Interview with Alexander Vaughan, co-founder of Lucas Fox, in Expansión
What do you think of the real estate market in Spain? Do you think there are too many agencies at the moment?
In our opinion the real estate market in Spain could be a lot more professional. This could be achieved by tighter regulation. At the moment the bar for entry to the profession is set too low. This results in too many agencies in the market and both sellers and buyers receiving poor customer service and advice. We are also in favour of more transparency on sales data from the public bodies which would help to ensure more accurate valuations and avoid another property boom.
In which countries does Lucas Fox have its biggest presence? How many sales did you close in Europe, in particular in Spain, in 2014?
Lucas Fox is a Spanish Company (although its founders are from the UK and Holland) and has its biggest presence in Spain. Our team is a mix of local and international staff whose professionalism, dedication and high levels of customer service over the last 10 years have helped us become Spain’s leading independent international real estate agency. In 2014 Lucas Fox sold over €150m worth of properties, the vast majority to international clients. In the last 12 months, however, we have seen the national market picking up and this year we expect to sell a larger proportion of our properties to national clients, especially in our city locations – Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.
What are your predictions for growth in the market in Spain?
Since Lucas Fox was founded in 2005 (we celebrate our 10 Year Anniversary this year) our turnover has increased between 50% and 100% year on year. We believe that this level of growth is sustainable for the coming years, especially if market conditions continue to improve, the national market recovers off the back of more bank finance becoming available, and more quality new development properties come onto the market.
In which areas of Spain are you currently active?
Currently we are active in Spain’s three largest cities – Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia – and key second home locations – Costa Brava, Marbella, Mallorca, Ibiza, Maresme and Sitges. We are currently talking to a number of companies in the real estate sector who are interested in forming associations with the Lucas Fox brand in other areas of Spain so we expect our presence in Spain to grow significantly over the next few years.
How does Lucas Fox operate?
As stated above, Lucas Fox is owned by its founders and partners in different regions. We currently have around 100 staff. All of our sales agents are on a nomina with a higher basic salary than is normal in the sector and the ability to earn commission on the sales they make. This enables us to employ professional, experienced, multilingual employees who are not in a position where they need to sell desperately and can therefore act in the best interests of the seller and buyer.
What are the differences between Lucas Fox and other real estate agencies?
We are not part of a franchise organisation and are an independently owned company that has grown significantly without external investment.
We are very selective about the quality of property that we offer for sale and rent and selective about the areas in which we operate. We are focused on delivering an exceptional level of customer service – both for buyers and sellers. By being an independent agency we have a much tighter control over all these aspects.
We have a truly international, multilingual team (including many Spanish people), which means we can fully appreciate the cultural differences between foreign buyers and local sellers.
Our core values are integrity, professionalism and high levels of customer service and this, combined with our 10 years of experience in the Spanish property market, and large database of international clients, helps us to achieve excellent results for sellers.
We also have an in-house dedicated marketing team which enables us to achieve the best results for property sellers. Our website (www.lucasfox.com) attracts around 1m visitors a year and we have regular exposure in international press and broadcast media. We also have our own lifestyle brand LFStyle, which was created in response to the growing number of ‘lifestyle investors’ choosing to purchase property simply because of their passion for Spain’s diverse and appealing cultural benefits.
Do you find property owners require exclusivity with Lucas Fox? And what kind of commission do you charge?
We only take on properties exclusively if we believe that the sales price is realistic. Exclusivity allows us to invest in customised marketing and focus the efforts of our commercial team on the property. We do not promise high prices to the sellers in order to secure exclusivity. We believe that a correctly priced property should be sold within 3 to 6 months of coming into the market. We charge 5% commission which we believe is justified by the service we provide and our access to international clients.
Where is your primary focus?
We work mainly in the residential sector both in sales and long-term rentals.