According to Daniel Ritter, CEO of Von Poll Immobilien/Von Poll Real Estate, Germany has a lot to offer real estate investors, including a strong economy, low unemployment, an excellent infrastructure and a “reliable and functioning political and legal system.” In the following interview, Ritter shares what makes his firm successful, strategies that mirror those of America’s most successful brokers: technology, training and professionalism.
Real Estate magazine: Please tell us about your firm.
Daniel Ritter: Von Poll Immobilien (operating abroad as Von Poll Real Estate) was established in 2000 in Frankfurt am Main in Germany. Presently, we are comprised of more than 250 offices and a total of more than 1,000 sales agents. We mainly serve Germany, but in recent years have expanded into Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Croatia, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Portugal.
RE: Please describe your current housing market.
DR: The German housing market is a strong seller’s market, especially in popular cities of all sizes with an appealing infrastructure. The average home price that we sell is around 400,000 Euro. On average, a home will be on the market for two to three months.
RE: What have been some of the most significant changes in your market in recent years?
DR: The seller’s market has become stronger. The market has become quite dynamic over the past seven to eight years, and attractive towns and cities have become very popular. In many areas, the demand is higher than the supply. Prices have, therefore, gone up. In Frankfurt, condominiums cost 70 percent more than 10 years ago, and in Berlin, they’re 95 percent more. In smaller cities, increases are often more moderate. The low interest rate policy by the European Central Bank (ECB) in recent years has had an influence, too. The situation leads people to look for the best way to invest their money without it losing value—real estate is presently the favored solution.
RE: What are the various types of properties available in your market, and which is most popular?
DR: There is a whole mix of property types: detached and duplex houses, terraced houses, villas, country homes, holiday homes, condominiums. Families in the countryside would probably prefer a detached house with a garden, while cosmopolitan city dwellers might prefer a condominium in an apartment block.
RE: How prevalent is new construction/development currently in your market?
DR: There is a lot of new construction going on. The majority of these projects are based on private investment and being built for a clientele with a stable economic background. Brokerage of such new homes is a part of our business. Traditionally, our focus lies on portfolio property. New construction is much needed in another market segment: the lack of affordable municipal housing for people with very little income.
RE: Please tell us about the buyers you work with.
DR: Buyers have mostly been local in the past, but there is an increasing share of international buyers. In holiday areas along the North German coasts and in the Alpine region, buyers come from all over Germany, some also from neighboring European countries. Interest from abroad has risen in recent years, especially for upmarket and luxury homes and condominiums in large cities, with Berlin and Frankfurt at the top.
RE: What type of financing options are available to foreign investors?
DR: Long-term home loans at fixed interest rates are a very popular option.
RE: What are some of the most important trends in your market?
DR: Due to the rising demand and costs of housing in attractive cities, the focus of buyers is partly shifting toward suburban areas. Public transportation into the cities is mostly very good in Germany, so this is a valid alternative to living in the center of town. Urban re-densification is on the agenda, too, including building residential high-rises in top locations in cities such as Frankfurt. Communities are also searching for ways of identifying suitable land to develop completely new residential areas.
RE: What are your biggest challenges/opportunities for growth?
DR: One of the challenges is the future development of interest rates, as this will determine the development of supply, demand, and prices. The lack of affordable housing for people with a modest financial background is a huge challenge for municipal governments. The fact that this country is a safe haven both politically and economically creates a large opportunity. Investors can trust in the stable framework that Germany offers: a strong and thriving economy with low unemployment and a high purchasing power, a reliable and functioning political and legal system, and an excellent infrastructure.
RE: What are some of your most successful strategies for promoting/marketing your business?
DR: We concentrate on the digital transformation, being quite aware that it is important to be at the forefront when it comes to the use of modern technology for presenting listings, communicating with customers and organizing processes in the background.
We also trust in a strong network and have considerably increased the number of shops during recent years. Professionalism and constant training is another core part of our success. We also believe in effective marketing tools such as our glossy customer magazine BESTE LAGE/BEST LIVING.
RE: How does being part of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® (LeadingRE) help advance your business?
DR: LeadingRE enables us to reach even further than Germany and Europe. The global network they offer gives us the opportunity to present our real estate offers globally, and to present to our customers at home attractive residential real estate worldwide. As a large professional brokerage firm with a strong brand in our home market, it is very important for us to be part of a professional international network.
For more information, please visit www.von-poll.com.
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