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Agents of the Month: João Pagani Toscano from Livingroup International Real Estate and Gustavo Dias from CRS (Cruz, Roque, Semião) Law Firm.
By Juwai, 15 June 2020
João Pagani Toscano is CEO of Livingroup International Real Estate whilst Gustavo Diaz is a lawyer who works for CRS. Both are based in Portugal.
Livingroup is a Portuguese holding company with international presence. It has a diversified portfolio including real estate development, tourism and co-working spaces. Since its inception in 2012, Livingroup has expanded its activities to develop several benchmark projects and put the company at the forefront of real estate investing. Livingroup invests and manages more than 80 million Euros on behalf of high equity investors, accounting for about 50,000 sqm of construction area.
Cruz, Roque, Semião (CRS) is a full-service law firm established in Portugal. It is focused on providing exclusive services to its clients, based on the client legal privilege which protects the confidentiality of communications made between a lawyer and his or her client. CRS lawyers specialise in contract law and litigation as well as corporate law. CRS provides cross-sector legal support to individuals and corporate bodies, namely SMEs, multinationals, foundations, associations and corporate groups.
Marketing to Chinese cross-border buyers
João: Livingroup specialises in international markets. International investors have many different requirements. Some of our investors look for pure investments in real estate while others want more. For example, Chinese buyers are usually looking to obtain a golden visa via real estate investments.
We have been present in China since 2011 and we work with all types of Chinese investors. We have clients from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing and Hong Kong.
We only work with clients through referrals. It is easy to establish a good network in China. If you deal with one client and he is satisfied, he will introduce you to his network of friends. For example, in Sichuan province like Chongqing and Chengdu, Livingroup only works with referrals. Clients who have bought from us tend to refer us to other people.
Gustavo: Chinese, I feel, are the biggest investors in Portugal. I have been working as a lawyer since 2015 with clients from all over the world, but the clients I worked with the most are from Asia, especially from China. More recently, we have been working with a lot of clients from Hong Kong. We received 40 to 50 clients in the past three to four months. I would say a lot of buyers from Hong Kong have been interested in Portugal since September 2019 due to the political unrest there.
CRS has a lot of experience dealing with Chinese buyers. China is still the top country in terms of golden visa applications. Our knowledge about the legal system enables us to provide everything needed by any clients from Asia, especially from China and Hong Kong.
Most popular time for Chinese buyers to buy in Portugal
João: I would say during the summertime when it is school holidays and Chinese New Year. These periods are important for Livingroup. Chinese New Year is an especially busy time for us because we will be receiving the clients who bought already and are visiting or coming to renew their golden visas. They also tend to bring along friends and family. As such, we get to sell to new clients during this time.
Most frequently asked questions from Chinese buyers
João: Well, from my end, most people ask about the credibility of our company, investment prices and conditions in Portugal. They will only buy when they feel confident about us. Ninety per cent of our clients are Chinese and they are repeat customers. We have a good track record and a good reputation in the market. They can also see our prices online, so they feel very confident dealing with us.
Gustavo: From a legal perspective, the main question that is often asked is normally related to family and their eligibility to immigrate to Portugal. For example: “Can I bring my son because he's already 20 years old or can I bring my father since he is 65? Are there any other requirements?”
They also want to know how the process goes from obtaining a golden visa to gaining citizenship. Most times, they have five to six initial questions which we reply to, then they will have more questions as the discussion continues. I think it is crucial for the client to be fully aware and informed of what he is doing because it is a big investment. From a legal, personal and business perspective, it is essential for them to know as much as possible. Our job is to make sure they can get the tools they need to facilitate their goals.
Obstacles when working with Chinese buyers
João: Yes, I would say the exact same thing. We have to have a translator in place. In terms of culture, I think Portugal and Asia are very similar. We like to do business at the table. We are proud of our culture, our food and wine. Portuguese people are very hospitable. So, Chinese clients feel very comfortable with us. In Portugal, they feel welcome and they like to bring their friends along when they return.
When we go to China, they reciprocate with the same kind of hospitality. Most of the time when I go to China, I do not go to do business; I would go to visit my clients who are more like my friends now. They then introduce me to their other friends. We have dinner and lunch together. In the end, it is like a trade between cultures, food and hospitality. It is a very good experience and a nice way to do business.
Advice for those who want to work with Chinese buyers
João: It is important to understand cultural differences. Most Chinese buyers have never been to Portugal or Europe before, so sometimes they do not understand the culture here. So, when they arrive after a long flight and suffering from jet lag, it is important that everything is prepared upon arrival to make them as comfortable as possible.
When we talk about Chinese investors, we talk about clients who all have different needs. You cannot abandon the client after making one sale with them. The client needs to be assisted throughout especially during the period when they are processing their golden visas.
When they come to Portugal, we are very detailed in our service. I have clients from all over the world and when they can contact me, they want to stay with me, they want to play golf with me, they want to hang out with me, they want to have lunch and dinner with me, and I always make it a point to be available for them. I think Chinese investors really appreciate this kind of service. We are not just here just to sell them something, but we are here to build a relationship.
Gustavo: I agree there are there are a lot of cultural differences and similarities, so it is important to understand cultural disparities. I believe the best advice is to adapt to each client and serve their needs within reason.
João: We found out about Juwai through immigration and real estate agencies. We never work with intermediaries, only directly with agencies. So far, it is our first time participating in a Juwai Live! Seminar. We are very happy with the way Juwai managed the event. I look forward to participating in the next physical Juwai roadshow in September and working with Juwai again. I am very happy with the service that Juwai provided us.
Gustavo: From our end, it is the same. It is our first time too but so far, from what we have experienced at the Juwai Live! seminar and all the support Juwai gave us to ensure everything goes smoothly, we are very pleased. We realised we are working with a company that shares the same values and way of working as us. This is why it worked out perfectly for every party involved. We really hope to continue working with Juwai.
It would also be good to have one-on-one meeting with clients. A lot of time, clients are unable to come to Portugal to meet up with lawyers and see the project. It is not very realistic to conduct everything from a distance, or just by email. But with good technology, we could still meet “face to face”. I think this kind of live seminar helps people to still feel engaged and connected. It creates a sense of proximity. Live seminars could be something we use more and more often nowadays. It could help with communication and relationships between all parties.
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