The success story of Engel & Völkers began with a small villa in Hamburg’s Elbchaussee. This year, the real estate company is celebrating its 40th anniversary and looking back on the milestones of the past decades, as well as into the future. In 1977, Dirk C. Engel founded a real estate brokerage in Hamburg. Four years later, his friend, the student Christian Völkers, became his partner. Their first joint office was located in a villa in Elbchaussee, whose facade remains part of the brand logo to this day. From here they built up a real estate company that was to change the industry from the bottom up. Using innovative marketing concepts and expansion strategies, Engel & Völkers broke with conventional real estate practices. Today, the company is represented in over 30 countries on four continents. More than 10,000 people are now working under the banner of the brand. Since October 2014, Christian Völkers has been sharing the chairmanship with Sven Odia, who began his career at Engel & Völkers as a trainee.
The early days in the Elbe suburbs of Hamburg
“I was always driven by the idea to build up something, develop something, and come up with a suitable marketing strategy”, Christian Völkers remembers. Soon after joining the company, he is convinced that the only way to win the trust of his clients is by establishing a strong brand that stands for professionalism and competence. On this basis, he develops the so-called Engel & Völkers Manual: the foundation for a standardised service system. It sets out each work step of a real estate agent - from the welcoming of clients to a detailed property viewing procedure. Over the years, these systematised processes are developed further and trained. In 1995, Engel & Völkers is the first real estate company to set up an own academy for this purpose, whose task it is to exemplify the standardised work steps. Today, the academy provides 1,000 seminar hours each year for Engel & Völkers real estate agents.
The glass-fronted residential property shop
In the mid-90s, Christian Völkers introduced uniform shop facades as a next step towards practised corporate identity. Precise specifications determine the look of each Engel & Völkers location, ranging from the white orchid on the reception desk to the black entrance door. Following English style, the company fits its shops with large window fronts which permit views of the properties on offer and the real estate agents. This concept, which is new to Germany, quickly brings success and promotes the expansion of Engel & Völkers.
From Hamburg to the rest of the world
The first foreign office is opened in Palma de Mallorca in 1990 in order to meet client demand for second homes in attractive destinations. In 1998, Christian Völker introduces the franchise system, inspired by the fast-food chain McDonalds. This is the final breakthrough for the global expansion of the brand. With the Metropolitan Market Centers (MMC), another key pillar of business was established in 2013. The strategy behind the MMC concept is to grow faster in the world’s metropolitan areas and thereby increase the market share of Engel & Völkers.
Outlook: continuous development and the digitisation of real estate marketing
Engel & Völkers will continue on the growth track in the future. The company wants to strengthen its presence, especially in the focus markets of Europe and North America. Another topic that will engage Engel & Völkers in the coming years is the digitisation of the real estate sector. “The mission of Engel & Völkers is to provide services that fulfil the high-quality demands of our clients. Against this background, we want to use digitisation to make our service even more efficient,” Christian Völkers elaborates. For several years now, the company has been developing digital solutions to facilitate real estate marketing processes. The goal is to technically support the real estate agent and the clients with relevant data. “Despite all the digital opportunities, personal support by an experienced expert will remain a key component of our brokerage activities,” says Christian Völkers.
Before the company anniversary: Move to the new company headquarters in Hamburg’s HafenCity
The next important milestone apart from the company anniversary is this year’s move to the new company headquarters. For the move to the new building in Hamburg’s HafenCity, Engel & Völkers was able to win over the renowned New York architect’s office Richard Meier & Partner Architects LLP. The building is a dream come true for the entrepreneur - a building in which external visitors too can experience the brand world of Engel & Völkers. With its new location in the HafenCity, Engel & Völkers remains true to its Hamburg roots and is once again domiciled on the Elbe river, where everything began 40 years ago.