An interview with Trevor Gabriel
by Kay Hare
Monaco Villas was the original and remains the only British-owned, British-managed real estate agency in Monaco. It is headed up by Trevor Gabriel, who has been a resident of the Principality for well over 27 years. He arrived in 1990 as Finance Director of a well-known Yacht Brokerage firm here and after assisting in its quantum leap into the big time in the early years, decided he preferred to run a smaller, more personal and dedicated business. The Yacht Brokerage business had become rather size- important and smaller agencies were at that time not flavour-of-the-month, so he looked around for other opportunities, which is where real estate beckoned. “When I decided it was an option, I rang 40 agencies in France one morning and 40 in Monaco in the afternoon; it wasn’t a Sunday or a National holiday, but the responses I got were so abysmal that it might as well have been! I decided there and then that there was room for a better brokerage”. After several years managing a joint-venture agency in Monaco, he decided to go it alone and bought an existing but dormant agency and got to work, first re-naming it Monaco Villas and then creating an agency with a difference… it knew what the word service meant.
We met Trevor in his agency recently and this is the conversation that ensued.
Please tell us a bit about Monaco Villas
Well, I acquired the agency in 2005. It was previously known by another name, having been set up many years before. It had a well-positioned shop-front, just off Blvd des Moulins, the main boutique shopping street in the heart of Monte Carlo. We still operate from there. The agency comprises two brokers who deal with rentals and sales, Belgin, who has been with us since inception and Maya, who joined over 2 years ago, and Clarisse, who runs our property management division. As implied, we operate in the rental and sales sectors as well as management, and we can and do act as intermediaries in France and Monaco. Between us, we speak French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Latvian, Danish and Turkish, which should make the many different nationalities of clients we deal with feel relaxed. We primarily deal with residential properties, but we also can deal with commercial buildings and office space, not to mention restaurants, hotels etc…
What differentiates Monaco Villas from the other 129 (Yes, 129!) agencies in Monaco?
We know how to answer the phone! I joke because it’s true that most other agencies do a better job in this regard than before. Where we differ in terms of mantra and corporate culture, is that we don’t want to grow simply for the sake of it… we just want to get even better at what we do. After all, a personal recommendation from a satisfied client is worth 100 ads, and even more. There is intense competition from the multitude of other agencies in Monaco as you can imagine, so it is essential for us to maintain our standards and go the extra mile in terms of ASS (which also stands for After Sales Service!!). Combine this with our traditional ability to introduce various service sector operators to newcomers to Monaco and the Cote d’Azur, and we believe this leads to client loyalty and even friendship a lot of the time. Another important facet of our philosophy is that other agencies don’t feel threatened because of our perceived unwillingness to grow, which culminates in excellent relationships being maintained with them This often-overlooked fact is really important because our clients can benefit from time to time by being offered properties which are on restricted lists, only available to one agency. This can avoid a buyer doing the donkey work of contacting the many individual agencies him or herself in the vague hope that they might have something exceptional to offer. We also have very good relationships with a number of banks and mortgage brokers, insurance companies, renovation companies, artisans of every sort and recruitment agencies to mention a few, all of which enable us to be of assistance and service to our clients.
How is the market and what are your thoughts on values in the future?
We need to be clear about which market. There is France and there is Monaco. Then, in this secondary market, there is the rental side and there is the purchase/sale side. Looking briefly at France, where we concentrate on secondary residences for Monaco residents and residents of countries other than France. This market (compared with the market for French nationals or residents of France, where the market has been reasonably stable) has been very difficult in the past 3 years. Unpredictable tax rules and changes to them have hampered activity. More recently, the exchange rate of the pound has done little to improve matters for UK-based potential buyers. As far as Monaco is concerned, the rental market is active, with larger apartments very much in demand, which in itself is a result of demographic changes, where more and more families are immigrating, and for those already here, the children are growing. The recently extended International School (ISM) has responded to this change. On the sales side, things have been a little slower but as ever in Monaco, asking prices remain high and “good deals” are as rare as ever. As mentioned earlier, the extremely competitive, not to say combative, nature of the real estate brokerage business here makes it even more critical to maintain very high standards of service both pro-active and reactive. As for values and their trends, it will depend a little on the various new-builds currently under construction. They are generally speaking for Monegasques and long-standing expatriate residents, and only for rent. Some of the more sumptuous new constructions are also only for rent. This seems to indicate that there may well be a continuing shortage of big apartments for sale, which has been a fact in the recent past. In these circumstances, values tend to rise, and I see no reason why this shouldn’t be the case. However, it’s true to say, that “real” values may take time to reach certain properties’ asking prices!
Tell us a little about the process of purchasing in Monaco and France
The procedure in both countries is similar, with conveyancing (ie the actual transfer of ownership and title deeds) being centred around a Notary who completes the notarized “Acte de Vente”. The build-up to this conclusion goes like this: once a property is identified and an offer made, negotiations tend to ensue and conditions are agreed between seller and buyer. This is witnessed by the buyer’s written offer being counter-signed by the seller. Then the parties go to their individual notaries (sometimes they may agree to use just one) who summarises the conditions in a “Compromis de Vente” and signed by both parties. This is equivalent to an exchange of contracts in the UK system and both parties are committed to the transaction (except that in France only, the buyer has 8 days from signature date to pull out). At this stage, a deposit of usually 10% of the purchase price is lodged by the buyer with his notary. After due diligence, which in France can take up to 3 months, but in Monaco can be achieved in 3 days at a push, assuming all pre-conditions have either been satisfied or foregone, it is time to sign the Acte de Vente and the transaction completes, with the balance of the purchase price being paid as well as transaction costs, notably notary fees and real estate agency fees being settled, normally via the notary. The notary’s fee is 6% in Monaco and nearer 7.5% in France (neither subject to TVA) and split between the notaries when there is more than one. Agency fees in France (usually 5% + TVA) are normally settled by the seller (there can be exceptions) and in Monaco, the seller pays a commission as per the agency’s mandate and the buyer also pays, the normal rate is 3% + TVA. The process is simple
That’s incredibly useful. I assume if a reader has any further questions he or she can contact you either by phone or email?
Absolutely. The agency is open from 9.00 through to 18.00 each weekday. We are also available outside those hours and at weekends by appointment. Clarisse, who runs our property management department, can respond to queries on this function (including preparing quotes for those needing this service) and Belgin, Maya or I am absolutely available to answer any rental/sales/purchase questions you may have. All contact details are below, and we will do our level best to assist in answering questions and, eventually, in finding the ideal property for all who make contact. Thank you for giving me the opportunity of presenting our case to your readers.
For more information :
2, avenue Saint Laurent 98000 Monaco
Fax. : +377 97 70 10 11
Inspiring international lifestyles based on the French Riviera