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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » April 16, 2008
SPECIAL REPORT - Residential Market: Changing Times
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Home by the Sea
April 16, 2008   
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Aleksander Skirmuntt, president of Polish real estate services company Emmerson SA, talks to Agnieszka Domańska.

Emmerson is known as a real estate agent focusing on apartments in Poland. Recently the company has decided to branch out.

Yes, our new area of business is vacation properties. There are several reasons for going into this field and offering our clients something different. From a purely business point of view, the decision comes from the philosophy that we adopted while preparing our strategic plans. In business, certain plans, development programs, projects, products and ideas after a time stop being as profitable and attractive as at the beginning. The same is true of the real estate market, and that is why we always try to enter new areas or niche markets, and respond to market needs.

Emmerson has been operating in Poland since 1994. At first we were engaged in the rental of apartments; then we started to sell housing projects, and then commercial real estate and property management proved to be worthwhile. Another good business area is the outfitting of apartments, or more precisely preparing fully completed apartments for investment funds, which had bought whole real estate packages and then rented them out. We also expanded our activities horizontally by opening branch offices in Warsaw, Wrocław, Cracow, Gdańsk and Poznań. We are currently planning to open offices in ŁódĽ and Katowice.

Why did you choose a field that is so different from your core business and involves operations on foreign markets at that?

For pure business reasons. Prices on the market have dropped, or rather they are not growing as dynamically as just a few months ago and hence our potential profits have dropped. In reality, prices stopped growing at the end of 2006 as demand dropped. Investors started to look for other money-making opportunities. We also started to look for more effective areas. That is when we got the idea to get involved in vacation real estate.

Is it possible to find enough buyers in Poland to develop this business, or to make it your mainstay business?

As a rule this real estate is located in countries with warmer, vacation-type climates. Currently, we are selling real estate mainly in Spain, Croatia and Bulgaria. We also have projects in France and Italy and shortly we plan to sell attractive facilities in Brazil. We are focusing not so much on houses, but rather on apartments or condominiums. As we all know, people's incomes in Poland are growing, and they are getting wealthier, so we believe that the demand for vacation homes will grow dynamically. Also, many wealthier people slowly approaching retirement age will want to buy a place to quietly spend their old age. You need to remember that it is also a matter of prestige, when you can tell others that you own an apartment on the coast of Italy or Spain. However, I should stress that Emmerson is definitely not withdrawing from its other activities, but these vacation properties will constitute an important and developing area, albeit not our core business.

Coming back to these properties, these are mainly apartments, usually with a large hall, a kitchenette and a large balcony with an attractive view of the sea, the mountains or on a golf course. In terms of prices, they are in fact comparable with Warsaw prices, and in some cases even lower. Of course, everything depends on the location. The most picturesque, prestigious and attractive area is Costa del Sol in Spain, and there the prices are high. Spain's biggest attraction is its climate and 300 sunny days in a year and beautiful landscapes.

Is it not better to go with your family for two weeks somewhere, instead of buying an apartment by the sea?

Well, first of all this offer is directed at people who can afford it, and second, those who have more free time and so buying such a property is worth their while.

Living costs in Spain are relatively low; you can send your family there, for example children will go to English-speaking schools, while learning Spanish at the same time. For example, many people from England and Ireland live permanently in Spain.

It is also important that, apart from going there yourself, you can make money on renting out such an apartment. Specialist real estate agencies and hotels with which we work help in this area. However, we also have properties in Poland: in the mountains and by the sea, where one can spend a whole vacation, as well as a range of properties in Slovakia. The latter are targeted mainly at skiers who can afford to ski for longer than just a week or two.

So the sporting aspect is also important, apart from basking in the sun on the beach and spending time in a warm and friendly climate?

Of course. In this area Spain is of particular interest as it has fantastic conditions to play golf. This country is a real paradise for lovers of this sport. On Costa del Sol alone there are 70 golf courses, while in Poland there are less than 20 in total. Practically speaking, one can play golf all year round in this region, and the courses themselves lie in magical locations among hills and valleys. We are always happy to tell our clients about that. Recently, between March 11-14 as part of the promotion of real estate located near these golf courses, we organized a golf tournament in Marbella. We invited celebrities such as Krzysztof Materna, Piotr G±sowski, Wiktor Zborowski, Andrzej Strzelecki and Jose Torres. People who came to this tournament had an opportunity to play with them and at the same time visit the area and see our range of apartments for themselves.
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