As we head towards the end of 2021, we chat to EstateGuru’s Head of Global sales, Mihhail Onohhov about the past year, and look ahead to what he expects from 2022.
As the man tasked with our sales strategy, Mihhail has his finger firmly on the pulse of the real estate development industry across Europe and needs to understand both the opportunities and challenges faced by EstateGuru’s borrowers.
Question: 2021 is almost over. Looking back at the year, what stands out for you in terms of borrower trends? What were your team’s highlights?
Answer: The real-estate sector is continuing to soar across Europe. The pandemic really made people re-evaluate what they expect and what they require from their living arrangements and our borrowers (real-estate developers) have been working extremely hard to satisfy new demands in this new world.
EstateGuru has been able to fund record volumes this year and one of the main highlights was our performance in Germany. We have been active in Berlin for a little more than one year and already see that our services are required by both real-estate developers and retail investors alike.
Q: Are you still seeing any effects from the Covid pandemic lockdowns, or are developers back into full operational mode?
A: We definitely see the effects of the Covid pandemic but not where you’d expect. People are forced to spend a lot more money and time at home. Work, leisure – everything happens at home now. So naturally people require a lot more from their homes – more space, more comfort. Proximity to city centres is not as important as it used to be pre-Covid either, as many people have switched to remote working. Real-estate developers have been as busy as ever. So it’s definitely full operational mode for the developers and I do not expect this trend to stop any time soon.
Q: EstateGuru has a very high percentage of return customers who borrow more than once for different projects. To what would you ascribe this customer loyalty?
A: Returning customers has been our most important sales channel. More than 50% of all projects on our platform come from returning borrowers.
The values of EstateGuru: speed, convenience and transparency, are something that our borrowers value and the amount of returning customers proves that EstateGuru stays true to its philosophy.
Q: What were the biggest challenges the industry faced in 2021?
A: The answer to this question will have no surprises: dealing with Covid. Any industry is made up of people. People stand behind everything. And making sure people in property-development are safe, healthy and taken care of was the main challenge in 2021. Vaccines are now easily available so I expect the next year will be even busier than the year 2021. Especially, since EstateGuru has taken care of the second most important problem for the industry – availability of capital.
Q: What trends do you see emerging in 2022?
A: Modern cities will become less centralized with more emphasis on micro-mobility.
Spacious properties, with extra rooms to accommodate working from home by all family members, will be in extremely high demand.
Q: There are ongoing global concerns about supply chains. Do you expect this to have an effect on the amount of new real estate developments?
A: That, among other factors, will drive the property prices up – but growing property prices are not something new or surprising. They have been growing for more than a decade. As long as there is demand for new real-estate developments, and the capital is available, the amount of new properties will continue to grow.
Q: Do you expect the real-estate market in general to maintain its high levels?
A: I like this question because this is the only question to which I have a 100% correct answer. Will the property prices continue to grow in 2022 – no one knows. With that being said, I personally do not see any factors that will drag the property prices down, for the time being at least. But please do not take this as financial advice.
Q: You have an aggressive expansion strategy in Europe, with two new countries being added. How difficult is it to maintain the same levels of customer service to borrowers across multiple regions?
A: Aggressive – yes. Strategic – also yes. Together with an ambitious market expansion plan, EstateGuru has also closed it’s A-round. This influx of additional capital allows EstateGuru to increase it’s team, and make sure we increase the quantity of our actions without decreasing the quality.
So far, the amount of returning customers proves that the quality of our service is as high as ever. And now available in even more countries in Europe.
Q: Any advice to potential real-estate developers?
A: When it comes to capital – shop around. Do your research. Try different options, experience different vendors. Different circumstances require different approaches. The only way to achieve maximum efficiency is by being able to use the correct tools at the right time. So, get in touch, speak to different people and build different relationships – you never know when you will need them.
Q: What is your motivation to work for EstateGuru?
A: I obtained my masters at the University of Aberdeen, UK in 2010. Aberdeen is a small city in the north-east of Scotland. Around 200,000 people live there. The city has two large universities that are extremely popular. By 2010, the housing situation was dire. It was not even about being extremely expensive, there were simply not enough rooms around the city to house everyone. Students lived in tents on campus. Finishing my thesis and graduating was only the second most stressful part of my life at that time. Finding a place to live was clearly the first.
The only way to solve this problem for present and future generations is to increase the supply of houses. In order to do that, efficient, cheap and fast funding solutions must exist. I truly believe that with EstateGuru, we are solving the problem. One project at a time.
Q: Thank you very much for your time Mihhail, it was a pleasure talking to you as always.
A: No problem, and thanks for the opportunity.