Metrovacesa - Jorge Pérez de Leza

Entrevista, Interview

Jorge Pérez de Leza: We are a generation of young and prepared managers

He is an industrial engineer. He studied at both the Pontificia in Madrid and Harvard. He is a tenacious optimist who is used to overcoming challenges. He knows the real estate market has changed and is convinced we need to create a new company model. His vision is based on innovation, sustainability, transparency and accessibility and created a foundation that promotes sports among people suffering from disabilities. He has a client-centric approach to actions and believes in a relationship where “you always have to face the music”.

Why Metrovacesa? What is its core activity and what is its purpose?

The goal of Metrovacesa is to be a leading brand. In addition to taking care of the client, being the leading brand implies offering a quality product, differentiated from the rest in terms of design, technology, and sustainability. Having a brand with a hundred years of history ensures quality and an unbeatable treatment throughout the development process. We also take care of innovation in the building stage, using innovative technologies and investing in them.

Why keep the MVC brand in this new phase?

Throughout its life, Metrovacesa has always enjoyed a positive recognition. The fact that the brand has lasted for so long means that the company’s approach works and that it stands out because of its quality and good customer service.

Where is Metrovacesa positioned in the current market? How has the Spanish real estate market changed since the crisis: Do you think a new cycle has started?

Metrovacesa has managed to maintain a core of experienced and trained professionals, which makes it possible for us to grow again and to transmit both knowledge and values to the new people joining the company. Metrovacesa, during the crisis, was able to preserve that core concept. Our competitors, although they also have very good teams, have not maintained that consistency.

The client, in turn, needs more care. Nowadays, clients are more informed. They are interested in interior design, sustainability, accessibility of both the building and the green areas, and demand a design that integrates with the environment. They are more informed because of te access to new technologies, so they have more discretion to compare.

How would you describe the current situation of the real estate sector in Spain?

I think the sector is going through a rebirth. The truth is that we are very excited, yet there is no bubble. We know that not all that glitters is gold. In Barcelona or Madrid, the Spanish macroeconomic resurgence and job creation initiatives are boosting the purchase of housing. I believe the macro situation will continue to evolve positively and, therefore, the sector will have a significant weight again in the Spanish community after seven years of not building a single home.

We must also consider the strength of the renting market, in which a new client is being created: The rental housing operator. Some promoters will be able to target their product at this new segment.

I believe the profile of the promoter will also change. There is a new generation of young and very professional promoters who operate in a way that is more transparent, dynamic, and adapted to current times. but of course certain local promoters who only think about selling will not disappear. The difference between a quality contemporary product and a less attractive product that pays less attention to details and is less sustainable, like the ones offered by some local promoters, will be considered more in five years-time. It is therefore necessary to differentiate beyond the pricing.

For the first time since the crisis builders and developers are saying the market is going through its best times in the last twenty years. Do you agree?

There was close to no housing development started in Spain over the last seven years. In 2013, land had practically no value. Two years later, while land transaction activity grew, new construction works began. Now is a good time for the sector, because land is still cheap. The construction costs are tight, for now, although I think they will face some increase in the short- and middle-term. Demand is rising in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, the Basque Country. Every new development is being sold out. Commercially speaking, these are sweet times.

Do you think it’s a good time to buy a home?

Buying and renting are not just economic decisions. The need for geographic mobility due to work or family related matters also has an impact on the situation. Even though the Spaniards tend to like buying houses, I think it is positive that there are options for both renting and buying.

From a client’s point of view, do you think rental prices will continue to rise?

Everything will depend on the freedom that is given to the market. A greater regulation that limits renting prices will, in the long run, have a negative effect on the market. When rent is limited, the investor or the owner of the property takes it out of the market because it is not worth having it available for rent. Restrictions reduce the number of housing options on the market, and that in turn generates more price inflation.

What we really need is more rental options. As for the houses that are for for sale, prices depend on the areas they were built in. While the average price in Madrid or Barcelona is 30% below its peak, in the rest of Spain, the percentage rises to 40% and 50%. We are far away from a bubble.

The government will give up to 10,800 euros to those under thirty-five buying their first home, starting from next year onwards. Will these measures help stimulate the sector?

First and foremost, these measures will help young people, who, in my opinion, are the most affected segment, the one with the greatest difficulty to access housing. It is the generation that has been fully hit by the crisis and so their purchasing power has not grown as it should have. In that sense there is a clear need for aid to boost their purchasing power. Even though I couldn’t tell you which measure will be most effective, I have no doubt that it is necessary to specifically help this segment of the population.

Direct assistance is useful, but it is a specific expense that has to be taken into account along the budget of the autonomous community or the Government. Thinking about rental housing, an option could be granting public land to an investor where they could build housing and rent it. After 30 years, that land, and everything built on it, could go back to being owned by the Government. On the one hand, the investor, having not paid for the land, can rent it and get profit, while the State, on the other hand, doesn’t lose any assets either since it doesn’t lose the land. It gives it out and then gets it back.

 

There are many Spaniards who dream of buying their first home, but in most cases, their salary levels make it impossible. How can MVC accompany them in this process?

We offer quality, peace of mind and security. The client is aware that Metrovacesa will build something with quality as this is our core value. They know we will be there to solve all possible after sale issues. We always work with renowned and trusted architects who are supervised by our technical team. We collaborate with technical companies that have top levels and standards; they make us more cost efficient and ensure quality products for our clients.

What role does the client play in the new Metrovacesa?

We want to be close to the client. Although Metrovacesa has a national coverage profile, it is also very local. This is not a company run from Madrid: We have delegations with highly focused local teams who understand perfectly what the market needs in terms of preferences, sizes, quality and lifestyle. We know that a client from Lleida has little in common with one from Córdoba.

We accompany the client throughout the entire process: We do not only offer a high level of customisation, we also provide the client with all the information without them having to call or ask for it.

Many things have changed in the past few years, from the increase in environmental awareness of clients to the rise of a new digital context. The perspective is shifting from a B2B approach to a more consumer-based one we now need to learn about. Do you share this vision?

Definitely. The client should be aware of everything that is going on at all times throughout the process. Our clients can check the progress of the works constantly, the can see pictures, creating a transparent environment. i believe it is also necessary to explain possible deviations. There is no need to hide and you have to face the music.

Consumers’ trust in institutions, especially banking institutions, has plummeted in recent years. Metrovacesa is a promoter with bank relationships. How can transparency help restore clients’ trust?

The fact that the shareholder is a bank should not be something negative for the client. I think the banking world has been over-demonised. It is a powerful stockholder body that is able to ensure the company’s survival for another hundred years. Metrovacesa is a company and, if its shareholders are now purely banks, it is entirely circumstantial, caused by the restructuring of the company for financing related reasons. In ten years time, current shareholders will probably remain, but in a more fragmented way.

A new type of promoters has emerged and they are very different from those that existed before the crisis. What will be the fundamental pillars of Metrovacesa?

At the current stage, professional companies —including Metrovacesa— will have greater influence. They offer better customer service, take better care of the product, know the local market better, think more about sustainability. We are a generation of young managers. And that’s how we’ll be better at reaching new clients.

Have you learned from the mistakes of the past? What differentiates Metrovacesa from the new players in the market?

First, the good quality of our property portfolio. Our geographic coverage is also broader than that of other new competitors, which means we can offer a better variety of quality housing. On the other hand, our shareholders and history translates itself into the fact that Metrovacesa is not the kind of short-term shareholder that suddenly disappears. It is very clear that Metrovacesa is Spanish capital, and that entails permanence. I think that distinguishes us from others.

Social networks have broken the home barrier and expanded the horizon of desires and aspirations. How important is it to accompany people in customising their home?

It is important to connect with the client and his/her demands. For this, the basic product must be adaptable, you have to work with local architecture and enable indoor areas to be customised.

What would you say to someone who wants to buy a home?

Try Metrovacesa. Ask someone who bought a home from Metrovacesa and how their experience was. You will be fully satisfied with the process. What I want is for the client to feel comfortable. I want to be the best company, the most appreciated one, the one that guarantees a positive experience for the client.

You are a person that is used to difficult challenges. On a personal level, what does it mean to take on the leadership in this new phase for Metrovacesa?

As you said, I have faced tough situations in my life, and I have discovered that, through enthusiasm, hard work, and energy things can move forward. By accepting the challenge of relaunching a company like Metrovacesa, it became clear to me that the brand had an enormous potential to become a market leader again. I have been pleasantly surprised by the great team behind the company, as well as their eagerness to work. It is a very rewarding challenge.

After my foundation, Deporte y Desafío, this is a new challenge. I am willing to give everything it takes to tackle it. I will do this not only for personal satisfaction, but also for the team behind us, for the brand we have inherited, and for the shareholders who support the challenge of getting this company back on track.

I imagine accessibility is also a fundamental pillar at the new Metrovacesa.

Yes, there is a special attention to accessibility issues. In a building with both stairs and ramp, 99% of the people will use the ramp because it is more comfortable. The 1% that will go up the stairs do so because the ramp is full or because they are talking on the phone and have not seen ramp. We pursue a functional accessibility, not only for people with reduced mobility like me, but for the client in general.

Anterior: viviendas en Barcelona