Interview with Chris Dietz
Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® (Leading RE) is a global network of independent real estate companies for luxury properties – leaders on their markets. It includes over 550 brands and 128 000 brokers. Bulgaria is the 60th country to join the network, with the partnership of Unique Estates.
Interview by Lidia Manolova, Amica Magazine
Photos by Radina Gancheva
I was looking at the website and the magazine of Luxury Portfolio, and almost was late for this interview… Incredible houses and photos, making you dream and want more… Is that what you do actually – sell luxurious dreams?
Chris: Luxury Portfolio is the luxury face of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World – big, global network, with over 550 companies in int. But we are a “calm giant”. What we do is to help our members to become even more successful. In the Luxury Portfolio’s website the companies can show the best properties in their portfolio. The level is strictly high-class luxury. We do not make any compromise.
You are here (in Bulgaria) to sign a contract with Unique Estates. How can a company become part of this powerful global network?
Chris: The way is by invitation only. We are a global brand behind the successful local brands, because the real estate market is a local business – they are experts in the field and are growing successfully. We help them get more exposure, we consult them and give them access to international clients. That is why I am now in Sofia. I am responsible for the global growth of our organization, and Unique Estates is our newest member. Which is really nice, because by adding your country, we put №60 on our map… So this is a really important moment for us, too! On luxuryportfolio.com you already can see some unique properties in Bulgaria, I hope to see some in our magazine, too.
Did the definition of luxury change in the past years and how?
Chris: Not dramatically, but it changed anyhow. I will tell you why. We all know that when it comes to luxury real estates, some attributes are permanent – historical place, major architecture work, location… But the main is the feeling of exclusivity. If you had asked me 10 years ago what a luxury property is, I would have said exactly this – it should be unique, exclusive. Today we talk mainly about lifestyle. And that is incredible. I think this is caused by the demographic changes among clients of luxury properties. Now those are young people, earning their fortune by themselves – by start-up companies, entrepreneurial business, etc. For them the luxury home is not as much a social status, but a lifestyle – how they live, eat, what parties they have… The young consummators of luxury prefer to welcome their friends and families in a beautiful surrounding, to be hosts, instead of impressing with their property. To have a palace with ten rooms is not for them. Not today.
The million-dollar houses look similar all over the world. Is that good or bad?
Chris: We all know the world is getting smaller. People travel a lot, see a lot. Today our clients are well informed about the purchase, they know exactly what they want. I think globalization is a good trend. Everyone can take advantage of the knowledge and good preparation of the present-day buyer.
You travel a lot and really have a global idea for the market of luxury properties. What do you think about Bulgaria?
Chris: Yesterday I saw an article by English specialists. The title was "Bulgaria is Back". The main topic – it is a good time to invest here. Your country has what to offer – at good price, too. The request are increasing. Of course, they link it to Brexit – pound is down, so Brits, traditionally buying in Italy, Greece, get less there for their money. They start looking for more affordable properties to invest into and Bulgaria is a such destination. But you need marketing. Luxury real estate companies now must show Bulgaria as a country, which can offer a lot – beaches, interesting historical cities. Timing is so good now! Geopolitical factors are favorable – with all the problems in Turkey, people avoid it for now …
What are the “hottest” destinations for investments today?
Chris: If we talk about Europe – nothing has changed: London, Paris, Berlin. Luxury there is safe. Other main suspects remain USA, Hong Kong, Singapore… The main surprise comes from Asia – and I am not talking about Chinese buyers. The phenomenon is South Asia – Asian middle class is growing really fast. We can imagine the buying power of those people! They cannot accomplish it on the local market, all the investments and construction cannot keep up; so they will start looking for new possibilities on new markets. This is the new wave of buyers and we have to be prepared.
How do you manage to follow all these processes?
Chris: Everyone is talking about globalization, but for us it means one thing – to see the world in perspective, as one, to explore trends everywhere. I cannot sit in our office in London or Chicago and just read what happens somewhere out there. I have to be there. To focus on the area, to understand the differences in different markets, business practices, cultures.
So can you mark what are the main trends about luxury properties?
Chris: They are three: the challenge investors have is dealing with the changing global economics and politics – problems in Russia, crises in the Middle east, terrorism. The second trend is urbanization. More and more people are heading to the cities, they want to live and work there, to eat, to shop. Buildings with integrated functions – residential, offices, restaurants, gardens, are the result of this trend for smoothing the lifestyle. And the third trend is demographic change – on many markets the young generation is competing with baby boomers (50-, 60-, to 70- years old) for the same luxury properties. Young people today earn their money earlier, become independent and start looking for properties in the city. Older wealthy people have lived in spacious houses in the suburbs, but their kids are already grown up, so these houses become too big for just the two of them, so they say: “Let’s move to the city, so we can enjoy the life there.” So these properties become less and less, and their prices grow… And one more thing – luxury real estate clients are interested more and more in factors such as building resistance, “smart homes”, energy efficiency…
And where is your home?
Chris: I travel so much, so I can easily say “in the airplanes”. In London, my home is near Hyde Park, so I can enjoy the city. During the weekends I am often in Germany. Last year, I bought a place near Frankfurt – in a beautiful valley with vineyards, this is a wine region. I demolished one of the walls and put a panoramic window to the vineyards. It is so quiet, I watch seasons changing and I can really relax. This is mu luxury. You feel at home at the place where you are born. I am connected to my family, friends, to the wine too. Wine is a lifestyle, everything surrounding it is beautiful.
You look like a person, who really enjoys what he is doing …
Chris: My job is amazing, not only because I travel a lot, see and learn a lot, but also because I meet creative, innovative, interesting people. I am inspired by the people who reached the high level they are. People behind the luxury real estate agencies are not just rich, they live and breathe this business and have incredible stories to tell. If you want to sell luxury, you must be luxurious yourself, otherwise they won’t believe you.
Is that you advise to the real estate brokers?
Chris: If you do not know how luxury things in life look like – watch, car, kitchen supplies, you cannot sell luxury to others. You enter a house and see a label on the bed – and you must know that Provasi is a luxury Italian brand. You must be special, to have your selected sphere of people, because there you find your clients. It is not necessary for you to be as wealthy as them, but you have to be connected emotionally and visually. To be perceived as a luxurious person.
Are you like that?
Chris: I work in a company for luxury real estates, so yes, it is nice to travel exclusively, to stay in five-star hotels. I admit – it is comfortable and with the years passing by I like it even more and more. But I think of myself as a down to earth person. When I take my chlidren (18 and 20 years old) with me on my trips and they enjoy the luxury, I keep telling them that it is important to remember – you have to work really hard to achieve that. When I get home I am a completely different person. To be normal helps you release the tension. But there is no occasion in life which does not deserve a bottle of wine. And there is no reason to meet people you don’t like.