Almost 23 years ago, the Austrian, Heidi Stadler – with her life partner, Briton Robert Maunder – started to sell the first properties in Mallorca. Today, their company First Mallorca is one of the real estate big players in Mallorca, with more than 1,700 properties on offer, five sales offices on the island and more than 40 employees.
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When you started in 1995, as a two-person company, the property market in Mallorca was already saturated. As an absolute newcomer, what was your motivation to become involved in this business?
Robert and I had been working abroad for many years, particularly in Asia. In 1987 I became acquainted with the island for the first time. When we later decided to come here and make a new beginning for ourselves, we only considered the real estate business. For us it was an extension of tourism.
You grew up with tourism?
The holiday industry was always part of my life. For more than 120 years, my family has run a hotel, and I’m a tourism practitioner. Of course, I had to learn many things about real estate.
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Quite a tough start-up in the end?
At first, of course we needed a portfolio. We posted many ads. Through my many contacts, especially in the owners’ association of Costa d’en Blanes – which I chaired for many years – we gained more and more contacts with house-sellers. However, initially it was very difficult to gain confidence.
Isn’t Mallorca’s property market a kind of ‘shark pool’, with chances of survival only for the hard-nosed agents?
Earlier it perhaps was like this. Of course, the number of properties and home-sellers on the island was growing from year to year. Not least through the internet. People are swamped with information and offers on the internet. Whether it’s at home or through an agency, the offer seems endless. But precisely this has led to the outstanding importance of personal confidence in recent years.
Doesn’t the customer just want to get a property at the lowest price?
Money is certainly important but it doesn’t really determine a purchase decision. Customers want one thing: to be happy with their property.
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Are you a ‘gemstone agent’ for the rich and famous?
Our offer is not whether a property is expensive or cheap but whether it fits with our philosophy. Just recently, we have sold a one-bedroom apartment with spectacular sea views for €80,000. The customers were as happy with it as somebody purchasing a villa for €6 million. Our business model is not built on quick money but on satisfaction.
Is now a good time at all for buying a house or an apartment in Mallorca?
Yes, the offer is great and the prices have levelled off – after decades of continuous increase – to a realistic level.
What does the buyer need to be aware of?
In real estate law, Spain is certainly a different prospect than England or Germany. German customers, in particular, seem surprised initially when we advise them to consult a lawyer for the best real estate acquisition. The property buyer in Spain can control many things but not all. Laws often change; many legal details must be analysed very accurately. They have a different access.
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Do customers always know what they want?
Real estate is as varied as people’s characters. I think, buying a house only to your own specifications, on paper or on the basis of photographs, is impossible. One must feel comfortable in a property. Some people change their mind, finally buying a sea-front apartment instead of a finca, which they had actually wanted.
How important is advertising and marketing for your business?
Immensely important. We invest a considerable sum in advertising and marketing campaigns. We do this not only in order to gain new customers but also to remind old customers about us. Someone who has bought a Mercedes-Benz wants to be reminded that he is still driving the best car.
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Your face is used in many advertisements. Why?
When we started the campaign, I asked myself how I could put Mallorca into it. Adding a photo of a property, a beach or another typical theme mostly used for tourism, didn’t convince me. I wanted to give the comfortable feeling that it is simply wonderful to live here. That it is a pleasure. Of course, my image is a tribute to our long-standing business and thus has a good deal of recognition. And of course it also shows that I enjoy what I do.
And your own home in Mallorca?
We live in a beautiful house in Costa d’en Blanes, with a large garden, which belongs to our three turtles and two rabbits. In summer, we imitate the Mallorcans. Initially I did not understand why many locals spent the hot season in a separate house, or in an apartment at the seaside. Having a holiday on the island itself, with no need to pack your bags, is fantastic. For that reason, we’ve had a summer house in San Telmo for a couple of years. The sea makes you a different person.