JLL Portugal came into being in 1997 and specializes in investment solutions, real estate management, consulting and valuations in office, retail, and residential markets.
Since JLL is deeply rooted in the Portuguese market, can you give us a glimpse into how things evolved over the span of the past ten years?
JLL grew very much alongside the market, which used to be about EUR 1.5 billion six years ago and now is at EUR 2 billion (a decrease compared to 2019). Portugal was always an attractive destination for people all over the world, but it was not as popular once as it is today. The financial crisis crippled the real estate market, and the structural problems could be solved only with the help of the International Monetary Fund.
All the buildings in the center of Lisbon were old and decaying because the rent was so low that owners didn’t make enough profit to be able to rehabilitate them. This vicious cycle ended only when the government made a push to change the rental law in favor of owners. As a result, starting with 2013, the market became much more appealing for international investors and Portugal stated to become a hot spot on the real estate map. Moreover, the Golden Visa and NHR programs are notable initiatives that brought to Portugal both institutional and individual capital from all over the globe.
What do you believe will be the impact of the recently imposed limitations on the Golden Visa program?
Fortunately, Golden Visas remain relevant even on the coast because investors can still buy commercial real estate properties, so shops or office floors should make good candidates. In 2021, Portugal sold more than 190,000 apartments, out of which about 1,000 through the Golden Visa program - only a residual margin, as it can be observed. Of course, the structural change you mentioned will have an impact, but it will not be as devastating as some may fear.
Foreign capital represented 80% of the total investment in 2021, how was it segmented among different geographies and investor types?
It's true that between 80% to 90% of Portugal’s total investment in the property market comes from international sources. There are some significant local investors, however they don't have the capacity to absorb EUR 2 billion of transactions. The big foreign players present here are more or less the same as in Madrid, London or New York. The countries that have a solid culture of real estate investment (the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, the United States, etc.) are complemented by Asian investment, but at a smaller scale. At JLL, we sell residential properties to 50 different nationalities and half of our transactions are with foreign clients, ranging from New Zealand to Chile.
Residential had a record year, even so the demand continues to be higher than the offer, what drives this high appetite?
The hunger for residential properties derives from the fact that for ten years there were no new products on the market. The pandemic forced people to spend more time indoors and they realized just how important it is to have a modern and comfortable home. In Portugal, the middle class residential category is missing because it's difficult to develop such units due to construction prices increasing and licensing processes being extremely slow. Investors have seen a notable demand for high-end products because the market evolved and there is a large enough client pool able to pay for these premium units. We believe attention should now be turned towards the middle class, through better public private collaboration.
Why do you believe so many international companies are choosing Portugal as a destination for their new offices?
More and more companies are concerned with the quality of life of their employees and Portugal excels in this area. The labor cost is competitive, the workforce is highly skilled, and the lifestyle is extremely easygoing.
Fortunately, more and more projects are coming to Lisbon market, 610,000 square meters of office buildings being built in the near future, from which approximately 42% are already in construction phase.
In total we already have under construction 361.500 m2 in Lisbon and Oporto. Each time a premium product is out, it is immediately purchased, so demand is always pouring in – which is a strong incentive for developers. Sustainability is an extremely important topic, as companies across the board are increasingly interested in ESG evaluations and certificates.
What are you trying to achieve with priority in the next two to three years at JLL?
The main goal is to provide our clients with digital solutions that can help them make better decisions about their assets in a record time. For example: sophisticated, but very easily accessible data about the market; a software that provides instant information about the value of a certain portfolio; and architecture & design programs that allow them to adjust all the parameters of a building.
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