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The Door To the Big Wide World

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April 30, 2013

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In “Porta Mallorquina”, self-made man Joachim Semrau controls one of the most successful franchises in the local real estate business.

By Andreas John

With more than half a dozen locations across the island, and over 2,000 real estate opportunities in the portfolio, the company “Porta Mallorquina” is a big player on the Mallorcan property market. Behind the franchise company and its parent organization, “Porta Mondial” and its global offshoots, there is a genuine self-made man: Joachim Semrau. With his unconditional faith in the Internet as a global marketplace, he revolutionized tourism business in Germany in the ’80s. Reason enough to get a glimpse behind the scenes of the success forged by Joachim Semrau and his “Porta Mallorquina”.

The leap from tourism to real estate business worked for you. Was it intended?
I’ve always been a career-changer. Everything I´d ever touched in business was completely new for me. After the construction and the subsequent sale of my first online booking portal, the “Flugbörse” (“flight market”) – and the subsequent founding of the travel portal “travel24.com” I was bored. I was sitting in Mallorca like an early retiree. Eventually, I took a look at the local real estate market. And then I came up with the idea to develop an optimized franchise distribution system.

As with flight and travel shops, you bet 100 per cent on the Internet. Why?
Modern real estate business mainly happens on the Internet. In the past, people read the newspaper in order to get an overview of the range. But that’s as passé as the misconception that you can sell homes or properties in a shop or office. Customers will be netted on the Internet, often thousands of miles from the property.

Real estate agents have their own simple homepage. Where is the advantage?
Almost all of these websites are simply clapped together. They don´t reach the customer – or do so only partially. For success through the Internet as a broker, you need three things: First, a winning domain. For all relevant keywords in Google, it has always to be listed first. Second, you need a good “visibility”, i.e. the handling must be easy and attractive. And third, the content. Photos and descriptions of the objects need to be absolutely top quality. If the customer finally decides on a house, he needs immediate access to advice. He is full of emotions. If he cannot reach anybody on the phone at that moment, much is lost.

“Porta Mallorquina” is more an internet company than a property brokerage?
We are a service-provider. We simply offer the perfect franchise sales system for real estate agents on the island.

How does this work?
We maintain an in-house service centre in the industrial area of Son Bugadelles in Santa Ponsa, with over 40 employees. No other company makes such an effort. The headquarters staff members administer the websites for all franchisees, providing the perfect optimization in search engines. They adapt and maintain the offer, carrying out translations in three or four languages. The centre staff commission professional photographers to take pictures of the properties. And they hire the sales staff, through ads published in daily newspapers or recruiters. We answer phone calls and emails seven days a week until 10 p.m. every night, checking the authenticity of customers, contacting them, and passing them on to the eligible franchisees.

You founded “Porta Mallorquina” in 2005. How has the Mallorcan property market been changing since then?
In my opinion there are two different markets: the holiday home real estate market and the local real estate market. Both must be strictly separated. Thus, there are townhouses or apartments in the villages on the edge of highways, which are largely uninteresting for foreign property buyers. These properties are extremely affected by the current economic crisis. It looks different from the finca market. Mallorca is a holiday island and benefits from the good flight connections. The varied locations on the coasts or in the island’s interior are still as attractive as ever.

No reason to moan, though, for real estate agents on the island?
The crisis is a challenge for the construction industry. The market has been newly designed. Many small traders cannot hold out and disappear. “Porta Mallorquina” has doubled its sales from 2010 to 2011, while the prices of holiday homes are still going down. Generally, business is good, because in times of crisis there are always people who want to strike a bargain. And others who need to sell.

It sounds simple.
But it is not. Mallorca is probably the most chaotic real estate market in the world. There are no rules, no professional training in the industry, and no exclusive contracts for agents. And there are many bad apples.

You have announced that you’ll sell the company once it has been successfully established. Will you then finally retire?
I suppose not. I always find new business ideas teasing me. Especially when others say “That will not do!” then I go for it.


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