You have been with the company for over six years now. What was your vision when you first joined Cordia Poland and how did it change over time?
We all must adapt to changing conditions, especially during the pandemic. The vision has certainly changed in a way that we pay closer attention to risks, no one in our generation has met a hazard of such a global proportion until now.
The pandemic made us more aware of the risks we would not normally count as such: take the psychological element in the decision making of an individual customer who wants to buy an apartment, for example. Their reluctance to spend in tough times represents a major risk for us because it eventually forces us to change our financing patterns. It is neither good nor bad, simply different.
How do you typically finance your projects and in what way did the pandemic influence your model?
We work with our own equity but also with loans. External debt was an opportunity we already took twice in Budapest, an unlikely positive outcome of the pandemic! Securing project financing is not easy nowadays, we must convince banks that developers still perform on a profitable market, but economic mechanisms came in to help. Low interest rates and soaring inflation forced private equity to invest in real estate. Having said that, it is still difficult to keep the business running at the same pace it was going before the pandemic.
Our appetite for developing more is also curbed by legal barriers such as permit granting procedures. The preparation time for a project has doubled now compared to pre-pandemic days. We understand bureaucracy comes naturally to government agencies; however, it should not prevent them from adopting new and more efficient technologies. The typical struggle for a developer in Poland is that, today, they cannot operate at the scale they were prepared for.
In a nutshell, what are the most important projects that you are working on presently?
We are kicking off the biggest real estate project in Poland, which requires a lot of preparation including groundwork communication with authorities. Warsaw, Krakow, Poznań and Gdansk are the geographies that we cover with this particular project and other few smaller ones. So far things are going well, but, as I already mentioned, the progress is not up to our normal speed.
What can you tell us about the Polish customer profile, what do people here expect to get in return when investing in a residence?
The buyer’s profile remained unchanged and we are essentially dealing with two types: those who are investing their hard-earned money in residential real estate and others who want to change their living circumstances. The buying appetite suffered a setback in the second quarter of 2020 as people did not know which way to go. It gradually picked up at the same time as the disease stopped being an absolute unknown.
We don't know how fast the economies will recover, or what consequences the European governments’ internal spending will eventually have. The psychological factor I mentioned at the beginning has a key role to play as well. My best bet is we will have ups and downs in sales speed and prices. However, I do not foresee a significant negative impact on the real estate market, at least not in Poland.
In Romania, most developers focus on the capital city of Bucharest, whereas in Poland investments are more spread out throughout the country. What are the hot spots presently and what makes those places good for development?
I already named a few of them (Warsaw, Krakow, Poznań, Gdansk), they are equal in terms of opportunities. People move to the biggest cities for jobs and highly ranked schools, so it is normal for the demand to concentrate there. What I appreciate about my country is that big municipalities invest a lot of effort and money to turn those cities and their suburbs into better places to live. This adds to the fact that people become increasingly affluent, which creates demand for new residential real estate products as well as upgrading the existing ones.
Thinking about the coming two-three years, what priorities is Cordia pursuing with priority in Poland?
We will try to grow organically, keep the teams intact and look after the projects that we already have on the pipeline while looking for new opportunities. I believe we are a mature market, offering the same quality if not better opportunities than any other country in Europe.
Cordia is one of the largest property development and investment groups in the residential market in Central and Eastern Europe. It is a strong and well known brand present in the medium and medium-high sales market sector in Hungary, Poland and Romania. Its two pilot projects in Spain are currently under way. In 2020 Cordia purchased the British property development company Blackswan Property, based in Birmingham, and an 15.9 % share in Argo Properties, a Danish company with established presence in the German residential and revitalization markets. In Poland, Cordia became the owner of the development company Polnord. All of these transactions were partly financed with funds raised from a bond issue carried out under the Bond Funding for Growth Scheme, a programme launched by the Hungarian National Bank. Cordia Group has 20 years of experience and is a proud winner of many international awards, including: "ULI Global Awards for Excellence" awarded by ULI, "Best Mixed Use Project in Europe" International Property Awards, Bloomberg TV, The New York Times, and "Best Purpose Built Project Worldwide" awarded by International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI).
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