The downturn in the global property market is evident in many countries and is even being felt in the luxury real estate sector of the French Riviera. This is the view of Peter Ilovský, a president of Sotheby’s Côte d’Azur, part of the Sotheby’s International Realty network which was founded in 1976.
Peter, who has been involved in the French Riviera property market for over 20 years, explains that the exceptional performance of the market during past years made a downturn this year inevitable. But he is philosophical about the situation. Comparing business with cycling he says it is the uphill stages that are most challenging – and Sotheby’s is well placed to face these challenges due to the exceptional service it provides.
The nature of the French Riviera market means that it is very attractive to investors of many nationalities and, naturally, this includes those from the USA and Russia drawn to the opulent Mediterranean lifestyle.
“The USA has a connection to France through Princess Grace and Estée Lauder as well as great authors such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald,” Peter says. In the same way he believes that there is a cultural connection with Russia as both Chekov and Dostoevsky wrote about the Côte d’Azur.
Yet Peter’s experience of dealing with Chinese investors on the Riviera has proved problematic to date. “We had some Chinese clients interested in buying properties, but the deal was never closed. The cultural divide is so huge, as well as the time difference, and it was impossible to close the deal,” he explained.
There are a number of agencies active in luxury property market on the French Riviera, but Sotheby’s has the unique advantage of being part of an established international operation, which he describes as like being part of a family.
Their listings begin at the 500,000 euro mark, but the majority of apartments are expected to reach between 1-2 million euros. Houses in the region are generally priced between 2-5 million euros. When it comes to marketing, Sotheby’s adopts a bespoke strategy for each property, largely targeting Anglo-Saxon buyers. However, Sotheby’s is opposed to using MLS as the privacy of their clients is paramount to the agency. Indeed some properties are sold off market.
When asked what has changed in the Riviera market over the course of his career, Peter is adamant that conducting business is a lot more complex than when he first got involved in real estate, citing added bureaucracy as the principle cause for this. “Years ago it was enough to talk with one banker and get all the necessary documents approved. Now you need approval from 6 or 7 people, as nobody wants to take responsibility,” he says.
Finally, asked for his predictions for the market going forward, Peter is blunt in his response. “Many agencies will have a hard time to survive in the future,” he predicts. “Many of the agencies are not service minded and they don’t do their job properly.”
But he remains upbeat about the future for Sotheby’s Côte d’Azur and his own prospects, saying that providing a good service is the key to success. Crucially his knowledge of the local market, and the trust he has gained from clients over many years, enables him to provide a first class service.