NAI Romania is the exclusive local representative of NAI Global, one of the largest commercial real estate service providers worldwide.
Starting off, could you give us an overview of NAI Romania and the type of businesses you serve?
Sure, we focus firstly on evaluation and consultancy, in real estate but also a variety of other businesses. We evaluate for instance small activities (be it studios, cars or even paintings) as well as big, imposing assets such as office buildings or wind farms.
On the other hand we are experts at obtaining financing from private and institutional investors, as well as banks, for investments in real estate. The most relevant segments for our business are residential, followed by lands. We do some work in industrial, offices and hospitality also but to a lesser degree.
Sounds like a truly diverse portfolio. How relevant is the real estate sector to your overall business?
Very much so, It represents about 70% of our work. To put things in perspective, in 2020 we evaluated more than 10,000 assets. We have one of the biggest teams in the field of evaluations in Romania, overall about 120 people contribute their efforts and expertise.
That suggests that the market remained active throughout 2020...
That's a fair assumption but it is also a result of our efforts during a very unusual time. We were quick to reorient our strategy and both our work volume and our revenue increased last year. I don't want to disclose too much about our "recipe for success" but I do want to point out that the key element has been adaptability.
Let's dive into financing for a moment: you work with investors on one side, and banks on the other. Which option is more popular in Romania at this time?
It's difficult to speak about the market as a whole. That's because each of our clients has a certain "diagnosis", whenever someone requests our services we make an analysis and based on the findings we recommend the most appropriate way to go. So it will differ case by case.
If we are to speak about costs, the banking sector is more attractive but not every client can access their services. So we need to figure out different avenues. A trend that is starting to take shape is attracting funding through the stock exchange. In the past few months BVB (Bucharest Stock Exchange) has been rather effervescent. Romanian entrepreneurs have become more educated financially and open to new ways of attracting capital. Private investors are an option, but difficult to reach at times if you don't have the relevant know-how, so going public can be an easier way.
Would you say the financing climate is overall favorable at the moment?
Yes, no doubt, banks are eager to offer loans. However, there are some restrictions here, a real estate product nowadays will most likely get financed if it meets one of the following criteria: either there is a mother company that can support the project in case something goes wrong or other guarantees, or the company has a proven record of development.
But overall the climate is positive and encouraging. It is an advantage of this crisis which, combined with the various grants that have been made available for companies, made the recession almost unnoticeable in the overall economy.
So how are you taking advantage of the current opportunities, what ambitions have you set forth?
Two years ago we added a new vertical to our business, namely development. We have already finalized two residential projects and are getting ready to start a third. Yet another proof of our adaptability because we are focusing on developing houses on the outskirts of Bucharest.
Our appetite for this is driven simply by rentability. For a while now residential has offered very motivating returns - it obviously depends on the project, but rentability can go as high as 20-30%.
You wear a second hat as President of the Romanian Green Buildings Council (ROGBC). How have you seen the industry transform over the past 10 years from a sustainability perspective?
From zero m² in 2008 we reached 2 million m² presently. Few people know but almost 50% of Bucharest's office buildings are marked as "green".
This concept of a green building combines various elements but the underlying concept is quality of life: from the air people breathe, to temperature and light, use of renewable energy, electric charging stations etc. These are often invisible elements so the way to recognize such a building is by looking at its certifications.
At ROGBC we actually created a national certification system for residential buildings. To date more than 10.000 units have been certified, or are in the process of getting their certificate. We are truly proud of this initiative because it was extended to 12 other European countries. We also created a system for green financing through which banks grant preferential interest rates to those who buy apartments in green buildings. It's a project we started 6-7 years ago and we brought on board reputable banking institutions, such as Raiffeisen Bank or Alpha Bank. A replica of this program is now taking shape in Poland as well. Another unique idea we were proud to promote and see implemented was the concept of reducing property tax for green buildings. Several cities in Romania have embraced the idea, first Cluj, followed by Timisoara and Iasi among others.
It's great to see such impactful initiatives taking shape in Romania and spreading across the continent. What attracted you personally to this field?
Always in my work I choose to look towards the future and the future felt green at the time. It still does. Just looking at what was happening in the world starting with the 2000s it was clear that sustainability would take off. So I didn't do anything innovative in reality, I simply aligned my work with the global trends and worked to integrate them in Romania. I'm happy to see how well it worked out.
- Share on: