In the recent edition of Focus-Spezial Immobilien (English: Focus-Special Real Estate) Christian Völkers, CEO/Founder of Engel & Völkers AG, talks about second homes.
Mr. Völkers, why do you live on Majorca in the summer season?
“I was travelling around the island 20 years ago when I discovered a unique plot of land with an old finca. It is completely off the tourist track, close to a rocky coastline near Valldemossa. With wonderful views overlooking the Tramuntana mountains and the sea. I immediately fell in love with the estate and decided to buy it. “
What makes it so unique, compared to other properties that you sell?
“The grounds could only be reached via a bumpy gravel track. On the plot itself there was a 500-year-old traditional country house that laid almost in ruins. I put my heart into restoring it, while preserving the original character of the historic walls. We have kept the façade as it was with its classical columns on the veranda, but inside almost everything is new.”
So your tip is: better to look for a dilapidated house and then refurbish it yourself?
“Our clients are usually interested in a new or fully refurbished holiday property. If they start looking in the spring they often want to have moved in by the summer.“
What was your estate worth when you bought it, and what would its current valuation be?
“To give you a direct comparison, the estate cost around a third of what it would be worth on Majorca today. But the price is always just one aspect. I was looking for somewhere to retreat, away from a demanding job. Sometimes I don’t leave my estate for days on end. It gives me strength for my day-to-day life and inspiration as well to develop new ideas for the company.”
That is when you make decisions like designating foreign locations in Barcelona, in Rome and in Dubai as new hotspots for your company?
“We want to build on our presence in attractive cities, as the trend towards buying second homes is enormous. Clients always want everything to be 100 percent perfect when they buy their main property. When it comes to acquiring a holiday home, many buyers are not quite so demanding with regard to the layout of the rooms. The key factor involved is primarily the best possible location.“
What was the most expensive property transaction in your 30 years in the property industry?
“That was a property in Switzerland. We sold it for 60 million Swiss francs – which equates to around 55 million euros.”
For anyone who isn’t a millionaire but who is still looking for a beautiful holiday property abroad, where are they most likely to find something?
“On the one hand there are the top holiday destinations such as Majorca, Sardinia and the Côte d’Azur, where exceptionally high prices are being paid in prime locations for high-end holiday properties. On the other hand, prices in preferable locations in undiscovered regions are still moderate. For example in some coastal regions on the Spanish mainland and in Portugal.”
What about that country in the throws of the Euro crisis – Greece? Could buying a property there turn into a disaster?
“Since the decision last year that Greece will remain in the Euro zone, the property market has stabilised. From that point of view, now is the right time to invest in Greek property, for example on Rhodes. In Italy too, there are classic second homes in Tuscany and on the lakes of northern Italy. This is now an opportune moment to buy a holiday home there.”
With all the alternatives you come across on a daily basis – should we be expecting that you will be selling your estate on Majorca some time soon?
“Under no circumstances. Majorca remains one of the most vibrant places in Europe. I love the climate, the Mediterranean way of life, the warmth of the people and the beautiful island scenery. I spend a lot of time here with my family and friends. Once a year I also invite our clients to a polo tournament. This is simply my home.”
Interview: Focus journalist Michael Franke