Isabel Dias Rodrigues
Founder & CEO
Metathesis

01 March 2022

Metathesis is a Lisbon based real estate developer specialized in rehabilitation projects and urban refurbishment in the region of Almada. 

How did Metathesis come into being and what motivated you to start this venture?

After spending nearly 20 years in multinationals and feeling overworked, I decided to be bold and invest in my own business. I found an opportunity real estate refurbishing, and, as I was always drawn to architecture and decorating, something clicked and this is how Metathesis came to life. Our first project was a success, which gave us the impulse to continue down this path, innovating as much as possible with each and every unit we rehabilitate. 

We are now a mature business with the right know-how on urban revamping and residential projects, partners that were selected throughout the years, suppliers that we trust and have recently started looking for a joint-venture partner to raise more investment capital. 

What footprint does the company have at this moment and what are the main projects you're working on?

First of all,

 

In 2020 we were extremely pleased to finalize the purchase of a construction company, called Meca (Meca Construcoes lda). The workforce in the construction field is scarce and the prices are constantly rising so this was a strategic move to better control costs and have our own team at hand.

 

Through this new branch we plan to also serve other market players and, in fact, are already building two single units in Almada for a real estate promoter. At Metathesis we have otherwise worked on over 50 rehabilitation projects and are currently developing a multi-family house in Almada, among others.

What makes Almada a location that keeps on giving for you, and is it on other companies’ radar too?

Honestly, we started our business here because this is where I happened to live. We then realized the area was a hidden gem, so we deliberately enhanced our footprint here. By being very attuned to the region and understanding pricing, we have the upper hand in every deal we're making, and the deals have been growing as people are paying more attention.

It is actually incredible how investors have overlooked Almada until now, because it is so closely linked to Lisbon (15 minutes by car) and packs in a great deal of opportunities: top notch public transportation networks, universities, luxurious beaches, etc. All in all, it is a strategic business spot with high quality of life and premium access to Lisbon’s property market.

You chose to focus on rehabilitation projects rather than just building from scratch, what was the reason behind this decision?

When I founded the company, I realized that there were thousands of abandoned buildings, in very bad shape but in premium locations. By rehabilitating the units in the city center, we were able to achieve two important objectives: embellishing the cityscape and attracting young buyers to the Almada area. Rather than contribute to the depletion of raw materials such as concrete, we thought repurposing old buildings would be a good recycling exercise with far greater long-term benefits. And we were right!

The 6% VAT incentive is encouraging investors, but how do you otherwise evaluate the way in which authorities are enabling the construction and rehabilitations markets?

When we first started our activity, these incentives didn't exist and rehabilitation wasn't very popular, so we practically pioneered developments in this segment. Ten years later, the government finally understood that so many empty residential units are in need of reviving. The 6% VAT incentive is extremely useful, but things overall can be greatly improved - first and foremost by reducing the complexity of the licensing process, which in its actual form is a massive drawback for investments. 

Steps for obtaining a permit are inconsistent and differ between cities, and the whole timeframe can span from six months to three years or more. It's impossible to make predictions for future business plans and each year of delay can mean up to EUR 500 per square meter added to our costs. The government is promoting affordable housing programs but in order to make them successful, they first need to solve the permitting issue.

What is the typical profile of buyers in the Almada region for revamped projects, and has it been evolving?

In the beginning, we were building for Portugal’s middle class, but as the costs of doing business have become so substantial and the price per square meter got so high, we ended up orienting towards the upper classes. Our client avatar is defined by young couples with university studies and a tech job. We sell around 50% of our projects to foreign citizens (mainly digital nomads) who enjoy the Portuguese lifestyle.

What objectives do you want to achieve with priority in the next two to three years?

In 2023, we will have our 20th anniversary, which is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our work thus far. Being resilient and finding the best opportunities for us in the next two to three years is highly important in order to be able to push the company even further. We are also keen to welcome Meca and explore new opportunities in the construction segment, for which there is ample demand. We are also focused on attracting talent to our companies.

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