In summer 2008, finally broke the financial crisis, first in the USA., and immediately in global markets. A financial crisis with a major impact on the housing sector, thus definitively breaking the good times (and in some cases excesses) which for years had enjoyed this sector.
At this point, and in these times of uncertainty and changes that cause the crisis, Amat. sector company with over 65 years’ experience, have the need and the conviction to inform all customers, partners and contacts, to offer their views on the developments and changes that occur and affect all of us.
So Immaculada Amat, the front of this writing, since then, monthly expresses his more personal opinion about it. "We believe that only a good knowledge can make good decisions”.
Therefore, we expect and hope that this compilation of DIARIES OF CHANGE published, you find it interesting and useful.
Recupero parte del título del pasado Diario de marzo porque, revisado meses después, todo cuanto preveíamos, en mayor o menor grado, se ha cumplido. Así pues, a finales de febrero, decía: “Mirando adelante, desde nuestra perspectiva, las tendencias que vemos son:
Mantenimiento de la demanda, tanto de obra nueva como segunda mano. Incremento de los costes de construcción por el mayor coste de materias primas y de la energía, que se puede trasladar al precio final de las viviendas.
Posible subida de los intereses de las hipotecas Carencia de suelo, como consecuencia de la lentitud en todos los temas urbanísticos.
Descenso alarmante del número de viviendas en alquiler
Hoy, con el estallido de la guerra en Ucrania, nos es difícil ver las consecuencias que, por la economía europea, y la nuestra en particular, puede comportar y las derivadas por cada sector.
¿Qué ha pasado realmente en estos meses en el sector inmobiliario?
¿Se ha mantenido la demanda? Sí, pero ha bajado la oferta En general, en Barcelona y entorno, se han acabado de comercializar grandes promociones de obra nueva y apenas han empezado a pedirse nuevas licencias. Con esta conjetura, nos encontramos en un momento de carencia de obra nueva en comercialización mientras hay demanda que no se puede satisfacer. En segunda mano también hay poco producto en el mercado dado que una parte viene ligado a la entrega de obra nueva (son viviendas que salen al mercado debido a la compra por reposición), y si hay poca entrega de obra nueva, como está pasando en este momento, hay poca oferta y en consecuencia demanda insatisfecha.
¿Han subido los costes de construcción? Sí y bastante, entre un 15% y 20% Hay que tener presente que muchos materiales que se utilizan en la construcción son intensivos en energía, en su producción, y por eso les ha afectado directamente. ¿Qué consecuencias ha tenido? Pues, por ejemplo: el parón de algunas comercializaciones a la espera de un cambio de condiciones, la revisión de los presupuestos y negociación con la constructora, subidas de precios de venta en contados casos , la exploración de otros modelos diferentes a la venta granular, o incluso, la retirada de algún proyecto de forma definitiva.
¿Continúa el descenso de la oferta en alquiler? Sí, Sí y Sí. Desde el punto de vista de AMAT, esta falta de oferta es el gran problema del mercado inmobiliario y conjuntamente con la baja calidad laboral (acceso, estabilidad y sueldo), es el gran problema de la gente joven de nuestro país, un problema que explotará algún día. Hoy en día, nuestra oferta está bajo mínimos históricos, en muchos casos, cambiando el modelo de comercialización, pues casi ya no hay que anunciar inmuebles para alquilar, pero sí gestionar una larga lista de clientes demandantes que vamos acumulando. Y como nosotros, la mayoría de inmobiliarias de Barcelona.
Y tampoco prevemos que esto vaya a cambiar por varias razones: No se hacen edificios para alquilar a familias, ni jóvenes con sueldos medianos. Ya no quedan pequeños inversores que compren para alquilar, los hemos echado. Hay demasiado miedo a la inseguridad jurídica, pasamos de la caída de la regulación de rentas a la limitación del 2% en el incremento por IPC. La Administración vuelve a cargar sobre el propietario privado (la inmensa mayoría pequeño propietario). Por último, hay el fenómeno de la Okupación que, por cierto, el 40% de las ocupaciones de España son aquí. Da que pensar ¿no?
Por todo esto, AMAT pensamos que esta falta de oferta en alquiler es el gran problema del mundo inmobiliario y de la sociedad. ¡Porque independizarse, formar familia, tener hijos... requiere de una vivienda que, en la inmensa mayoría de los casos, será de alquiler! Pedimos, y volvemos a pedir a las Administraciones que se pongan ya, no hay tiempos que perder, sino queremos que las siguientes generaciones paguen por nuestra incompetencia.
Quiero acabar en positivo recordando dos nuevas líneas de negocio de AMAT que sí que miran adelante:
1. AmatZonia: pensada para llevar a cabo proyectos de eficiencia energética y en consecuencia de sostenibilidad, el valor y el confort de los edificios, ¡Consúltenos!
2. Comercialización y gestión de viviendas de temporada: Barcelona y entorno son polo de atracción de talento, que viene a estudiar o trabajar en la ciudad y necesita viviendas preparadas para acogerlos, ¡Consúltenos!
Finalmente, comunicarles que nuestras oficinas permanecerán cerradas por vacaciones del 8 al 19 de agosto. Así mismo, les deseamos tengan unas buenas vacaciones ¡Merecidas después de tantos sustos!
¿Han subido los tipos de interés? Sí, desde hace pocos días los tipos de interés de las hipotecas han subido un 0’5%. ¿Esto es mucho? Depende, pero el cierto es que se ha roto una estabilidad que hacía años se mantenía. También hemos observado que ha bajado la valoración de la tasación en algunos segmentos de vivienda, especialmente la franja superior a 750.000€. Las dos cosas sumadas también tendrán su impacto en el mercado.
¿Continúa la carencia de suelo? ¡Y tanto! Es verdad que ha finalizado alguno de los planeamientos urbanísticos históricos como el Parc de l’Alba en Cerdanyola, pero continúa siendo lento, lentísimo, el desarrollo de cualquier sector. Nos hemos convertido en una sociedad tan garantista, burocratizada y tenemos tanto instaurada la cultura del NO a todo, que provoca que todo se alargue años y años mientras que la vida continúa, las necesidades continúan siendo vigentes, e incluso se agravan. Esto hace que cada vez haya más diferencia entre lo que ofrecemos y lo que necesitamos.
As in recent years, 2021 has been a year full of scares, but a good year for the real estate market.
We started the year with many restrictions, but we were quickly turning towards optimism as the vaccination progressed; despite that, with all the coronavirus cases we have ended up having, recovery has been much slower than anticipated.
What has been the reality?
The trend of looking for housing with large spaces, garden or terrace has been consolidated. Surely, the majority of homes that meet these conditions are found more in the surroundings than in the city itself.
This trend has favored sales at our offices in Sant Cugat de Vallès and Sant Just Desvern, and on brand new homes that we sell in Badalona, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat and Cornellà, for example.
Prices have generally remained the same, and only in some developments which more than 80% had already been sold have the price risen slightly, approximately 5 7%. This has been the case in developments in a medium price range.
The trend of few foreign buyers has continued, we are a long way from pre pandemic numbers. The recovery is much slower than we all expected, and it especially affects homes and projects in the city of Barcelona, some of which are designed for a foreign market.
The difficulty of generating a consistent second hand offer has also been a trend. If we look at the spectacular growth in trading companies, freelancers, etc. that are dedicated to the real estate market, it is impossible for everyone to survive.
Interest has increased in BUILT TO RENT housing development. We will see, in the coming years, how all this interest ends in a world so in need of a rental offer market.
Finally, a very worrying trend: the slow, but constant, exit of properties that, until now, were in the rental market to move to the sale market. At the same time, the purchase of new construction by small investors to allocate them to be used for rent. These two things cause the opposite of what we need to happen. The number of homes that make up the rental market is decreasing as a result of policies that, in our opinion, are wrong:
The lack of investment by the Administration for years and years to generate rental housing.
Having taken many years to understand the need for public private collaboration when we talk about promoting rental housing.
The overdose of legislation that we have in relation to the rental world and the legal uncertainty because of that.
Having allowed illegal squatting.
Permanently question the owner. And in other areas the entrepreneur is questioned. We are tired of explaining, to anyone who wants to listen to us, that 95% of the owners are people who only want to have good tenants who spend time in the house and take care of it. The vast majority have social sensitivity, or are only ours owners, who we know very well, like that? No, that's not true, that's how most owners are.
When I wrote the diary at the end of February I had posted that, from our perspective, the trends we see were:
Maintenance of demand for new and second hand construction.
Price increase in construction costs due to the higher cost of raw materials and energy, which can be transferred to the final price of homes
A possible rise in mortgage interest
A lack of land as a result of the slowness in all urban issues.
An alarming decrease in the number of homes for rent.
Today, with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, it is difficult for us to see the consequences for the European economy, and for ours economy in particular, it may have and the derivatives in each sector.
Our solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
Nº95 Finish a COURSE full of shocks and uncertainties
As in most sectors, real estate has gone through a 20-21 roller coaster course, despite this we can’t complain since we have always managed to work; in other sectors are still suffering a lot!
Regarding AMAT workers, we must thank the daily effort, despite the sick leave, the lockdown, the quarantine, the uncertainties... they have managed all the difficulties that appeared with professionalism and positivism. Despite all this, they have reached the end of the course exhausted in need of vacations, so this year we have decided to close 15 days from August 9 to 20. In the case of the heritage communities area, there is, as always, a 24 hour service for incidents that may occur.
The activity of the real estate sector during the first semester has been quite important as it can be seen in the following data:
21% more proceedings have been closed than in 2019, we do not use 2020 as a reference because it was absolutely atypical. This does not mean 21% more in invoicing, since there has been a re positioning of prices, especially in the city of Barcelona. The reason for the re positioning has not only been due to the income regulation law in September 2020, but the market was already regulating itself long before.
In brand new homes we have sold less than in the first half of 2019, the main reason has been that some of the developments that we commercialize are coming to the end or have already finish and there are very few homes left.
The second hand has been maintained more or less the same activity in all the offices as in the same period of 2019, but with an important difference, the average sale price has been much higher than that of 2019, a trend that we are already beginning to notice clearly after the 2020 lockdown. Surely, it is a lack of supply that has characterized the market these first six months.
In general, prices have remained stable in brand new development and in second hand, with the COVID crisis there has been some expectation of a significant drop in prices, which has not been the case.
Luxury has also continued with a similar activity to 2019, but in this case it has focused on the surroundings of Barcelona than instead of the city itself. We are still waiting to recover the foreign buyer who during these first six months of 2021 has almost disappeared due to the lack of international mobility.
One of the questions that we had at the beginning of the year was how the evolution of the rental negotiations of people or companies, which could have payment problems in relation to the incidents of COVID, would be. Actually, during these first six months of 2021 the incidence has been very low, only with some re negotiations and extension agreements in some premises that have continued having difficulties. About housing, we can say that the incidents have not existed.
In the media we have also heard many times comments of what they say "silent evictions" referring to owners who do not renew the rental contract at the end of the period established in the contract.
In terms of resignations, tenants who leave before the end of the period established in the contract, we have had 33% more than in the same period of 2019. In fact, the vast majority of contracts never reach the end date because the tenants are leaving. There have been several reasons this 2021, the tenants have bought a property, they move to a better property or return to the family home. The average tenant stay in a property has historically been about 3.6 years.
On the other hand, we have analyzed the renewals we had this first semester, a contract that ended in this period, most of them have become contract extensions promoted by COVID legislation and by the owners.
In other words, are there "silent evictions"? Sure, there are cases. Is it a majority practice? Not at all, and the data backs it up. The problem is that from few cases in the media a theory is made.
We hope that we can enjoy a good holiday that will allow us to gather strength to assume the second half of 2021, which is still full of uncertainties.
The first quarter of 2021 has passed without realizing it. Today, in most of the companies including ours they try to offer the best possible service while resolving multiple exceptional situations that the pandemic has brought us; sick leave due to quarantine, complicated tenant situations that need to be resolved, regulations that have been changing. Moreover, especially a growing tiredness and discouragement that affects all of us.
As always, we would like to give a few data to understand where we are. Some curious facts and others that help to frame where we are:
Last year, in our company we worked 20,000 hours less than in 2019 as a consequence of the temporary employment regulation that we had for 6 months; most of them in the Commercial Area.
Due the changes in the rental regulations we were unable to publish the rental properties for 3 weeks (added to the weeks of lock down without being able to visit them with our customers).
We had less than 9 month available for visits, but we made more new rental contracts in 2020 than in 2019.
The rent defaulters, although there are families that are having a bad time, has increased a little, but we are in a very low percentage. In 2019 we were at 0.01% and we ended 2020 with 0.69%
Our average number of contract renewals was 85 95%, but in 2020 the average has not reached 60%. Most of this happen because the owners preferred to apply the COVID extensions and the legal extensions, and wait for the future.
There is an increase of the resignations of rental contracts. In 2019 we had 303 and in 220 it was 306.
In our case, rental prices in Barcelona city have dropped by 5%. On the other hand, at the first crown of the metropolitan area, prices are stabilized just with a small drop of less than 1%, tendency was already seen before COVID. What the media say is true; many families want to move out of the city where there are wide and healthier spaces. In our case, this means leaving Barcelona towards Sant Cugat del Vallès, Sant Just Desvern and its surroundings.
The prices of the new development projects that we sell, mainly outside Barcelona city, have been maintained and the sales rates have fallen from 7 properties per month to 4 properties sold on average. It should be noted that a significant number of projects arrive at the time of delivery with properties still to be sold.
New construction housing developments in the city of Barcelona are more difficult to sell for two reasons. They are promotions with homes designed for foreign buyers. And there are price drops (not published), sometimes significant, that occur during the negotiation, a fact that is more favorable to the potential buyer. A fact that we consider very positive is that in new construction we are keep working without problems with almost 100% of the operations carried out in the last 2 years. If any has fallen it has been due to illness, divorces or buyers with businesses directly affected by COVID.
In the case of second hand, we have made more transactions than in 2019 with a higher average sale price.
With all these data, our vision in relation to 2020 could not be other than hopeful. Despite this, there are issues that greatly concern us, which has to do with legal security and with the Administration decisions that achieve opposite results to what is theoretically intended.
We are aware there is a social problem in relation to housing that affects many families, but we have said a lot of times the solution to the problem is not the measures that are being promoted, but rather promoting the construction of social housing. An action that the Administrations would have to do, they should have done years ago, and it has not been done. Nor has it been done through a public private collaboration as is done in so many countries around us. There is the ground, there is the money... how can it not come out?
And as long as we do not go forward, we continue legislating measures that have opposite effects. It is mandatory to limit the rent through the Index when market prices are lower than the Index itself. All this accumulation of regulations and pressure takes flats out of the rental market and takes them for sale, especially in Barcelona; it drives away the small traditional investors in flats (most of whom bought flats and buildings to use for rent).
At the same time, the apartments on offer are growing with tenant figures that do not have any legality, the 11 month contracts, the season contracts, etc.
As always, we “punish” the owners who do it well, and as for those who do it badly, we look to the other way.
We are not doing well!
Nº93 Keep going!
Holidays are over and "as the world does not stop... we keep going!"
We are surrounded by uncertainties, concerns, fears... but at the same time we are providing the best possible service at all times, we want to keep growing, we bet on the future, we are full of enthusiasm, new ideas and illusions, we keep working with a great team of more than 80 professionals.
We still thinking and working for a Barcelona and its surroundings, which are very beautiful despite the fact that now we are sad by the number of commercial premises, closed hotels, etc. How many businesses and, above all, how many jobs lost. This is the most worrying thing!
We believe that it is time to make a great effort for the people, obviously, but combine it with a great effort for the City: to turn it beautiful, clean, safe, attractive, friendly, easy... We have the feeling that now we see a decaying city, dirty, with daily graffiti, more neglect, more occupation, and this cannot be. The crisis is of such a dimension, it has affected so many countries, all the cities will fight to be the first one to recover, and in this fight, we cannot be left behind, we are gambling too much! We will see the vision and commitment of the government and the different administrations.
In addition, as we have to keep going, we can explain to you how we have seen the real estate market in these last two months, July and August, from our experience:
19 new build homes have been deeded, sold on plan a time ago, and we have only had 2 resignations: one from a client related to the restaurant sector and the other due to a serious illness.
There have been 26 sales of new construction, a 12% higher in relation to the previous year. However, if we calculate it from January to August of this year, a 38% less has been done in global operations.
In the case of the second hand and luxury, the numbers of operations have increased due to the fact that immediately after finish the lockdown the demand for houses outside Barcelona and for houses with terraces grew. Until today, it is not being more difficult to get a mortgage.
It is the same that happen in the case of commercialization sale, in the two months of July and August there have been 12% more operations than the same period of the previous year, but in since January there is 5% less that the last year.
We have managed to keep debts very controlled, we have gone from 0.85% that we had until March of this year, to 1.63% that we currently have, it is little in relation to the average for the sector, but we have doubled.
The re negotiations of the contractual conditions have represented 15% of our portfolio, most of which we are talking about business premises, reaching an agreement in 93% of the cases.
Voluntary rescission of rental contracts are at the same level as in 2019.
Patrimonial Owners community
The debt in Communities is, until August 31, 6.4%; it has increased 33% in percentage terms.
What has increased a lot have been incidents, mostly due to coexistence issues caused by the restrictions imposed by COVID 19 and due to the difficulties of finding experts to solve the most urgent issues during the first moments of lockdown. It should be noted that we did 28 online meetings with the communities of owners and all the meetings to follow up. We had been trying this for years and now has been the time.
In the investment area, we have had a certain stoppage, but none of the operations that were underway have fallen.
Moreover, in the area of tax and legal consulting, the files have increased. In the case of tax, because the numbers of rents and patrimony have increased, and in the case of legal it’s because, unfortunately, more inheritances have been managed, a direct effect of COVID 19. From here our condolences and accompaniment to all the families who have lost a loved one.
We want to thank the suppliers, collaborators, external professionals and our team that has done everything possible and impossible to continue with the activity.
Finally, what trend will we see in prices? Everyone is asking this question today. Our vision is that prices will remain with some downward repositioning in the cases in which our valuations have been valued below the expectations of the owners. Despite this, we are at uncertain times.
We are aware that difficult times are coming for almost everyone, that in our sector already are and will surely be harder, but we are positive, we believe that the entire society is sufficiently sensitized to make an extra effort to move forward, we will keep going and we will go out!
Nº92 Incredibility, changes, fear, losses, uncertainties, tribute!
I have been doing the “Diary of Change” for 12 years, the last one I sent was in mid February, I had prepared one for March when the world turned upside down at all, and it has taken me days and days to decide to do this one.
What else can be said that has not been said in so many articles, media, or mentions on the social media? 80 days of lockdown brings an accumulation of incredible unthinkable experiences! We have each lived it differently, we had prepared ourselves to face many things, but I doubt that someone was prepared for a pandemic; it was not part of our vocabulary.
Companies, including ours, thought that 2020 might not be a year of strong growth, but it would be a "good" year. We thought that there were still, in the real estate sector, a couple of years of good progress, a couple of years that would allow us to consolidate new projects that we had underway; but suddenly, in one day, we understood with disbelief that we were initiating "a lockdown", everything was turned upside down, everything stopped.
In 24 hours, it was necessary to change the entire operation of the company, start teleworking, define new communication systems, etc. Meanwhile, families also had to change suddenly to assume the fact of having children at home; to others, those who live alone had to assume prolonged solitude. For each one it has been a change, changes that we have had to adapt without prior learning.
Moreover, suddenly most of us experienced fear, the individual fear for the health of our own, of friends and acquaintances, fear because we were knowing people who were leaving us, fear as a society because of the future, the fear for the company.
And from fear to uncertainty, what would be the nearest future? And in the medium and long term? How does it affect us as people? As a society? And to the company? Will we hold on? What will we have to do with a staff of more than 80 people? Will companies close? Will there be much unemployment? Everything are questions and more questions, with a very few answers.
And here we are, between the uncertainty and the large number of changes that we must make to face this new era!
Por Immaculada Amat Febrero de 2020 Nº91 2019 finishes as a roller coaster, 2020 start with stability prospects
If we analyze what has happened in the real estate sector, from summer until now, we have ups and downs. Weeks that seemed that the activity went down, and other weeks that we had many visits.
Surely, there have been many political and economic elements, crisis rumors... even from inside of the sector. The citizen who wants to buy has a harder time taking a decision. On the one hand, there are more options than a few years ago, but not so much more, and we will see how long this trend lasts. On the other hand, there are less security and more uncertainties about whether you can get financing.
In our case, this second quarter of 2019 we have sold less than the same period of 2018, in brand new and second hand. We have made approximately 10% less than the previous year.
If we talk about rent, the market is still very active, because of the great difference between offer and demand is maintained. There isn’t generated plus offer, so the prices continue to be very high and properties with medium high rents are hired quickly. Those with high rents have other rhythms and they need to spend more time to hire them.
The rental market is very dynamic, and we do not believe that it has changed much in the short term. As we have said, the rents are still very high, 46% of the new contracts made on 2019 are between € 1,000 and € 1,500, when historically they had always been in percentages of 20%.
Talking about the legislative framework of housing and, especially, of renting, in 12 months, we have had eight different scenarios. Some of these changes have been approved but then they haven’t been validated afterwards, others have been announced and not presented at the last minute, and all these things also create uncertainty. All these changes show that there isn’t strategy or political consensus regarding housing. They try to solve real problems that we have in the short term, but they don’t create real bases to the medium and long term.
Now we have the Law 17/2019 of December 23th, about urgent measures to improve access to housing. This law modifies several laws, such as housing, urban planning or housing emergency. The goal is good: get homes for the most disadvantaged families. But, the proposed measures are correct? Should it fall as an obligation on large holders? Is the borderline of the big holders correct? Is it normal legitimize a way of occupation, even in relation to financial holders?
From our point of view, this new law highlights the failure of what we should have achieved: building social housing through public private collaboration as it happens in so many European countries. And we replace it with the score, withdrawal, acceptance, occupation...
We ask ourselves, is a holder who has 15 properties? Does the one with 15 properties have the same treatment as the one with 500? Is there no difference?
And the most importantly, we want to pay tribute to all those clients, friends, acquaintances that the COVID 19 has taken, to all the healthcare workers, sellers, workers, who have allowed us to continue living our lives, to all the workers who in one day have had to start teleworking without probably the conditions it would require, combining with children, grandparents, etc. And to those who have had to leave the job...
And especially, to all our client owners and tenants who have understood the exceptional moment and who, with empathy and good sense, and without lights or cameras, have reached agreements; and to all the community members and presidents who have respected the strict rules on of community areas ...
This nightmare will end one day, but while life does not stop; let's continue!
Well, from our point of view it is questionable, historically in Catalonia housing has been a form of savings, this is coming from generations, and surely there are quite a few owners who have more than 15 homes, some still with old rent. Are they big holders?
We do not want to argue, we want to contribute to reflection.
We will continue…
Nº90 Onceuponatime,therewasacountry...wheremany positivethingshappenbuttheyjusttalkaboutthenegativeones
Before the summer holidays, some people started to talk about a beginning of a new crisis in the real estate sector, it was spoken in the media and then they ask us about it... and we don’t get tired of saying ‘NO’, we sell well and in a sustained way.
• If we talk about brand new building work in the surroundings of Barcelona, we are doing well, honestly well, within the foresights and without financing issues.
• If we talk about second hand homes, the answer is that we also sell it well if the valuation is well done. When the owners pay attention to those bad professionals in the sector who, in order to achieve the commercialization of real estate, made value high, it is not sold, and in that case it is normal.
The next question they usually ask us is if the prices can still grow up because it has not reached the 2008 prices. That question always surprises me because it seems like someone has decided that the 2008 prices are the reference prices.
• We are tired to repeat that the price should be what customers can pay and that it is linked to the salary that they have, which mark the savings they can have and the financing they can afford. We know nowadays the sensitivity over the prices is very large, the market has allowed us in certain promotions increases of 5%, but not of 15 20%.
It is also positive that Barcelona Meeting Point, in spite of the few publicized had this year and after a "busy" Friday in the City of Barcelona, on Saturday many young couples with kids were seen searching information and arranging visits to acquire a new home.
However, it is hard to understand:
• That unemployment has risen in Catalonia during September while companies have serious problems finding worker like accountants, commercials, lawyers... If we talk about construction companies, they are desperate! Neither trowel, installers nor carpenters... It is true that during the long economic crisis, many people came out of the real estate business, but now things are going well and work is stable, there are not new workers. Although salaries are good, it seems that dynamics from past eras are coming back, where the workers leave the job to go to other company for a slightly higher salary!
• That when you are going to change the census at a town hall, despite they having people working for the public and with no one else waiting for a turn, they tell you that without an appointment they cannot attend you and they will make you come back the following week! Or that in order to knock down a storage room, for example, of 3sqm, the hall town ask for an architect to assume the direction (having to prepare a basic demolition project, report, budget, waste issue, safety and health study... the College of Architects still doesn't believe it!)
Most of these issues are part of the "bureaucratic spider net". We will have to work to make things easier, promote a spirit of service, or at least, of customer/citizen treatment and recover the sense of proportion.By Immaculada Amat July
2019 Nº89 The bureaucratic spider net doesn’t help the citizen
Few days ago, Amat Inmobiliaris organized to the customers a talk by the professor Oriol Amat who talked about the economic situation and the catalan companies. When he told about the threats we have as a society he mention the concept “bureaucratic spider net”, I liked that and I told him that I would borrow it because the concept has a lot of sense. The bureaucratic sprider net doesn‘t stop growing and everyone that need to be in contact with the administration get catch there a lot of time…
Everybody has many examples: licenses that are months late, regulations that the Administration applies according to its own convenience, just in case! laws and laws, ordinances that in some cases contradict each other, workers fears to take decisions, business opening licenses in drawers… Is the Administration aware of the direct economic cost it represents for a company or to the citizen? Are they aware of the lost opportunities?
This also affects to the service providers companies. Why 300 families can’t move in to their own new flats, when they already paid for the supplies, because the service companies have not connected it yet? How much does the economic and emotional cost of these delays rise? Then you have to add the cost of hiring a surveillance service to avoid occupations or damage. This is a real spider net!!
Few days ago, on the radio I listened another example: a farmer was talking about the effects of a fire in the filed and he said to aboid other fires they need more farmlands. The thing is that when they ask for more farmlands in the current forest they need a license that the Administration takes more than a year to grant. More than a year!
In a modern and digital society, in a responsible and advanced society, surprise me that the spider net keeps growing causing a sense of helplessness in the citizens.
I know that the country has a lot of problems, but I think that this problem become very important and we need to think about it and be brave to make a plan and get to be modern, mature and responsible society that we want to be.
Enjoy your vacation!!
Nº88 A busy month
As usual, when there are municipal elections, housing and security issues are at the forefront of most of the debates and, as always, figures and more figures, most of them false are put on the table. Half truths and promises are made and most of them are often impossible to fulfill.
Despite the fact that the subject is habitual, in these elections our ability to surprise us has been overcome:
• To listen to the Candidate of one of the right parties to say that they will turn 13,000 premises into homes. It is the figure of a study that Amat made more than 10 years ago and shared with the different municipal governments. It is a well documented study and we are glad that, after talking about it with the current Consistory, it is buying premises to turn it into housing. Better late than never.
• To read that ERC, Comuns and Junts x Catalunya propose making 14,000 15,000 flats is good, very good. It is ambitious, there is the land to do it, but in order to be possible it is necessary to change the legislature, from the very beginning, a lot of procedures and rules; political will is not enough. It will be a bold plan of action.
Proposing to control the rental price as Generalitat is planning, is a decision with many implications and that, from our point of view, aims to supply the deficit of affordable housing that the Administration has not been able to do. We would also have to discuss what we mean by affordable rent. Now, close to an election process and at the time when rental prices are falling, it does not seem the most necessary or opportune.
Elections to the House: a failure
I applied for the Crous & Torres Candidacy and, as is known despite the large amount of work done, I have not obtained the necessary representation to be part of it. Our list Crous & Torres was surpassed by the Eines de Pais promoted by the ANC that already has my support.
Cruz de Sant Jordi: a success
Joana Amat has been recognized with Creu de Sant Jodi, the highest distinction awarded by the Generalitat de Catalunya, "for her outstanding participation in the real estate sector since her company Amat, at the head of which she has worked with great commitment and dedication", it is a pride for our company.
AMAT Calendar: month of June, an apology
Recently, when we had already distributed all the calendars for this year, we realized that there was an error in the month of June, and we apologize for it. We review and revise the texts before printing them but surely we do not do it with all the numbers of each page. Lesson learned!By Immaculada Amat March 2019
Nº87 Changes related to the rent regulation continue
New Royal Decree of 7/2019 of March 1 on urgent measures regarding housing and rent.
In the last Diary of Change I talked about the rent issue and the continued legislative changes, not enough studied before its aplication and so causing legal uncertainty. There have been only two months since the last change that there were more again. The Government of Spain has approved new measures that have already entered into force and, therefore, affect us:
• We recover the possibility that sumptuary dwellings (more than 300 m2 or in which the initial annual rent is higher than 5.5 times the minimum interprofessional salary) are governed first by the will of the parties and the Act is supplementary , as had been done since 1995 and until amendment that suppressed it in 2013
• The duration of the contracts is extended from 3 to 5 years, and to 7 years if the lessor is a legal entity.
• The legal renewal is extended to 3 years.
• The costs of real estate management and formalization of the contract will be borne by the lessor, when the latter is a legal entity.
• Are definitively excluded from the L.A.U. leases for tourist use in all cases.
• ITP exemption from lease agreements: tenants will no longer have to pay ITP, but owners will have to continue presenting the ITP equally (mod 600) without having to pay a fee.
• Additional Guarantees: a maximum of two monthly installments is established.
After a few days, Law 5/19 of March 5 on urgent measures to improve access to housing by the Government of Catalonia was approved, with the following objectives:
• Deal with the housing deficit of public rental protection
• To have more resources to combat emergency situations and evictions
• And encourage a moderation of rental prices for free dwellings
• Measures that affects the most clients owners is as follows:
• Rental contracts will have to include the Reference Index
• It will be mandatory to include in the advertising and in the contracts of the Reference Index of the Rental Price, which informs about the average rental price of a house with similar characteristics in the same urban environment.
• Only the lessors of the rented dwellings with incomes lower than this index will be able to benefit from the public aids aimed at the promotion of rent.
It is a measure that, in our opinion, is interesting to the effect that there is transparency in a sector that has been opaque and we understand that it can help the tenants to know how this market moves. Our company has actively collaborated to verify that the data is in line with the market and we can attest that this is true, but it will be necessary for everyone to take seriously the obligation to inform it in advertisements and contracts.
The Generalitat has made a great effort to achieve it. The Government of Spain want to have it in a very short time. We see it difficult, since there is a basic premise, which is to have the culture of entering the performance bonds.
More actions related to rental. The Department of Territory and Sustainability has also legislated a few days ago in relation to the housing of public protection in order to promote that it really fulfills its objective.
If to all the explained we add declarations and more statements of different Ministries on the housing subject, we will realize of the importance that the subject has for the society. For that reason we demand well studied measures where all the stakeholders involved could give their professional point of view as well as to have a continuity over time in order to offer security to all the stakeholders in a vital sector for society and economy.
Nº86Thoughts about Meeting Point, and more
If you are patient and reread the newspapers, the rent issue has been one of the most recurrent for a long time. The rental of houses is the subject of a great debate for years. There is no week in which this topic is not in the media, there are no elections in which it is not one of the most debated topics. In fact, it has become a weapon that parties throw ones against the others, it is subject to regulations that are favourable for different groups in different moments. In the meantime, the problem is not solved, on the contrary, it is every day larger.
We have suffered the last few days. On December 18, a reform of the LAU came into effect with the publication in the BOE Official State Gazette of the Royal Decree of December 14 on urgent measures regarding housing and rent. This Decree Law modified things as important as the duration of contracts, distinguishing between whether the tenant is a natural or legal person, modified subject of guarantees and issues related to fees, etc.
On January 22, therefore, 35 days later, the Royal Decree Law was annulled by failing to obtain approval by a majority in the Congress of Deputies. And nothing happens here! Well yes that happens, because, from the outset, the people who signed leases in these 35 days of the Royal Decree have had to submit to conditions that will not have or signed the day before or the day after. From our point of view, it is an insecurity and frivolity that we believe we do not deserve as a society!
And other derivate question!
Lately, when we find companies like ours real estate services, and among them the Administration, one of the issues that are put on the table is the persecution that we all suffer from the Union of Tenants, especially because we are all companies with a strong social sensitivity, companies concerned and engaged in participating with the Administration in solving the problem of rent in Barcelona and surroundings, companies that distinguish ourselves by doing things well, to comply with all regulations, to try to minimize the problem evictions, ... We are not speculative companies, we are service companies as there are so many in the country but, for the sole fact that services are real estate, we are labeled "bad". We are companies with a good number of workers (the services have that, they need people), we all have the workers insured and I can assure that we do the job well, that from time to time there are problems with tenants, of course! It also happens with insurers, who have problems with some insured; as with maintenance companies, who have problems with one of their customers!
We are not against that there are organizations that look after the rights of the tenants, what hurts us is that they label, that they allow themselves to have a belligerent attitude per se and do not respect the good work of many professionals.By Immaculada Amat December 2018
Nº85 Thoughts about Meeting Point, and more
It took me longer than usual to make this latest Diary of Change as we wait to assess the results of the Meeting Point held in October and to know about the latest decisions of the Administration that affect the real estate sector.
This last Meeting Point Edition has produced contradictory sensations. On one hand, it is true that the BMP was positive because the layout of the stands was different from other years and we thought it looked better. In addition, they have been larger and brighter. It looks like we're getting better! On the other hand, the Symposium talks have been very interesting and, due to the BMP last one day less, allowed us to better concentrate the efforts.
As always, there are two "Meeting Point": the professional one and the one focused on the general public. The days focused on the professional sector have been very active, with a lot of networking. It has been very helpful. On the other hand, the days for the general public have been weaker than in other years since there have been fewer visits. If we analyze it from the commercial point of view, it shows that nowadays attending to a fair makes less sense for potential costumers. What do they find? A concentration of supply when the real estate websites and portals also have it? Even so, today we can say that we have made 3 sales that came directly from the BMP contacts.
Also for us, for AMAT, it was the space where we were able to present two innovations:
GreenDEX, it is a green indicator that relates housing and health. With the GreenDEX and the GreenMAP we inform about the quality and quantity of the green next to the properties that we commercialize in the city of Barcelona. From our point of view, the existence of green areas in a housing environment improves the environmental health and famílies well being.
At the moment we are the only ones who offer this service in order to inform our customers, but we hope that the rest of the sector will join us soon.
The new regulation of
30% of social housing
After months of talking, filling pages and pages in the media, on December 5 there was an agreement between the City Council and the Generalitat. Surely we could get to agree with its heart but surely we are not with the way to do so.
It will take time to assess the consequences for the real estate sector and also the social benefits but as a first reflection we are struck by several things:
That an important and transcendental topic like this is approved 6 months after the local elections.
That there has not been a great debate. Interestingly there have been discussions after the approval by the City Council.
That the limit where the application of this regulation is necessary is 600 sqm.
That this burden is imposed on the promoters as a result of having been the Administration unable to get a public private collaboration to develop social housing, as it exists in education and health issues.
We are concerned about the issue, as we have historically been worried about the lack of rental housing in Barcelona and the distrust, also historical, in relation to the real estate sector (and we have never been promoters ...).
Nº84 New trends
In a while we’ll send you our Real Estate Market Report of 1st semester where we explain how the real estate behaved, always based in our data and operations.
Now I would like to forecast the trends for the next months:
Barcelona and outskirts
Rental prices stability
Since the beginning of this year we have very clear that prices, in a certain way, have reached the top. We have been saying it a long time ago; prices are related to salaries and when a family has to invest 40% of it in renting a property indicates that limit is reached. That happened in the end of 2017.
Rental resignations before contract expires grow
It is curious to see how, many times, media says that the most of tenants have important issues for rental renewals, but it is not like that in our company, and it doesn’t mean our clients are much different from others. We can assure that an important number of tenants resign before the expiring date, which are about 50% aprox. We have been very interested in knowing why clients resign before expiring date and we have discovered 2 basic reasons: because clients buy a property or they can’t assume the rental cost.
Sell trends slow down
It is true that this year we’ve been selling a lot, with a good rhythm; developers have raised prices and we keep selling the same. But this trend has changed in the last months. We sell well, slower though, but that is not a bad thing. We have always thought that encompass it with markets is a must. We can’t forget that sell prices are related to debt capacity through the mortgage and this capacity is leaded by salaries and, in our country, salaries only rose a bit.
Due to this behaviour, we are surprised of some market stakeholders’ answers when asked about scope for price increase answering that there is still room to reach prices of 2007! As it was the axiom! We understand prices will rise until potential buyers could not afford it, because we are sure that financial entities will be more careful tan before crisis.
Lot of owners and property investment funds interested in properties for rental purposes
Many years ago we haven’t seen so much interest in rental promotion, and that’s positive. The market is lack of rental properties. We are still far from European Standard. Every time it is announced that a new company is coming to set its HQ in Barcelona mainly of the Technology field which means to settle many workers from abroad, we ask ourselves: where are they going to live?
There’s need of quicker public policies than since now and, most of all, it is necessary to facilitate private investments in rental market with guarantees and juridical security. We must change the vision of private funds as simply speculators and seeing them as possible partners.
We would see right there would be tax benefits for owners who make a rental contract for more than 5 or 10 years, etc. Surely with this type of contract we would solve the problem that no one talks about: the problem of the owners of flats, with pensions and increasingly smaller incomes, to which selling their property and renting would be a very good option. They only need to have the opportunity of long term contracts, which does not force them to fear for the future.
As always, approaching the local elections, making works and inaugurations is a non stop. This trend is historical but it keeps surprising us.
Trends, trends, trends!
By Immaculada Amat May 2018 Nº83 Are we dinosaurs?
A few months ago, a television ad has internally provoked the API collective: it is the ad that compares the collective API with a dinosaur. In some cases some agents of the collective have complained publicly that this advertisement discredits the profession, which is misleading advertising or unfair competition.
And what do we think? Sincerely, we are not indifferent about it. Many readings can be made from the announcement message. For these companies it will mean a metaphor for evolution; for the API collective, a loss of prestige for the profession.
We look at it critically for both sides. On the one hand, we may not like the advertisement, but each company is free to do what it prefer and follow the communicative style that most suits its interests. On the other hand, the most important reflection should perhaps be done by the collective API: Why can we characterize ourselves this way? One have to be critical with the average level of our profession that it is very improvable in general. As in many collectives, there are better and worse companies, but it is a sector where is a free for all, without entry barriers, with short term vision away from customers needs and where there are agents who enter to make fast money.
Don’t fool ourselves: things are like that and hence a certain characterization of the sector. But there are also companies that have been doing right for many years and are constantly trying to improve; companies that for years have implemented technological solutions in order to improve the customer experience; companies that nowadays are working with new service improvements and that, for many years, have struggled to have a better recognition of our profession, both socially and professionally.
In the end, if we do not constantly improve our companies we will lose some important opportunities. We hope that this will serve everyone as an incentive to improve, and time will tell if these online agencies have been the meteorite that extinguishes the dinosaurs, or not.
Nº81 Playing games with the rent
For some time now, the media has been talking about issues related to rent and, as always, from the most negative perspective. No wonder, since it is an issue that when not managed well affects families in the most necessary: housing.
Our company has been concerned with this issue for many years. For years we have contributed ideas to the Administration on how to increase the housing stock, for years we have made policies to convince our patrimonial owners of the need to make 5 year contracts to guarantee a certain stability; we do conferences, meetings, etc.
So now, we can present our data about what happened in our company in 2017 with respect to rent. In 2017, 414 rental contracts were finalized:
188 (45%) => because the period established in the contract was met.
o 152 (81%) => we have renewed them with an average rent increase of 9% It must be clarified that for a 3 year standard contract, an increase of 9% in its renewal would mean an annual increase of 3%, well below the current increases in the market.
226 (55%) => because the tenant left before completing the contract years. We think that these data, which surely are reproduced in many companies like ours, are quite good and put in value a normal, stable rental market, with smart and mature owners looking for a normal return and who have no interest in changing of clients if they are compliant.
Different paths follow the housing coming from complex legal situations originated by the "crisis" and the bankruptcy of many promoters and financial entities. In this case, the problems are historical, not wanted by anyone, difficult to solve and that there will be time to normalize.
We continue to work to increase the rental market in our country, which is still in the middle of any European country. For this you need several things:
a) Political will to facilitate urban transformation and uses to create a sufficient housing stock.
b) Legislative and legal security, which we do not achieve.
c) Public private management.
In this line the next March 20, in the framework of the week of the trade, together with RETAILcat we present the study "What we do with the empty premises of the non commercial streets?". To, once again, disseminate the idea / need / possibility of reconverting the city's premises that will never have commercial use in housing. Maybe someday someone will listen to us.By Immaculada Amat February 2018 Nº80
At the end of 2017, we have to take stock, and the truth is that it has been a positive year from the point of view of the business: We have been able to achieve the objectives that we had set and we will explain both in the Market Report and the memory that we have already started to prepare.
We would like to focus on the last quarter, which has been very special as we all know, where a lot of things have happened. It has been a quarter full of uncertainties, a quarter where many influence people have discussed actively and passively that it was a disaster for the economy. It is true that it has had negative repercussions, another thing has been influenced by the political moment, the attacks or the "tourism phobia". Surely it has been the sum of everything.
Despite this, the local real estate market has been alive, very much alive. The data for the fourth quarter reflect this:
For rent commercialization by volume: 27% more than the 4th quarter of 2017. For sale commercialization by volume: 42% more than in 2016.
New Construction: 87% more than in 2016. Figures are mediated by the fact that in this last quarter we began the commercialization of several new developments and the start always entails a greater number of operations.
Resale properties: 33% more than 2016. We think that this data is the most important, because it is the market that normally suffers the most uncertainties and insecurities and grows when the citizen has confidence.
Luxury: 56% drop. Actually this segment of the market is the one that has really suffered. The foreign buyer has stopped and this has important consequences for the real estate, hotel, catering and certain commerce, and also suffer business schools.
It is necessary that all the organisms of the Public Administration, all the public private entities and the civil society go to one to get to re position the society of Barcelona in the world. We should also think about what to do to give a boost to the city and have the same impact and strength that the Olympic Games had in their day, since we have lived for many years of its impact.
We are happy because last November we inaugurated a new and very beautiful! Office in Sant Cugat. We want to invite our customers and friends to visit us. If you send us email proposing date, Joana, Guifré or I will be waiting to show you, we will be delighted!
We are happy because Joana and I have passed the General Direction to Guifré. We are sure that he is fully prepared and take on the challenge with enthusiasm, responsibility and commitment.
We are disappointed with the sector, which does not improve, dragging for many years problems that have become structural:
Lack of professionalisme
False self employed
The "anything goes"
A public administration that does not have the capacity to provide the service that is needed: It takes more than a year and a half to give a license? Inconceivable in a modern state in the 21st century. We would worry less if it were in a municipality, in two, in three, ... The problem is the system.
We are sad about the imprisonment of good people.
Kant said: the intelligence of an individual is evaluated by the amount of uncertainty that is capable of supporting.
By Immaculada Amat November 2017
Nº79 October, what a month!
This month of October has been a very contradictory month.
What has been positive?
We have made a great investment in AMAT with the opening of a new office in the center of Sant Cugat, in 17 Rius i Taulet St. It is a large office, of 260 sqm, sunny, modern and functional, with the intention of giving the best possible service to our customers.
For Joana and for me it was an extraordinary satisfaction that we were awarded with the 2017 Personalities of the CECOT prize and the delivery was made by President Puigdemont.
For commercial agents, the Meeting Point has been a success. This has been a Meeting Point with more exhibitors, with more visitors, with more contacts and we have made two operations, already derived, of information facilitated during those days.
What has been a constant?
Questions at all times, especially during the fair, because of the situation we are living as a country such as sales and rents diminish, the market has fallen, the investments are reduced, ...
As usually, we speak from our reality, and it has been this:
If we add new and second hand properties, this October we have done 12% more operations than in September.
For rent it has been 26% more.
It should be noted, however, that the fact that we have started the commercialization of a promotion precisely this October has favored it. Surely, in some other areas there has been diminished, but it may not be bad for the sector. We ran a little too much. We already know that our opinion is not always welcome, but it is not good for the market the increase of land prices in Barcelona and surroundings because it is transferred to the price of homes and perhaps the time when supply and demand will not be aligned is coming soon.
When we talk about luxury housing and investments, it is true that there is a certain break, but none of the investors with whom we have been working for years. At the most it is expectant, and it is normal at a time when there is a certain insecurity.
What makes us sad?
That there are prisoners because of their ideas We think that we are in complicated moments but we will overcome it!By Immaculada Amat July 2017
Nº78 Euphoria and thoughts
As we all know, the real estate market is euphoric again. The media talks about it day in, day out. It is true that there is strong demand and prices rise. We listen and read that there are increases of 20 to 30%. As always becomes widespread, we want to give our data of promotions that already have been in the market for more than a year:
In Barcelona Eixample, the price has risen 10% In Badalona, the price has risen 13% In Sant Just Desvern, the price has risen 15% In Sant Cugat del Vallès, the price has risen by 20%
The reason that Sant Cugat has risen more is because it is one of the places where prices fell the most during the crisis. If anyone has the patience to look at the data we gave in 2012 13, you will see that we were down 70%. Already then we said that the price did not correspond with the services or the configuration of the city. What has happened now is that it has regained the position and the corresponded price.
And if we talk about rent, our average stands at an annual increase of 8%
We have to take into account that in the matter of rent we came from 5 years of frozen prices and, what has happened in general, is that we are recovering the previous prices.
What worries us?
The overvaluation of second-hand floors to get the marketing.
We are concerned that, until the end of last year, the demand for new construction was composed, on the one hand, of buyers who had saved and could buy the apartment and, on the other hand, for investors, usually families, who bought for the future of their children.
This year has been incorporated into the demand the acquisition of a property in order to improve their usual 1st residence and, of course, in this case the valuation of the property to be sold is basic to define the price of the new one and, what we are seeing now, is that already properties are overvaluing. This leads to a future risk that, in previous times of euphoria, was mitigated because the banks gave mortgages without too much study and because the salaries rose. In addition, there was inflation. Is it the same now? I doubt it!
We are still very worried about the rent. The inconsistencies between the direction in which society moves and the lack of answers not expected in the short term provokes the frustration of a part of the population, especially for youth. The issue is important and can not be resolved from one day to the next. What a lack of vision and foresight that have the administrations of our country! They lost the possibility of generating rent and did not know how to take advantage of it. We repeat and repeat, to whom wants to hear, that it is no longer a problem of the city of Barcelona, but the metropolitan area.
We are concerned about the feeling that society has, that we all have, of little legal security, of little protection to the inherent property rights. It can not be that there is one occupation after another, it can not be what is happening with the tourist rental and the rights of the owners. Security and guarantees are basic for obtaining domestic and foreign investment; Investment is essential to solve the problem of rent.
Consistent with our principles, we have collaborated with the Generalitat and the Barcelona City Council. We believe that it is everyone's commitment to contribute with ideas, data, etc. In order to try to find solutions to one of the most important social problems that the city of Barcelona and its metropolitan area have.
Have a good summer!
By Immaculada Amat May 2017
Nº76 Urbanism equal to security
If in any subject agrees the entire real estate sector is in the need to rethink all urban issues. I am aware that urbanism is a delicate issue, which can generate large capital gains and that many of the corruption cases that are being judged today have to do with more or less proximity to urban planning issues, but taking this into account, it can't neither paralyze the sector nor generate endless deadlines. We can't have such a local view of these issues.
Urbanism is the tool that produces the raw material that the country needs to grow demographically, or in number of dwellings or residents of other countries who decide to live with us. Urbanism is also the tool to define where we place factories and logistics, and there's no way that the production of this raw material is so slow, so unexpected, full of insecurities; It starts and it's so hard to finish.. Nowadays, the world is very dynamic, everything goes very fast: trends, products, ways of life, demand, needs, ... so with such a slow and heavy urbanism all this is difficult, and even more difficult to understand when behind a project there is a foreign investor. It simply surpasses it.
I know that the Catalan Government has been working for some time on new legislation. The sector demands it. It needs speed, that the laws are clear, that give us above all security. We need security!
Related to Sant Jordi
Now that Sant Jordi has passed, it seems like a good time to explain a project that we have long been carrying out and almost never explained: "Amat Culture". Under this name we gather a series of activities related to the cultural world: book presentations and table of writers of Sant Cugat, cultural excursions in Barcelona with employees, gift of books and ceramics to clients, presentations, ... We do it by vocation and tradition. We are a company always linked to cultural issues and we want to continue to do so more and more if it is possible.
Culture is the memory of the people, the collective consciousness of historical continuity, the way of thinking and living.
Milan Kundera, Czech novelist and essayist
By Immaculada Amat February 2017
Nº75 Lights and shadows of the real estate intermediation
On January 29, an article on real estate intermediation was published entitled "Stunts, tricks and real estate ploys”.
I have to confess that when I read it put me in a very bad mood, because it describes a way of doing with which we did not feel identified at all, neither us nor other companies in the sector.
The article talks about a mythical movie "Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)" which, with some extraordinary actors, describes the jungle of the real estate environment in Chicago where everything is worth the law to get a sale. In Barcelona they did it in theater I think in the beginning of 2000 and I remember we all the commercial team went to watch it and we had clear what we did not want to do. I also remember that we were strongly impacted.
The years have passed, and few things have changed. With this, the article rightly says: Today in Barcelona there are many self employed workers "false self employed" with the task of combing the streets that the agency for which they are actually working has assigned them. They get paid if they get the property and, in order to obtain its objective, they try in any way. The law of the jungle has returned, while we and others like ourselves surely a few struggle not only to push forward our companies, but also to dignify a profession that is scarcely recognized in our country. The truth is that it is not easy and it has little journalistic appeal.
With your permission, I literally copied the email we received from a landlord who had long ago been unpaid, upon being informed that the tenant had found work.
"I am happy about this news. It is a magnificent gift. Firstly for the tenant. If I did not act against him it was because I could empathize with his situation. I hope that with this new job he can normalize his situation, disappear his anguish and have a good holiday with his family.
Secondly for myself because I will be able to recover, I hope, the deferred rents and ensure those that are to come. But most of all, because I did not have to get into the dilemma of having to evict him, which I can assure was that I was worried about and would have been painful, because sooner or later, if the issue had lengthened, we would have evicted it, unfortunately.
In addition, it is a kind of prize for compassion and confidence in this man that he could overcome it. A prize for solidarity.
I thank you for your human and thoughtful management. I congratulate you on your attitude. At no point did I feel pressured to make a harsh decision, and it might not have been so.
We hope that this situation will finally normalize. "
We really want these lights to prevail over the shadows in our industry. It is necessary!
Nº74 Real estate market: 10 inputs of 2016 and 10 thoughts
If we had to put a headline for this 2016 we would say "the recovery of the real estate market is consolidated".
1. Sales of new housing in Barcelona and the first crown has been exceptional. Our company has sold more than 180 aparments. Does it only respond to the withheld demand? The data analyzed shows that it is so in most of the cases although there are 20% that respond to small investors who find in the real estate sector a refuge in the investment, that the deposit in the bank no longer provides it.
2. Repercussion prices and absolute prices on sales have been reasonable. The truth is that in certain promotions prices have risen once a significant part of the total of the properties have been sold, although it has been very controlled. Our concern is that prices will go up. If salaries do not rise, there will come a time when supply and demand will not be equal.
3. 3. We have have months in which mass media talk about real estate market, price rises, We are already seeing a first consequence: many owners begin to overvalue their properties. We think it will be one of the trends of 2017.
4. The uncontrolled proliferation of real estate agencies, freelancers,.. That in order to get product to be marketed are overpricing properties. In a country like this, where the real estate sector especially brokerage is unprofessional, the risk of overvaluing properties is repeated every time the market improves. It is a subject that concerns us.
5. The easyness to obtain mortgages. During this year we had not any problems getting mortgages to our clients provided that they fulfilled the conditions established by the bank. We are worried that the bank will return to practices to give 100% as a few years ago.
6. Lack of second hand product on sale. Surely this year 2017 there will be more housing of this type for sale, as flats of new buyers should be put up for sale after brand new flats of many promotions started at the beginning of last year will be delivered.
7. The lack of housing for rent. This is one of the most important problems that, at this time and in relation to the housing market in Barcelona, concerns to the authorities. We received the visit of the Mayoress Excma. Ms. Ada Colau, the Housing Registrant, Mr. Muntaner, and the Housing Manager, Mr. Buron, in our offices in Sant Just to talk about this topic. We appreciate their willingness to listen to both our criticisms and our proposals, and we did a few. Prices have risen more than 14% in a year and we rent most of the flats in 3 days. This will be one of the great problems of 2017.
8. We have managed to have a default on rent of 1'5%, result of two factors: be very careful and demanding when rentin, and very quick when we detect a problem. Keeping this figure is one of our objectives, since it gives a great peace of mind to investors who decide to buy for rent and so to the habitual clients.
9. For the first time since 2007, 10 years ago, we have major rehabilitation works underway in communities we manage. This is an important fact, since we defend that we must invest in the maintenance of the most precious goods that have the majority of the citizens of the country: housing, and must be done today, always looking for the improvement of energy efficiency. We must keep in mind that housing is the only private area and also the whole common area, which is often forgotten. In this 2017 we will recover the tradition of meetings, conferences of pedagogy in the environment of rehabilitation and maintenance.
10. We are aware that there are still many social problems related to housing, from occupations to evictions. Even so, it has been the best year since the crisis began. We think that 2017 will also be a good year with many challenges. One of the most important: finding ways out of the issue of lack of rent. It is a contradiction the discourse we all make: that young people are better off going for rent because it allows, among other things, labor mobility and, afterwards, it is almost impossible to find a home.By Immaculada Amat November 2016 Nº73 A more active Meeting Point
As each year and already 20 years now the Real Estate Barcelona Meeting Point fair was held in October, where our company Amat has been present since the first edition.
Looking back you realize there have been three stages: until 2007, years of growth and rising euphoria; Since then and until last year, years of "crisis", where the maintenance of the fair was almost a "miracle"; And a new cycle that began last year and has been consolidated this year.
In each of these stages there have been "star" exhibitors. In the first phase, the promoters; In the second, banking and its enterprises; And in which we are now, resurgent promoters and consolidate the services, franchises, ...
And our analysis about this BMP'16 is that it has been positive. It has grown a little, more light, the biggest stands, many professionals up and down, many people from the environment looking for contacts, maintenance of the presence of historical local promoters, consolidation of large promoters with projection throughout the state, much more new work In marketing, ... And, buyers? For more than last year, that does not mean more visitors, but really is the first year that gives us the feeling that demand and supply have been the same and that the possibility of closing some operation is real.
Why is it present a company like ours Familiar, very long standing, with a wide portfolio of services, from asset management to marketing, with more vocation of service than volume, and that bets on personalization and detail ?
Well, because of our willingness to position companies like ours, there are many in the city, at a fair like the Meeting Point that has become the showcase of a sector and we would not want it to become, speaking of trading companies, In the showcase of only the services, franchises and some large marketers, but that these would live with companies like ours. Thus, the BMP would have a more plural and diverse representation of the sector with the contribution of very long term companies, with a long term vision and, for this reason, with a strong desire to be great professionals.
Nº72 Positive moments
These holidays I have reviewed the Diaries, which since July 2008 we have been writing month by month and, actually, the tone has changed a lot. It all started with a rather pessimistic tone and today the tone is frankly positive. The truth is that we must be grateful that we managed to get through and grow in such a long and deep economic crisis.
We are grateful for having the trust of thousands of customers, grateful to have a very committed professional team, grateful that the market recognizes us and trust our company, Amat Immobiliaris. We are also grateful for the response to the call for ideas to make communities to be in love again that we made in the last July Diary, and where several people have sent us very creative ideas.
And positive, very positive, because the real estate market is recovering. We ourselves are surprised by the pace of sales in the new construction market. It is true that even confined to the area between the B 30 and the sea, but as always happens, the market recovery will spread like an oil slick. This recovery leads to increasing prices, a prudential increment today, but we need to remain cautious, because the purchasing power is conditioned by salaries and, at the moment, these are very restrained.
Another positive fact is the re incorporation of the group of demandant investors, not foreign investors but only in specific areas of Barcelona , but domestic investors, small investors who decide to put their savings in our sector in view of the zero performance bank deposits. It didn't happen years ago.By Immaculada Amat August 2016
Nº71 Thoughts for holidays
We are already in vacation time, time off, relax, but surely time for reflection, so I propose to think about issues of our sector:
The first one has to do with the communities of owners. A recent study by Owners Mutual that we thank which confirms what we live every day: the disaffection of these owners to the community. Only 50% attend meetings and, when asked why they do not attend, most say it is due to lack of interest. When neighbors are asked about in what subject there are more differences, the answer is: refurbishment.
This lack of interest, in our experience, will increase, and we are concerned for many reasons. The community is, basically from the standpoint of equity, the sum of the values of all entities that set the building and, if everyone in his/her home did the sum, we would see that it is a very high figure. We are concerned that in many communities the meetings are disappearing and that management will remain in the hands of so few people ultimately do not end up making decisions or taking them with less discretion to the detriment of good maintenance of buildings.
Some time ago we started thinking about how to make owners to fall in love again with their community. We ask for ideas!
The second topic for reflection is related to the rental market. There is a gap between the official discourse regarding the need to increase the market for rental properties, that is reality.
The reality is that there is a high demand for rental apartments and very little supply. We believe that this issue is a major social problem but, what happens?
Because at least with our data, the rotation has gone from almost 3 years to 4.5 years. This means extending 50% on the rental market. Barcelona city has many apartments in many neighborhoods as tourist rental accommodation, and this trend has come to not leave. Municipal companies, even today in some populations, promote apartments to sell and not to rent because, from the legislative point of view, no rules encouraging this sector are published.
The message for investors is to buy; They will rent immediately. And the message for the Administration is to reflect on the issue, solutions must be found.
The third topic for reflection has to do with the new development. We are selling very well; We are very happy. The reflection comes two linked themes: the delay of many municipalities on licensing; They are collapsed. The fact that in many places a large number of promotions will start at the same time I know it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get ; Would not it be better to try matching beat? I would not want us to die of success! I hope not.
Trust is the ability to live uncertainty fluently. And above all, rest and rest ...
By Immaculada Amat May 2016
Now it is for real
Now brand new developments is truly and strongly reactivate Two months ago I wrote in this diary that there were 4 crans in the residential area of Bolvier (Cerdanya) as if it was an extraordinary fact. At the moment, it has changed and you will see it sonn: there are going to be crans, lot of crans.
Large projects has started and not only in Barcelona. Amat is fortunate of wining competitions for marketing 3 important projects: in Mas Lluí de Sant Just (Neinor); in Can Mates de Sant Cugat (Servihabitat); and Dalt la Vila de Badalona (Copcisa). And some other smaller in Barcelona city such as Via Laietana (Arkel), Pallars (Metrovacesa) or Banys Vells. It is clear that the market is revitalized.
It is a good moment to invest in new developments for many reasons:
Nowadays projects are very well studied. From the tipologies to the energy efficiency. It will be more economical related to manteanance and energy expenses
The profitability of bank deposits is very low. Rental today gives much better results
There are very few rental housing. It is one of the problems of this time, where there is a high demand and low supply, ensuring full occupacy for years
The purchase prices are not even half of what was paid in 2006, and I think it gradually rise.
So, we encorage you to invest! We will rent it and administrate ensuring good rents and higher profitability. Our more than 68 years of experience and nearly 8,000 tenants are a guarantee.
There are only two days a year when you can not do anything. One is called yesterday and the other one tomorrow. Therefore, today is the perfect day to love, grow, do and mainly live! Dalai LamaBy Immaculada Amat March 2016 Nº69 The Real Estate market is always so surprising
The high number of brand new developments is surprising. The numbers of cranes in Bolvir (Cerdanya), for exemple. At this moment there are 4 crans in a residential area exclusively for second residential houses.
Some “services” start being real estate agencies, we think that it doesn’t know what it is yet to come in terms of competence.
It is surprising that a morning of febrary, when I went to visit the project Magória of Via Celere, there were 12 people at the office asking for some information.
It is surprising that my son Guifré, Director of the office in Barcelona, went to offer a conference in Valencia about the Chinese Real Estate Market in the FIABCI workshop. Who would tell me 5 years ago!
More suprising still, or perhaps we would say surreal, the newspaper El Mundo published on 19 February:
"The Community of Madrid has begun to reclaim massively this unknown tax on rents to tenants, so far, the Administration has gone to cash, has not been interested mess with millions of people for a small collection"
Just discovered that rent contracts are subject to the payment of ITP, when this is so since the adoption of Real Legislative Decree 1/1993 of 24 September, the text of the Law on Transfer Tax and Stamp Duty approved documented.
Before the adoption of the Law 2/2014 of 27 January, fiscal, administrative, financial and public sector measures that tax was cleared by ringing effects. It is from January 31, 2014 that the ITP in rental agreements passed to self assess, in Catalonia, through the model 600. The adoption of the Act of 2014 by the government of the Generalitat will also bring changes in the rate applicable which is currently 0.5%.
In Amat we have fulfilled this obligation from the first day and as we most property management companies.
The carácter is the result of our behavior Aristóteles
Nº68 2015, a shaked year in the real estate market
As every year, the Diary of Change of January is dedicated to take a look at how we have lived the previous year and meet the expectations for the beginning of the next one.
1. A first fairly good semester in demands and defined operations.
2. A rollercoaster second half: one good week, one bad week. In short, worse than the first half results. Which are the causes? Probably it has to do with the amount of elections that have been. It has always a paralyzing effect.
3. Prices of impact according to the sales made by Amat:
Sant Cugat: € 2,621 sq m.
Sant Just: € 2,976 sq m. There are a little brand new developements and if so with very different features, which make prices higher than usualy. Barcelona: € 4,548 m2. There are little differences among neighborhoods. It is especially striking brand new construction prices in the area of Sant Andreu / Poble Sec; they are higher than we had imagined not long ago.
4. Rental prices impact according to Amat operations:
Sant Cugat: Average €1012
Sant Just: Average €1027
5. Very good news: the Catalan Goverment has published, for the first time, the official prices of sale and rent in Catalonia based on data from the Institut Català del Sòl for rental and the Land Registry for sales. This information will help make the market more transparent.
6. Less good news: the number of estate agents has grown exponentially over the past year.
7. An expected action: the Government inspects real estate adverts, both sales and rental, in order to know if these show the energy label and punishes companies that do not. Only 5% of property portals publish it.
8. Good news for Amat: we won the contest to manage almost 5,000 Servihabitat departments and also won the Factor Humà Prize and the Prize of the Luxury Real Estate Association to the best website
9. Joana Amat was designed the new president of FIDEM, the International Foundation for Entrepreneurs Women
What prospects do we have for 2016?
1. The implementation of brand new developments in areas where demand is really concentrated: Barcelona, Sant Cugat, Baix Llobregat and Badalona in order to meet the demand and avoid price increases.
2. The need by the Government to rethink the past Lau (the Law for Urban Rents) and rent regulations. In the event that, as all the experts say, the rent is needed to be promoted, the Government should be given the maximum security to both parties, landlords and tenants.
3. Financial institutions provide credit without forgetting the need to be rigorous with filters.
4. Barcelona remains a desired city to live in for foreigners. It will be necessary to make a cleaner, friendlier and more culturally dynamic city.
We all have to collaborate!
Dix l’amat a l’amic:
Saps, encara, què és amor?
Respòs: Si no sabés que és amor, sabera
Què és Treball, tristícia, e dolor?
ANY LLULLBy Immaculada Amat November 2015
Nº67 Very positive subjects and some others to improve
It has been a very good news for us to have won a contest of Servihabitat's 5000 apartments to manage all in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. We know the task is immense because we have had to hire seven new people, create new offices in St. Just office in a weekend , but we like challenges and we're underway.
It is also very positive that the Catalan Government has launched and published the statistics of sales and rentals in Catalonia in the Atlas of Rent Market, an exercise that shows important rigor and transparency. Congratulations from here to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Improvement for his commitment on this issue.
Also positive was the Meeting Point Congress held last month where there have been some changes in relation to the previous year: more developers, more real seekers, less bargain seekers within less desperate offerers. Everything indicates the normalization of the real estate market, but with caution. In our company we do not get tired of saying that we must be prudent. At the end of 2013 we hit bottom with prices, it is true, but if we make a comparison with a building, it is not normal to go from the basement to the second floor without going through the ground floor to the first and we worry about this happening.
The little compliance with the legal obligation to be in possession of the Certificate of Energy Efficiency to advertise a property for rent or sale needs to be absolutely improved nowadays it is shameful. Doing a search last week in one of the most popular real estate portals, the results were as follows:
5% of properties had announced the EEC
A 42'5% had no certificate A procedure put in 52'5%, which actually means they do not have it
Our company fulfills. All properties published have the certificate, which means that only 40% of the properties we have in our portfolio are published. It is hard to convince the owners of the need to EEC when it is not requested by our competition.
It is a little depressing that nowadays Association of Property Administrators has sent a circular reminding front reception from some requirements of tenants from the Inland Revenue Catalonia, in order to remember the obligation to settle the transfer tax in relation to leases. The obligation to pay ITP in relation to leases has always existed. It just changed the way it settled that, since the entry into force of the Law 2/2014 of 27 January on fiscal, administrative and financial public sector of the Generalitat of Catalonia in January 2014, it conducted through the 600 model, it remains valid since the settlement by stamps.
Finally, a new wake up call for the "fashion" of freelance employees in our sector: what impact will it have in future pensions? And unemployment subside?
Perhaps all together need to be more thoughtful. There is a driving force more powerful than steam, electricity and atomic energy: the will Albert Einstein
By Immaculada Amat October 2015 Nº66 Contradictions, or not
Since last August I haven’t written the “Diary” but I can justify it: because of holidays. The truth is that this Septembre it was hard to me to do it because it has been a weird month.
Everywhere people talk about the sector’s recovery, increasing the number of transactions and prices. Today, October 6, La Vanguardia newspaper talks about an average increase of housing prices in Barcelona city 13%, the lowest point; and it is true.
Historically, September has been a good month During holidays families have time to talk, to plan, to decide However, the daily basis of this month has been that the visits are down, as well as the demand information so, consequently, the number of operations Is it caused beacause of elections? I hope not because there are again in December
If your have any moment of boredom, I suggest you count the number of new real estate agencies around you. It is amazing! If the number of operations in Catalonia is divided by the number of registered real estate companies, there are not even two per year, and I am not counting professional freelance and “go and tell”
Have a look to our Real Estate Market Report 1st semester 2015, made with our data.
By Immaculada Amat August 2015 Nº65 For a secure August
August begins; it is vacation and rest time. Amat’s four offices will be closed from the 10th to 16th August; just one week From the perspective of today, it seems impossible to me that years ago we could close three weeks and even some years, even four.
We wish you to enjoy some deserved days off and relax yourselves. We will try to do so and recharge our batteries in order to re start more active.
I send a few recommendations that we all know, but it is worth nothing to remember:
Do not open the main entrance to strangers. Always ask for identification and company name. If there is any doubt, call the company. Close your windows, shutters, both main and secondary doors. If possible, with safety locks and latches. Windows without bars can be secured with blinds and any mechanisms to avoid or make the entrance more complicated. It is possible to find these devices in any hardward store Check the garage door is closed. Check it can not be accessed to the house by scaffolding or ladders Remember to close lights, water, gas ... Install automatic sensors to open and close lights, blinds go up and down, if it is possible. Let your telephone to a trusted neighbor or relative. Be sure someone picks up your mail and takes a tour inside the house while you are on vacation, so possible buglars can see some movement. If you see anything suspicious call the local police. Remember to set the alarm. If you do not use it very often it is advisable to check before it works properly. Leave something to show there’s someone living at the house Discretion explaining details of your holidays
In case of robery, it would be useful if you marked with your ID some objects before leavingas well as taking some photographies.
Have a nice summer! You, the Europeans have watches, but we have the time African proverb
By Immaculada Amat June 2015
We started the month of June with a great joy: we were awarded with the Mercè Sala Human Factor Award It is especially relevant for us because it goes through a rigorous selection made by a high level jury and also because it is related to Mercè Sala, a woman who we've always admired and with whom we have many things in common. Among them, we share the same values. In our speech we highlight an issue which now concerns us very much: the substitution of workers by freelance in many companies of our sector. From our point of view, it entails a serious harm to workers, all forced into freelance, without stop, and with negative consequences for their future pensions.
This situation is detrimental to the profession because everybody goes in for the kill which is normal in their situation, it hurts companies, it competes in disadvantage since the first moment and it harms society and the image of the companies besides, obviously, benefits only to the main company.
This new way of working looks more fashionable as it is how USA Real Estate works but neither the work market nor society are like ours. If we need to change the rules of the game, we should analyse it and then do it so, but the company is one to change it. Until that happens, we have to fulfill our regulations.
We are happy because this month of June new regulations of the Law of Horizontal Property come into force. It is more modern and adapted to our current times. It is never exactly what we want but it is quite enough. It affects economics, Government and communication issues; we will develop it in our next journal.
We are also happy about the works the Generalitat is doing in order to start a record of public data about prices of the real estate sector in Catalonia. It is essential if we want to be an advanced country and, above all, transparent.
I like the thought of Confucius: "No matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop."By Immaculada
Amat May 2015 Nº63 The landscape changes
The landscape is changing in some places. The real estate market is moving. Here are two examples:
“Les Franceses”, the area in front of the Barça field in Sant Joan Despí. There are 8 cranes at this moment.
In Can Margarit area, close to Can Brians, there are 35 bulldozers and more machinery working, moving land, flattening it, marking streets… Incredible!
I almost cry seeing it!
Even though, news are contradictory. In April the 20th, in a national newspaper we could read the following headlight: The price of housing remains at a standstill, while in Spain the value grows 3% in Catalonia still drops a 0'4 %. In the same newspaper, April the 29th: The Bank of Spain certifies real estate recovery, good prospects, prices go up."
Although it is not our reality, it is true that our work scope is developed in a “good demand” area such as Barcelona and surroundings, but it is not the whole Catalonia. I am conscious but our intern data are improving compared to last year. The first semester, compared to 2014, our results have been the following:
Sant Just: 24% more in generated sales; 14% more than last year in sales over 300.000€. Sant Cugat: 20% more in generated sales; 25% more than last year in sales over 300.000€. Barcelona: 20% more in generated sales; 17% more than last year in sales over 300.000€.
In all our offices we have done a similar number of operations compared to last year. Prices in Sant Just have raised 8%, in Sant Cugat 1% and in Barcelona 8%. This is our average.
One of the current topics is that there is no that much product in the market and the number of real estate companies is growing so as a result the professionalism of the agents decrease exponentially. What is happening nowadays? That most of them in order to have more clients, inflate prices and don’t ask for documentation.
To be honest, both things are a disaster for the market. It generates false expectations to clients but the agents get the product and persuade the owners about prices telling them that the value is not the same told at the beginning. These are the same tactics used in 2002 2006. For professional real estate companies, among we find ourselves, is hard to fight against it.
The second topic is saying that they do things easier, they don’t ask for documentation until the operation is closed. This is a failure to comply with the law. What guarantee has the owner?
We have begun to see questionable mandates, the fees laid down in relation to inflate valuation prices, advertise the product without a mandate, freelance everywhere with the costs to his back that will do anything to capture, sell... We have all the ingredients to repeat and improve the mistakes made in the times of the great bubble and still we have not come out of the crisis. What to do to regenerate this sector? Is it impossible?
I want to stand up for companies doing things well. There is a higher number, surpassed by these doing it wrong.
And as independent note, for those interested in books, I recommend you to enter to our Youtube, and see the interviews we have done to the writers Joan Margarit, Eduard Màrquez and Josep M. Vallés, there is no waste!
Nº62 Women and leadership
Sabadell Bank and ESADE Alumni invited me to give a conference within the “Women and leadership” conference cycle when I attended as lecturer last February 10th Although it supposed to me a huge effort to preparing it I am not used to it it finally was a great experience.
Which topic was chosen?
The historic will of our company to be different and the constant worry of being able to transmit and being perceived by the market.
In what we’ve focused this difference?
In a long term view: In a sector with short term projects as a basis, it makes always had the customer, in the broad sense of the word, in the center.
In constant innovation: Professional Innovation, process innovation, organizational innovation, technological innovation and marketing innovation. I will give more examples in upcoming Diaries
All this on the basis of unchangeable values:
Integrity, having clear red lines of what you can do and do not.
Coherence and commitment.
Caution but making risky decisions in the sector.
The company was formed only by women during 60 years because of being coherent with our values. The fighting for women rights was the main goal for us and I want to highlight it now that March 8th is coming. I’m sure things have changed a lot but there’s still a long way, starting by the real estate market.
In these last two weeks I have attended several presentations of reports about the housing market in 2014 and the 2015 forecasts by professional consultants and the truth is that it surprised me. Men outnumber women. In the last show there were 72 men and 7 women and as speakers 3 men.
I have in my hands right now a very good report by another prestigious consulting company. It is made by 10 experts, all men. Spectacular! Worried! There are many women in the sector, it is true, but few, very few, chief executives. There is a woman who has merit, Anna Gener, she is the Aguirre Newman’s chief executive. How different it is in the US where there are proportionally more women! Maybe, if there were more women making decisions, we would get one of our desires: to transform the sector making it more transparent, more credible and it would allow the entry of fresh air.
I can’t no finish without writing this poem by Maria Mercè Marçal
I thank random three gifts: being born female, of lower class and in an oppressed nation and the blue clover being three times RebelBy Immaculada Amat February 2015 Nº61
2014, a positive year
Finish the year 2014 it's time to analyse and reflect on how it has gone; in general I would say that it has been a very positive year for various reasons:
Because after 7 years of decreases in prices without stopping, this 2014 has been a year in which prices have stabilized. In the new market, we have kept prices depending on location and quality, and, that’s great!
In towns around Barcelona: Sant Just, Esplugues, Sant Feliu, Sant Cugat; we have sold at the following repercussion prices:
St Just Desvern 3 000 3 800 €/m2
St Cugat Vallès 2.500 2.800 €/m2
Esplugues Llobr 2 500 2 600 €m2
St Feliu Llobr 2.400 €/m2
As we have commercialized over 30 years in these areas and we have the historical price movements, we can say that in Sant Just and Sant Feliu we have the same prices tan in 2003, in Esplugues prices are like in 2004 and Sant Cugat like in 2002.
There are a few years we are in Barcelona city so we don’t have historical Price movements. According to our transactions prices have been:
Diagonal Mar 6.251 €/m2 Turó Parc 5.349 €/m2
Sarrià St Gervasi 4379 €/m2 Poble Nou 4.600 €/m2
Eixample Dret 4.261 €/m2 Eixample Esq. 4.086 €/m2
Surely you observe several differences among prices appearing on the media; those are always higher. There is an easy explanation: most of the studies are made with “start” prices and those are never the prices paid in ultimate transactions. Our prices are real, based in the end of transaction
Because in the second hand market have also increased. There are some offer prices, especially for houses typology. It has cost much to persuade the owners of the need to lowering prices. Those who listened to us and they bet for we recommended, they have sold
Because there has been more demand. When we look at it by price segments, we see what sections have lost more purchasing power; they are the stretches between 350,000€ and 600,000€. But, there have been more visits above and below than in previous years.
Because many foreigners keep on betting for our city to settle down although, since December, the number of Russian visitors has decrease.
Because brand new promotions have begun, evidently in selected places, but we believe it means a certain return of the illusion in this sector
Because there is more facilities to obtain credits. Because also rental prices have stabilized.
Although it has been a positive year, it doesn’t mean it has been an easy or comfortable one, but rather the opposite. As usual we have had to contend with every operation and solve lots of legal problems in each one. In humour key we say that, surely, we attract complicated stuff!
And there is a surprising thing: real estate agencies spring up like mushrooms; it already seems glorious years when once someone rented us a commercial premise for a bar and some days later he asked us to change the contract because they decided to turn it into a real estate agency. No comments!
A suitable poem by VINYOLI Alone is who doesn’t has anyone, who lives in, but you, full of life memòries, don’t fasting, because you are sharing loneliness
Nº60 What a mess!
November has been a mess from several points of view: From a fiscal point of view From a market view From the point of view of news for homeowners
Until the 28th of November the recent fiscal taxes changes have not been published in the Official Gazette (BOE) and, as usual, it was a mess of contradictory information from the government itself You never know if they first do some studies to see what happens or if they really make laws without taking into account possible consequences and once they realize overturn The truth is that last June, with the approval of the draft, the fiscal tax proposal reform went on all media and, among other things, it leads to the disappearance of some tax benefits for the transmission of properties, including the offset coefficients and coefficients update. This worried many owners who had their homes for sale and decided to speed up the negotiations so that the sale could happen before the end of the year to minimize the tax impact
At that moment it was a right decision but nowadays, in some cases, that is not so. Seeing the definitive reform it could have been more positive to wait some fiscal years. It has been many changes from the Pre project to the Project and from the Project to the ultimate approved version. This fact has generated a sense of insecurity and a considerable juridical uncertainty. Moreover, we must take into account the short time to the end of the fiscal year and consequently the little scoop for manoeuvre and planning.
Mess in the market; for one hand, we have read in the media that Catalonia is where less operations of acquisition have been made of all Spain in the first quarter of this year. In the other hand, we have seen that when a commercialization process of some real estate development has started in Barcelona, there have been huge cueing and have been quickly sold out.
Finaly, when one talks to different companies all agree to affirm that we are in a moment in which market is in a continuous saw tooth movement: there are visits one month but not the next one; there are operations one month but not the next one…This situation has a perverse effect. Many owners think that prices can be raised because we are again in a good moment but, watch out! We can’t forget we have the same unemployment, salary rents are still frozen and many countries where some buyers come from have internal problems that imply less foreign buyers’ affluence.
And last, a mess in the Owners’ Communities. They think how resolving those new fiscal requirements (347 model) in such a short time. Getting ready TV antennas for new tunes is not nonsense. Historically, our statistics say that the incidents that get owners more nervous are those having to do with TV antenna. Moreover, according to installers, there is not enough material to make the necessary changes before December 31 and, finally, the requirements to apply for the grant are quite cumbersome.
A suitable poem by VINYOLI:
The Gain / Never give up, / Turn aside / where you before saw the vane / that made you believe in the ultimate shout / of the forests’cock. / Come in / black sea inside and go down / When you can, coraller, and you have removed the heavy diving suit, / you’ve won a flat sea / And the gull flightBy Immaculada Amat October 2014
Nº59 Optimism in the 18th Barcelona Meeting Point
Those last days the 18th Barcelona Meeting Point edition has been held and the first thing we must appreciate is that this real estate venue has been able to resist despite the collapse of the sector. We have to thank to Enrique Lacalle, Josep M. Pons and his team’s effort. In 2009, 2010 and 2011 the easier would be to throw in the towel.
The current BMP is a modest fair compared with those extraordinary fairs that, seen from distance, were great vanity fairs: a place where great real estate developers fighting among themselves with the aim of seen who had the biggest and most spectacular stage.
What exhibitors have been there this year? Big developers such as Llave de Oro, Nuñez i Navarro, Vertix and some other small such as Volumètric, Elix, Iberhogar,… as well as real estate bank divisions such as Anida, Solvia, Servihabitat and some consultants and marketers like as.
What were the ideas presented at the Symposium?
Principle of moderate consumption of plots and the fact that the majority is not competitive because of its location, as well as the need for Director Plans as a tool to establish new competitive locations. The role of the government as drivers of strategic projects: to regulate efficiently, effectively and disturb as little as possible The Administration should act countercyclical In good times the weight of the progress of the economy must fall into private hands, but in hard times has to be stimulated Today, however, due to lack of resources, it is hard to do so. In new developments the value of the land has to be low in order to arrive to the real demand. There are nice lands but there are also a high number that due to its location probably can never develop Need to professionalize the sector, both developers and marketers in order to give confidence to the markets.
In Spain now are 27,000 homes sold per month. It must be said that the assignments included private banks, in fact, do not lose the stock The experts opinions are that in 2015 300,000 homes will be sold To increase the amount would be needed to consolidate the economic recovery and hiring people and financing possibilities improve One can’t speak about market in general terms because it is very heterogeneous There are areas where will be movement and others will be stopped for years. 'Services' are here to stay and will become large estate We think that may be some concentration and there are possibilities to list on the stock exchange. The rental market will increase; particularly due to the need of mobility of young people. The sense of ownership was created in response to certain policies so the feeling of rent can also move again.
So, how was the 2014 BMP to Amat? Well, the truth is that we can’t complain The data were:
177 requests filtered which means the number of applicants we have data and description of what they seek for 65% new developments and 35% second hand. 12 ratings. We have also had meetings with 8 real estates of different European countries
If compared with other years, the data of this 18th edition of the Barcelona Meeting Point real estate have been lower, but with a lot more quality. Regarding to the ratings, we have chosen only areas and properties that we believe are likely to be marketed We can say that we have been much more rigorous in the selection
The positive and fundamental difference of this year is that customers have finished just seekng for bargains The client now knows the value of the property and also knows what really wants or needs
And, as we are All Saints festivity, a suitable poem by VINYOLI: We all know, / We all know: life / Inexorably plays its game / Someone, though, says in the darkness: / Life smiles without reason, / Death is always right / As an elder in a corner
Nº58 New course starts again
Every year when we go back to work after holidays is like starting new course. During holiday’s period apart from resting, there is always time for thinking, develop new ideas, analyse... That's what we've done throughout our life. Years ago when were fewer in the company people used to told us "don't think"... But this is inevitable.By Immaculada Amat July 2014
Nº57 Holidays are here
A few days ago an important economist asked me how the Real Estate Market was going and I explained to him that it was depending on the month: “a month looks like it is going well and the next one contacts, visits and transactions decrease”. What he said reassured me. He assured that drops in crisis go always straight whereas recoveries go stepped. That’s exactly what is happening!
Now it’s the moment of starting the SEPA regulation and next August is the final date. Our informatics’ systems have been adapted last December and now we have the arduous task of collecting again the majority of direct debits banking.
It is a task in which we have committed all the departments and for which we have counted on the invaluable help of our Communities’ presidents. We will make it in the deadline!
The first thing you realise of is how holidays have changed. Thinking that some time ago we used to close for four week, later on three, and then two until nowadays when we only close one everyone but Commercial Department that remains making appointments.
The truth is that in a company like ours it is important to remain opened as long as possible due to our heavy costumer orientation since we have to be able to solve possible incidences as fast as possible. In this sense we must say that we are always available. Our call centre works wonderfully well.
The beginning of the course is also the moment to do changes and to re design the flow chart. In this sense in our company has taken place personnel movements between offices, as well as some replacements, in order to meet the needs in family conciliation or desire of keep developing one’s professional career.
The second thing that one appreciates is that we could have analysed the result of the first quarter and compare it with previous years realising that the last one has been better. These are good news!
We sold a well situated plot, which means that some survivor developer has been able to find by his own ways the necessary founds to invest and buy, due to the fact that banks don’t finance plots. We will see some cranes!
There have increased the selling and buying operations although not incomes since real estate prices have dropped and nowadays this market keeps moving itself among very low and slightly sustainable prices.
The aftereffect prices not only are stable but in some metropolitan areas of Barcelona also have raised a 1 %, whereas in some neighbourhoods as Sarrià Sant Gervasi those have increased a 2% and almost 5% in Diagonal Mar area, although this is an exception since this is the most valuated area for foreign buyers.
Finally, I read a pair of books of relational marketing by North American gurus. All of them very interesting and help you to think about the 'emotional' part that exists in any business transaction, in any service, especially in the real estate commercialization. The fact that the client feels unique and all the transaction became personal is really important… And this is our extra cost! Technology and real estate platforms are only tools.
A sentence of these holidays:
“Instead of asking us when the next holidays will be, you should build a life from which you won’t need to scape” SETH GODIN business man and consulter.
Speaking of regulations, it is being difficult for us to get that property owners provide us or allow us to obtain the Certificate of energy efficiency, without which it is impossible to make any kind of advertising under the current law. Suddenly it seems we have less products but the problem is the certification! What surprises us is that recently we went to an important Spanish city and looking to some display windows of real estate agencies we found out that there wasn’t any trace of energy certifications. As usual, there are different speeds.
In terms of renting, again a bombshell: we don’t know where we go. It doesn’t seem coherent the approval of a law to revitalize the rental market only one year ago and to announce only four days ago that the latest fiscal measures comprehends the removal from January 1st of 2015 of the 100% forecast in the IRPF which affects tenants who are aged between 18 and 30 years old and lower the overall reduction for leases of dwellings from 60 to 50%. For those who believe that the country must make a firm commitment to rent, these measures are completely disconcerting.
Not only the rental market is affected, but the second hand market will also suffer the consequences of this fiscal adjustment. For one hand, the suppression of the called lowering coefficients for which the profit generated in the transmission of housings acquired before December 31, 1994 had the right to the application of a few reducing coefficients that could reduce considerably the hereditary tax profit to be paid. The elimination of these coefficients will harm the taxpayers who will pay for the whole of the generated appreciation, without any kind of reduction. It will be necessary to see the effects it has that in most of the operations the appreciation could be little.
On the other hand, this month of June has been a month of frenetic activity for us from a social point of view: we have organized two Dinners in the Real Estate environment The first one had Agustí Serra, General Director of Territory and Urban Planning Management, and Carles Sala, Secretary of Housing and Urban Improvement as speakers. In the second one, the speakers were the prestigious Economist Jordi Galí, Director of the CREI. Besides, we have celebrated the Real Estate Club Dinner at ESADE sponsored once again by Amat. This month we also have been awarded with the Best Business Career Prize by the Baix Llobregat Chamber of Commerce... and a lot more!!
As an homage to Joan Vinyoli on his centenary: The word As a fountain, sometimes, the word Says the world’s secrets.
Have a nice holiday!
Nº56 Present, past and future
With a long delay time becomes short for everything on the first of May we celebrated the General Meeting where we did a comparative exercise with the most representative data of Amat Immobiliaris between 2007 last good year before crisis and 2013.
The results have been the following: 2007 2013
Offices 2 4 Workers 46 60 Calls 31.401 130.732 Emails nd 720.000
Administration Departments Renting 2.600 4.044 Owners On Line nd 80% Administration Departments Communities 7.992 12.496 Presidents (Sant Just) On Line nd 75%
Although the business has grown considerably, the margin has drop 18 points as a consequence of prices decrease along this period. We must remember that all our Administration and Commercial incomes are proportional to the properties value in the market.
We also confirm that emerging communication technologies affect to our costumer’s habits. Therefore, we have to be prepared and in Amat Immobiliaris have achieved our personal goal: more than 75% of our Administration costumers are on line. This is a percentage over the highest of the sector. We thank to our people, suppliers and costumers their availability and involvement. More information in MEMORIA 2013
We are glad Colonial Real Estate has consolidated its future.
We don’t understand or we don’t want to, the article published in the Council of the National Association of Property Administrators Magazine in where was said that the Tax on Documented Legal Acts it is only applied in some autonomous regions. Surprisingly, iwe have paid it in Catalonia all our life!
We have made our first journey to Russia where there is still an interest in buying in our country, but also fear of Ukraine problem and concern about rubble drop.
We also have made our first journey to China, where we confirmed the Chinese’s interest for our country.
Founds keep moving, finding its places, and we don’t know yet how will it affect us, what changes will it brings,…We will see.
That’s way we think this BENEDETTI sentence fits perfectly: “When we thought we had all the answers, suddenly all the questions were changed.”By Immaculada Amat April 2014
Nº55 A positive quarter
Before yesterday was Christmas’s day and yesterday Easter. A whole quarter has gone so fast and real estate market is slowly moving.
This quarter has had some positive “signs” that, as usual, it will need to be consolidated in order to become a tendency. What signs have been those?
In the Commercial Area
to make purchase and sale transactions within 450.000€ and 800.000€, the most punished budget. It was the most static. to sell brand new properties off plan. any property developer analysing plots with intention to buy . increased number of visits. price stability.
In Patrimonial Area
4 months in a row without any decrease in rental prices. In the Community of Owners Administration Department moroseness has decreased from 7% to 4’8%. Our team is to be thanked for the effort and perseverance during the follow up of the collection. Also in Communities, for the first time in years, several rehabilitation budgets have been approved. Always have been waiting better moments until now. Therefor we are starting to rehabilitate façades, elevators,…
By contrast, the market is in a moment of a deep change the scope of which is still unknown: the selling of several real estate networks, the emergence of lots of real estate agencies, the phenomenon of “I have a Chinese” there is no day when someone calls us assuring one has a Chinese contact who wants to invest. It is incredible!
You all see changes in this market are deep and companies as ours are compelled to be more flexible and adaptable. The challenge is keep the service quality and the client orientation. In essence it is like giving a prime service in low cost strategy. There is more information in Market Report 2013.
Signals make us optimistic and as DAVID KAHNEMAN says in his book 'Thinking quickly, thinking slowly': The optimists are wrong more often, but do better in life. We want to believe it!
NOTE: invitation for the Luxury Real Estate Exhibition in Beijing (China) attached just in case you are around there these days and you want to pay us a visit.
Nº54 65th anniversary of Amat Immobiliaris
On 4th of February we celebrated our 65th anniversary at La Pedrera, the fantastic building located in Passeig de Gràcia and designed by Antoni Gaudi. It was a celebration focused mainly as a tribute to the 1st generation of the family, Concepció Amigó Viuda de Amat , without her perseverance the company would never have reached this anniversary.
Concepció Amigó Viuda de Amat deserved this tribute. The company was founded by her husband, Joan Amat in 1948, but he died suddenly in 1948. The company was just four years old, Concepció had a two year old daughter, Imma Amat, and the second daughter, Joana Amat, was born just a day after Joan Amat was buried. Concepció decided to continue with the company, and in eight days she visited all the clients, some of them ceased to work with Amat Immobiliaris just because she was a woman. This was the Spain of 50s.
The celebration was elegant and emotional at the same time, and thanks to the 280 attendees (clients, businessmen, real estate colleagues, family and friends) the celebration was very special.
Imma Amat and Joana Amat (2nd generation and current CEOs of Amat Immobiliaris) started the event with a warm welcome speech and a very sentimental explanation of the company's history and values, these values which are still visible in the daily business of Amat Immobiliaris. The event was divided in three main parts, the three life passions of the second generation of the company: business economy, culture and social responsibility
The first part was dedicated to business economy. There was a round table with tree well-known economists (Oriol Amat, Elisenda Paluzie and Miquel Puig) and three well known businessmen from family companies (Núria Basi Armand Basi , Ramon Carbonell Copcisa and Cèsar Molins Ames ). These dialogues were moderated by the prestigious journalist Antoni Bassas. A lot of interesting comments and ideas were made, one of which being that for every 2.000 Catalan companies, only 1 lasts 65 years or more, and that's only possible when a company is able to periodically renovate itself.
The cultural part was lead by the unique poet and family friend, Joan Margarit He gave a brillant introduction highlighting the importance of culture and knowledge today, and how there is a lack of them in today's society. Joan Margarit, reciting his poems, transmitted his power and emotion.
At the end, just after the poetry reading, Amat Immobiliaris was honoured by the President of Catalonia, Mr. Artur Mas, who gave the closing speech. His words were very important and emotional as he cited us as an example in the real estate sector. He also said we were an example, in a wider context, for our company values, work and consistency. The climax of the event came when the President of Catalonia, Mr. Artur Mas, handed a bouquet to Concepció Amigó Viuda de Amat and all the attendees gave a large applause in homage of her.
The last part of the event was a cocktail party for all the attendees. It was organized by FiT a social fundation which Amat Immobiliaris collaborated with during 2013. They helps young people with difficult lives learn cookery and service. We also highlighted eleven more fundations that we collaborated with each month last year.
The cultrural part was also complemented by a sculpture exhibition next to the cocktail area, organized by Espai Lliure Creació Carme Malaret and the music played by Orquestra Fusió Sant Cugat during de cocktail. Finally we would like to thank the support receibed to celebrate this 65th anniversary: to our sponsors Mutua de Propietarios, Thyssenkrupp Elevadores and Watium; and special thanks to Arts Gràfiques Orient, Sumarroca and Vallformosa
By Immaculada Amat February 2014
Nº53 And already 7 years
When I look back it seems incredible we have survived seven years once the real estate bubble collapsed. Seven years of concern, of constant changes in our sector; seven years of constant fighting in order to not reduce any job and don’t lose money; trying to grow up in a crumbling world and adapting ourselves to a new one. This is the world of the internationalization, financial institutions networks, investment funds, new SEPA’s regulations…
Days ago in a meeting with the sales managers of the company I asked them which feeling they had about this last year and their answer was unanimous: tiredness.
Tiredness due to a really hard year because of many reasons: a first quarter of real estate market slack and feeling the impossibility of achieve the goals fixed always reasonable, though; constant changes in critera, people and many of financial entities that we work for everyone is worried about future but it do not justify certain attitudes ; hard closing transactions;…By contrast, in the second quarter visits and transactions have positively increased.
The same question made to the community of properties manager administrator had the same answer: a really hard year, because of the increased moroseness; the budget reduction in communities and all problems it implies; increasing strained meetings… And sometimes generalized stress manifests itself aggressively in the meetings.
In the other hand, it has been a positive year for the rent administration: prices have been stabilized, 2’09% of controlled moroseness, some owners have reactivated rehabilitated politics of its buildings since in 2008 when have been paralyzed,…All this is really positive.
How do we start 2014?
First of all, many banks start announcing mortgage concessions.
Housing developers of the few remaining has explained us they have received many financial entities propositions for financing a new housing project. How many years have passed since we haven’t heard this?
Commercial visits of January 2014 almost doubled those of January 2013. Could it be a a new trend?
Why start the year wit ha new fiscal department that has had a good welcome from clients.
Early this month we celebrate the company 65th anniversary. This is an extraordinary opportunity to pay tribute to our mother, our own personal heroine.
Your light is Green, moon, and fells yet with more silence, than the snow on dawn JOAN VINYOLI
Earlier this month I went to Lima to collect the IWEC prize, which greeted me with a very positive experience meeting entrepreneur women around the world and realizing that we share the same problems and concerns... just in a different dimension. The growth and vitality of Lima was spectacular, with new buildings throughout the city, ten and a half million inhabitants, and cranes everywhere. Special thanks to the Chamber of Commerce of Barcelona for organizing and for the attention received.
Mid month we went to Barcelona Forum II Judges / Property Administrators, which is always an interesting experience for discussing the issues that affect us as much as the proposed New Horizontal Property Act, that will need to be adapted to the current economic and social crisis we are experiencing. Amat defends new criteria for the proper functioning of the governing board of the homeowners (it must not start every year from the beginning), there must be a continuity between board and board and find ways to continue the policies of maintaining estates which came with the advent of the crisis, and many other things.
Speaking of propriety management, the Patrimonial area of Amat are pleased to have fully completed one of our goals for 2013, incorporating digitization program FacturaScan and throughout the area, so that both property management and rent on property owners, as we have automated everything making errors impossible. It was a long and complicated process but it is the best guarantee and peace of mind for our customers.
At the end of the month we also went to Madrid in the 8th Meeting of specialized real estate asset management, the most interesting of the papers, especially those who spoke more about future than of past and present. Such as explanations by Banco de Sabadell which have studied how different soils that have arrived, as have placed and continue with the policies they think on following. At least it was positive and encouraging.
Finally, how is it going the Commercial area in Amat? We want to show that October and November have been two active months in the hard commercial life, and it seems that the arrival of the end of the year has encouraged buyers, or at least made them understand that NOW is the opportunity for good prices. We are those who think that next year prices may rise in some areas. And good news are that we have begun to hire local (5 years ago renting a commercial space was exceptional), since we returned from vacation we have rented more than the previous two years.
Finally, especially these days we are attending the LPS Shanghai fair, who were we to say? Soon we will explain the experience!
How will I fight only with useless words, what will the fighters cries be for? SALVADOR ESPRIUBy Immaculada Amat November 2013 Nº51 Playing with the 5
Enrique Lacalle and his team don’t fall out even though each year it is harder to pull ahead a fair like Barcelona Meeting Point, in an area where the actors have changed so much. We have to congratulate the whole team for their effort.
Who was there? Only two of the historical Promoters: La Llave de Oro and Núñez i Navarro, newly, Corp, and it did not get up to half a dozen of small and medium ones. A deep respect to the Meeting Point that took place 8 years ago, which included impressive two storey stands where champagne and ham were present every day. Comparing only with last year’s there are also differences, apart from Promoters, a large number of banks have disappeared: Catalunya Caixa was not there, nor Unnim, Banco Popular… We have had the feeling of an almost familiar Meeting Point.
We would like to congratulate the organization for the confidence in Molins Interiors for the design of the common space of the Lounge, a modern, warm and nice space. What a difference from the usual!
Our data from the Barcelona Meeting Point this year does not seem as good as last year’s. We visited a lot less people, but instead we have been left with a good feeling as people were more interested than they were last year. The details:
▪ We have dealt with 255 applicants, 24 Chinese clients and 18 Russians. We have 45 programmed valuations.
▪ We have had 17 commercials working.
▪ Guifré Homedes, Amat Barcelona’s office director was along with 7 Russian real estate representatives, the only speaker representing a state property in the 1st session of the Symposium BMP: "How to sell properties to Russians", which has given us importance in the media as the article in the newspaper El País and several interviews or mentions on radio, press and television.
▪ Our new project in China’s presentation, www.barcelonasecondhome.com, has also had a great reception, like “La Vanguardia que ens ha donat un semàfor verd” to the initiative. Really an honor! And this is only the beginning, as the next 6, 7 and 8 of December we will be at the Shanghai Real Estate Fair. If any of our clients or friends are around in the city for those dates and are curious to visit the fair, we have tickets available.
Què més es pot demanar a 4 dies i mig?
On the other hand,
As a result of the complexity of time, contrasts and difficulties:
On Thursday the Sareb stand was held for hours by the PAH (Platform of People Affected by the Mortgage).
On Sunday a group of people manifested for the Preference.
Finally, on Saturday afternoon there was the Barça Madrid match, and from 5pm the fair looked like a desert.
During the days of the fair the magnificent office building Cornerstone of 20,700 m2 was opened in Poble Nou, managed by Bream Real Estate and designed by the architect Albert Blanch. Congratulations to all of them for going forward with a project like this.
"I’m nothing and nobody and I’ll shut up, but you need to talk, because you have to answer big questions" SALVADOR ESPRIU
We don’t stop!
By Immaculada Amat October 2013
Nº50 Playing with the 5
5 years of crisis
50 diaries of change
Despite all this Amat continues, and with 65 years of experience on the back, we can say that:
each hour, 500 Amat houses are consulted by internet.
each hour, Amat receives 5 new contacts, new demands.
each hour, Amat manages 150 calls.
this year, Amat has complete 50 operations with clients of emergent countries: Russia, China, Egypt, Libya…
Apart from this “amusement”, September has been a complex month, since the return from the holidays we haven’t stop…
We regret that this month one important Promoter has gone bankrupt, friend of ours, that has resist everything possible, surely more that what it was convenient, one Promoter that loved the business.
A surprising fact, is that when the crisis started a lot of real state agencies closed, now it seems like the situations has been inverted and a lot of them are opening, for example near our office of Barcelona (3 this summer). We don’t understand it! Precisely setting aside the bank houses, one of the big existent problems in the property market, is that there are a few second hand houses on sale.
Another surprising fact is, that this month we inaugurate our webpage in China www.barcelonasecondhome.com, as a result of wanting to take forward a powerful Project “full service”, support by the web and one net of collaborators in the main cities of China. Who would have imagined that 5 years ago!
It has been approved the “Law of support to the entrepreneurs and their internationalization” , now we need to see if it covers the expectations.
“For a stint, the summer one, we attend to one approximation to freedom" SALVADOR ESPRIUBy Immaculada Amat September 2013 Nº49 The housing sector hasn’t made vacation
I’ve advantaged the holidays to read the Diaries written since now (5 years of reflections), when I began I didn’t imagine that I was going to write so many, rereading them now I realise that a lot of opinions, ideas, reflections… are valid even today, the biggest mistake were the provisions of the fall in prices, nothing to do with the reality, that has been harder.
If I turn now to the Diaries “post holidays”, I see clear that during the months of August has happened little or nothing remarkable talking about real state agencies, because the mean themes were:
August 2008: For the first time the Government sais the word crisis.
August 2009: the uselessness of the “Plan E” of the central Government, a lot of wasted money.
August 2010: reflections about the not appearance in the jobs interview despite the situation.
August 2011: comments about the reduction of the period “closed for holidays” in a lot of business, like for example Amar.
August 2012: comments about the possible of the rescue of Spain and the creation of the “Wrong Bank”.
Any comments about the facts related to the sector, August was a compass time, of waiting.
August 2013: This years there have been important news in the real state sector that directly or indirectly could affect us:
Catalunya Caixa sells her real state platform to two foreign sources. This fact that is important for the volume and the quantity of assets that the manage, opens a lot of unknowns for the own people who works directly in the platform and for enterprises that commercialized for Catalunya Caixa, which will be our future?
SAREB has sold a big package of estates to a venture capital fund. Good new, there is interest for invest in the sector.
Continues the sale transaction of Servihabitat.
Continues the interest of two big enterprises of Madrid to enter in the shareholding of Immobiliaria Colonial.
This year the news of the sector are really important! That’s why I said at the beginning that the sector didn’t take a break.
One final note, I’ve walked through Catalonia during the holidays and… zero or almost zero cranes… impacts!
The hours will arrive tomorrow quiet, Opened large wings of the birds They last in the field the big summer calms. SALVADOR ESPRIU
We have waited to do this diary, to study well all the changes in the Law for Urban Lease, to think about which should be our recommendations, and organize three events (one in each office) with our clients owners to explain our proposals and get their feedback.
Having said that, we can say that we have a different point of view, because after having listened to all that has been said in the gatherings, to all that as been written in the media… our view is different from the majority’s.
Law 4/3013, of the 4 of July, of flexibility and encouragement measures of the rent of estates.
This is the title of the last modification of the Law for Urban Lease and of the LEC, and we ask ourselves: encouragement? Can we talk about encouragement when we put the renter into more uncertainty and insecurity than ever? Is this the interest of homeowners?
We probably look at this matter from the point of view of part of the landlords, from the point of view of the main typology of our client owners, those who we have tried to inculcate during years, that the fact of renting makes them entrepreneur of a business that has as a client the tenants.
What needs to be done with these clients/renters? To take care of them, to guarantee their security, and to ensure that they don’t leave us.
When is more profitable the rental business? When there is a small turnover: each time a renter leaves, that means new expenses to put the house in good conditions, and months of clearance (without payment) until finding new lessee for the house.
When we have listened to all the media, and even we have read in comments and notes of professional associations, that the most common opinion is thinking that it’s better for the house owners that they can sign three years contracts, we don’t understand this point of view, so we ask ourselves:
Is it really good for our clients? Our answer is NO (except in special situations). Indeed, we think that it can transfer possible renters to buyer clients.
It is good to be able to take out a renter so easily? Our answer is once again No. It’s true that the law itself foresee a protection system through the civil registration of the contract, but, and its cost? How many tenants will do this?
What good will it do a register “of defaulter debtors” if we only can register the final judgments? Our long experience is that the sentences that we obtain are just a few: in most cases, the renters give you the keys back a few days before the lawsuit. So, aren’t they defaulter? And the ones who auto settled their selves the bail, aren’t they defaulter too?
And we could continue…
Our recommendations to all the house owners are clear: to continue doing contracts of 5 years, don't include the resignation to the mortis causa subrogation (that one that allows that once the renter has died it's possible to take out the family of the house). Why do they to this if the contract has yet a limited duration? We find this excessive.
With this new Law of flexibility and encouragement measures of the rent of estates, now more than ever the contract takes vital importance: a good contract protects both parts, and a bad contract can bring to unwanted situations. This is the challenge of the flexibility and the freedom: if they are well applied, the result may be perfect, but it has to be carried out very well.
We wish you happy holidays, which provide you new loaded energies.
Our sentence of SALVADOR ESPRIU of the month: "We strive often for doing anything, for not stop doing anything and for complaining ourselves, because they don't do anything and they neither let us do anything”.
By Immaculada Amat June 2013
Sometimes I think that someone changes the time guidelines and now the day has less than 24 hours. We haven’t finished until yet the Annual Report 2012 that we attach, so it is that the Diary of Change of this month is the Annual Report itself.
It has been a month with little motivation, and still less the presentation of the XXIX Meeting of the “Círculo de Economia” in Sitges All the speakers with pretty depressing messages, maybe I would highlight in positive the President Artur Mas who explained a list of positive things under way at these moments, in positive too the intellectual brilliance of the President of the “Círculo de Economía” Josep Piqué, and in negative the Minister Luis de Guindos, he spoke probably about Macroeconomy, to faraway of the world of the ordinary people.
Like always, I leave you with a sentence of SALVADOR ESPRIU for the reflection: “He thinks the same about your own crowd. They speak equal, with contrary words”
ANNUAL REPORT 2012
Nº47 Summer is here, I don’t know how we’ve done it but we’ve survivedBy Immaculada Amat May 2013
Once again, with contradictory feelings
April was a bad month from the point of view of figures:
Unemployment rose and rose, just as we see every month.
Populism advances. Fear of there appearing a “redeemer” (from the right or from the left) sweeping all before him or her; that can only be combated with truth.
There was an increase in verbal attacks against Catalonia from the rest of Spain.
The frivolity of some of those who take part in the chat shows televised on some TV stations, where instead of informing they create mistrust, insecurity.
Extraordinarily negative, the restrictions on aid for those caring for dependent persons. How many social problems will be created now?
For Amat in its work the following was negative:
The loss of a sale operation because the purchasing client had been directly affected by the Cyprus issue.
The loss of the occasional Administration of an Owners’ Association, due to the price war currently existing in the sector. It is impossible to provide a good service: with Call centre to handle incidents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; On line Property Administration that involves keeping all the accounting management up to date; paying all suppliers punctually; having a good professional insurance; and especially having a professional team that knows its work thoroughly. All that for €4 a month per owner, impossible!By Immaculada Amat April 2013 Nº45 Balance and reflections for the future
As we do each year, on the last Friday before Easter Week we held the General Meeting of Amat. Both Joana and I are impressed when we see the number of people in our company: now standing at 65! We’re not sure whether to start running without stopping. As in most companies, I suppose, the general meeting serves to explain how the previous year had gone and what the projects and objectives are for the current year. For our part, we also take this opportunity to have a speaker give a talk that helps everybody to reflect on the future.
This year the speaker was Josep M. Galí, academic, consultant and writer, who reflected about three concepts that form part of the way we go about things as a society, and that therefore transform life, businesses, companies:
CO for collaboration, cooperation, consumption, collaboration, etc. The truth is that in our organisation we have already experienced this, for example, when we have rented a shared flat.
RE for reutilisation. Josep M. explained that in the future greater value would be accorded to products that had been designed with a view to their reutilisation. We know of a company devoted to the reutilisation of children’s clothing, Trastus Within our company, too, more and more things are being reutilised.
The fall of more Promoters, ones that we know have acted properly but have been brought down by lack of credit. A shame!
But April has also been a positive month in some ways:
A Decision has been handed down by the European Court on the subject of mortgages in Spain, promoted by Judge J.M. Fernández Seijo, our Speaker at the last Real Estate Sector Dinner, whom we have known for many years (since his first posting as Judge was in Esplugues de Llobregat). It is hopeful to see that the Judiciary or rather, some of the Judiciary is committed to society. And not only through this decision, but because, as Mr Fernández Seijo explained to us, his function in the Commercial Court, and that of many colleagues of his, is taking on a broader view with the mission of helping to solve problems for many companies, instead of helping along their closure.
SO for society. Society recovers its role; we enter into a secularised society, understood as a society that has confidence in itself and feels capable of resolving its problems.
I leave you with those snippets from the talk, for those who might like to think about them.
In general, March was perhaps a little better that January and February, and reservations for the purchase of flats were made at all our offices. The prices are really very good for purchasers, and there are excellent opportunities. But what remains an increasing worry is the rise in unemployment, a phenomenon we see every day in the patrimonial department, where we are in contact with very many people. And what is not only worrying but also disappointing is the behaviour of many of our politicians.
Within the existing possibilities, civil society is increasingly opting for patronage or micro patronage to foster new projects or existing projects to which the government cannot provide support as it used to some years ago.
That is why we find truth in the words “els que volen dialogar de debò s'han d'afanyar en la penetració del pensament recíproc” (those who really want to enter into dialogue have to try hard to get inside reciprocal thinking) SALVADOR ESPRIU
After attending a gratifying talk by Josep Ramoneda, I came out with the feeling that there remain possibilities of saving ourselves from disaster, that there are still some people who think, who reason, who do not engage in the facile talk we have become accustomed to.
We have lived through an extraordinary Sant Jordi book fair, perhaps because the weather was very good, or perhaps because people wanted to get out, to feel themselves part of a unique festival, or maybe a bit of all those things; the truth is that it had been some time since we had seen so many people with smiles on their faces.
For Amat it has also been a good month:
We have managed to carry through several operations that we had been handling for quite some time.
We have found that there are people who once again want to invest. It is no longer just anecdotal, and that encourages us.
Appropriate for these days of fleeting poppies.
Ara digeu: “la ginesta floreix, arreu al camp hi ha vermell de roselles” (Now say: ‘the broom is in flower, around the field is the red of poppies’) SALVADOR ESPRIU
It is usually difficult in February to fill sales agents’ diaries, and this year it has certainly been even harder. All the ratios have gone done: the number of phone calls, the number of e mails, the number of visits, the ratio of turning phone calls into visits, not to mention operations!
It is very hard work to raise the spirits of a population besieged on all sides, a population that feels afraid, that sees its capacity reduced day by day. All that despite the fact that this is the best time for buying: there are lots of opportunities, for we have prices that were unthinkable only a short while ago, in all segments. Could anyone have foreseen that there would be flats in Barcelona for €100,000? Or highly impressive houses for €1,000,000?
Despite such a discouraging panorama, our Sales Department has never been at a standstill. It has been working very actively on the various platforms of the financial entities, managing databases, seeking out potential buyers and doing ever more follow up work.
And it is along that line of never stopping that the Luxury Area moves. The people in charge of it, Nadia and Guifré, attended an International Convention on Luxury Real Estate in Valencia, where not only were they able to feel the pulse of the market in other countries but also forge closer links with companies that could bring us clients from all over, as they are brought (three or four a month) by the group of real estate companies who are our partners in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
And as we like challenges and studying new things, we accepted a unique commission: to value a group of schools located in various different parts of Spain. A group of schools owned by a well known Congregation, some of them housed in unique and unrepeatable buildings. It has been a gratifying task due to its singular nature, a different consulting job that obliged us to create a model that could be extrapolated to other types of valuations. It is such challenges that help us emerge from the dominant greyness of the times.
Also gratifying was the Wine Tasting that we organised at the Barcelona office for the 2012 buyers. Under the masterly eye of Ferran Centelles, the former sommelier of El Bulli restaurant, we managed to have everyone enjoy a surprising and fun evening.
With little events such as they we try to offset and neutralise the great sadness of the times.
“Convé pensar un futur lluminós, convé pensar en les equivalències de vida i llum, de mort i fosca” (It is a good idea to think of a bright future, in the equivalencies of life and light, of death and darkness) SALVADOR ESPRIUBy Immaculada Amat February 2013 Nº43 A stressful month
For small companies such as ours the month of January is a complicated one from many points of view. The previous year has to be closed and the corresponding reports drawn up at a general level, while at the level of departments numbers have to be added up and analysed; all this without ceasing in our day to day work.
The new year clearly has to be planned, objectives discussed with heads of department, budgets drawn up, and so forth. And how complicated it is to draw up the sales department budget! Preparing the marketing plan, designing the strategies of each area, the financial plan; and again, all this without ceasing in our day to day work.
Large companies have their marketing, planning, human resources departments, and so forth. In small companies, in which we try to keep the structure as small as possible, we also run those facets in our own way. The difference is that one and the same person will doubtless wear different hats.
Stressed, yet pleased to have a new year started off properly, and pleased too that on the basis of being very nimble, controlling expenditure tightly, we managed to close the year with a surplus, virtually a miracle if we bear in mind just two figures:
Without losing even a single client from vertical, income has fallen by 35%, corresponding to the accumulated two year fall in rental prices, plus a lengthening of the time it takes nowadays to rent out a flat.
The sale price in the commercial sector has fallen by 35 to 60% depending on the zone, and of course that too directly affects our operating account.
Pleased, too, because we are achieving this based on everybody putting in an extraordinary effort, based on innovating processes, on carrying out marketing and more marketing. Pleased at having managed not only to maintain our staffing level but even taken on two new staff members.
What pleases us most of all, however, is having managed, from a total of 96 claim actions announced over the course of the whole year, to end with just 18 notices to quit, and in the end only 4 evictions. One can only guess at the management work, the imagination that lies behind keeping those figures so low! It is one of the little grains of sand (ours, and those of our clients) that helps to maintain such a struggling society.
When we look at all that is going on around us we are overcome by indignation, we wonder whether we might not be just ingenuous dreamers trying to save a few jobs, a few families’ houses, while day after day we hear talk of corruption and still more corruption on the part of those who represent us, or represented us in the past. It is frankly demoralising.
But so as to avoid frustrating ourselves any more than we already are, we would like to hold onto a sentence penned by SALVADOR ESPRIU "fer tot allò que puguem de la nostra part, per tal que el món sigui una mica menys desagradable i sobretot una mica menys pervers" [doing for our own part all we can to make the world a little bit less unpleasant, and particularly a little bit less perverse]
An intense 2012, and a 2013 with frights in store (according to forecasts)
The year 2012 has ended, having surely been the most intense one in our professional life. So many things have been happening, and all so quickly, that it is difficult to evaluate them. For the time being, though, we must be content as a company another year has passed, and we have maintained the two objectives we have had since the start of the crisis: keeping our staffing levels and continuing to invest in marketing.
And we should be more content still at having managed to:
Increase our portfolio of real estate under administration, thanks to the confidence that a large bank has placed in us.By Immaculada Amat Christmas 2012 Nº41 Solidarity proposals
As we do each year around this season, we are printing a calendar, and again like each year it revolves around a specific theme. This year we wanted to render homage to the foundations that work in our surroundings. We feel that they are currently playing an essential role in our society, deploying the efforts of large numbers of anonymous people to make up for the role that was formerly played by the Government. We are sure that without their contribution this society of ours would be even more polarised, and would be unable to provide a response to such pressing needs and requirements.
We are aware that this is just a small sample, that we have restricted ourselves to the ones closest to us. We are also aware that in other parts of the world the needs are much more urgent and substantial than ours.
Increase the number of properties sold in relation to the preceding year, albeit at lower prices.
In the end, though, we have chosen the ones most directly related with the setting of Amat.
Integrate the new Sant Cugat Centre office in record time.
Continue organising our Real Estate Sector Dinners… and many more things.
We have achieved this thanks to the dedication of our people, to their capacity for being flexible and adapting to the requirements and demands of the current market. To the effort we have all put into constantly training and preparing ourselves. To the enthusiasm we bring to becoming better day by day. All that has kept us here, exhausted but alive!
Despite all that, it has not all been a bed of roses. We have problems, a great many problems, as does everybody these days.
We have embarked upon the much feared 2013, and we are feeling nervous. All the news that reaches us is bad news, and all the forecasts worse. We are extremely concerned at the great economic and emotional stress that our society is bearing at the moment. How long can it hold out? We think that a collective effort must be made to retain jobs, for otherwise the country will collapse in the end.
From the Amat viewpoint, the image that is reaching us at the moment in looking at 2013 is the image of a circus we will have to do balancing acts, work magic, tame wild beasts, make double somersaults, and, if necessary, be clowns. There will certainly be tears and laughter, but we hope to reach the end of the year having got through the show and readying ourselves for the next performance.
In homage to Salvador Espriu, whose birth anniversary is being celebrated this year, we quote part of his poem: [“I’ve been asked to speak about my Europe” (1959) May our hopes not be disappointed, may our confidence not be ridiculed: This we very humbly ask.]
We would also like to thank our sponsors and collaborators for the support we have received in producing this calendar.
We wish you happy festivities and, most especially, plenty of hope, positive outlook and strength for the coming 2013.
Nº40 Positive surprises
The first positive surprise was this October’s Barcelona Meeting Point. Our company was unsure right up to the last moment about whether or not it would be a good idea for us to take part in it. In the end, we decided to go, and the success surprised us and all who participated. Queues of people seeking information, people really interested in buying, and a feeling that prices had now reached levels that today’s potential clients could pay.
Amat had its own space in the Russia zone, as well as sales staff at the Solvia, Catalunya Caixa and BMP stands.
The figures were substantial:
14 Amat sales personnel at the Fair
650 visits attended to
20 interviews with Russian real estate companies
3 operations closed at the Fair itself + other operation closed later
We were also surprised at the interest the media showed in the sales made by Amat to clients from the former Soviet Republics, with three television interviews, one radio interview and two interviews in print media.
We therefore feel that the financial investment put in and the efforts made by our staff achieved a satisfactory result.
Despite this, we cannot help but compare this Meeting Point with the one from 6 7 years ago. We have gone from three pavilions with two floor stands to half a pavilion with only 8 real estate developers, 6 financial entities and some sales personnel.
In the second surprise, Amat has been awarded the FUNDE prize for its effective policies of conciliation of family and working life. The prize was presented at a formal event held at the Seu Vella in Lleida and presided over by the city’s mayor, Angel Ros.
A negative incident came, however, in the form of a tough inspection we were subjected to by the department of consumer affairs of the Government of Catalonia on the basis of a complaint lodged by a person interested in renting a flat, to whom we did not rent it due to the potential tenant not meeting the financial solvency requirements that the owner and the insurance company had laid down. The incident dated back to the month of November 2011, and after 12 months they were asking us for documentation proving the tenant’s insolvent status. Is that normal? Are we not supposed to destroy such documentation under the Data Protection Act? Be that as it may, taking advantage of the incident, they inspected all that could be inspected. We reach the conclusion that we, companies that are strict, abide by the regulations, pay our taxes religiously, have ISO certification, have ourselves audited voluntarily and so forth, are actually very much more exposed. What a contradiction!
Patience is a tree with bitter roots that bears sweet fruits. (PERSIAN PROVERB)By Immaculada Amat September 2012
Nº39 Point of no return
Our Catalonia has changed since the last newsletter. A great movement arising out of the people themselves, and not from politics, has stirred our small country. The wish to become a State has turned on their heads the plans and strategies of all the political parties without exception. It strikes me as a great triumph of democracy. Doubtless we are all filled with doubts, even fears, but I am equally sure that we have to look ahead and advance along the path we have taken. The generations coming along behind us expect it and need it. A good client of ours said: “the step taken on 11 September is as important for us as man’s first step on the moon, there’s no going back.”
And while the country moves forward, we try to live with a day to day situation in which there are ever more problems. Among owners’ associations in blocks of flats, for example, of which we have administered a great number over many years now:
We have never encountered a higher percentage of unpaid bills.
Many associations have already spent their reserve fund, others have only been undertaking the minimum in maintenance work, and others again have been doing without services.
We have a great many cases of payment enforcement proceedings under way for owners’ association debts. This has to be done even though we don’t know where it will lead us, apart from preserving the general interests of the associations, for the fact is that many association members cannot pay.
But as always we would like to be positive, and there is good news too:
We have leased two industrial premises
In Barcelona, sales of second hand homes have reactivated.
We will be going to Barcelona Meeting Point, where you can find us at the Professional Trade Fair from 17 to 19 October. We will also have a representation from 17 to 21 October at the General Public Fair, at the stands of the main banking entities we work with (Solvia and Catalunya Caixa).
Celebrate any progress. Don’t wait to get perfect ANN MCGEECOOPER (North American executive)
Those were the words of PIERRE REVERDY, a poet connected with the French Surrealist and Cubist movements, quoted in the latest book by ENRIQUE VILA MATAS
Maybe it's to do with the holidays, this doing nothing. But the real question in these fast changing times is whether we have any time left to do nothing. I personally think that we have less than we would like, and certainly less than we need.
My impression is that the vast majority of companies have changed the way they take holidays. Many have closed for fewer days than usual, among them Amat, yet we had nobody sitting around doing nothing: there were lots of people still in Barcelona, we had a quite substantial number of visits and we concluded operations.
In general terms, we are living in a state of permanent tension. Should we be bailing out, and whom? The banking sector or the country itself? When? How? Should it be the bad bank, and should it be right now? How and which properties? Should the Spanish Urban Leases Act (LAU) be amended? Have you taken a look at the published proposal and who benefits from it?
I seems like the Catalan story of the greedy miser: we never gain a clear idea of where we are.
But despite all, we say as always: life goes on, and also brings us positive things. During these holidays I listed a few of them.
In the Cerdanya region town where we spent our summer holiday the same restaurants as have existed for years are still there and still under the same owners, which is a success in itself.
An elderly man from the Terra Alta region told us that he would be prepared to give up a month’s pension if that would help save the country. We should take note of that.
In July some friends of ours sold many apartments in a promotion on the Costa Brava.
We are increasing our staffing! So much time is needed, and so much effort to get much less done!!
Let us hope that the holidays, whether long or short, have served as something of break and for “recharging batteries” ahead of a promising autumn.By Immaculada Amat June 2012
Nº37 Words are the brain’s glasses or wheels
I wanted to begin the last newsletter before the much needed summer holidays with this reflection from EMILI TEIXIDOR, in order to pay homage to him on his death and also because his reflection is very appropriate at the moment. I have referred to it in many newsletters, about how things are not said with the right words and, therefore, we don’t do the things that we should. A poor state of affairs!
And what a month of June! From the Sitges sessions to the Cercle d’Economia meeting, it was all tears (though a high level was set in the interesting debate between the former French minister Kouchner and his German counterpart Fisher): the tensions of the risk premium, unemployment out of control, Greece, the “bail out” of Spain, the legal decisions affecting Catalonia, and, above all, the problems being experienced by all citizens. Surely no more negative things can happen?
As you know, though, we always seek to be positive, and amidst the general economic decline, amidst the reigning discouragement, we can find some positive notes:
It is positive that we could set a price in the Sant Cugat real estate market. Following years of month by month reductions, prices have finally stabilised and the fall, while extraordinary, has now halted. Prices have fallen by some 50% from their highest point, reaching stability in May and June. Finally, we at Amat and the various Promoters have started to sell.
It is positive that a consensus is being reached concerning the need for a different model for Catalonia.
It is positive that Barcelona remains an attractive city to live in, and so many foreigners thus continue to come.
It is positive that recognition has been accorded to the sociologist Manuel Castells, who has been awarded the “Holberg”, the “Nobel Prize” among sociologists.
It is positive to be able to hear people like Jordi Pujol, so clear sighted despite their age.
And now that the holidays are with us, we must be positive, for we live in a delightful country, we have marvellous sunshine, and we manage to attract lots of tourists to come and visit us and help us improve our economy.
Have a good holiday!
I need so much time to do nothing that I have no time left for workingBy Immaculada Amat May 2012
Nº36 Caught between indignation and carrying on
Following the events of this last month the whole country, or nearly everybody, should be feeling indignant. Not a day passes without some bad news! The matter of Bankia tops it all, and yet is at the same time paradigmatic. We are speaking of figures so immense that we cannot reckon their true value, and yet nobody is accepting any responsibility. The rating agencies are continually lowering our rating, and that includes Catalonia, which has been doing its homework more and more. Central government has cut subsidies and aid for the handicapped by half, and we must ask whether that was really necessary. Obviously not! Why don’t they shed civil servants in those ministries that have for years been devoid of content? There are many, many reasons to feel indignant. If we added them up, each of us would have a sackload.
I read by chance in a magazine that during the Second World War the British government printed some posters with the phrase “Keep calm and carry on”. They didn’t actually use the posters, but taking up that phrase again, that is exactly what we have to do: “keep calm and carry on”.
That is just the spirit the General Manager of the Clínic hospital, Josep M. Piqué, conveyed to us a few days ago at a dinner to carry right on at a time that is so difficult for the health sector.
And Carles Sumarroca too, at a Chamber of Commerce lunch, spoke about eight strategic ideas for mobilising companies.
Again, Josep M. Galí, at the presentation of a study by Fundació Creafutur, suggested that we reflect on the consumer of the future, in another way of looking ahead.
And today they are broadcasting TV 3 television channel’s Marathon against Poverty. We might view this in a number of ways. One’s initial feeling is of deep concern. It took me back to when I was young, many years ago, when they broadcast charity programmes on the radio conducted by Mr Dalmau and Mr Vinyes. That was the Spain of the 1960s, so where are we now? The second reaction is that we are in a situation of emergency and that we must carry on.
One last reflection: just as well, then, that albeit with shoving and tumbling civil society is carrying right on.
By Immaculada Amat April 2012
Nº35 As the strange world moves onward
This phrase, read in a book by Paul Auster, struck me as the perfect title for this month’s diary, because everything really is very strange.
We have rulers in Madrid who one day say things are white and the next black, who distort data any way they please.
We have the problem of big companies and the multi million salaries that their managers and executives are paid even today. Only this last May 1st we read in the newspapers that Mr. Martin, CEO of the Martinsa company, was raising his salary!
And we have some government departments hiring staff, and they are hiring at prices way above the market levels, people without any kind of educational qualifications, earning the same as a good salesperson or a tax advisor with a masters degree. Who can explain such things?
There are the speeches given by leaders of the Catalan left parties, bitterly criticising the measures of the Catalan Government, as if the history of the region had nothing to do with them, when only yesterday they were the ones in government! Are they not part of the disaster, as we all are?
And while this strange world moves onward, most mortals have to work magic just to carry on. A company like ours, with so many clients, and close to its clients, sees the daily miracles that people and companies work in order to survive. A few examples:
Over 50% of those who leave rented flats tell us, when asked, that they are going to live with relatives. The sociologists are right when they say that families are showing more solidarity than ever.
Promoters who find themselves forced to sell off the last personal possessions left to them in order to pay the bank re financing agreements they have had to take out over recent years.
Industrialists, from whatever sector, with good orders portfolios, with impeccable banking records, who in order to be able to survive find themselves obliged to use their own personal assets as surety for the renewal of loans, doubtless for smaller amounts then they had before and under worse conditions. And that is only the ones who can manage even that, for the majority find themselves forced to close.
Many lawyers and tax advisors who have had to join together to share offices, reinvent themselves, for many of their clients (companies) have disappeared.
All of us, or nearly all of us, have had to reinvent ourselves, but seeing as life goes on we do just that, move onwards without looking back... and precisely as life goes on, we never tire of saying “Investors, now is the best time, invest in the real-estate sector, it is full of opportunities!” If you don’t, then in a few years I don’t know how many you will regret that you hadn’t!
Nº34 What a challenge and what a responsibility!
On the last Friday in March we held the company’s General Meeting. It makes quite an impression to see 62 people gathered together. What nerves, what a challenge and what a responsibility!
We started off with a talk from Cèsar Molins, owner and Managing Director of Ames, a member of CAREC (advisory body to the Government of Catalonia on economic reactivation and growth). Ames is an industry in the metallurgical sector, with seven factories divided between various countries (though with most in Catalonia) and more than 700 workers.
So why did we ask Cèsar to give us a talk? Well, because despite the differences between his company and ours in terms of sector and dimension, we do have many things in common. There is our vision of our businesses, our values and our principles. Indeed, convergences to the point that, without having agreed in advance what he would talk about, Cèsar decided to use part of the presentation that he had himself given to the General Meeting of Ames, which turned out to be almost exactly the presentation we had prepared ourselves for Amat. Many thanks, Cèsar, for devoting a few hours to us on a Friday afternoon just ahead of Easter Week.
Our meeting served on the one hand to analyse how 2011 had gone, and on the other to set objectives for 2012 (a much more difficult year than we had forecast). So what were those objectives?
To grow and grow, for when expenses are already very tightly controlled, when processes have been studied and restudied, when your staff is well trained and you want to hold onto them, at times when income is falling so much, growth is the only way left for you to balance.
Focusing on the client, on a job well done, on providing the best service, on personalisation, and particularly taking care, despite the pressures of the market, not to lose the values that have been key for Amat
And there has been some good news at Amat. The incorporation of the new Sant Cugat office has been completed in record times. The good work by Banc de Sabadell, both on the real estate side and on the banking side as such. And the incorporation of another member from the third generation, Nadia Massagué Amat, who will be the future head of sales of Amat Immobiliaris
To end, a little phrase I read in an advertisement and liked: Do more, be more!
By Immaculada Amat February 2012 Nº33 The world is changing... and what about you?
January and February were very difficult for everybody, and particularly for our sector. If we choose to see the glass as half full and we compare the figures for sales, visits, phone calls and operations over the last ten years, we see that the month of January has always been slacker than other months, a month when visits do not get under way until the second fortnight. This year the market response has been different, however, and the standstill lasted until the second half of February, so that only now are we noting a gradual recovery of interest by property seekers, with phone calls, e mails and so forth, thus setting the sales chain under way.
Buyers can now be sure that in 80% of cases owners have become aware of the new situation, new prices, aware that the world is changing. There will always be a few, though, who dream that that everything will be the same as before.
Rentals have been responding better; above all, we are managing to keep the bad debt rate under tight control. It involves a lot of work for us, but in our view this is what is best for owners and, above all, good for us as a society.
And as we are being positive, and following the guidance of Oriol Amat, who always says that in spite of everything there are people and companies that make progress, we would add that there are also projects that move forward. Some of them very close to us, helping us to think that we should be able to get something moving. In Sant Just Desvern, for example, we are now completing registration of a Junta de Compensació (owner controlled site development company) in the town centre, and the owners intend to begin the development immediately. Also in Sant Just building work is beginning on the new Can Mèlich sports club, a project that started some time ago and that has now acquired the momentum required to become a reality. Added to which the Planes family is entering the Indonesia market and creating a line of assistance for entrepreneurs. Everybody surely has doubts about whether this is the right time, for we are all filled with doubts, and that as why we like this saying:
If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties FRANCIS BACON (1561 1626) British philosopher and statesman.
Nº32 Things weren’t as tough yesterday as today!!!
That seems to have been the “mantra” of our country over the course of 2012. Day by day the news is worse, and the Minister de Guindos was saying only a few days ago that the next five years would be the most difficult ones we had experienced. To take just one figure: unemployment now stands at 5,300,000 people, and rising. Guardiola’s dictum about “getting up earlier each day” no longer seems all that useful, so what are we to do? Switch down to the minimum? Or follow the strategy that we have followed so far, one of controlled growth?
If we examine 2011, it was an exceptional year for Amat, in terms of growth and positioning (though not in results, obviously). Circumstances sometimes lead to having to take decisions at times when we did not intend to, and that is what happened to us in 2011. We had planned to open an office in Barcelona, and we did so, and the truth is that we are very pleased, for in just one year we have made much progress. Later, we had a chance to grow in Sant Cugat by acquiring the company INOGAR, and we did so. We now have in Sant Cugat centre an entirely refurbished office that is fully up and running.
And 2011 was also a year of lots and lots of hard work and devotion of time.
In the vertical assets department, bad debt management posed a continuous challenge, trying to find individual made to measure solutions for the needs of tenants and owners alike. Bad debts rose along with the rise in unemployment, at times using up the little public and private assistance that was left for nonpayment of rentals.
In the case of owners association property, too, managing budgets and bad debts became a nightmare.
And what can be said of sales, where closing transactions is so hard!
Due to all that, the AMAT management team wonders each day about how to approach 2012. An honest reply nowadays would be without great optimism but with a will to tackle matters with courage, with the strength that comes from having come through four years of crisis change, without losses and without having to shed staff (on the contrary, we have increased our staff and have still managed to take on innovations). We have of course had to ask all our employees to devote their best efforts, and the commitment and flexibility so necessary in a setting that is changing around us day by day. Let’s go for it!
No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear EDMUND BURKE (Irish politician and writer)By Immaculada Amat November 2011 Nº31 The uncertainties continue
Unlike in the months of September and October, the Amat commercial department went better than expected during this last month of November. It’s not yet time to throw a party, but at least for all the sales team who have been working non stop, the fact of managing to close operations did lend morale a boost. Sales staff clearly need the financial variable part, but it is more important still to manage to close operations, and that is lengthy and complicated nowadays, a real obstacle course.
Nowadays any service, and we are a services company, is very difficult to manage more bad debtors, more time and attention required, and that means more people. It appears to be a contradiction, for while an increase of staff is reasonable and necessary from the service standpoint it is not reasonable from the financial standpoint. We are permanently operating with this great doubt. We consult “gurus” and we encounter different stances, we analyse what the consultants do and again we come up against opposing stances. So in the end we opt for our own strategy, based above all on the longer term and on a desire to be able to continue providing the best service. I am engaging in these reflections now, because it is precisely now that we are designing and planning for 2012 (we have heard it said lots of times that 2012 will make 2011 good) and accordingly it is now that we are raising all the questions again.
Talking about questions, how is it that you request an appointment at the Town Hall and three weeks later you still have no appointment? How can it be that next week we are working one day yes, the next day no, all through the week (due to the December 6th and 8th bank holidays); if that distorts things for a services company, what must it be like for industrial companies? How is it that the youth sections of a political party spend their time adorning advertising hoardings with messages that have nothing to do with our companies? How is it that with so many million unemployed it is so hard to find good professionals really ready to work (and not just keep a chair warm)? I’ll leave it at that, however, for I could fill an entire page.
I think that MACHIAVELLI expressed it well when he said The human tragedy is that circumstances change, but man does not.
Nº30 MeetingPoint: present and
The Meeting Point real estate trade fair took place at the end of October. We have been attending it right from its outset as a member of Ceigrup, and might be said to form part of the group that got the initiative under way. Before that, we had been as visitors to the MIPIM, held in Cannes and forerunner of Meeting Point. For years we had taken part in the Trade Fair until the euphoria of the sector, the great power of the promoters, almost expelled us. This year we were back again, though, and our first feeling was: what a change!!!!
The first thing you notice when you entered was incredible reduction in the space devoted to the fair, and such scant attendance now!! Fewer than 10 promoters, fewer than 10 marketing companies, fewer than 10 banking real estate companies. The institutional spaces were the biggest, along with the Russia space, an initiative aimed at attracting investors from the former USSR, nowadays on an upward trend.
As for ourselves, Amat Immobiliaris, we had been very unsure about whether or not to attend, for it represented a sizable investment. In the end, and analysing the real possibilities of the current market, we decided that it was one of the few options that existed today for capitalising on a certain high end market. We had the precedent of the results of marketing of Illa del Mar, where 75% of our sales were made to foreigners, and of that percentage 45% to citizens of the former USSR. We were also very well aware that the fact of committing ourselves to attending obliged us to undertake a number of actions we had decided upon some while ago but had not actually carried out, such as creating a microsite in Russian, drawing up a company presentation leaflet in that language and opening up the range of collaboration measures with Russian estate agents.
We prepared thoroughly for our attendance, with actions before, during (we even had three Russian Catalan interpreters with us each day) and after the trade fair. Now, we’ll have to wait and see what results that brings in the future, for we had not expected an immediate result.
We also took part in the spaces of some of the Banking Real Estate Companies for which we work, and there we did make contacts that may well become operations. Indeed, the Saturday evening and Sunday morning were very lively at those spaces, with lots of inquiries.
We believe that we were not mistaken in deciding to attend, despite the huge financial and personal effort involved. Now we will have to find out what results will emerge.
As we spent many hours there, we had time to think back to previous editions in which this trade fair (and doubtless others too) had become a great showcase of vanities, where everybody had to be bigger, flashier and, particularly, more heavily in debt than the rest. Where are all those promoters now? How could anyone believe that small companies such as ours could suddenly become promoters with millions of euros in financing? And above all, how did they allow us to do so?
In the end, what had been done has been done, and those of us who are still left have to struggle to survive in an increasingly complicated environment. Over these Meeting Point days we were able to talk to large numbers of colleagues in the sector, and the feeling was unanimous: September and October were a disaster, yet we believe we now have to apply to ourselves the dictum of CONFUCIUS It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.By Immaculada Amat September 2011 Nº29 The
In our sector of real estate, many things are changing.
Prices of properties for sale and for rental have positioned themselves in today’s real world; and in spite of the serious financing problems, we have managed to continue selling indeed, in certain highly specific promotions, with greater success than we had expected.
The containment of bad debts has called for considerable effort and resources, as well as for an imaginative approach in order to attain a sustained low level of bad debts at a time when they seemed to be getting out of hand. Naturally, that involves a lot more work!
It is no easy task to manage to maintain a bad debt level of 6% (while only 3.85% reach the stage of eviction) when financial problems are so serious, and serious for all social layers. We can of course see that is not the same administering property in the zones we handle as administering in much more working class zones. All the same, we nonetheless also experience a great many problems collecting payments. Right from the very start, however, we have tried to find solutions one by one, so that we can avoid in as far as possible the serious problems for tenants involved in a process of eviction; for the owners, too, as they nowadays surely need that rental money much more than before. But we bring imagination to the task, we reach agreements, we bend over backwards to avoid evictions.
With Owners Associations we have a more complicated problem, leaving little room for manoeuvre, for we have spent two years now keeping down budgets, negotiating with suppliers and taking other measures. But once we have done away with a certain service, replaced lawns with artificial turf, what more can we do? It is a tough one!
Reduction of VAT on the acquisition of new building work is surely a good measure for providing incentives (should it have been approved only so recently?), even though it benefits only a small part of the products out there in the market. To analyse only our own portfolio of products for sale, it is clear that it benefits the sale of the newly built blocks of the few promoters still operative nowadays and also benefits sales of the promotions that the financial entities are now beginning to offer. But it does nothing for new buildings actually acquired by many financial entities, which despite being brand new products, from a taxation standpoint, are already second transfers.
As we no longer believe in large scale solutions, do not believe in miracles, but believe only in the sum of small measures, actions that we can all keep taking to try to improve matters little by little, then if the Government helps us in that, so much the better!
Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it JOHN PUTMAN
This September, it is now four years since we all ceased to be rich! At first, we surely thought that it would be like other times, with three years of suffering from which we would then emerge unscathed. Today, though, we have all become aware that our world has changed, that the rules of the game are no longer the same, and that countries such as Spain will find it much harder to maintain a certain level, harder than it will be for other countries in Europe.
That is how things stand, and it has taken us some time maybe too long to face the facts. But it is now clear to all: government, businesses, workers, the banks. Or rather, clear to nearly all, for it sometimes seems that the leaders of certain parties do not accept it, or at least so it would seem from their declarations even now, when until only a short time ago they had been leading.
This August we have had a number of experiences and items of information that have revealed those changes and made us reflect on the situation:
Barcelona did not seem like the typical Barcelona in August, for there were a lot of people in the city, quite apart from the tourists, of whom there were many. The newspapers were unable to publish the typical photos of the Diagonal or Passeig de Gràcia main roads empty of traffic, which meant that many people had remained in the city or kept their holidays short.
By Immaculada Amat June 2011 Nº27
A complicated June
June was a strange month, one full of different activities, a stressful month.
We started with the Cercle d’Economia seminars, which as usual had very interesting speakers (if we leave aside the Madrid politicians, who always stick to the same lines of discourse), but which saw us emerging more depressed than when we went in. After a talk by professor Josep Oliver on the difficulties of our sector, a few days later came a dinner with J.A. Alcaraz, Executive Director of la Caixa bank, who reaffirmed the seriousness of the situation we are experiencing. Then a few days later again came Jordi Gual, Assistant Director of la Caixa, at the ESADE Real Estate Club dinner sponsored by Amat. Immobiliaris, who told those assembled the point Europe had reached today.
In short, we are in a very difficult situation, and what is most worrying is that nobody can say how we will get out of it. Yet the positive part is in the “Fòrum Impulsa” in Girona a breath of hope and innovation, so much so that, thinking about it later, it even seems unreal.
Fewer, many fewer people in the mountain destinations. In the Vall d’Aran, for example, there were still plenty of vacancies in the mountain refuges, when last year not a single one was left empty.
And from the point of view of our company too, June was a strange month, a month in which the commercial telephone rang less than usual, even for rentals. That slack period lasted right to the Sant Joan bank holiday the week before the end of the month. During the last week, however, the rate of rentals picked up again, and some sales were concluding, including some following six months of negotiation. Nowadays everything drags on for ever, despite which if we manage to close sales we are more than satisfied.
Perseverance is often rewarded. To adapt the epitaph of MAX AUB We did what we could.
The media carried reports on people who had been running their own businesses or held senior executive posts but had been forced to make radical changes in their lives and in their approaches, which must have been very tough for them!
Our company, too, reduced the holiday period that for years now we had been accustomed to taking.
Everybody has adapted, as we had to, for living a fiction would get us nowhere. And having acknowledged the situation or adapted, we now have to look forward positively, to be imaginative. That is what they did in Bossost (Vall d’Aran) during the town’s main annual festival: the streets were adorned, with a look at the crisis that was somewhere between sarcastic and amused. Indeed, the whole thing was a great exercise in imagination and creativity!
So, welcome back to work everybody, and look on the bright side! The present is always the best time to improve the future.
By Immaculada Amat May 2011
Nº26 Difficult, certainly difficult, but with some good news!
The first quarter of this year has been the most difficult of all, particularly for the commercial department. We have discussed this with other sales companies and with promoters, and all have had the same experience few calls, not many visits and hardly any operations.
It has been a very tough start to the year, though that comes as no surprise to us, as the general economic parameters are frightening. Unemployment ever rising, financing at a low, everyone’s confidence in tatters. It is doubtless true, as I have said on other occasions, that everybody is to blame for us having reached such a situation, though some are more responsible than others and yet, surprisingly, nobody actually resigns.
The movement that arose around Barcelona’s Plaça Catalunya is thus nothing strange. How many young people see nothing to look forward to? How many unemployed people over fifty cannot find work? How many want to set up businesses, but cannot find financing. And from what Alfredo Saez, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of the Santander bank, said a few days ago, there will be no financing for some time yet. So how will we get out of this situation? The truth is that we have no idea.
Having said that, in the midst of such a depressing setting there is one piece of good news. Some clients who export are having a better time, some promotion work is getting under way, and the month of May was a little better for us too, with the occasional overseas fund coming back to invest (they had all vanished some time ago), and with Barcelona F.C. (and its values) emerging triumphant! We too will win in the end if between us all we can create confidence.
Professor ORIOL AMAT said it in a recent talk, and PEP GUARDIOLA says the same: Confidence brings results, and results bring confidence.
By Immaculada Amat April 2011 Nº25 We don’t
We don’t even learn with the “crisis”! I thought that such a tough situation as the one we are experiencing would serve for we as companies to learn lots of things, to make changes, to enhance the service we are prepared to provide. However, I am finding that this is not happening. In many cases, and particularly in our subsector of real estate intermediation, things are not turning out like that.
So what are we finding?
Valuations way beyond the market by many companies, and especially by franchises, whether they be of high standing or rather more down market. As there is little product on the market and everybody needs it, the easiest system for achieving it is not on the basis of the service the intermediate company can provide but simply by inflating the starting prices of buildings Nowadays that way of proceeding goes against the clients, although they don’t see it that way from the outset, for it is only human to want to believe what is most beneficial to us, even if it is not true.
Many properties are being offered through real estate portals without stating the price. Such a practices runs completely counter to the spirit of the Right to Housing Act, one of whose main provisions is that “any information, advertising ... has to adhere to the principles of truthfulness and objectivity and cannot contain information that creates or might create confusion”. Not only does it run counter to the Act, but it is enormously damaging to market transparency.
We see renewed announcement of intermediation practices that we all know to lie beyond the bounds of legality. The message that the idea is to help sellers conceals the obtaining of profits that do not correspond to an honourable exercise of the profession.
These are only three examples of an issue that could be the subject matter to fill reams of paper. And it is one that deeply saddens us, for not even today are we capable of converting this profession into what it really is: a professional service based on values, in which all parties should end up beneficiaries.
We are helped to be positive and to hold our line by a belief that MAHATMA GANDHI was right: Our reward is in the effort, not outcome. A total effort is full victory.
Our company, Amat Immobiliaris, has for nearly 60 years been characterised by deliberately exercising positive discrimination in favour of women. Indeed we had not hired any man until 2008. This was a choice with its roots in history, resulting from the problems our mother encountered in 1952 when she decided to take the reins of the business in an almost exclusively masculine world. That was the starting point that explains our stance on a subject as sensitive as the employment protection of women.
Over the course of our company’s history we have hired 246 women down to 2008; more than 32 children have been born, and we put in place conciliation policies when nobody even discussed such matters. Accordingly, back in the 1980s we adapted our working calendar to the school calendar; and then in the 1990s we started home working via computer and did so without ever having any problems. We managed to adapt ourselves (company and workers). We sought the best option in each case, and it always worked out for us. We have been a “feminist” company, have made a policy of it, though without this preventing us from being critical regarding many things. Many years ago, we dismissed a woman who was not fulfilling professional expectations, despite our knowing that we would lose the case at the Employment Tribunal. She was pregnant, but in spite of everything our reasoning was clear: a woman is either up to the job or she is not, whether or not she is pregnant. We knew that only a company such as ours could adopt such a stance, and obviously we lost.
And still today we do not agree with the equality policies in force. So much protectionism can lead to the opposite effect: that women of a certain age are simply not employed for fear of them becoming pregnant, and all the more so nowadays with the crisis we have and with so many men unemployed!
We currently have three pregnant women on our staff, but that is not the problem: we have nine months to get organised, and that is precisely what we will do! The problem is keeping the job secure when the time comes and a reduction of working day is requested. What can be done if, once secured, the person turns out not to be a good professional? What do we do if this harms the rest of the team? Does that help competitiveness? Notice here that we make no mention of gender, as under current legislation a person of either sex can request such leave. But reality is obstinate and very different: according to the latest statistics, of all those who seek a reduction 95% are women and only 5% are men.
From our deeply egalitarian stance, we feel that work needs to be done to make the cultural change necessary so that the couples of the future are always jointly responsible and can keep their jobs during periods of parental leave, though never under the pressure of a secured contract but rather due to their value and their professionalism. If we do not change and change soon the future for working women aged between 25 and 40 years will become increasingly difficult, and that deeply saddens us. We know just how responsible, flexible and hardworking most women are!
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans JOHN LENNON
February 2011 Nº23 Who will resist?
That is the million dollar question. Through business we have relations with a great many people. Small, medium and large companies which have with their hard work managed to come through 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. But will we all withstand 2011?
Business people some out of conviction, others out of obligation have done their homework. Everyone has reined in costs, everybody has slimmed down one way or another, but if there is no financing many of them will not be able to move forward. Having reached this point, many wonder whether it might have been best to close down back in 2007, as from 2007 down to today they have felt abandoned by the banks, the Government and their clients. Had it really been worth the struggle?
For all companies, financing is the big problem they face nowadays. The owner of a large industrial company was telling me recently that they had many orders, but that he had to purchase the raw materials in cash, and had to convert them and sell. That entire process took a few months, and how could he manage that without financing or when his financing had been reduced to one third the level of previous years?
The Government is making an effort in this respect. It seems that exports are rising and that tourism, due to circumstances of which we are all aware, will increase also, and all this will be good for the economy. But for now, the everyday task faced by companies is very tough. For Amat , from the viewpoint of the commercial department, January and February were two difficult months: clients felt insecure, every day was struggle, deploying all available resources, and particularly imagination, perseverance and flexibility.
As EINSTEIN said: In times of crisis, only imagination is more important than knowledge.
Nº22 New year, new government, new office
We have started a new year with renewed spirits, despite it being a year that brings plenty of contradictions and unknown factors, a year that everybody has predicted to be a very bad one. While it is true that objectively all the indicators do point that way, we are nevertheless commencing with hopes afresh.
We have a new Government of Catalonia, a new Government that will not have an easy time at all, but that is prepared to take the measures essential to carry our country forward; above all, we have a Government that listens. And we can testify to the fact that it listens, for that was the stance taken by the current Secretary to the Presidency, Francesc Homs, when on December 14th last he attended the dinner of the real estate sector organised by Amat. And we would like to repeat our thanks now, for it speaks very favourably of the new Government that amidst all the work involved in preparing a new Government he should nonetheless find the time to come and listen to the opinion and concerns of a group of persons connected with the real estate sector from various different positions.
For Amat, too, a new phase is beginning. With the opening of a new office in Barcelona we are starting out on a tough path, but are doing so with high hopes, the hopes we are lent by all the clients who are encouraging us to carry on. We would be quite content in 2011 if our company can achieve results similar to those of 2010, when we once again attained the objectives we had set ourselves not having to shed any jobs and maintaining our investment in marketing, naturally with our staff of 54 people all working shoulder to shoulder, and working very hard indeed.
Speaking about the times before the “crisis”, JOSEP PIQUE told the Cercle d’Economia that we had forgotten that speed runs counter to prudence We would add that prudence must not be confused with cowardice, for this year will be one for the bold!By Immaculada Amat November 2010 Nº21 Action time
We find ourselves already in the midst of an election campaign, and all the political parties confront each other by presenting their programs. However, how do they prepare their programs? Do they just ask a few experts to draft a project for them, or do they listen to the citizens?
The reflection above stems from a recent experience of mine. Given that the elections were just round the corner, I decided to use a series of social and political events and turn them into a framework for action. The title of such gatherings is “Dining with the real estate industry”, with the involvement of many developers, investors and consultants in the field. I deemed it appropriate to debate about what should be changed in the real estate industry in order to achieve on the one hand certain reactivation and, on the other hand, some adaptation to the new economic environment. As a result of this debate, a list of proposals was drafted, which was then made available to those political parties which hold a larger representation in Catalonia.
All proposals were highly specific, relating to issues as diverse and necessary as regulatory simplification excessive regulatory pressure in the past few years has led to juridical uncertainty, suffered both by the citizenship and the Authorities themselves , the role played by state owned companies in the field of housing, etc., among many more (up to 20 different items).
Some days have elapsed by now since the list was delivered to our political leaders, and so far only two of them, CiU (federated Catalan nationalist party) and the Catalan Popular party (PPC) have expressed their interest in meeting together, so that they can jointly discuss the document. The Catalan Socialist Party sent a letter expressing their gratitude, and we are still awaiting more reactions coming from other political forces.
Needless to say, we applaud those who listened, but now we ask them to take action. It’s not a matter of listening anymore, but doing. We urge them to take the necessary measures, even though they might be tough ones. We are all witnessing difficult times and we must adapt to them, so we ask our politicians to look into the long run, to be brave and courageous and, above all, to not be afraid to explain those necessary measures, always by telling the truth and being absolutely clear.
As our Catalan President Mr. MONTILLA said recently, not everything has been left undone, yet not everything is possible.
By Immaculada Amat October 2010
Nº20 Present and future changes
Things have been changing for quite a while now. Sometimes changes are small and incremental; sometimes they are quicker and sudden.
In the real estate industry after the sudden turmoil occurred in 2008 new positive changes are emerging, and we hope for these to consolidate and last long, including:
Prices, both for sale and rental purposes, are now stable.
Both the demand and the number of operations have slightly increased.By Immaculada Amat September 2010
Nº19 This August was full of surprises
The holidays of August are over now as usual they have gone too fast , but when we look back on them we realize there were a lot of good and bad experiences and surprises every day (unfortunately this time more bad ones than good ones).
The first terrible shock was the death of my friend Teresa Cervelló that came as a blow, even though we knew her health was not good. We had been friends for more than forty years. Teresa was a really remarkable person and a vocational legal professional, who managed to reach the position of senior judge of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia.
Fewer operations have been lost due to funding.
Interest has started to boost among investors and several operations have already been carried out.
Our society has also witnessed significant changes. People are now willing to become involved in public life, and thus help transform the country; it seems everybody is now fully aware about something we had already stated a long time ago: the average citizens shall have to lead initiatives in order to transform and adapt our civil and public institutions. Along these lines, we could stress the role played by the Cultural Circle within the Economy Circle, as well as the candidacy “Foment Futur” which run for the elections at the Catalan Employers’ Association. Underlying these initiatives, there are people closely linked to our town, Sant Just Desvern, such as Mr. Ferran Mascarell and entrepreneur Mr. Joaquim Buixareu, who have a vision about the future and share the willingness for our society to make headway, become more modern and up to our times… We would like to encourage you all to move in such direction!
As it comes to our company Amat , some changes have occurred as well. For the first time in history, a third generation representative has recently joined us. Moreover, as of the month of September Mr. Guifré Homedes Amat has gladly and enthusiastically accepted a new challenge, namely the leadership of a project of ours which looks to the future: Amat. Barcelona
Quoting RABINDRANATH TAGORE For a revolution to be successful, it must rediscover those forgotten values and adapt them to present demands
More bad news and that make one think about why we don’t do things better in our country, which would certainly take very little and would change the prospects and, if we want to sell the country, more effort must be made. I will explain this idea below:
If you need to go up to Sant Maurici, why do you have to do so in a taxi, why isn’t there a car park provided as there should be at the entrance to Espot instead of an impressive dust cloud where you have to park wherever you can? Wouldn’t this be a great improvement for its image?
Why are the shelters in the Pyrenees generally so dilapidated, whereas in other European counties they are kept in good condition?
Why do they advertise the romantic route of Alt Urgell but when you visit the different churches there you feel so disappointed about their condition, which are in complete neglect... What image are we conveying about cultural tourism!
Regarding current economic times, there is also something we should take into consideration:
In July we held several staff selection processes. It was astonishing to find that several people who had sent in their CVs did not even show up at the interview, because they were on holiday until September. ... And when you go through the towns in the Catalan Pyrenees how many homes can you find up for sale or rent!
Of course, there were also some very good experiences too, for instance being able to spend time with my family, walking through the wonderful countryside of the Pyrenees, meeting new people, reading at leisure and above all coming across the small town of s’Ansavell, two kilometers from La Seu towards Andorra. I recommend a fantastic restaurant there called Hostal Vell, simple but with a certain savoir faire!
Keep your spirits up, now you’re back! We must think positive...
Attitude is the paintbrush that the mind uses to color our lives and we are the ones who choose the colors ADAM JACKSON.
Nº18 The urban planning impact of the Millet case
A month ago all the news about the Millet case was related to the urban planning change being approved to build a hotel next to the Palau de la Música in Barcelona. Without dealing with the specific case and due to the news published in the media and what I have personally experienced in other urban planning actions, I would like to share some of my thoughts with you.
Does urban planning need to be something immovable? I really don’t think so. On the contrary, it must be adaptable to the requirements of new situations, new needs, but obviously with suitable guarantees for both the authorities and the owners and developers.
Does urban planning need to be not now, because it is impossible due to the crisis, but in the future a source of financing for the city councils? I think this has been one of the most serious mistakes made during the boom times and a system must be determined so that this situation does not occur again the future. Never again must urban planning be one of the main sources of financing for the local authorities.
Does urban planning need to continue being so controlled by the city councils, which determine the terms, conditions, etc. at a pace that has nothing to do with what is actually happening in the market? Shouldn’t it be seen from a more general standpoint instead of local? If we conducted a survey with developers, we would find out that most of them regret having pursued planning for so many years and not having filed a claim. Is this the best solution? I think it would be best for the authorities to conduct an in depth analysis of the regulations and special practices related to urban planning issues, since we can no longer continue operating as we have been over the last fifteen years.
Turning to the Palau case again, based on the little knowledge I have about this specific matter, it seems common sense to build a hotel near the Palau (respecting of course the historic surroundings) and offices near the Autonomous Government of Catalonia, obviously conducting all the prior studies for strict assessment and with the guarantee of an economic rebalance. However I now consider pure demagogy the haste of all the political parties in withdrawing from the agreements that had been previously adopted. Why so hastily, when all urban planning procedures take such a long time, who are they trying to please?
Nowadays we citizens seem to be more sensitive, hence all the actions by politicians cause concern, the last one being the difficulties to reach an agreement about the 10 J demonstration.
This country is so lucky that it is the people that get by and we see this every day when talking to business people that are constantly struggling to get by, to survive and the large number of workers committed to their companies ... this is what keeps our spirit high and gives us the strength to go on.
The holiday season will be here soon and we must take advantage of this time to relax and build up our strength to face autumn, which will not be easy, according to the experts...
Have great holidays everyone.
Happiness consists in something to do, someone to love and something to hope for BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.By Immaculada Amat May 2010
Nº17 The government’s measures
The government has finally begun to adopt some measures. This is, in our opinion, a good move; another story is whether they are the right ones or not. Many experts consider they are not and other measures should be adopted. Our question is the following: should pensions be decreased, since most of them are already very low? Should civil servants’ salaries be lowered or would it be better to reduce the size of the administration? Should salaries be lowered or should the administration be made more efficient? Do we need to have so many positions of responsibility? (Taking into account that many of them have become civil servants simply to guarantee their futures.)
In the past few days, I have heard that a lot of civil servants are angry because their salaries will be lower. However, they seem to have forgotten that they were raised not long ago, whereas salaries in the private sector have been reduced, or at least frozen, for the last two years. Furthermore, workers in private companies worry every day about whether they will lose their jobs, because almost all companies are forced against their will to dismiss staff; however, civil servants must commit a very serious offence in order to be dismissed. It is also common knowledge that their level of commitment, working hours and demands are quite different than in the private sector, and the salaries of the administration are nowadays equivalent or higher, with the three year policies, bonuses, etc.
Things should set straight. Obviously, many civil servants are absolutely committed and efficient in their work, being lost in the overall mediocrity that exists, and many civil servants would like to see things change, to work by applying different criteria, to achieve a modern, efficient administration adapted to people’s needs and, above all, to serve the public (which are, after all, their clients), something which at the moment does not take place, since it is the public that serves the administration, but we are sure that what is normal and what the public wants will not be achieved by lowering salaries. Lowering salaries and not carrying out the in depth reform that is really required will only result in making people angry, both the good and the bad workers.
We hope these measures are just the beginning of all the adjustments that are needed to get on the road to recovery that right now seems quite a long way off and difficult to achieve and that is leading to the closure of so many companies... We are always hearing about the need for companies to have an enterprising spirit and to take steps to initiate the recovery process... What a contradiction, considering the contempt and appalling treatment that many companies must support from the administration and financial institutions!
However, we still feel optimistic:
No one is wrong; at most, someone is uninformed HUGH PRATHER (writer)
By Immaculada Amat April 2010By Immaculada Amat February 2010
Is there a place for marketing companies nowadays?
This is a question that many people in the sector and the general public are often asking. Since most developers have marketing teams, and the banks have set up their own marketing companies, what space is left?
At Amat , we are certain that now more than ever the market needs companies like ours, really professional companies, willing to make a commitment to their clients. We believe we are necessary both for developers and for private sellers, purchasers, owners and lessees.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Who sets the daily pace in the market?
Who knows what the purchaser or tenant really need and require?
Who can offer a range of properties with sufficient diversity so that clients can find exactly what they need?
Nº15 The effort to be realistic
I have sometimes mentioned before that the effort that our developers had to make to accept the real situation of the new market prices was not easy from an economic standpoint or from an emotional point of view, but the real situation had to be accepted.
We always say that the information obtained from statistics very often does not reflect the real situation, even more so not in our sector. We will give you an example: our nearby market, in Sant Just, known for being solvent, with high prices and no excess offer, in other words the ideal case. If we strictly take this into account, it must be remembered that we are dealing with averages that the price of each property depends on the location, surface area, finishes, the community services available, etc.
It should also be taken into account that the goals for everyone in the real estate world in these years is to ensure that the prices announced are as close as possible to the real sales prices... between us all we can do this!
Now we are in a situation where everybody said we would be: with prices of 2004, for sales and prices of 2005 for rents. We are convinced that this is the inflection price and that if the State is able to resolve the problem of financing then sales will indeed recover. Obviously this is needed.
Who can closely advise the persons concerned throughout the whole search process, and will accompany them until the transaction has actually been completed? (We consider a “transaction has been completed” when our clients have moved into their new home and, from the legal standpoint, when it has been checked that there are no longer any encumbrances recorded in the Land Registry).
We must all put on pressure so that we can resolve this crucial problem to achieve real recovery of a sector that, once re dimensioned, will need to continue being boosted.
Who obtains an absolutely fair contract between the lessee and the owner, a key factor for a successful rental?
We believe that all the foregoing, and a great deal more, can be carried out by some of the companies that operate by marketing properties, these, such as Amat , have a business vision that is far beyond mere product placement, those that understand our sector, our business, as consulting services, that we want to be sustainable and continue in the future. Our aim is long term clients. This policy has led to 70% of our company’s business being obtained by recommendation. In order to reach this point we thus needed to base our business on training, processes, consistency and a commitment and loyalty policy. All efforts are useful... Now, more than ever, we are convinced that this is the way we can survive and carry on during such difficult times.
Talent is something common; intelligence is not scarce but consistency is DORIS LESSING (writer)
2008...2009 ... we’ve made it! Suffering a lot, like everyone else, but we’ve done it. However, we had to use “our brains” more than ever and to manage this we have never stopped doing what we normally do, without losing any jobs... For us, that’s really success!
We have started off in 2010 with new energy, with optimism, we see possibilities, opportunities for our clients, for us...
We are convinced that one of the most difficult things we need right now in this economic scenario, is what we already did last year: this means accepting the change of situation with all its consequences and this has been done by our clients, the owners and, above all, the developers. It is hard to accept losses, it takes time to understand that prices need to go down, depending on the areas and development, by 20%, 25% or up to 30% of the expected prices at the highest point of the market, and this has already been done. The rental markets have also been repositioned to the prices from 2007, and here a learning process was also needed.
What is happening is that there still continue to be differences between the official information, which refers to very low percentage of decreases, and the real situation that we see day after day. This imbalanced data only leads to confuse the people that are actually interested in buying...
Call us optimists and we are because we believe that at least in our sector many prices already correspond to the new situation, we think the time has come for those that need to or are interested in buying property to do so; now they have a great chance. We also consider that in some areas where we work the most, some developers will need to take a risk and start new developments. This is not mere foolishness, quite the contrary. In some areas, once the properties in process has been sold, there will not be anything left. We therefore repeat that it would be very good for some developers to take the plunge and launch new projects, and above all that they find a bank to finance them... They will certainly sell, but now at the prices of 2010.
Therefore, because we consider that, now our market has been repositioned, we can show you a sample of properties. Please do not hesitate to contact us about any aspect! A sales consultant from our organization will be pleased to help you find the property you are looking for.
We believe that the thoughts of the English historian, THOMAS CARLYLE, were quite right: Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at handBy Immaculada Amat October 2009 Nº13 A busy month
We have just ended a busy, a very busy, October, especially for the property industry.
Barcelona Meeting Point has opened once again. There are nowhere near as many people attending as in previous years, although at the weekend it was pretty busy with families looking to buy. That is the positive side. The negative side is that banks are taking business away from and harming their own customers (the developers), who cannot compete on price with financial institutions that are prepared to do whatever they need to do to reduce the housing stock on their books.
Some banks are acting particularly reprehensibly by offering purchasers 100% financing to buy their own properties while turning down financing for purchases from developers. That is forcing us as estate agents to point our customers to banks that we know do not have a large property portfolio in our area.
Also in October, forecasts about our industry’s future were published in reports, and spoken about in the Symposium at Barcelona Meeting Point and in a conference at Esade, and the truth is they are not at all encouraging. The recovery is being predicted to come later and later, and the consequences of the widespread economic crisis will surely prevent us from seeing those famous “green shoots”.
And to make things even more complicated, the “Pretòria” corruption case has come to light and been much covered by the press. We just want to repeat what we have said many times in this diary: the planning policies of recent years, local councils’ powers, etc. need to be reviewed.
In spite of the unpropitious situation, we are continuing to sell and rent more and more, thanks to the fighting spirit and effort of our sales team, eighteen great professionals who are devoted to and passionate about their work, who never lose heart and who never give up.
They have taken on board what TERENCI MOIX said: Fortune favors the brave
Thank you all!!!
Nº12 What are we talking about?
What are we talking about when we constantly feel we are having to live through times of austerity? That is what I was wondering during the holidays when, as I drove through any village or town in Catalonia, I came across a whole load of huge signs. Does putting up so many signs contribute any added value to the public or the economy?
All companies, and certainly households, have been forced to tighten their belts, look at their outgoings line by line and cut any expense that is not strictly necessary. Does the government do that too? Is it not our business too? Do we not pay for it? I do not have the remotest idea of the cost of those omnipresent signs, but I get the albeit personal impression that even at times like these it is the need to sell everything politically that takes priority.
What do we mean when we talk about values? For months now in all kinds of debates people have been talking about the need to bring back values such as honesty, transparency and solidarity... But is that really happening? To be honest, it is not what we are seeing day after day.
So what are we seeing? While everyone is still shocked by the abuses in the financial world, people are talking again about the astronomical pay of some executives in that industry. It must be a really important issue if even some governments are complaining about it!
We are also seeing that some financial institutions have abused and tricked their customers by forcing them just so they can take out or renew loans to buy financial products designed to be extraordinarily profitable for those institutions, which may now ruin a lot of companies … and apparently there is no problem with that!
We are seeing that many developers who have applied for VAT rebates, because they expect it to take time to sell their properties, are faced with a load of inspections and postponements as if they were asking for something they were not entitled to. The authorities should realize that those rebates could save companies and many of their suppliers too.
Holidays, having a chance to relax, get you thinking about and questioning things. When you get back to work you get all caught up in your day to day activity and need to use all five senses to make progress, take a lot of decisions, help your customers who are under all kinds of pressure, and support your staff when they are discouraged... the market really is tough!
In spite of it all, we are optimistic. Our people are eager and ready to tackle whatever comes our way... We cannot complain: we are selling and renting! And we are selling and renting because prices have shifted; because developers have made (and are making) great efforts to adjust to the market (and many of them are making very considerable losses); because we are seeking out a thousand different financing options; and because nowadays almost everyone realizes we are in a new scenario!
Chin up! Let’s keep educating people and fighting through!
As GIBRAN wrote: In every winter's heart there is a quivering spring, and behind the veil of each night there is a smiling daw.By Immaculada Amat June 2009 Nº11
A ray of hope
As we said last month, we have been spending time going to a whole load of conferences and reading a lot of books not just so we know where we are at, but also to find out where we are headed. As always happens, there are different views, some doom mongering, quite frankly, which I do not think have much credibility. We cannot be taking as many steps backwards as some “wise men” are forecasting! Over the last thirty years, Spain has made great economic and social progress and I do not think we are now going to go into reverse like some people are predicting. But there will be a repositioning in any case. There are other much more positive views, and if they were publicized the market would perk up or at least that is what we think.
As part of the programme of events we hold from time to time for customers, friends and staff, in the first week of July Amat held a “Conference on the opportunities the crisis offers” (a really positive title). The speaker was Oriol Amat, a fine economics professor, who is also easy to listen to and understand. As for the “sixty four thousand dollar question” of when we will get out of this situation, he dared to predict that we will see an improvement next spring.
However, he made very clear that we all need to work to overcome this crisis, which must be solved in two ways: on the one hand, institutionally and supranationally, and on the other hand, through what we do in our day to day lives.
This is where we can have an influence. If we wish we can help overcome the crisis more quickly for example by consuming a little more. But he also said that we can make it last for twenty years if we want to if we do not consume anything. He has made clear that it is everyone’s responsibility to make consumption, the engine that drives the economy, run... But that means responsible consumption, spending within our means, not the wild consumption of recent years.
Another positive piece of news is the necessary fall in tax adjustment coefficients for the second half of 2009. It is the first time these coefficients have fallen since they started to be published. But it was only logical. It was also the first time they had been revised after six months, since they were designed to adjust the tax price to the real price at times of fast rising prices. In this case at least the authorities have listened have listened to us and have reacted. We can give ourselves a pat on the back for that.
Moreover, the agreement reached at least on paper for the public authorities to pay their suppliers within sixty days will also help many small and medium sized businesses that work for the authorities and will help us all indirectly.
A whole load of measures like these should be applied. We have always argued that the sum of a lot of steps, albeit small ones, could be good for the economy and especially for small and medium sized companies.
The summer holidays are coming and we need to recharge our batteries so that we can start September which will not be an easy month with our spirits high. We need to be full of energy, ideas and, especially, patience, to tackle the long last stretch of the crisis, or at least that is what we hope it will be.
By way of encouragement we will sign off with a hopeful quote from the Lebanese poet KHALIL GIBRAN - No matter how long the storm lasts, the sun always shines through the clouds again
Nº10 Enough is enough!
Things being as they are we need as much information as we can get and all the ideas available, so lately we have been going to all the conferences, congresses and talks we can. The last ones we went to were workshops held by Cercle d’Economia in Sitges, which were really good.
They naturally all start with the same thing: the reasons why we have ended up in the current economic situation. In almost all of them, the speakers, especially politicians, in particular the most senior ones, talk about “bricks and mortar”, while the media always talk in that same totally disparaging tone… Enough is enough! It is exhausting and annoying, because they are using that phrase to talk about an industry that has been key to the country’s development. They do not talk about any other industry in that tone. They are confusing developers with the financial business that has been part of this industry in recent years; it is a matter of discrediting them.
Our company, Amat, has never been a developer, but has worked with a lot of them. We are aware that many things have no doubt been done wrong, but the worst thing was surely not having managed to sell ourselves as a group. As a developer who is a friend of ours said: “How come an industry that makes so much money, that has created so many jobs, that provided much needed funds for most councils, has never been respected?”
Four figures to serve as a reminder:
▪ The construction industry’s contribution to GDP. According to sources and opinions, based on 2008 data, it created 17.9% of GDP and 13% of jobs. Plus, if you strip out indirect taxes and include the service industry connected to the property market (us!) some analysts give the industry a weighing of 39.4% of GDP.
▪ According to the prime minister, the motor industry accounts for 8.4% of GDP and 7% of employment (jobs). It also accounts for almost 26% of the country’s exports.
So far the motor industry has received the vast majority of state aid. I say “so far”, because you cannot rule out the financial industry ending up with the lion’s share. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the banks will need 2% to 5% of GDP to recapitalize
And that is all without taking into account who has paid for the leisure centers, libraries, squares, parks and swimming pools...
Trying to blame the crisis only on developers seems like an oversimplification to me and an extraordinarily bad idea. Isn’t the financial industry just as guilty, if not more so? And the public authorities too? Certainly everyone involved in the process in one way or another is.
The Cercle d’Economia workshops in Sitges concluded with a call to strengthen Europe, improve our competitiveness, introduce greater austerity into our lifestyles, companies and the public sector and, in particular, to look at what we should do to solve the two main current problems:
Lack of credit for small and medium sized businesses, which have a good credit history and are now being forced to close due to lack of liquidity.
Managing to stop the rise in unemployment.
The government has taken a set of steps always with an eye on their electoral value rather than how effective they are likely to be. We believe that lots of small steps would be more effective, though probably less visible politically. But they should surely target the public directly. We also think that each company should look at what they can do to help improve the situation. It may be a drop in a bucket, but if we all do our part we will make it. That is why we are making an effort to keep our employee headcount the same.
EPICURUS was right when he said: Desire less than you have and you will always have more than you desire
Bu Immaculada Amat April 2009 Diary of Change Nº9
So April is over now. It was not a good month for the Sales Department, since hardly any sales went through: we have gone from five to three a month. But it is hardly surprising; we had Easter and, statistically speaking, in business terms, it is not just that Easter is ‘lost’ time, but things are very quiet before and after too.
The rental market is holding up at the moment, although prices have had to be adjusted. That is normal too, as we are going back to 2007 prices what happened in 2008 was false, like so many things in recent years.
We are all aware that unemployment is hurting a lot of families and that there are people who are having a really tough time of it and that a large proportion of people in employment are scared. But in spite of it all there has been a series of positives:
Some notable members of Catalan civil society, who can hardly be described as right wing, have published articles that have been strongly critical and we think rightly so of matters as varied as public sector privileges, the future of labour relations, and the opportunities offered by the cost of certain services we receive, etc.
It is positive that we appreciate and are thinking about the welfare state that we have all so quickly got used to, and the range of social services we enjoy, which we often do not appreciate and more frequently squander. Is a country like ours sustainable?
It is positive that we are starting to hear more straight talking rather than double meanings and are being demanding of politicians and ourselves.
It is positive that society is starting to recognise a set of individual, social and business values that seemed to have gone out of fashion.
It is positive that we are still able to create new networks of relationships, leaving aside individualism and competition, and are working together for everyone’s benefit.
It is positive that there are companies that are doing well and telling us about it. This last month a graphic design company and a dental prosthesis manufacturer have reported improved sales and profits. The same happened in the professions among law firms and court liaisons.
It is positive that the number of sales visits is holding up month on month, although it is still tough to close deals due to financing problems.
Now that we have all realised that we are nowhere near as rich as we thought we were, we need to learn to live within our new means and we especially need to create together the necessary confidence so we can make progress.
R.W. EMERSON A change of attitude is like changing the rest of your life
Today the Bank of Spain has put the “Caja de Castilla la Mancha” savings bank in administration. Is that good or bad news? It all depends on how you read it. It definitely is bad due to the uncertainty that such a decision spreads among the general public, but it is good because it shows that are starting to recognize the situation we are in or did anyone think that Spain was doing better than any other European country?
Almost all the situations we are witnessing at the moment, including the savings bank being placed in administration, can be looked at negatively or positively. Was it a good or bad thing that Amat sold six homes in February? If you look at the figures for 2005 2006 or even 2007 then it is awful, but if you look at the current situation, it is definitely good, very good. That is the way we see it, so we decided to release it through the media. We are really tired of the first question that everyone asks, before even saying good morning, being: “Not selling anything?” often ironically. Well it is true that we are not selling much, but we are selling. Second question: “How many people have you sacked?”. The questioner tends to be perplexed by the answer. “At the moment we have the same number of staff and we will definitely be taking on more.” Third question, “Why?” “Because since everything is much tougher now, if you want to provide a good service you have to make much more of an effort, and you have to take a lot more time over it.” When you think about it a bit you realize that you have to spend a lot more time chasing up bad debts, a lot longer “grooming” developers, much more time and a lot more work to make sales, plus more time “thinking up and applying new marketing tools”. You also need to carry out more training to lift the spirits of all your staff... No doubt we are going against the flow, but if we want to stay in business, if we as a company want to want to come out of the other side of this situation stronger, then we have to put enough effort, imagination and resources into it.
The situation will obviously stay very poor, especially in terms of unemployment and business closures, but the worst thing about unemployment this time round, unlike what we saw during other crises, is that it affects a far broader swathe of society. As we have replaced staff we have received an avalanche of CVs, especially from highly qualified people. That has been really surprising; people who are willing to lower their financial expectations for the sake of a job. It is an exercise in realism, just like many, or even most, managers have had to do by adapting their salaries to the economic climate. I know a lot of people like that and hope they serve as an example to many other industries.
One last positive thought is that, while the overall situation may be bad, there are still many companies that are doing well, and certainly some doing better. These should be the driving force behind the recovery, not all companies are in “crisis” and this is their time... please recommend us a few!!! Our industry is a good investment nowadays.
And finally: you can only make progress if you set your gaze far ahead ORTEGA & GASSET.
That is what we try to do at Amat.By Immaculada Amat February 2009 Diary of Change Nº7
Have an optimistic attitude and work, work, work, were the messages we heard loudest and clearest at the CRS Congress, which we attended in San Francisco in February.
Around 1,000 American estate agents attended the congress and we were offered the chance to go as guests. We wanted to go to learn, open up our horizons and not stay closed off in our own little world, and it really was very engaging. We came away with a whole load of ideas about business, and especially about our clients. We now need to get to work and adapt what we have learned to our market and culture. It is all new and promises to be profitable for our clients. We are already working on it.
The American property market is like our own, but perhaps a couple of steps ahead. The downturn in the market started earlier, but nevertheless we did not feel the same sense of depression there as among real estate companies here. Everyone realizes that it is a period we have to go through and that we need to find the tools, especially the emotional tools, to enable us not to lose a positive spirit. More than ever we need to be there for our clients, more than ever we need to collaborate, society needs to be a lot more supportive and everyone needs to make an effort. In short, we have come back full of energy.
We have come back here, back to our situation, where we currently get the impression that it is “every man for himself”, which is not the right way to go about it.
How can the authorities still be postponing VAT rebates to companies when they know that companies could close for lack of that money? How come there are financial institutions that are demanding commission from notaries for passing work their way? How come councils are dredging up old cases to try to get money for offences that have already expired? Why are some tax offices not accepting the real prices at which the few deals carried out are being performed, but instead charge tax at the cadastral value times the adjustment for each town, when those values are far higher than the real price? Why is there a financial institution that has deeds signed outside of Catalonia to save almost nothing? How come some financial institutions are not giving mortgages to potential buyers, unless they are buying a flat that the bank owns?
I think we all need to reflect and make our own little contribution so as not to lose sight of the bigger picture, so we do not end up in situations that place even greater pressure on the public. There was a very interesting article about this by Manuel Castells in La Vanguardia on 21 February.
I would like to finish with some positive news:
It is a positive thing that Sant Cugat Council has agreed to pay its suppliers within 30 days.
Expansión has published a positive article on the economic vitality of Brazil.
It is a positive thing that our company has sold more this January than in January 2008.
Some food for thought: the most essential qualities of the human spirit include self confidence and inspiring confidence in others GANDHI
Diaryof Change Nº6
We are starting a new year that everyone says will be tough and I am sure it will be. Everyone, businesspeople, workers and, I dare say, the authorities too are racked with uncertainty and dread … maybe that is why lots of people wished us a good 2010 during the holidays? Or maybe it is just so they do not have to think about it. 2010 will surely be better than 2009, but we have no choice but to get through this year, month by month, day by day, there is no getting around it. It is better for us to be realistic and eagerly tackle 2009 as the great challenge it will surely be.
We have started the year with some surprising news. According to a study published by the Spanish Statistics Institute, which the newspapers reported on the 31st, housing prices fell 3% last year. What country was that in? Because the truth is our real data bear no relation to those figures. Our data based on deals actually carried out by Amat. for the new builds we sell show average falls of 20 to 25% from the price peak at the end of 2006 beginning of 2007. The reality is that the deals we are doing are a far cry from the figures we saw in previous years, but we are pleased because we have made sales every month and in today’s market situation that is quite a success.
Another matter I would like to stress is that the market is becoming a bit more logical, taking on board a degree of common sense. Prices are now starting to be related to location and quality again. It was not normal for the price per square meter for new builds to be the same in so many different places … We are pleased because it shows that the market is returning to normal to some extent and that is always positive.
Good luck with tackling the challenges we all face and the often tough decisions that will have to be taken.
Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible FRANCIS OF ASSISIBy Immaculada Amat November 2008 Diary of Change Nº5
As we said in the last diary article, everything changes and one of the changes I have most noticed is in staff recruitment, since until very recently it was almost impossible to find the people we needed for our business, and now we are receiving an avalanche of CVs.
Unemployment is obviously rising without any end in sight, even more so in our industry, and that is a great concern. For years in the property industry, salespeople especially, in particular those who worked for estate agents, mostly did not have employment contracts, but rather commercial contracts. It would have seemed like the best thing for the company and the salesperson. But what about those sales people nowadays? Where can they get an income from? Those of us who have always argued that employment contracts should be compulsory wondered then and still wonder now how the authorities can control such irregular situations.
Given the situation that most property companies are in nowadays, as well as many small and medium sized enterprises in any other industry, the authorities should be brave and amend current employment law. A lot of companies are now faced with the need to slim down their structures, and many need to change some of their staff in order to survive, but at what cost? Can they afford to? Or since there are no good solutions will they consider redundancy or insolvency proceedings?
It is not enough for the authorities to concern themselves only with sorting out employment disputes in large companies. Most businesses in CATALONIA are small or medium sized. And it is no good simplifying and generalizing like they do in many public debates, where they give the impression that all employers want to achieve is job cuts. It is a matter of saving companies and so saving jobs. People need to ask themselves whether there could be any companies, especially in the service industry, without staff.
I would like to finish off by praising this country’s good sense. Three weeks ago we woke to a string of bad news stories about the financial industry, worse every day. We were given the impression that one day we would wake up to crowds of people queuing up outside the banks (a “rush” on the banks). Nevertheless, common sense won out and once again we have seen the extent of the public’s maturity and good sense. Politicians should take note.
Fate shuffles the cards and we play SCHOPENHAUER
Diary of Change Nº4
What a lot has happened in a month! From stock exchange crashes, bank failures and lots of companies entering into creditors’ arrangements to the downsizing of SEAT. So many people have been affected!
The crisis is having consequences in every area. It is affecting confidence, the security we all thought we had, and obviously it is changing our mood. We are all a bit more on edge and more intolerant.
We can see this in many ways in our day to day work:
■ In companies, especially property developers, in which shareholders who have had unbeatable relations for many years are suddenly blaming one another for everything: the land they recommended buying, the bank that was a friend of the other, having or not having put the development up for sale at a particular time, etc. The accusations are flying.
■ In companies unrelated to the property business, the mood has also turned darker. It is very sad to have a going concern, be doing well, and then find you have problems carrying on because financing has dried up.
■ In sales teams, especially those whose pay consists of a very high variable component, in which people are fighting over “the only” customer.
■ In owners’ associations in which there are homeowners who cannot pay their share of the expenses.
It is only natural for everyone to be more worried and more sensitive, but we should make a collective effort to understand and accept that we are where we are at. We need to learn to live with uncertainty and be positive. There is no point going around moaning about it. The sooner we accept that we are at the beginning of a great economic change, the better. All change is frightening.
So, moving on, I have finished the “Diary of a Crisis” and am starting “A Diary of Change”.
I will begin with a thought from ANDRÉ GUIDE You can't discover a new land without being willing to lose sight of the shore for a long timeBy Immaculada Amat September 2008
Diary of a crisis III The “crisis” compared with trekking in Huayhuash (Peru)
We went trekking through the Huayhuash mountain range last August and we considered the similarity the experience had with the situation companies are currently undergoing.
We knew where we were going, they had explained it to us, we knew we would be walking for 12 days and that we would be faced with steep descents, that we would be at a height of between 4,500 and 5,000 meters and that we would sleep in a tent, etc. In the same way as we all knew the economic “boom" would not last forever. In spite of this, the situation does astonish you, it is all too much and you are faced with elements that are quite beyond your control.
We knew that Huayhuash meant tough trekking, we were prepared, but we didn’t expect that we would waste two days because of problems with planes and that this would mean we would have to complete two of the stages without a break, nor that it would be so very cold, much colder than usual in the region.
The same has happened with the “crisis”. We knew about the change in the real estate cycle, but we did not imagine there would actually be a financial crisis or an international economic crisis.
In spite of the unexpected events, it is obvious that to survive we must have a clear target, we must have strength to survive day after day, not to feel despondent and we must always remember we have survived today and we will have gained the strength to make tomorrow better and, above all, be helped by the support of our friends (in the case of trekking) and, for the company, with the support of our collaborators, companies with which we have formed solid relationships over the years, and our advisors. Information exchange, business exchange, will help us all to keep going in the future.
The holidays are over and we are back to our humdrum everyday lives, but with renewed strength and new ideas. The existing situation does not help very much but we must renew and reinvent ourselves. Most companies will have to do this. Should we be afraid?
HG WELLS once said: Why should we fear change? Life itself is in constant change
The government has finally admitted that the Spanish economy is actually in a situation of “crisis”, anyone would think this was a dirty word, whereas to actually admit there is a problem is the first step towards finding a solution to it.
And our sector, what’s exactly going on in the real estate sector? As we all know our sector has been the focal point of attention for all the press, every day worse news is published, Martinsa Fadesa has gone into administration this month, the large companies are the ones mentioned in the press but there are a great deal of companies in the same situation that nobody hears anything about, is anybody overseeing the small developers that are disappearing from the market?
How are the companies with a long time in the sector experiencing this situation, like Amat with a background of 60 years? What are our indicators of how the market situation is developing? What can we do?
After analyzing the first half year of 2008, only as far as sales are concerned, the real situation for us is as follows:
■ We have only had 18% of calls asking for information about sales that we had in 2005, the best year in the cycle, and 50% less than last year.
■ There have been 15% of the visits seeking information at our offices that we had in 2005 and 36% of those in 2007.
■ There have been 30% of signed transactions in 2007 and 15% of those signed in 2005.
■ Regarding new works transactions signed that cannot be carried out at the time the public deed is authorized, either due to lack of financing or due to the client not having sold their former home, we have actually been very lucky, because only 5% of those we had planned could not actually take place.
■ Another of the problems that worried us the most has been resolved, developments in which we have sold part of the apartments have been completed and could be delivered, all the developments have been handed over within the agreed term, even though the developers had to achieve “miracles” to obtain the required financing to finish the works.
■ What is actually not moving at all, and is absolutely at a standstill, is the marketing of land, an issue we are well aware of because we have a specialized department for this. Actually this is not surprising because two problems directly affecting this market must first be resolved: the large stock of finished homes and the problem of financing.
The lack of financing, both for developers and buyers, is certainly the most serious problem at the moment. In the good old days, excesses were certainly committed, properties were over valued and sufficient guaranties were not requested, but we have gone from one extreme to another and with no certainties that anything will be created, in our opinion there is a point for reflection here that at some time financing possibilities must be created again, perhaps this will not happen this month nor the next but the time will certainly come and the new trust we need will be created, not only in the real estate market but for consumers in general.
Meanwhile, we must go on working, staying close beside our developer clients, advising possible buyers, helping to calm down the market, now when there is so little enthusiasm, and being convinced that there are opportunities in all situations of crisis.
In this respect there is a JAPANESE POEM we consider is very fitting in this situation: While I was picking up the stones they had thrown at me, I saw that one of them was a jewelBy Immaculada Amat July 2008
Diary of a crisis I The real estate market of yesterday and today
For several months now we have been receiving a great deal of news, data, opinions and comments about the real estate market from people involved in the sector, experts in economic issues, politicians but, above all, from a large number of members of discussion groups, professionals in giving “opinions”, who, with very little knowledge about the sector, are merely based on hearsay and make them feel as if they were university professors.
Those of us who have been involved in the sector for so many years, for almost three years we have known that the “great boom” would come to an end.
How did we know?
Because a large number of the indicators normally used to analyze market evolution made it clear to us:
Too many homes being built. One only needed to see the large number of cranes increasingly popping up everywhere to realize this.
The exponential increase in sales prices in recent years.
Interest rates hikes. They have doubled in less than two years.
Other circumstances that, in spite of there being a real demand, add to the result of this demand not being met with the existing prices and conditions in the current market.
In one way or another all the professionals guessed this slow down would take place, but the difficult part was to know when it would actually happen, how long it would last and how serious it would be.
In the beginning, at the end of last summer, I had the impression that everybody was quite pleased about the sudden slow down, and everywhere people were saying that developers had made enough money. It is always easy to generalize and put everybody in the same basket, as though it were only the developers that had made a lot of money.
It is true that it has been a very “lucrative” sector for some of them, but they are actually a minority in the sector, since we refer to certain large developers on a national level, at a certain time (because later on you can see what has happened). Or else those that managed to change urban planning categorizations and that were not actually developers but simply land speculators. The small and medium developers, the majority in Catalonia, “thanks” to the greediness of the former have made money but based on higher credits in each new development they started.
Nobody mentions the number of benefits the process has provided to others: land owners, construction companies, all the companies that at one time or another have been involved in the construction process of a building and that represent thousands of jobs. Wealth was created that to a large extent has been reinvested in citizens by providing them with sports centers, cultural centers absolutely impossible without the revenue obtained by local authorities through licenses etc.
All this happened before, but where are we now?
Most developers are in a clear risk situation due to the credit policy being applied by Spanish financial institutions (banks and savings banks).
Some developments in process may not be finished and many developers, as land owners, some having obtained the required licenses, will be unable to begin building due to lack of financing.
There is demand even though it is at a lower level, but since it exists along with the problems means that this cannot result in purchase transactions. On the one hand, the financial institutions are much stricter when granting loans, both to developers and end consumers, to whom they are refusing great deal of loans. On the other hand, apparently there may be a sharp drop in prices, which means that everyone is waiting, including those needing a home, in case this finally happens.
The volume of the construction companies’ work is at minimum levels and therefore so is the work of all the industrial companies operating in this sector.
The standstill in the real estate sector, which up to now has been the driving force behind the Spanish economy, leads to a domino effect that will result in the possible and almost certain closure of many companies and, above all, a rise in the number of unemployed, which will have a particular impact not only on direct labor but will also affect a large number of executives and, above all, the developers’ intermediaries.
The real estate companies have shot up like mushrooms, providing absolutely no added value to the intermediary process and are disappearing just as quickly.
The revenue of the City Councils has suddenly dropped, which, in spite of the huge importance I think it has, is an issue that is not mentioned very much, which is something that really surprises me. How will they manage to keep up the quality of the existing municipal facilities? Isn’t it time they seriously thought about another municipal financing model? Must this be compensated by an increase in cadastral values, as we have sometimes heard? Is it a good idea to adopt this measure in full crisis?
Actually the situation in the sector is difficult, real estate has been the first to be harmed by the crisis, unfortunately today there are many sectors suffering, by being the first we have more experience, more vision and whatever happens we will survive.
Most of the developers, professionals and industrialists that have been careful will indeed survive: due to having provided reserves, seeking new areas, those able to find synergies and collaborations with other companies, those that have protected their clients and those that have diversified.
Certainly all of them have not been the “smart ones” in the last few years, nor those that have made the most “money”, all of these have probably been the ones that in recent years have seen and have had the impression that the world was for the “one most on the ball”, the new ones in the sector, from the mentality of “getting things done right now”, and not the professionals. The crisis also has a positive side; it will put things right and clean out the sector. I didn’t want to end this article without sending you all a positive message:
Cheer up everybody, we will suffer, but don’t have any doubts at all that we will make it in the end.