Luxury real estate does not know the crisis. The number of transactions beyond one million euros has exploded the counters for 18 months. The real estate branch of Sotheby’s wants to ride the wave by increasing its presence in Flanders and becoming a major player in the new market.
New majority shareholder and new CEO for Sotheby’s Real Estate. The real estate branch of the famous luxury auction house has been present in Belgium since 2014. Under the impetus of Frenchman David Chicard, it has made a great breakthrough in this particular segment of Belgian real estate, that of properties of over of 1 million euros. It is now number 1 in Brussels (15% market share) and number 3 in Antwerp (20% market share).
New majority shareholder and new CEO for Sotheby’s Real Estate. The real estate branch of the famous luxury auction house has been present in Belgium since 2014. Under the impetus of Frenchman David Chicard, it has made a great breakthrough in this particular segment of Belgian real estate, that of properties of over of 1 million euros. It is now number 1 in Brussels (15% market share) and number 3 in Antwerp (20% market share). In addition to Brussels, two other offices have been opened in recent years: in Lasne (2017) and Antwerp (2020). An interesting expansion since the sales figures are constantly increasing. Still, to move up a gear, a stronger presence in Flanders is mandatory. Hence the step aside made by David Chicard last September, aware that he was not the most appropriate person to give this new impetus, especially since he was also looking for new professional challenges. He killed two birds with one stone: selling all his shares to Macan.group, the real estate holding company of Philippe Gillion (active in real estate development) and seeing Nicolas Laporta succeed him as CEO. “The transition was made in perfect harmony,” says the new boss. This Antwerp native, Lasnois by adoption and perfectly bilingual, worked for nine years at Immobel where he headed the marketing team for new projects. Katy Tensen has taken over the management of the Antwerp office. A new team that must be synonymous with a new start. Sotheby’s Real Estate Belgium has sold in eight years of existence more than 800 million euros of properties throughout Belgium. It currently has 45 employees. The new owner intends to give itself the means to accelerate its development. The ambitions are therefore high. This will require geographic expansion and a new sales strategy. For expansion, the opening of an office in Ghent is expected within a few months. An opening in Knokke and in the Waregem, Roeselare and Kortrijk triangle will follow. “This will go through either the opening of a new office, or the acquisition of a local player, launches Nicolas Laporta from his office on Avenue Louise where Sotheby’s now brings together sales activities in the same address. auctions and real estate. The market is very fragmented in Knokke, where there are many players but where only five or six are very present. We want to make a place for ourselves there. The office will also be able to work in Ostend and Nieuwpoort , where a high-end market is increasingly developing. Sotheby’s is not yet sufficiently perceived as a high-flying real estate player in Flanders. This must change. We are a strong brand, with great international credibility, which offers quality service and products. There are market shares to take.” The other new axis of development concerns the presence on the new market. Sotheby’s has until now mainly been in contact with developers to sell atypical properties. For example, penthouses or apartments with exceptional locations. The idea is to now act like a more traditional agency. Even if the project has to have a certain standing and be well located. “We have the ability to sell entire projects,” says Nicolas Laporta. “Whether for occupants or for investors. In our client portfolio, we have a number of people who want to invest. We want to offer them this service. The Belgian market remains more affordable than London, Paris and other neighboring countries and it offers several tax advantages. We therefore have a role to play in this respect.” The new CEO claims to have already received some calls from promoters wishing to work with Sotheby’s. “Until now, they did not yet have the reflex to call on Sotheby’s. And even if our shareholder is a developer, we will not work for them as a priority at all. Each activity will work in its field of action. ” After two successful years in 2020 and 2021, the year 2022 seems to be off to an equally high footing. A strong momentum in terms of transactions that is riding the post-covid wave. If Sotheby’s sales amounted to 140 million in 2020, this figure rose further to 191 million in 2021 (120 sales). “The opening of the Lasne office contributed to this leap forward, but the Antwerp market also performed well,” notes Nicolas Laporta. The market is still concentrated between Brussels and Antwerp, and in their inner suburbs, whether it is the two Brabants which are still particularly in demand, or Schilde and Brasschaat for the Antwerp region. And when we look at the figures for 2022, we see that we are ahead of our sales forecasts (174 million for 122 sales, editor’s note) since we are already close to our figure from last year! Brussels and Walloon Brabant are performing particularly well. All the houses we have in our portfolio are selling quickly. The aspiration to live in areas benefiting from a large garden and in peace does not diminish. Given this attraction, it is also possible that in the coming months we will witness a lack of prestige properties on the Brabant market. Because demand remains strong.” Figures published by Sotheby’s in the United States show a decrease of 20 to 30 % of transactions expected in the coming months. It remains to be seen whether this trend will apply in Belgium. The first indicators show that this is not the case. “But if this materializes, our expansion strategy directed towards Flanders and the new market should allow us to compensate for any reduction in transactions and to be able to maintain turnover”, specifies Nicolas Laporta. The luxury market is still mainly dominated by buyers from the European Commission, NATO or embassies. In Brussels, they most often go to Ixelles and Uccle. “A new trend, as for the more traditional real estate market, is the strong interest in renovated properties which have a good PEB, points out Nicolas Laporta. Previously, this criterion was little taken into account. Apartments or houses must now have a certain character and be particularly efficient in terms of energy. It’s really new.” In terms of prices, they do not seem to be following the same surge as on the residential market for properties under 1 million euros. We are witnessing a real stabilization in price increases. “This market has experienced significant increases in recent years, confesses Nicolas Laporta. These increases are now much more modest. The negotiation margin, which was before around 15%, is also much lower. According to our observations, the average sale value of a property over the past two years is 1.6 million.” If the dynamics of properties in the price range of 1 to 1.5 million were high up to at the beginning of the year, it has slowed down a bit since then. Properties above 5 million euros, on the other hand, have regained new momentum with several sales in recent months. Note that while the highest prices are at find in Brussels, which is explained by the cost of land, the most qualitative properties are most often to be found in Flanders (architecture and finishes). For the rest, the luxury real estate market is today essentially made up of Belgian buyers. The tax interest of certain foreigners – mainly the French – being reduced by measures taken in their country. “Today, among the buyers, we find two thirds of Belgians, 15-20% of French while the balance is made up of other nationalities”, further specifies the e CEO.