In our Agency Focus this month we talk to Sean Woolley, the Founder & Director of Cloud Nine Spain who has more than 20 years experience in helping clients buy and sell properties. In addition to running his busy agency, Sean is the author of “From The Ground Up – The Insider’s Guide to Buying Spanish Property”.
Having been described as ‘The Spanish Property Doctor’ due to his long-running success in providing advice and solutions on the Spanish property market, Sean Woolley’s reputation clearly precedes him. Sean and the team at Cloud Nine Spain provide an excellent, on the ball, end-to-end service in real estate whether selling or buying. Sean’s specialist subject being an in-depth innate knowledge of the Spanish property market which leaves any client in the very best hands.
What initiated your move to Marbella and did you work in real estate prior to moving here?
I moved here from the UK with my husband in 2001 with the aim of semi-retiring in the sun after a career as a lawyer and management consultant. After six months I realised I had been a little optimistic – I had far too much time on my hands…and not enough money (!), so I got a job in real estate and used that opportunity as a training ground to set up my own business.
How has COVID-19 changed the house hunting experience in Spain?
Firstly, after spending so much time locked up at home with their laptops, clients are now very well-researched. We have been using the last twelve to fifteen months to provide a much more detailed pre-visit property-finding service, which now routinely includes video viewings, virtual tours, etc. It means that when the client is eventually in a position to make a trip to Spain, they are effectively at the second viewing stage, meaning they are far further along the purchasing journey. In fact, 50% of our property sales in the last twelve months have been transacted ‘virtually’, without the buyer physically seeing the property. This is an amazing statistic, but I think it reflects the fact that people generally want to get on with their lives and fulfil their dreams.
What are your predictions for 2021-22 regarding sales in this area?
We expect a very strong second half of 2021 once travel restrictions are lifted. We still have a large volume of pent-up demand that needs to be satisfied, especially from the UK, which has been the one area that has been a little quiet so far this year for us. In fact, we have been involved with transactions with buyers from eighteen different nations so far this year……but the UK is not on the list. When you consider that UK buyers traditionally account for 30% of overseas buyers in the area, we have a lot of catching up to do!
In addition, the ‘COVID effect’ is starting to be seen, especially at the top end of the market, with many people now choosing to settle permanently in Spain and trading up from smaller holiday homes to properties that offer more space and home-working opportunities. I don’t see this trend ending any time soon.
Are you planning on writing any more books on the property market?
Yes, I am! I need to write a post-pandemic update of ‘From The Ground Up’, to reflect what has actually happened in the last twelve months, and how robust the property market has remained. I also want to write a ‘warts and all’ guide to the Costa del Sol. Nowhere is perfect, and I feel that people need to see the Costa from all angles. It won´t be a negative book because I absolutely LOVE living here, so it will include lots of recommendations for leisure, family and entertainment, but it will also have a searingly honest perspective as well. It should be a fun read!
What would you say are the key elements to a successful real estate agency in this region of Spain?
I think it depends on whether you view yourself as a property listing agency or a property finder agency. We have a multi-listing system here, which is very different to many primary home markets in European countries, and it’s very difficult to be an expert in both areas. For listing agents, the quality of stock is all important. After all, what’s the point in having two-hundred listings if nobody wants to buy them? For property finders, it’s all about lead generation and nurturing, and this is an ever-changing area in which agents need to be on top of their game in a multitude of areas – online advertising, lead handling, readiness of product information, and in what format (and how speedily) this is communicated to clients etc.
Do you think living in the countryside is becoming a more sought-after lifestyle, or are people still generally leaning towards the coast?
I think there is a flight to ‘space’, triggered by the issues we have been living with during the pandemic. We are valuing space much more right now, although whether this is a long-term trend is up for debate. I think towns and cities will become more popular again once we are allowed to live our lives in a more sociable way. But, for sure areas that we once considered ‘out of the way’ have regained their popularity in the last twelve months.
Your 4th product pillar you mention in your recent Facebook video revolves around your selection of developable plots for clients which you also then design and create a home on. Can you tell us a little more about how this works?
We recently teamed up with a family firm of German architects to present ‘The Astonishing Collection’, which offers a series of construction methodologies that address what we feel are the three key issues of our time – saving money, saving time and saving the environment. We’ve found that buyers don’t want to wait for years for their dream home, especially now that we all have experience of how long even twelve months feels like! So we offer alternative construction formats such as building with recycled shipping containers and pre-fabricated building blocks. These are much more eco-friendly solutions, and they also address the issues of cost and time. The 4th product pillar is a handful of plots that we have selected as being well-located, well-priced and suitable for home building completion within nine to twelve months.
Can you outline the other three product pillars for us?
In the Astonishing Collection we offer ECO-Build designs, which are constructed entirely from recycled shipping containers, our HYBRID-Build designs which incorporate a more traditional ground floor structure, combined with an upper level built with containers, and then our REGULAR-build designs which are constructed using a quick-build format knows as Isotex, which uses pre-fabricated building blocks in place of traditional block and brick.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Keeping all the plates spinning! Managing our staff, managing our clients, keeping abreast of all the latest properties and developments, ensuring we are staying ahead of the market with the use of videos, online marketing etc….and pursuing new business opportunities that can help us to maintain our relevance in the market. My head is always full of ideas, excitement, problems. Sometimes, I wish I could switch it off for a while!
What do you think of BRIGHT’s new project, Vista Lago Residences, and it’s location in Real de la Quinta?
It´s a stunning project, probably the one of its type that evokes most comments and enquiries from our clients. The views are sensational, the surrounding resort will offer a world-class infrastructure and lots of security and privacy, and of course the design and finish of the villas is exceptional. It’s truly a very special place.