Interview: Sean Almeida (Vestor.Estate CEO)
One of the first criteria for a company you are going to trust your investment with is its trustworthiness. There are many ways to check this, like reading reviews, checking actual performance numbers, etc. But if you want to understand the company’s approach, values, and vision, you should get to know the head of this company, who is the personification of these things.
That’s why the Vestor.Estate Marketing team couldn’t resist catching up Sean Almeida – founder and CEO of Vestor.Estate – for a quick interview.
Sean is an entrepreneur, raised in Boston, and he fell in love with Ukrainian historical architecture his eight years of experience in real estate here and six years of experience as the head of a real estate agency.
Even though Vestor runs business remotely now, due to the quarantine, Sean politely agreed to meet Olga – Marketing manager, to talk about his career in real estate, memories of the past, and plans for the future.
Olga: So, tell us, how long have you been in Ukraine now?
Sean: My first visit to Ukraine was December 2007, but I moved here permanently in March 2012.
O: As far as I understand, the permanent move was after you decided to work in real estate. What prompted you to choose this sphere?
Sean: I was on a visit from Moscow, where I was working in an investment bank in 2011, and met someone doing real estate. I couldn’t believe how unregulated and undeveloped the market was, so I decided I wanted to be a part of making the market more developed.
O: If it’s no secret, why business in Ukraine specifically?
Sean: I saw an opportunity as Ukraine is a country with great potential but not as developed as other places in Eastern Europe.
O: Yes, Ukraine gives many opportunities for those who are ready to use them. And what do you think – did your previous work experience affected your career in real estate? (Editor’s note: Sean has a Master degree in international relations got at Columbia University; before moving to Kyiv, he worked for a big investment bank in Moscow).
Sean: Well, both my previous work and education have really helped me, in many ways. We have clients from all over the world, so having experience with any cultures is helpful in terms of reaching a common understanding with the clients. Also, we have a lot of very sophisticated clients so being able to discuss the political situation, macroeconomic issues, financial numbers, etc, are all very important in attracting and retaining such amazing clients.
O: Yes, Ukraine gives many opportunities for those who are ready to use them. And what do you think – did your previous work experience affect your career in real estate? (Editor’s note: Sean has a Master’s degree in international relations from Columbia University; before moving to Kyiv, he worked for a big investment bank in Moscow).
Sean: Well, both my previous work and education have really helped me, in many ways. We have clients from all over the world, so having experience with many cultures is helpful in terms of reaching a common understanding with the clients. Also, we have a lot of very sophisticated clients so being able to discuss the political situation, macroeconomic issues, financial numbers, etc, are all very important in attracting and retaining such amazing clients.
O: Speaking about international clients, I can’t but mention the current situation with the pandemic that leads to the economic crisis in Ukraine and the world. But you’ve decided to start your own company in 2014 in Ukraine, which was another time of crisis. How was it?
Sean: Well, it was a horrible time for Ukraine, as it was under attack by neighboring Russia and was also undergoing domestic political turmoil and massive economic shocks. However, even in times of crisis, I believed, and still believe, in the story of Ukraine and Kyiv, especially the real estate story. And that is why I decided to put all my time and efforts into developing the business that has become Vestor.Estate.
O: That’s a word for it! Moreover, the fact that you’ve passed through previous crises and were able to build and develop your business to the current level, makes us believe we can go through this one as well.
But what has changed during these five years on the market, with regards to your business and your vision?
Sean: I think the market itself has not changed much, as it is still primitive and lacking the credit needed to really make it soar. But the business has really come to match the vision I had. My goal was to make it possible for a foreign investor, assuming they have the funds and trust in us, to literally make a POA and wire the money, and we could handle the rest. That means we would buy the property in the buyer’s name, renovate as needed, find a tenant, manage the property, collect the rent, and send the investor the profit. In the US, this is completely normal, but it took a long time to build the team and the processes that allow us to be able to do that here in Kyiv.
O: And now you have a well-cooperated team, providing a full range of services: sales, renovation, rentals, and management – it’s not every agency who does it here. No one does it in Kyiv the way you do. You’ve reached a certain level. Aren’t you afraid that opportunities for development and growth are going to end soon?
Sean: Before the coronavirus, I would have said that the amazing deals we have seen over the last few years would probably be ending towards the end of this year, but now it’s not clear. But in general, I think that we will continue to see these hot deals until mortgages are available again on the market, which will still likely be the case sometime in 2021.
O: So have we one year only to take all the market advantages until the mortgage practice comes?
Sean: Actually, the availability of mortgages opens up another whole set of opportunities, so really I think the Kyiv real estate market will continue to offer excellent advantages over more developed markets for years to come.
O: Where there’s a will there’s a way. Looking at these years in real estate, getting ready for the changes, how do you see your company in 5 years from now?
Sean: I think we will be doing the same thing we are doing now but on a much larger scale. Kyiv would be the 3rd biggest city in America if it were located there, and that’s why we see massive growth as both logical and possible.
O: Oh, we all can’t wait to see the transformation of Kyiv into what business people foresee. Last question for you – what would be your advice to those interested in investments in real estate?
Be careful, and learn about all the nuances before you decide to buy something. This is especially the case if you are looking to buy in the pre-construction phase of new builds.
And our advice to you is to keep in mind: while others are looking at the opportunities lost in the crisis, the leaders find the new ones to get maximum profits.