large as we were ten years ago”, said the Director.


In this way, DonPiso has set itself some ambitious objectives for the next few years. According to the company, the optimal outcome in 2017 would be to reach a network of 115 operational offices across Spain, which would mean opening 25 more in the next six months. Bermúdez sees that as “more than feasible, thanks to the pace that we are enjoying”.

Besides second-hand homes, the company’s plans also include a sizeable business relating to the new home segment, with its residential developments. It is currently marketing seven developments. “This year, we will build six more, at least, depending on the buildable land that we are able to access and in 2018, we plan to build between 5 and 6 additional developments”, added the Director.

According to DonPiso, each development requires an initial investment of €1.5 million. Then, according to the Director, you have to add the other expenses “which tend to be financed through debt and partners joining the project”. “The average DonPiso development sees around fifty homes coming onto the market”, said Bermúdez.

Thanks to all of these plans, DonPiso has also set itself the objective of increasing its turnover. In 2016, the company sold €309.6 million in terms of production, with 2,048 units and the business margin was €1.55 million. “The forecast for this year is optimistic: sales of more than 2,500 units and a growth margin of 25%”, said Bermúdez.

Original story: Eje Prime

Translation: Carmel Drake

Solvia Doubles Its Profits & Builds 2,800 Homes

7 April 2017 – Expansión 

Solvia is establishing a name for itself as a profitable division for Banco Sabadell. The real estate arm is no longer just an instrument for evacuating assets awarded to the entity during the crisis, but rather it has become a profit-generating subsidiary and one that generates additional business for the bank’s branch network.

Moreover, the group is establishing itself as one of the main real estate companies in Spain covering the full cycle, given that it not only brokers the sale and purchase of properties, it also operates as one of the largest developers of new build properties, with a current stock under construction of 2,800 homes.

According to company sources, Solvia closed 2016 with a profit before tax (PBT) of €57.8 million, which represents a 2.4-fold increase on its earnings the previous year (€24 million).

The turnover of the company led by Javier García del Río for services rendered in 2016 grew by 31% to €157.5 million. This increase was even higher than the growth in the volume of brokered sales, which amounted to €1,995 million, up by 20.4%.

This rise was driven by an increase in marketing activities and the fact that 2016 was the first year in which the portfolios managed on behalf of Sareb were reflected in Solvia’s results their entirety. The bad bank is Solvia’s main client, alongside Banco Sabadell, although the company also works with several funds and family offices.

Moreover, last year, it diversified its activity by starting to sell homes to individuals through the launch of a chain of real estate offices on the high street. Solvia already has fifteen agencies – four of which are franchised – in Alicante, Sevilla, Torrevieja, Marbella, Murcia, San Pedro de Pinatar, El Campello, Fuengirola, Valencia, L’Hospitalet, Badalona, Oviedo, Getafe, Leganés and Castellón. Its objective is to extend the network right across Spain over the next few years.

Property developments

In total – excluding rental homes – Solvia sold 20,321 properties in 2016, up by 25.8%. It is worth noting that 29% of the sales corresponded to assets other than finished homes, compared to 9% in 2015. Since 2011, Solvia has brokered the sale of 91,000 properties in Spain.

The company now manages 148,000 units, with a value of more than €31,000 million. Of that figure, €4,300 million relates to financial assets under management and €1,200 million relates to land under development. The assets it manages on behalf of Sareb came from Banco Ceiss and Bankia.

The 2,800 new build homes that Solvia is now constructing on land owned by Banco Sabadell and Sareb are located in 79 developments across Spain – in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Córdoba, Sevilla, Gijón and Pamplona.

Original story: Expansión (by Sergi Saborit)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Donpiso Will Open 50 New Offices In 2017

30 January 2017 – Expansión

The real estate broker Donpiso will open between 40 and 50 new offices this year, with the aim of strengthening its commercial network in the Spanish market. The company opened 30 new offices last year and brokered operations worth €375 million in total, up by 76% compared with the previous year (€213.4 million). In 2014, its brokered volumes amounted to €139.4 million. The company brokered 2,503 operations last year, almost twice as many as during the previous year.

Donpiso’s plans include having 120 offices in its network by the end of the year. Most of the new offices will be opened in the Community of Madrid, the Community of Valencia, País Vasco, Andalucía and the Canary Islands.

Last year, the most significant increase in terms of office numbers was seen in Cataluña, where the firm’s central headquarters are located.

The company’s expansion is based on a mixed model. Of the new offices opened in 2016, eight were owned offices and 22 were franchises. This year, the firm wants to maintain the same proportion, and whereby exert full control over c. 25% of its offices.

Donpiso, which recorded turnover of €7.5 million last year, will invest €2.5 million on its expansion plans, of which €500,000 will be allocated to opening its own offices and the remainder to its franchises. The company will recruit 120 workers during this process.

The company is also constructing 13 urban developments, all of which are in different phases of progress. Its developments are mainly located in Barcelona, as well as in towns in the Catalan capital’s metropolitan area, such as Badalona, Sabadell and Cornellà.


The firm has enjoyed a progressive recovery since 2009, when the current Director General, Luis Pérez, acquired the Donpiso brand for €1 million.

The company, which was owned by Ferrovial until 2006 and by Habitat for the next three years, had a network of almost 400 offices across the Spanish market before the crisis hit.

Original story: Expansión (by E. Galián)

Translation: Carmel Drake

The Real Estate Recovery Takes Hold In Portugal

15 December 2016 – El Mundo

After several years in crisis, the Portuguese real estate market is booming once again thanks to public auctions of properties and the arrival of overseas buyers, attracted by the tax exemptions and the quality of life.

In Lisbon, Luis Morais, a 43-year old IT teacher, has just acquired an 80 m2 apartment in Sintra, a city close to the capital, for €49,000 in a public auction. The bidding started at €33,000. “It is a bargain” said the IT teacher. “We are not going to live there, we just want to rent out the apartment to supplement our income”, explained Teresa, his partner, aged 36, who teaches mathematics.

The property was confiscated from a family with lots of debt and was owned by the public bank Caixa Geral de Depositos, which decided to auction it off. Like Luis and Teresa, many Portugese people are now choosing to invest in property rather than leave their money in the banks, which are still fragile following the crisis.

Overseas investors are also buying properties in public auctions, such as the case of a three-storey office building in the entre of Lisbon, which was put on the market for €5.1 million.

From recession to recovery

After several years of crisis, the real estate market in Portugal began to improve in 2013 and the recovery accelerated in 2015, thanks to low interest rates, which drove up sales by 27%. Between 2008 and 2012, house prices fell by 30% in Portugal, but they are now soaring again thanks to overseas buyers, attracted by the quality of life in Portugal and the tax exemptions on offer.

The phenomenon is being felt in Lisbon above all. “In two years, prices have risen by 20% and they are still increasing, there is still room for growth” said Pascal Gonçalves, President of Libertas, a property developer.

Recently, a 160 m2 apartment in the popular neighbourhood of Alfama was sold for €420,000, which is twice as much as it was worth ten years ago. And in the heart of the capital, in the neighbourhood of Chiado, a 100 m2 2-bedroom home was recently sold for €900,000, a price that would have seemed very high just a few years ago.

No risk of a bubble

In Oporto, the largest city in the north of the country, the real estate sector is also performing well. “I have doubled my turnover in a year, and I now earn four times as much as when I worked as a biologist”, explained Isabel Leitao, aged 33, who has been working as an estate agent for six years.

During the first nine months of 2016, the activity of the network of real estate agents Century 21 has soared by 36%. Its President for the Iberian Peninsula, Ricardo Sousa, expects “prices to stabilise in Lisbon because they are out of step with the incomes of Portuguese people”.

Nevertheless, according to the Minister for the Economy, Manuel Caldeira Cabral, there is no risk of a real estate bubble. “Prices have increased in Lisbon, but they are still much lower than in Paris or London”.

The average price of an apartment in Lisbon has increased to €3,607/m2, according to the ad website Imovirtual. (…).

Original story: El Mundo

Translation: Carmel Drake

Don Piso Invests €36M To Build New Homes In Barcelona

11 July 2016 – La Vanguardia

The real estate group Don Piso has 10 housing developments underway, worth €36 million, in the province of Barcelona, according to its majority shareholder and CEO, Luis Pérez. “Property development has always been a complementary part of our company’s activity; we mainly focus on brokering the sale and purchase of homes”, explained Pérez. The group, which has created an independent company for each construction site, has already completed one development in Badalona, the first one it started following the end of the real estate crisis; and it expects to finish its flagship development, opposite the Clínica Quirón in Barcelona, on the site of the former headquarters of the Tusquets publishing house, in September. In addition, Pérez explained that the group has three developments underway in l’Hospitalet de Llobregat, two in Cornellà and three in Sabadell. “We buy small plots of land on which to construct between 10 and 30 homes, in areas where we already have representatives and therefore where we know the market”, he explained. The developments are all at different phases, some are still under construction, whilst others are waiting for licences to be processed.

Don Pizo, explained Pérez, has accelerated its pace of growth to manage the increase in transactions being brought about by the real estate recovery. Thus, he explained, the group already owns 20 offices of its own and a network of 51 franchised agents. “We are going to open an office in Madrid, with 8 people, which will operate as a sales office and which will also centralise the relationships with our franchisees: this represents our return to this market following the crisis”, he explained. The firm has also returned to the Canary Islands, where it had 60 offices before the crisis. “It is a very important market and we have hired a very powerful local partner there to undertake the significant expansion”.

Don Piso used to have more than 400 offices before the outbreak of the real estate crisis, in 2007 – it owned 156 of those outright and also had more than 260 franchises, but the crisis forced it to cut back, to just 8 own offices and less than 20 franchises, with a workforce of 40 people. Thanks to the recovery of the market, the firm now employs 296 people.

“We are enjoying an ideal market at the moment, with affordable prices and satisfied buyers. We hope that the market will continue like this, with price increases of between 2% and 6% p.a., and that we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past”, he acknowledged. Last year, Don Piso recorded a turnover of €7 million and brokered property sales worth €92 million. The firm, which returned to profit in 2014, expects to close this year with a 30% increase in revenues, to reach €9 million, with brokered property sales of €117 million.

Original story: La Vanguardia (by Rosa Salvador)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Remax Forms Alliance With BBVA To Supply Mortgages

26 February 2015 – ABC

The estate agent Remax and BBVA have signed a collaboration agreement, whereby the bank will provide specialist financial services for mortgage opportunities generated by the realtor, according to a statement made by the agent.

Through this agreement, the two companies seek to coordinate to provide “the best financial services” to clients in the estate agent’s network.

For Remax, the greater ease of access to home ownership “adds value” to the estate agent’s services.

At BBVA, they believe that this alliance will help the entity become a “benchmark within Remax”.

Original story: ABC

Translation: Carmel Drake

Alfa Inmobiliaria’s Branch Network Grew By 4% In 2014

20 January 2015 – El Mundo

Alfa opens 12 new estate agencies in Spain and seven overseas.

Madrid and Valencia are the regions with the highest demand for new real estate agencies.

Alfa Inmobiliaria has announced that its estate agent network grew by 4% in terms of office numbers in 2014. The chain has 184 agencies, of which 108 are located in Spain and 66 overseas.

The new offices are mainly located in Madrid and Valencia, the areas in which demand for housing has increased over the past year. Jesús Duque, Vice President of the Company, says that “the sector has began its recovery. 2014 was the first year of net growth in terms of office numbers since 2009”.

Currently, Alfa Inmobiliaria employs 265 workers in Spain across its office network. Alfa Inmobiliaria provides real estate “packs” to self-employed people looking to start a business; the packs include 35,000 homes, both for sale and for rent, a methodology for working, the support of the brand and the ability to agree joint operations to facilitate work.

In this way, the company facilitates the entry into the business of any entrepreneur willing to risk the minimum capital, supplying him/her with all of the knowledge and tools necessary. And, when the time comes, Alfa supports his/her transfer to an office. The franchisee him/herself determines the speed of each step, which may vary depending on previous experience and the business skills acquired, but he/she will always be supported by the team at Alfa Inmobiliaria.

Original story: El Mundo

Translation: Carmel Drake