'Honesty is most important’

Be patient and curious. Before proposing a property to a client, know the property very well. Do not promise something that you cannot deliver, as this could lead to problems later onMarie Mahmouch, General Manager of Vendome International Property

Why did the company change its name from A La Francaise Real Estate Brokerage to Vendome International Property?

We decided to change the name to give the company a more international outlook, as we extended our expertise to other properties in Europe.

What brought you to the UAE and the Middle East?

The UAE and the Middle East in general are lucrative markets. We decided to have our regional office here as we know that this market has a large number of high-networth individuals (HNWIs) who are keen to invest in overseas properties that are secure and safe.

What were the main challenges when you started operations in the UAE?

The UAE is a very cosmopolitan society and there are about 200  nationalities residing here. The major challenge that we faced was finding the best possible way to communicate our message, our product and assist our clients at their comfort level. Cultural understanding is a very important factor and vital for any new company.

Another challenge was to find a harmonious work balance and work with different time zones, as we had to coordinate with the offices in France and other European countries. It was also challenging for us to find an office, which is easily accessible not only locally but internationally. Luckily, we have found the perfect location in Business Bay.

What’s the best property deal you have made in the past year?

We have marketed a very nice project in the famous city of Evian. As always, we choose a project with our very strong developer Laurent Bailet, in a perfect location and with top-quality finishings. We have sold the six villas and the 30 apartments of Le Gent’leman project in only a few months. It was sold for €13.5 million (Dh56.58 million), which represents 40 per cent of our annual sale.

How many agents did you hire in the past year?

We hired seven people in 2015. I would prefer to call them our property advisers or property consultants.

How are the realty markets in the UAE and France different from each other?

The UAE market is relevantly new and is designed to cater to the needs of a multicultural environment. On the other hand, the French real estate market has a long history. It is not bullish but it is very stable and calm. Of course, we see a surge in prices but overall it is very stable and progressive. A major factor is taxation. It is designed in a way that encourages end users to feel secure with the properties they bought.

What is your outlook for the market in 2016?

The latest drop in new buyer enquiries is linked to weaker investor sentiment and muted underlying market conditions. This might change over the course of the year as positive sentiment in the market can improve the conditions in this sector. However, Dubai residents who are keen to diversify their portfolio can invest in outbound real estate. It is the one asset where investors are almost unanimously bullish. London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Sydney are the main targets for direct cross-border real estate acquisitions over the next 12 months.

What are the fundamental weaknesses that you see in the market?

We have to introduce stronger measures to protect the interest of both the developer and the buyer. The current market trend is that the payments are linked to the duration and not to the progress of work. The payment should be linked to the progress of work and the project should be backed by a bank guarantee. If the developer defaults, the banks step in. We must encourage the end users and try to iron out speculators. When investors seek quick returns, it weakens the market and puts end users at risk. May be we should allow them to resell the property during the construction period, and introduce capital gain tax on short-term profits.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in real estate?

Be patient and curious. Before proposing a property to a client, know the property very well. Do not promise something that you cannot deliver, as this could lead to problems later on. To become a very good agent it takes time. But to demolish your reputation, it is very quick. Real estate consultancy is a very demanding job. It is important to understand, educate and help your clients. The most important ingredient is honesty.

Source: Jobannie Tabada, Special to PW


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