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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » June 3, 2009
Owning You Own Home:
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A Polish Passion
June 3, 2009   
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I have lived through six crises and emerged stronger each time because one thing never changes: people want to own real-estate, Frank J. Polzler, chairman and co-founder of Remax Europe and Remax Ontario Canada real estate agencies, tells Magdalena Fabijańczuk.

This month is the second anniversary of the opening of Remax Polska. What is your take on these troubled times for the real estate market?
When we entered the Polish market in May 2007, the situation was stable, prices and interest on the part of customers were still on the rise. Real estate prices have been falling worldwide for the past six months, and the banks' reduced eagerness to lend has lowered the transaction volume. But prices have started stabilizing and I find this is a good time to buy an apartment, as you can obtain it for a much lower price than a few months, or years previously.

From my experience, I would counsel buyers to take out loans in their own currency. In the developing European countries, consumers were eager to take out loans in Swiss francs or euros, but there is a high risk involved in these loans. Which is why many of them now have to pay back much more than they borrowed.

Why is Remax opening offices in Poland?
Remax is in Poland because Poland is in Europe, and we are active in all the European Union countries as well as in Turkey, Israel, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. We have 1,600 hundred offices across Europe, and employ over 10,000 professional agents.

How do you see the situation in Poland in view of the worldwide crisis?
Poland is relatively untouched by the crisis. But the recession is on the minds of Poles, who are too critical. They are quick to assimilate the negative information spread by the media. In Poland and elsewhere there are too many "experts" who proclaim, for example, that the recession will last three more years. But who really knows? We have observed in our US offices that the market has started to gather pace, more customers are visiting our offices and our agents are making more transactions.

What are the goals of Remax Polska for the coming years?
Poland is a country of 40 million people, and some 15 million households. Over the next 15-20 years, we see the potential here for opening 300-600 new offices. The percentage of real estate ownership in Poland is much higher than in neighboring countries, where many citizens live in state-owned or rented flats. But Poles want to have their own home, they strive to own their homes. This desire to own real estate is also evident among those who emigrate. Poles living in Canada and the United States own a fair share of the real estate there.

Does the Polish real estate market function in a professional manner, in view of your global experience?
Not fully. There are a lot of very small real estate companies in Poland. Agents do not possess the necessary knowledge, analyses and statistics. The service is not good enough to make consumers want to pay for it. In my opinion, this is the reason why only about 50 percent of transactions on the Polish real estate market are made by agents. By comparison, in Canada and the United States, that figure is nearly 90 percent.

Buying a house is not like shopping in a supermarket, which is why both the buyer and the seller need professional service and well-trained agents. At Remax, agents are required to study continuously.

You have been working in real estate for over 50 years. Bearing this in mind, how do you view the current crisis? How soon will we leave this slump and what factors does this depend on?
When I started out in 1958, first as an agent and then a broker, a 100 sq m house in Canada cost 14,500 dollars. Today you would have to pay 300,000 for the same house. That's why I love this business, because the figures show that real estate is the best investment in the world. I know one thing for sure, a crisis is like bad weather. We don't know how long it will last, but the skies will always clear up in the end and the sun will shine again. In the same way, the economy will recover after this slump. I can't say how soon, but that it will is certain.

I've lived through six crises, or corrections, and emerged stronger each time. One thing never changes: people want to own real estate. When their financial status changes, or when they move, they sell the old and buy new properties. Our business functions thanks to young people. Before they settle for good in an apartment or house they move many times.

Don't you find that Poles are reluctant to move?
This is changing. Poles will also move, and more and more so: the young from villages to cities, and the old, when they retire, from the cities to villages. The same scenario was evident in countries like Germany or Austria. Migration, for young people in search of a better life, is becoming more and more natural. The best example of this trend is the number of young Poles who have emigrated to Britain or Ireland in search of work.
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