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Real Estate Insights by TOTE SER

TOTE SER decided to create this series so you can get to know us a bit better. Here, we’ll touch on all things Real Estate – from investment, architecture, trends and our opinion about the latest news.

We’ll also be having several real estate personalities join us, providing highly entertaining content that will for sure enrich your market expertise.

Below you can listen at the Spotify's player:

Or you can watch YouTube (english subtitles):

Or if you would prefer, you can read the transcription:

Episode 01: TOTE SER

Miguel Real: Hello, my name is Miguel Real, I am Chief Marketing Officer at TOTE SER and this is our first podcast, ahhh, in which it aims to give more insight on what we do, what it is TOTE SER and today I am pleased to be here with me the CEO and architect Hélder Pereira Coelho, in which he will be able to explain a little more about what our areas of operation are, and exactly what we do. It's a pleasure Architect! How are you?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Thank you! Thank you, it's also a pleasure to be here...

Miguel Real: It is a pleasure, it is a pleasure - Helder Pereira Coelho: ...talking – Architect, it's around 30 years of operation in the Portuguese market, especially here in the Lisbon area. What can you tell us about it and more precisely, who is TOTE SER?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Well, TOTE SER is essentially an architecture company and... I think there are two types of architecture studios and... and I can make a brief definition... So there is the architectural firm that immediately gets our attention and we associate with which is called signature architects, so these are firms with big projects, big ideas and have a very strong creative component. Here, we in our case... we are... we are on the other side, that is, we are a very practical firm, that is very user-focused, so, let's say that we work for comfort and to give the best conditions and to cause the best feelings to the user. As we also have, and we have the notion that everything in life really needs to be sustainable, that is, for us to be able to do more projects, it is necessary that our project contributes to an investment, and that this investment will have the results... satisfactory, or more than satisfactory, so it has to be beyond the average for us to be able to have more customers, our customers are called Investors and therefore to have an interest in investing and to be able to make better spaces and more spaces with better conditions for our focus that is the user.

Miguel Real: Of course it does, it makes perfect sense, in other words, this architecture that we have, we end up having an architecture focused on profitability, that is, we usually have the idea that architecture is an expensive thing, but we somehow changed the concept by showing our customers that architecture is not expensive, on the contrary, it still manages to result in profits never before expected, right? And the results really speak for themselves... and it's, in fact, almost three decades of operation in the real estate market. Architect, can you tell me how it all started?

Helder Pereira Coelho: So it started because there was really this goal of getting ahhh... to create the best conditions for, as I said a moment ago for the user, so for the person who will really enjoy the space and... and at the time we were given a challenge, which was, in the 1988 fire, the Chiado Fire, in which we were given some buildings that were completely degraded, had been hit by fire, some more than others, and we were given the great challenge of being able to... as you know that is a project of, say - Miguel Real: Of course it is. - rehabilitation Siza Vieira, so the set was Siza Vieira, then there were several firms, several companies that worked and collaborated and worked in partnership on the project and... and there was really a very big challenge that was, to again make that area, so, desirable to live, so that area at the time of Chiado, at the time of the fire, it was an area that was completely desertified in terms of housing, the... the commerce, so it was practically already... I don't mean nonexistent, it existed but had very little dynamism because we were at the time of the start of shopping centers and in a way that no one believed that people would buy again in the street stores, due to the inconvenience of people getting rain, getting traffic and not having a place to park the car, so there was the great challenge of being able to create conditions for people to want to live and have a whole life again, of services, of commerce, therefore being a new desirable center for people to live. And in a way we were given the ruins, say, of... the buildings that were, that they were caught by the fire and so after that each architect had to develop, according to the buildings they had, they had to develop their layout in order to really make it desirable and so that's how we started.

Miguel Real: It was like this, it was like this. No, it's really interesting and it's something that, frankly, I can't not talk about is, I believe that starting at this time right after 1988, or right after the fire, in a way, I believe that a large part of our operation was based almost as a mission and a civic duty, that is, we were rehabilitating, repositioning and repopulating, for all purposes, the Lisbon area, the historic area of Lisbon. What can you tell me about that Architect? This is really a mission that we're not only the privileged to have, right? But I believe that there are great difficulties in really being successful in it. But surely the architect can tell me what the difficulties are, right, and on the other hand, how did we manage to have high profitability in a place whose rent is currently very high, right, and which the market has appreciated the way that it did, in the last 30 years.

Helder Pereira Coelho: I think as I said before, the key here is really to be focused on the people who are going to use those spaces. First, we have got to have the notion, notion and... in addition to the notion, we have got to have a very accurate and very concrete idea of who will be the type of... of the universe of people who want to use that space and also who can use that space, therefore, have the financial capacity to do so. And... and that's the important thing, we are able to define the universe we are targeting first and then almost like... as an actor, we have to know how to live in that skin, try to imagine what it would be like to live there, I think it all starts there. And then from there you start to develop a whole idea that really makes people have... with the final result, have a great desire to be able to use that space, either through renting, or through the sale. Which will make this great desire that people have for the space that is, therefore, that is resolved, to be willing to pay a little more either for the rent or for the sale. And then really get a much higher return for those who invested, because afterwards we always have that pressure, investors really bet on us and are really hoping that what we can achieve is a really great result, which is fortunately, let's say, our good results have to do with that, it has to do with exactly 30 years trying and perfecting a whole technique that makes the result more, so, let's say a more accurate result, so - Miguel Real: Of course, yes - a result in which people feel happy, let's say, - Miguel Real: Without a doubt. - to use that space, happy and proud, and I think that's what, that's, that's what, what gives us satisfaction.

Miguel Real: It is our trademark, it is our trademark, for all intents and purposes. And we really have a question by chance that is also asked a lot by our Investors and that we now have the opportunity to share to our Podcast is: what are the advantages of working with TOTE SER, from the perspective of an investor or an investing client?

Helder Pereira Coelho: The advantages are exactly for that, because we are really very practical. We can say that really... almost everything we design we put into practice, so, as we don't have those great artistic projects, they often have a more formal character, but we are more about functional projects, as I said, for people and I think that this practice is what distinguishes us and is what makes, say, we have the results we have, as in, each project, each project we do, we are already applying what we have learned in others and lessons, let's say, very direct, in the sense that we have a strand of our Investors, who then opt for exploration through renting and we always have feedback there from the user and from the people who manage it, and that, and who are really responsible for maintenance. And as we always have constant feedback on the use of spaces, in the next space we already have... we have this improvement and therefore I think that these three decades always focused on really providing the best environment, the best feelings, the best emotions and... and the pride of the person feeling that they can use that space, I think that's what makes the difference.

Miguel Real: It makes perfect sense, makes perfect sense. Something that we are always guided by, right, and that has always been our motto, is our investment, our 360 ° policy. But what does it mean to invest 360°? Of course we do what we do for customers taking into account their requirements, right, their requirements, but the approach we have is always a very intimate approach, and why?, Because we work as if were doing it for us and this perspective is very important, because even, we can be a little bold, our vision is a good vision, it is a vision that really works and taking into account the experience that we have in the market is a winning vision. What can you define from this investment in 360 ° Architect?

Helder Pereira Coelho: The 360°, this really comes from, let's say of an evolution that is happening in this, is happening, or has been happening throughout all these years in real estate, that is to say, that it is a business that more and more has to be more refined and more professional, in order to obtain better results. And the fact that there is an entity that can understand what, say, the needs of each intervening activity are, that is, since the acquisition of a property that we raise the investment opportunity and present to our client, since the acquisition, to get to know the whole licensing process, to get to know the whole, therefore the whole management of the construction, everything what is involved in relation to the construction and then in the commercialization part, an entity like us that really knows all the activities that are inherent to the work, process, makes it possible for us to optimize the entire financial resource and in terms of time, so that we can reach the end with the lowest possible costs, as quickly as possible and the best profitability possible.

Miguel Real: Sure! In other words, we are basically one-stop advisors, that is, we are able to provide all the services that our customers need, from the first initial scouting to arranging, for example, constructors or promoters and even effectively doing the repositioning project and everything until it reaches the point of monetization or selling and marketing the asset, which brings me to the next question, that is, what is our strategic positioning? What is our current target and what do we want to operate?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Okay, what we really operate is essentially by, ok... our customers are basically, they are the Investors, they are really the people who can provide, that have capital that can provide so that we can make as many spaces as possible and... the positioning is asset repositioning repositioning we've already done, we're already doing, and let's say, it's our, our expertise because it's one thing we do, in the sense that... from that space we can make the most of it so we can optimize space in which the square meter is very expensive and we manage to give it a use... we usually divide the space quite a bit but we always give a use that will look like... that the person is using a space with much larger dimensions and spaces with large dimensions albeit not being, and basically it is for Investors or even for private clients who want to really take advantage of these characteristics, we also have some... that really look for the comfort of their home, they try to have a space with smaller dimensions but it seems to be a much larger space that is, say, one of, say, one of the great characteristics of our spaces is that, in square meters, they are a few square meters, but... - Miguel Real: We make it seem like a lot, don't we? - ...we do. There is a feeling, the experience of space seems to have many, many square meters - Miguel Real: It is a truly incomparable amplitude. - it is due to the layout, the strategic position of the materials used and then there is something that we, also we, sometimes people do not want to assume but... but we work hard for that. We work a lot for the status of the user, we really sell status because we think people have to feel proud they have to feel happy that they have won the position in life to be able to have spaces like this, because these really are spaces in prime locations, where the sqm is really high and spaces with livingness and conditions that gives them a feeling of well-being and...

Miguel Real: Yes, without a doubt. I think it is very important to emphasize this because our areas of operation also extend, in many cases to several, to other classes of assets, not only to the residential part but also to the part, for example, of logistics, the part of hospitality, so our know-how extends to large areas, large asset classes, and I think that the core that should really be retained is that we manage to capture the feelings and sensations that may not always count in these, in other large, large assets. And why is that? Our understanding of the status and gratitude of having this type of asset from, from the point of view of the investing client, is in fact a perspective of the business in this case also of the purchase mentality, which is often unaccounted for and wrongly so, we know what it is really like to be buying a floor or a building in the historic area of Lisbon and what it really takes to captivate and fulfill the necessities, so to speak, of the investing client who will really be with a tailor-made acquisition for him and leaving him super satisfied. Now I would also like to refer a little to the architecture part, since, of course, it is a great service of ours and it has been, for a long time as we know, I wanted to ask you a question architect, as you said before our architecture is turned to profitability, but this is a... it is a bit of a contradictory perspective, since, of course, architecture is usually linked to be more expensive to be more daring but that may not always be a financially sound bet. How can architecture be an excellent bet in terms of the profitability of an asset?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Architecture, as you said and very well, is connoted as being a, say, one that, an expensive requirement. I guarantee that in our case it is not, it turns out to be a cheap requirement, it comes out cheaper, due to the experience that we really have, the way we put the materials, the methods because we have the experience of the construction methods, the constructive methods that we apply, in which we can actually have a much higher profitability of the work and... and then the important thing is that it seems that it is contradictory, but it is not, but it is, the better conditions we are creating for... for the user, more... the more willingness that user has to pay more for that space as I said a little while ago and so that the person who invested or as an investor who invested in the project and a whole project management with us and so it... had an optimization of costs he will be able to spend less, for our project proposals, and later he will be able to earn more in the sale or rent. And for those who are not really investors, they will make money anyway because if... if they turn to us... for their own home, what will happen is that due to our suggestions that result from all these decades of practice, from really a very empirical attitude of the market, it really makes your property much more valued and that when you really want to change your house, when you sell this house you will always sell this house much more expensive than it would sell if it were a house that did not have a project and may actually have more economic capacity to buy the next one, or even to buy another one to refurbishment and use us to create again great added value, in the new property if you do not want to sell, this has also happened with renting, because what we see in our customers is that they not only sell more expensive, they do the business quicker, be it in the sale side, but also in the renting side. In other words, our houses, fortunately, are preferred to... to others that exist on the market and... and that must be why, because our focus and our concern is always based on the user. And if the user is much more satisfied, that user is much more willing to pay, more, to really be able to enjoy a space with higher quality.

Miguel Real: It's a win-win relationship for all intents and purposes and I also think that a big decisive factor of our architecture, is really the way it ages, in many cases it could even be a very bold architecture and that it didn't even age in the best way over the decades, but the reality is that we are neutral, but at the same time very conservative and very sophisticated at the same time, so, what we notice and that I also know exactly the feedback from the architect, is that the performance of our assets, it remains, or even, appreciates a lot over the years, which in terms of logic would be exactly the opposite, therefore, our architecture is very constant and very consistent in terms of value and this is really a decisive factor for, for the point of view of the investing client.

Helder Pereira Coelho: And I confirmed that what Miguel just said is exactly the experience that we are having at this moment, even at this exact moment in the market, the demand that we are having for foreigners, whether European, be it Northern Europeans, be it even Americans, it's funny that practically all of them, maybe some of them don't manifest themselves, but there's a... say, a comment that is common to all of them is to say «I don't believe this project is 12 years old, it's impossible», - Miguel Real: Yeah, it's curious. - but be Americans, be Europeans whatever, so they are, let's say, from different cultures, that will confirm what you just said.

Miguel Real: And we are talking about people who are commenting from places where the architecture of their hometown is totally different, that is, we are talking about completely different backgrounds and the opinion is unanimous, so, this really underlies the qualities even more and it is not said by us, by our witnesses it is conferred. I had, now, a question to ask the Architect, how could you describe TOTE SER in 3 words?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Hum... optimization... well-being... and profitability.

Miguel Real: Ok, (laughts) it is... this really is very curious, and I couldn't have said it better and it's really to close here, drop - Helder Pereira Coelho: (laughs) - the microphone (laughs), but yes, and for today it is everything, I believe. This is just an introductory podcast, this is our first episode, we will have guests from now on, and other types of subjects will also be discussed, but it is a pleasure to have you here, to be able to watch, I hope you liked it, it was a pleasure my name is Miguel Real, again, pleasure was having the architect Helder Pereira Coelho with us.

Helder Pereira Coelho: I thank you, the suggestion and the idea, really creating all this that I was not expecting and thank you very much for the opportunity that you gave to our entire team, really, but this is what we have to get together and go further with our ideas.

Miguel Real: That's right That's what TOTE SER is.

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