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Real Estate Insights by TOTE SER

TOTE SER decided to create this series so you can get to know us a bit better. Here, we’ll touch on all things Real Estate – from investment, architecture, trends and our opinion about the latest news.

We’ll also be having several real estate personalities join us, providing highly entertaining content that will for sure enrich your market expertise.

Below you can listen on the Spotify's player:

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Or if you would prefer, you can read the transcription:

Episode 02: A Different Approach in Architecture

Miguel Real: Hi there, my name’s Miguel Real. This is the second TOTE SER podcast. I’d like to start off by thanking you all for your support on the first podcast, it was truly spectacular, the first one was more to talk about what we do, what our areas of operation are and this one will be more focused on architecture. And with me today, I have the pleasure of having Architect CEO Hélder Pereira Coelho and Architect Miguel Meira. It’s pleasure being here with you. How are you?

Helder Pereira Coelho: All good!

Miguel Meira: Everything’s well!

Helder Pereira Coelho: Thank you for the invitation.

Miguel Real: It’s a wonderful day today. We’re in the meetings room which simply magnificent, and it makes perfect sense since we’ll be talking about architecture today. I’d like to begin this podcast by doing a brief introduction to our followers. How did your journey in architecture begin, where did it start and what led you to do this?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Well for me, for starters, beyond architecture, I have a second passion that interconnects with the other, which is the psychological part and personal development. They’re two big interests that I have. They’re things that I’ve always investigated a lot about, always studied, and therefore the focus is always around the wellbeing of the human being, it’s about making, or at least contributing the most so that the person feels happy, realized, so they can really have the feeling of status. In a way so that architecture can provide them with a higher status and that’s always the main focus, the wellbeing of each and every one of us. I always see architecture as if I was imagining myself, me and my partner, we always imagine ourselves living in that space and as so, we do things as if we really had to live there. Everything is born from there and things just start happening, and I want those spaces to be able to bring an added-value to make us feel better, and sometimes they might even be spaces that appear to not have any potential whatsoever. In fact, it’s particularly that what gives us actual challenges, which result in tremendous satisfaction, it’s a space that doesn’t seem to have, how do you say, like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip, but we try and ask ourselves «If we only had this space in the world to live, how would we live here the best way possible?» and that’s what really excites me, we work a lot in partnership, we project in sync with each other, and I give an input, Miguel gives another and in the end we’re creating a space with totally different perspectives because we’re all different, even though we’re always in sync. Miguel has his point of view; I have mine, but always with the intent of implementing quality of living in that space.

Miguel Real: And what about Architect Miguel Meira, how was your start in architecture?

Miguel Meira: We start by feeling a will to transform something. The sensation that what we see, what surrounds us, could be stronger, more intense in our livelihoods. And it started like that, we began to familiarize ourselves with different things and began feeling that love for the “different” and from then on...

Miguel Real: How did this relationship start? How did you meet? How did this partnership that counts with almost 30 years begin?

Miguel Meira: It started in the historic parts of the city that were in a very bad shape and lacked regeneration input across all those spaces, and that’s where we were able to operate in an up close and personal way. We contributed to the regeneration of the city’s historic areas and based our work on the goal of turning them into highly appellative, comfortable spaces that users would feel well using them. Contrary to what they were before, where people would probably feel less comfortable, with less interesting and attractive situations, we did it through the use of architecture, so, in a way, we managed to touch people through the resulting wellbeing of using those spaces, and that wellbeing then transformed into sophistication. Making people feel different, providing them with status, in the end architecture turns out to be a bit of that, it creates emotions.

Helder Pereira Coelho: When Real asked this question, why did we meet. I had never thought about that, but when we met there was one thing in common that both Miguel and I felt. We can say that in the country, Miguel is one of the architects who understand the most about construction. Usually the architects "run away" from the construction part and always prefer the atelier. Miguel is the opposite, he runs away from the atelier and likes to be in the construction site, he knows what he coordinates, he, if necessary, knows how to do it, while I always had a very empirical perspective of architecture. Deep down, I think this is what connected us, it was the practical part itself, because there are ateliers, often called “of author”, who draw much more and who apply a lot to concurs, and very often, these projects do not advance for a variety of reasons, either because they don't win the concurs or because the work didn't materialize itself, as we all know. We draw less, but what we design is always with a very strong focus on the completion of that project, always projects with a very strong focus same as their experience from the user and so it was this sense that I think united us at the beginning, so both me and Miguel were much more inclined to the practicality component more so than the design and in a way we made a bridge between the atelier and the construction, because we were both in the construction and then we went to the atelier, as we were in the atelier we would then go to the construction, so we were very present at the most practical parts of it. I think that's what connected us...

Miguel Meira: And we’ve been through a lot of challenges...

Miguel Real: But do you think one would be more aesthetically focused while the other could compensate with the practical component, do you think there was this almost subconscious synergy, or were you always on the same page?

Helder Pereira Coelho: I don’t think so...

Miguel Meira: Not quite that, it was an almost intuitive reading of the situations.

Miguel Real: Almost even a chemistry where you’re basically in the same mindset.

Helder Pereira Coelho: It's amazing but it's true, it's something that comes naturally.

Miguel Real: It’s chemistry, pure chemistry...

Helder Pereira Coelho: Maybe it is...

Miguel Meira: Perhaps it’s a way of seeing the transformation that we can create... but then again, this is all very natural, it happens naturally...

Miguel Real: And it’s something that is continuously being perfected overtime, right? It’s also something that...

Helder Pereira Coelho: And then we also have an idea that helped us perfect that. As we work a lot for investors, that is, companies, funds and even individuals who want to invest in real estate, our entire project is aimed towards making it profitable, that is, our investor wants us to do a project that is not very costly, not a lot of investment in the construction, but on the other hand this project has to have a lot of quality and in turn be very sellable or be easily leased. In this sense and with some exceptions for some people in our market and some CEOs who really want special projects, practically all of our projects are basically for those who want to invest in real estate. In this sense, we are always able to get feedback, given the very positive impact that each project has on users, that is, the value of the work in our project and the speed with which we actually manage to sell that property compared to others on the market. So, if we can get our investors to sell more expensively and faster, for example a 2 bedroom apartment in the same area as others with the same typology, this is the feedback that our project really achieved the main goal. And in terms of leases, it's the same thing, if people are willing to pay a little more for the lease and quickly lease it, and it's not just the speed and the price, it's also the feedback we have about the maintenance. We, for example, always know if things degrade quicker or not, what is aesthetically very interesting but doesn't work, because people ruin the walls with luggage, in the case of tourism, we're fine-tuning all of this in the project, that is, any mistakes that we may incur during the entire journey, we will with this feedback, we are always fine-tuning our project and that is why I think that as we have put into practice so much of what we have designed, we are now able to improve our projects. Of course, there are always different situations and as time goes by, we make a different architecture, but, as Real was asking, if it was aesthetic or if it was functionality, let's say it's always one thing with the other...

Miguel Real: It’s a mix... - Helder Pereira Coelho: it’s a mix... - basically, everything’s very balanced, a bit like...

Helder Pereira Coelho: Exactly, I think that things beyond aesthetic, have to be functional, we have to be functional, because otherwise it won't work, otherwise our investor doesn't make money with it, otherwise our investor doesn't sell fast, otherwise he doesn't rent quickly and that way it doesn't give us more projects.

Miguel Real: They’re different goals, different architectures and one thing that I happen to have always been very enthusiastic about your psychology as architects and that I would also like to talk about here was precisely your thought process. Let's imagine, for example, that you are now faced with a neglected building in Lisbon's Baixa, an old historic building of Pombaline architecture, what goes through your mind when you first look at the building, what do you notice, what is your thought process? What should I look for, where will I see...

Helder Pereira Coelho: What can you keep?

Miguel Real: What can you keep...?

Helder Pereira Coelho: What can be kept from the base, the greatest number of elements, characteristics...

Miguel Meira: To not lose the essence of what it was...

Miguel Real: So as not to mischaracterize, that is, to keep the building faithful to its origin, basically...

Helder Pereira Coelho: As much as possible... - Miguel Meira: In order not to mischaracterize the building - the greatest number of elements, no matter how degraded, we'll keep them as much as possible...

Miguel Meira: And our intervention will then have to enhance the grammar of the existing architecture. It's a way of, in a sense, giving value-added input, which will then be recognized in practice when everything is ready.

Miguel Real: And not only that, there are requirements that have to be maintained, isn't it, namely, like I know, the wooden structure in some buildings and this is always something to take for granted, whether you like it or not, you’ve got to leave it. But it's funny that, in your perspective, the preservation of the building's originality is a guarantee, or at least a big contribution to its constant enhancement, isn't it...

Miguel Meira: Naturally yes, because we are talking about historic areas, because so much so that in recent years an extraordinary impact on tourism has been achieved, precisely because of this preservation and this historic enhancement of the old areas. Because if we were to decharacterize all these spaces, naturally, we would not have such a notorious demand for tourism that has basically given a boost to our economy in several areas, whether in tourism or commerce, or in many other things. There is a very large economic cycle around what is our tourism strength, there is a lot of business around it.

Helder Pereira Coelho: But then there’s a very important commitment here, it is not only keeping the historical elements, but reconciling them with the greatest comfort and the best habitability of today, because people cannot compromise their type of life and its modus vivendi by maintaining something that is old, I mean, we always have to manage to reconcile the two things, people cannot be slaves to live in a space that is not so comfortable, not so fluid, isn't it...

Miguel Real: Just because it's old.

Helder Pereira Coelho: Just because it's old, no. There is a very important commitment here, we have to reconcile the two things, both the functionality part and the way it is used. Nowadays, spaces, like everything that remains from the building's origins, are very important things, because today the way of life is completely different and, in fact, there are completely antagonistic situations. For example, in the first projects, in the 1920s or 1930s it was important that the kitchen area was as far away as possible from the social area. What was the purpose? At the time, these were tasks done by people who were salaried, who were employed for that type of task and who could not disturb the house owners or visitors at all, and therefore the kitchens had to be as far away from the social area as possible. Nowadays it's exactly the opposite, for the life we lead where we have less and less time to socialize, and to be with friends, the kitchens are integrated into the living room. Which makes perfect sense today, because people prepare dinner and at the end when they are clearing the table, everything is done in the same space and they enjoy all that, let's say "ceremonial" or all that way of preparing the meal, lunch or dinner itself, to be able to communicate and to be able to really socialize.

Miguel Real: These are the occasions when people are most together at home. They spend all day outside and when they get together, it's mostly in the dining room to have dinner together and the kitchen is one of those places.

Miguel Meira: It's a different experience, we had some very big challenges because we were almost the pioneers in trying to integrate the kitchen experience with the living room in spaces that didn't yet have regulations that would allow it.

Helder Pereira Coelho: It was already something that was also used abroad for example in the United States, it's a usual way of life, but it wasn’t in Portugal yet.

Miguel Meira: We had a very difficult time transforming this problem of the use of spaces, but we were able to, luckily. We also had the support of the regulation, which underwent changes in this regard and we managed to make things flow smoother, the goal is always that, to be able to keep up with the evolution in which architecture naturally has and will always have a very important concept in business, because it’s a way that allows investors to guarantee their investment in a certain way and then also ends up having a social part that is inevitable. So the architecture will dictate, in a way, what our profile is, that's a bit of what it is. We always end up monitoring our client's profile, in order to be able to add even greater value to them, often much more than they could have expected, and this has been a great satisfaction for us and in most of the people who have been talking to us, and we are very satisfied.

Miguel Real: It's a guarantee of success.

Miguel Meira: I think so, we don't have to be modest in actually showing what we have been doing well and even for many areas of the city that were much undervalued, so we contributed well or badly, but we did.

Miguel Real: In the last podcast, we said that what we do on many occasions ends up being almost like a civic mission, because we are giving back to Lisbon, sometimes much of its essence that was lost, often because the buildings end up getting old, end up being neglected and we live in these buildings. This brings me to another topic that I also wanted to discuss with you. We try to keep the originality as much as possible but I also know that we managed to introduce very subtle changes in the aesthetic part where we retrofitted the old buildings. And this trend that, let's be honest, has been put into practice in recent times, perhaps more in the last 10 years, is something that still manages to maintain the originality of the buildings giving them a modern touch and also aims to be quite timeless. What is your opinion on how this work has been done in Lisbon, do you think it has been done well, do you think it’s been exaggerated? What is your input in this area in general?

Miguel Meira: I think there have been many improvements in what has been developed recently. I can even say that certain buildings, and we have already had some examples executed by us, just by choosing an appropriate chromatic form and being able to introduce this reading into the architectural elements, we were able to enhance the building without making any major changes to it.

Miguel Real: Just changing the color basically, that's amazing.

Helder Pereira Coelho: But knowing where the colors are placed.

Miguel Real: Definitely. It mustn’t be an easy thing to do.

Miguel Meira: We have examples, examples in the city.

Helder Pereira Coelho: What Miguel is saying is important because I hadn't even thought about it, but this comes from experience, this is like that story about the “special” mechanic who takes I don't know how much money to know exactly which screw he has to change, in the end the owner of the car says «Hey, you charge all this money just because of a screw?» and he replies, «That's fine, but just to find out which screw it was, that took many years.» And we’re a bit like this, this simple example as Miguel says, which is the chromatic study of a building, comes from our great experience of all these years, we managed to introduce it chromatically, that is, we are already so used to working with great restraint in terms of financial investment that we have to know that with little investment we have to propose a minimal intervention that spends little money but to have results, that is, in extreme cases of wealth management limits that we do from some clients, they don't want to spend any money because what they really want is the return of the building's income and they want to spend the least amount in terms of maintenance. For us, at the very least, we are going to do a chromatic study and we are going to paint the building in such a way that it will give it sobriety, give dignity to the building, and although these things seem very simple, it’s about enlightening elements that as a whole may seem like the intervention was minimal but then the impact is “Wow, what did they do to the building?” and we did very little. So it’s a bit like the story of the mechanic with the screw. We are under so much pressure to do the best work with little money that...

Miguel Real: And sometimes less is more.

Miguel Meira: Exactly!

Miguel Real: Sometimes less is more and simplicity is something that...

Helder Pereira Coelho: And in architecture less is more...

Miguel Real: When you start messing with it too much, rambling on, sometimes it ends up not giving a good result.

Miguel Meira: In the end, we ended up eliminating friction and enhancing the valences of architecture, it's extraordinary. But we really like interventions that often turn out to be peculiarly simple.

Miguel Real: It's just that when it's done, we think "who wouldn’t have thought about this".

HPC: Exactly, "this is very easy".

Miguel Real: But before doing it, no one remembers how, or for that matter, it's not that anyone, but not everyone remembers.

Helder Pereira Coelho: And there are some who do it one way, others do it differently. I'm not saying we’re the only ones that do it well, we do, as well as many other people do, but each one does it with their experience, with their profile...

Miguel Real: Of course, and something that happens here in Lisbon that is also noticed a lot in other European cities, big European cities, that I can't help but bring up, is that there will always be buildings that won't age as well as others and we see here in the Lisbon CBD, there are buildings that simply haven’t aged very well. What is your take in this situation, and what do you think will happen going going forward, this due to the greater importance of architecture and design, not only for tourism, but also in the economic component and even in the beautification of the city, do you think there will be a greater pressure by the city halls or the respective entities to modernize these buildings or do you think there won’t be much...

Miguel Meira: I mean, the City Hall went through a period of great exhaustion of work. I have to recognize that most of the City Hall technicians were mired in work I would even say, they couldn't even see the light coming through the windows because there were so many folders that they made a shadow of the analysis space itself. It was a very complicated stage because all the processes were coming in and you couldn't have enough people to analyze them, so it was very difficult, but in the midst of all this, and here the important thing is after the result, it was well achieved. In fact, we managed to have interesting works that appeared in our panorama, in our city and we have to recognize that there was in fact an improvement. I think that from the technicians to the relationship they have with the projects, we also started and contributed to that, but there was also recognition from the technicians, of the importance that was being done in the city, and the city has recovered a lot, we have a good wave of projects nowadays...

Miguel Real: There is no doubt...

Helder Pereira Coelho: But that's what Real was saying, in architecture, to persist with quality over time, the DGPC has a very important role, which has an attitude, for me today, very balanced, that is, it is not fundamentalist. We also cannot be fundamentalist to the point of wanting to preserve everything, in such a way that there can be no investment afterwards, to complicate things so much that they are so expensive and no one really wants to make an investment afterwards. But on the other hand, we also don't have to be completely deprived of what marks the times, the history, of what marks all our architecture and in a way that there has to be a balancing role, therefore, in the end, not to be fundamentalist. This balancing role I think is very important, to really maintain elements and really maintain the story, what is really important and that gives value to our architecture, but on the other hand, also that the process goes along with what is important for the investment, we have to be rational, creating a point of balance that makes people really interested in investing and, on the other hand, they also maintain this quality and this historic load that our buildings have.

Miguel Real: It's something that is talked about a lot and I think we can all agree, that in our country it has been one of the biggest limitations in terms of investment, it is precisely and as the architect said, simply the amount of time it takes for things to be approved. This is already something that is undeniable, it’s a great Aquiles tendon of ours, of our country, but to what extent does this impact investment? What is your opinion, will it be as bad as they say?

Miguel Meira: I think there is always a side that is slow, but then, if we look at the overall picture, in the final result the scenario is probably good. And it is also the necessary to reorient investments to introduce them in areas that are compatible with what is intended. What we are noticing recently is that the lines of investors that we have, intend to make investments on a macro scale and that they are even interested in having different areas and that will no longer have as many restrictions as those in historic areas. Therefore, we can help so that these interventions can be developed in another way and even manage to have much more attractive results, but none of this goes over the top of the institutions that will always count on our support, that is, everything that we are going to propose it will always have to be according to what the general rules are. We are not going to invent rules when they are already defined.

Helder Pereira Coelho: We have to be more creative, to overcome them.

Miguel Meira: We really have to introduce mechanisms that we think are possible to use so that there can be a very nice return on that part of the investment. That's what our purpose is too, we can never have an architect’s-only vision, we also have to have a financial vision, because all this only works with a lot of money.

Helder Pereira Coelho: It's financial sustainability, projects have to be sustainable.

Miguel Real: It's true, and I’d like to ask a question now, this is really something we've never talked about before. Is there an architectural figure or personality that inspires you, or inspired you at the beginning of your career?

Helder Pereira Coelho: We have several, but I don't know, some in some areas, others in other areas but I don't want to be putting it like that either.

Miguel Meira: Foster.

Helder Pereira Coelho: Yes, Norman Foster is really a reference, there are others too, but...

Miguel Meira: But it then depends, there are fantastic things in architecture.

Miguel Real: Architects are artists too, there will always be admiration, or we'll look for styles here and there, but each one has its own style, each one has its canvas, I believe it's a bit like that.

Helder Pereira Coelho: As there is no one alike, there is no work alike in architecture either, we might like it, but for the projects to be identical, I don't think so. There are certain schools that you can see a certain style, but I think that in our case we don't identify with any or anyone in particular, I must say, at least as far as I've noticed, I've never been there either...

Miguel Real: It's just having a style plus whatever you learn along the way...

Helder Pereira Coelho: Yes, they say nobody is creative, right, or that creativity goes hand in hand with memory, it has to do with our memories and their conjugation...

Miguel Meira: Yes, and many times, with what is familiar to us, there is nothing like experiencing a solution that is different for us to feel that we begin to identify with that and begin to feel that this is what we really want to do.

Helder Pereira Coelho: Well, that's very important, actually that's it, and it’s experiencing the spaces, whether they're ours or not, realizing what we could change, so it's very important to live the spaces designed by our colleagues. Really feel these spaces in practice and experience and see where they could be corrected, I think this is important indeed. We are very empirical; it's all very practical, experiment and see if it's functional, if it's friendly, if it’s not. It's all very pretty in the beginning but then it tires people out... in fact, it's a characteristic that we discovered on a case-by-case basis recently, that values our investors and that ends up giving them more value financially, which is, our projects/spaces last a long time, but it wasn't intentional, it happened. We take our usual steps in project design, but then we have several users in the rental market, American and European foreign couples, who suddenly arrive at our spaces, which are 10 or 15 years old, and think they are projects with two , three, four years old and do not believe it. Our colleagues say "no, this has been done for 10/15 years" and they don't believe it, saying "but this is something that seems to have been done recently", and of course it wasn't intentional, I mean, it was but let's say it is a by-product of our project. But this in terms of appreciation for who owns the spaces, for investors, is very important, because they really maintain their value over the years, and there are fantastic projects that win awards, but then they go out of fashion, they change and therefore, after that, there has to be a new intervention and it really is something that is a consequence of the work alone but it is not intentional. I personally don't have that intention, they turn out like that and then it really seems like they're very current for many years, it's good for the investor and we're very happy, but it's not intentional. It's a feature of our project.

Miguel Meira: It's how we feel...

Helder Pereira Coelho: Maybe, I don't know...

Miguel Real: It's a sensory thing, it turns out that it works, doesn't it, but this is part of a personal taste, if I feel good here there will be someone who also feels that way and what happens is that this feeling ends up resonating (resounding) with our clients and the feedback is good, the feedback is great.

Miguel Meira: In fact, everything we do is like we're doing it for ourselves in the first place. I think it revolves around that alot...

Helder Pereira Coelho: Well, maybe it is and also because they aren't really very striking spaces, maybe they are a little “cleaner”. The “clean” is maybe consensual I don't know, they’re not very extravagant things, like «Wow, what an impact this has», then the person gets tired and doesn't like it after a while, maybe that's why, I don't know, I never thought about it, I know that the feedback is this, now...

Miguel Meira: Works beautifully...

Helder Pereira Coelho: That's why people think “oh, this project is great”, they talk about it as if it were a finished thing. Not long ago, our colleagues who go to show other properties, "Oh no, this is already 10/12 years old", and we often have this conversation, this feedback, and therefore, we're happy, we still laugh a lot about it.

Miguel Real: It's good!

Miguel Meira: Yes...

Helder Pereira Coelho: But it’s not intentional.

Miguel Real: Alright! I would like to talk a little bit with you here, this also due to my work in Capital Markets, this is something that you will certainly confirm, which is precisely how much the peripheries were focused and gained a spotlight due to the pandemic, in other words, this leverage resulting from this situation, what it did was, the peripheries began to have a much greater affirmation and from the perspective I have, from the work I have been doing together with our partners and also investors, is that people are seeing the peripheries and their own acquisition of properties, their houses, with a much more direct approach. Obviously this is always impacted through working from home, the current system, which more and more companies are adopting, but what we see now is a much more practical approach to property acquisition, that is, we no longer need to be completely glued to being 15 minutes away from the city center, the CBDs and people are focusing much more on spaces that, whether because the square meter is a bit cheaper, or because they are broader spaces, they want spaces that are bigger , have greater versatility and feel better in them. What do you think about that? What is your opinion of this affirmation from the peripheries?

HPC: From my point of view, there are two essential things for this to have happened. For now, that's what Real said, the paradigm of working from home, which is something that has completely changed our way of thinking about our home - work. It was a transformation, I would almost say of 180 degrees, because nowadays, people, even if they are not currently working from home or have never done it, think it’s perfectly possible and the probability of one day being able to do it is huge and in this In this sense, people can look for a more distant space, as Real says very well, with larger areas and more open spaces. That, I think, is the key point. Another point is the fact that we've been shaken up, as human beings, we're starting to see our life expectancy very limited, I think people are thinking right now that either they enjoy life or it could end suddenly. I think that in this sense, people are more willing to invest more, are willing to enjoy more of what they can and so in that sense this happens both in the search for spaces on the peripheries, as Real said, as well as in the zones of summer vacation. In this sense, people are willing to invest much more than they would before the pandemic. Because one day they may work from home in the area where they have their holiday home and also because they want to enjoy life, as they don't know if it could be shorter than they anticipated...

Miguel Real: Do you think this is similar, for example, because our culture has always been very much based on us wanting everything next to each other? We want work to be close to home, we want the children's school to be close to home and this, the famous golden triangle, to be as small as possible, why? Because it gives a lot of quality of life, we have to make our commutes, right, we have to do our daily routines, this will take time, and if we manage to reduce the time we take to do them, we’ll gain more time at the end of the day, more time for us, but be aware that if we talk about markets in countries like Germany, it is perfectly normal to travel 150/200 km to go to work, people live in this reality, that's their culture, so no one says no because it’s the norm, it’s just how it is. Do you think it is possible that the Portuguese mentality will be able to adopt this aspect, lose this attachment to the proximity of things or do you think...

Miguel Meira: This has to do with scales.

Helder Pereira Coelho: Exactly.

Miguel Meira: Because, for example, in China, distances from cities to cities are hours away and that’s why there’s a reason to develop TGVs so that this distance is reduced. Well we don't have those problems here...

Helder Pereira Coelho: And it’s their mentality. For them it’s different, because they live in a totally different scale than ours. We’re a small country.

Miguel Meira: We’re small; we probably won’t have those problems.

Miguel Real: Do you think this will change with time due to this trend of properties farther away or do you think it will continue.

Miguel Meira: Changes are always good. The important thing in change is our good adaptation and we can, in that adaptation, configure an improvement for all users to feel good, probably even better than before. This transformation is what is fundamental and I think architecture contributes a lot to that. We, for example, have a spectacular project in the Algarve with a nice scale and that will probably welcome this type of investment that will contribute to experiencing and working in the same area. This now depends a lot on how the necessary synergies are created, these commitments are created and the changes can be very good.

Miguel Real: I believe that it’s also like that; there are also many constraints at the economic level, especially in people's quality of life. Salaries are obviously what they are, the quality of life is constantly going up, but I speak for myself, for example, I live in Almada, but I'm thinking very much about acquiring a house in the future, for example in Palmela or Alcochete, places that at first you’re like «Miguel that's too far away». but let's see, is it really that far away?

Helder Pereira Coelho: No, because we can change or adjust that Golden Triangle that Real was talking about, with the idea of working online if we are working at home and the kids are already at school, near Alcochete or Palmela, there will be then the question of equipment. There should be more children, more people in that area and therefore the school equipment also improves, and so that you can adapt the Golden Triangle you were talking about, which is in the same city where you are working and at a distance from your home, where you work, will also be to school. Even though it's not that close, it's easily accessible because the roads are much less busier, making it possible to travel longer distances in less time, while in big cities to cover the same kilometers, with traffic, it will take longer.

Miguel Real: This is something we happened to talk about in the last article we published. In that article I refer to a person who said precisely that, and that is, in the United States for example, cases like Starbucks, which at this time of pandemic, decided to close stores in some city centers and open on the outskirts and we thought: “This is a strategy that doesn't make any sense”, but the reality is that when people stay more at home, what are they going to do? They will spend more time in spaces closer to their homes and the development of the suburbs will come much faster. There will be more restaurants, more public spaces, more shopping centers and this enhancement of these locations will be proportional.

Helder Pereira Coelho: And these trends are not just in our country, it's a trend...

Miguel Real: Worldwide.

Helder Pereira Coelho: Worldwide, it's general, a post-pandemic trend. What we are all talking about is a general trend, not just for Portugal.

Miguel Real: And by chance, one thing that also leads me to talk about this topic is precisely the issue of the Golden Visa, that is, last year we heard that they were going to end their issuance in Lisbon and Porto, this is to further encourage the other locations in Portugal. Do you think this will be positive or negative? Will it be a shot in the foot or will it be a smart financial decision?

Miguel Meira: I think it's going to be positive in the sense that this is the framing. If development is going to move to the peripheries, then that will be where investments will have to be made.

Miguel Real: But will there be enough demand?

Helder Pereira Coelho: I think the Golden Visa is an ignition for investment. It is the starting point, only for the first ones. Because after seeing the first ones, the others come in addition. There is no better publicity than word of mouth, it is common for everyone to talk about it and so that people starting to come here will say that we have quality of life, that it was the best investment they made, that it was worth it , etc. Each person who does this, who makes this move to come here, invest and live here, each person will transmit this to their family, friends, co-workers, creating a huge repercussion and in this sense I think the Golden Visas serve to attract the first investors. Then from here, others come next, with or without Golden Visa they’ll come.

Miguel Real: It shouldn't be a limitation...

Helder Pereira Coelho: It may seem from the outside that there won't really be that much investment,

Miguel Real: But in reality...

Helder Pereira Coelho: ...may slow the process down, I believe! If there really continued to be a Golden Visa, those who only had a fiscal interest would come and those who really knew about the quality of life in this country would come. But if the Golden Visa changes, the process is slower, let's say the process of people investing here will take longer.

Miguel Real: Well, that’s really a very interesting approach, not least because foreign investment in Portugal represents a large percentage, more and more. Interestingly enough, a very interesting article I saw last week said that for every Euro invested by a foreigner in a house, after 4 years, it generates 7 Euros for the economy. So it's amazing...

Helder Pereira Coelho: And it's our source, I mean, we don't have oil.

Miguel Real: But there's mixed feeling here, because there are always those who think it's a good thing, there's always those who think it's bad.

Miguel Meira: This is normal.

Miguel Real: I think it's normal.

Helder Pereira Coelho: This is always the case. It just doesn't happen when nothing happens, when you don’t do anything you don't get criticized. It's even good that they criticize because it shows that something was done. And we learn many times, many times not, we always learn from our mistakes and bad things, so there is always a positive side.

Miguel Real: I wanted to close the Podcast with the following question - in your opinion what will be the architectural trends for the next 5 years, the three main trends, three bullet points, that will characterize the architecture in the next 5 years.

Miguel Meira: The absolute top! We’re going to enter maximum luxury.

Miguel Real: Luxury?

Helder Pereira Coelho: It's luxury, but it's raw luxury. I mean, fake luxury will be abolished a lot, for example, one thing we do a lot is to emphasize the structural part of the space, I think this will remain. Taking things a little to the maximum exponent is really maintaining this structural part, which is timeless at heart and then, everything that is added in terms of design is something functional, it makes perfect sense, not only for the aesthetic part. Now, the science is in creating this combination of aesthetics and functionality.

Miguel Meira: Increased comfort as well.

Helder Pereira Coelho: Yes, then the result has to be comfort. The important thing is people's comfort.

Miguel Real: Luxury, increased comfort, and the third?

Miguel Meira: And health.

Miguel Real: Health...

Miguel Meira: Health, outdoor spaces will be completely interconnected with the human body.

Miguel Real: It will be this conjugation between the three.

Helder Pereira Coelho: Yes. Also the lighting and the transversal ventilation of the houses are two very important points, where more emphasis should be placed. The existence of the green elements is also very important.

Miguel Meira: Winter gardens, for example.

Helder Pereira Coelho: Indoor gardens.

Miguel Meira: Inside the dwellings.

Helder Pereira Coelho: There will be lot of green, the presence of green is very important. Light, green and ventilation, more than what is done today, exploring it even more.

Miguel Real: That is, to amplify these characteristics...

Miguel Meira: There has to be room for all niches.

Helder Pereira Coelho: You have to bring nature to our feet, that's what I think is important, that we are in contact with nature.

Miguel Meira: The connection with our physical environment...

Helder Pereira Coelho: Mixing space and material with nature. This combination has to be well-crafted, well-designed, so that we can enjoy such a healthy space.

Miguel Meira: We can really have the unique advantage of being in the world and be thankful for being in this space which is fantastic, has everything good, we have everything good.

Miguel Real: It's really like that, I actually had the opportunity to travel a lot around the world at the time, I'll be very honest, every time I went to the United States I had that idea that it's exactly where I want to live and really when you get there , you always have this idea, but when you leave and arrive in Portugal, we regain awareness of the factors we can count on, we have a safe country, a coastal country, landscapes that range from spectacular mountains to stunning beaches.

Helder Pereira Coelho: And we still have a lot of nature, it's just that, for example, the case you mentioned about the United States is different, it's all very...

Miguel Real: The United States has a lot of nature too, but the problem is that it's so big that a lot of it...

Helder Pereira Coelho: Yes, but it already has a lot of construction, it already has a lot of intervention.

Miguel Meira: People's experience has to start being a little different and then again, it probably can't be, it won't be a recipe but it's that people have to live more with nature, because living too urban has already showed that it's not healthy and therefore it has this...

Helder Pereira Coelho: In terms of health, psychologically and physically speaking, we're not just talking about the physical part...

Miguel Meira: ...on that side, our country has everything good, because it still has a lot of space; it has a lot of territory...

Helder Pereira Coelho: And it's also because it's small, we're in an urban part, how quickly we are in an ultra natural, wild area, we can quickly be there and with different characteristics, so we can go to Serra da Estrela like we can go to a beach.

Miguel Real: Funny that we were talking and here we have the lung of Lisbon in front of us, Monsanto with this...

Helder Pereira Coelho: Even our city has this characteristic, we have the presence of green, so much green, so much value that is given nowadays, increasingly, even after the pandemic, I think it highlighted itself more in all of us, the need for contact with nature and that's what gives us satisfaction.

Miguel Meira: And the planet itself felt that too, there was rapid regeneration.

Miguel Real: It’s said that it was the best thing that happened to planet earth.

Helder Pereira Coelho: And if we don't misuse nature, things will rebalance themselves, I just think we shouldn't do things in such an abrupt way, pay more attention to that. If we have more attention and more care, then things will rebalance themselves and we will all be able to really be and live much better with everything, with human intervention and with nature.

Miguel Real: These are the commandments from the two architects that I think really give us here a spectacular and also very in-depth view of the trends that are going to work, and all this adjacent component of nature combined with architecture. Architects it was a pleasure to have you here.

Miguel Meira: Thanks for the invitation.

Helder Pereira Coelho: Thank you very much Real, for giving us all this and organizing all this.

Miguel Real: It's my pleasure, I love doing this, right, we can talk a little bit here, share these ideas and specifically be able demonstrate what we feel, what's on our minds, to our followers that are on our platforms and also on behalf of the entire team, I would also like to thank you for your support. I hope you liked it and there it is, our channels are open, comment, give us your feedback, we are happy to connect with you, I hope you liked it, my name is Miguel Real.

Miguel Meira: Thank you.

Helder Pereira Coelho: Thank you very much Miguel Real.


Episode 01: TOTE SER

Miguel Real: Hello, my name is Miguel Real, I am Chief Marketing Officer at TOTE SER and this is our first podcast, ahhh, in which it aims to give more insight on what we do, what it is TOTE SER and today I am pleased to be here with me the CEO and architect Hélder Pereira Coelho, in which he will be able to explain a little more about what our areas of operation are, and exactly what we do. It's a pleasure Architect! How are you?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Thank you! Thank you, it's also a pleasure to be here...

Miguel Real: It is a pleasure, it is a pleasure - Helder Pereira Coelho: ...talking – Architect, it's around 30 years of operation in the Portuguese market, especially here in the Lisbon area. What can you tell us about it and more precisely, who is TOTE SER?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Well, TOTE SER is essentially an architecture company and... I think there are two types of architecture studios and... and I can make a brief definition... So there is the architectural firm that immediately gets our attention and we associate with which is called signature architects, so these are firms with big projects, big ideas and have a very strong creative component. Here, we in our case... we are... we are on the other side, that is, we are a very practical firm, that is very user-focused, so, let's say that we work for comfort and to give the best conditions and to cause the best feelings to the user. As we also have, and we have the notion that everything in life really needs to be sustainable, that is, for us to be able to do more projects, it is necessary that our project contributes to an investment, and that this investment will have the results... satisfactory, or more than satisfactory, so it has to be beyond the average for us to be able to have more customers, our customers are called Investors and therefore to have an interest in investing and to be able to make better spaces and more spaces with better conditions for our focus that is the user.

Miguel Real: Of course it does, it makes perfect sense, in other words, this architecture that we have, we end up having an architecture focused on profitability, that is, we usually have the idea that architecture is an expensive thing, but we somehow changed the concept by showing our customers that architecture is not expensive, on the contrary, it still manages to result in profits never before expected, right? And the results really speak for themselves... and it's, in fact, almost three decades of operation in the real estate market. Architect, can you tell me how it all started?

Helder Pereira Coelho: So it started because there was really this goal of getting ahhh... to create the best conditions for, as I said a moment ago for the user, so for the person who will really enjoy the space and... and at the time we were given a challenge, which was, in the 1988 fire, the Chiado Fire, in which we were given some buildings that were completely degraded, had been hit by fire, some more than others, and we were given the great challenge of being able to... as you know that is a project of, say - Miguel Real: Of course it is. - rehabilitation Siza Vieira, so the set was Siza Vieira, then there were several firms, several companies that worked and collaborated and worked in partnership on the project and... and there was really a very big challenge that was, to again make that area, so, desirable to live, so that area at the time of Chiado, at the time of the fire, it was an area that was completely desertified in terms of housing, the... the commerce, so it was practically already... I don't mean nonexistent, it existed but had very little dynamism because we were at the time of the start of shopping centers and in a way that no one believed that people would buy again in the street stores, due to the inconvenience of people getting rain, getting traffic and not having a place to park the car, so there was the great challenge of being able to create conditions for people to want to live and have a whole life again, of services, of commerce, therefore being a new desirable center for people to live. And in a way we were given the ruins, say, of... the buildings that were, that they were caught by the fire and so after that each architect had to develop, according to the buildings they had, they had to develop their layout in order to really make it desirable and so that's how we started.

Miguel Real: It was like this, it was like this. No, it's really interesting and it's something that, frankly, I can't not talk about is, I believe that starting at this time right after 1988, or right after the fire, in a way, I believe that a large part of our operation was based almost as a mission and a civic duty, that is, we were rehabilitating, repositioning and repopulating, for all purposes, the Lisbon area, the historic area of Lisbon. What can you tell me about that Architect? This is really a mission that we're not only the privileged to have, right? But I believe that there are great difficulties in really being successful in it. But surely the architect can tell me what the difficulties are, right, and on the other hand, how did we manage to have high profitability in a place whose rent is currently very high, right, and which the market has appreciated the way that it did, in the last 30 years.

Helder Pereira Coelho: I think as I said before, the key here is really to be focused on the people who are going to use those spaces. First, we have got to have the notion, notion and... in addition to the notion, we have got to have a very accurate and very concrete idea of who will be the type of... of the universe of people who want to use that space and also who can use that space, therefore, have the financial capacity to do so. And... and that's the important thing, we are able to define the universe we are targeting first and then almost like... as an actor, we have to know how to live in that skin, try to imagine what it would be like to live there, I think it all starts there. And then from there you start to develop a whole idea that really makes people have... with the final result, have a great desire to be able to use that space, either through renting, or through the sale. Which will make this great desire that people have for the space that is, therefore, that is resolved, to be willing to pay a little more either for the rent or for the sale. And then really get a much higher return for those who invested, because afterwards we always have that pressure, investors really bet on us and are really hoping that what we can achieve is a really great result, which is fortunately, let's say, our good results have to do with that, it has to do with exactly 30 years trying and perfecting a whole technique that makes the result more, so, let's say a more accurate result, so - Miguel Real: Of course, yes - a result in which people feel happy, let's say, - Miguel Real: Without a doubt. - to use that space, happy and proud, and I think that's what, that's, that's what, what gives us satisfaction.

Miguel Real: It is our trademark, it is our trademark, for all intents and purposes. And we really have a question by chance that is also asked a lot by our Investors and that we now have the opportunity to share to our Podcast is: what are the advantages of working with TOTE SER, from the perspective of an investor or an investing client?

Helder Pereira Coelho: The advantages are exactly for that, because we are really very practical. We can say that really... almost everything we design we put into practice, so, as we don't have those great artistic projects, they often have a more formal character, but we are more about functional projects, as I said, for people and I think that this practice is what distinguishes us and is what makes, say, we have the results we have, as in, each project, each project we do, we are already applying what we have learned in others and lessons, let's say, very direct, in the sense that we have a strand of our Investors, who then opt for exploration through renting and we always have feedback there from the user and from the people who manage it, and that, and who are really responsible for maintenance. And as we always have constant feedback on the use of spaces, in the next space we already have... we have this improvement and therefore I think that these three decades always focused on really providing the best environment, the best feelings, the best emotions and... and the pride of the person feeling that they can use that space, I think that's what makes the difference.

Miguel Real: It makes perfect sense, makes perfect sense. Something that we are always guided by, right, and that has always been our motto, is our investment, our 360 ° policy. But what does it mean to invest 360°? Of course we do what we do for customers taking into account their requirements, right, their requirements, but the approach we have is always a very intimate approach, and why?, Because we work as if were doing it for us and this perspective is very important, because even, we can be a little bold, our vision is a good vision, it is a vision that really works and taking into account the experience that we have in the market is a winning vision. What can you define from this investment in 360 ° Architect?

Helder Pereira Coelho: The 360°, this really comes from, let's say of an evolution that is happening in this, is happening, or has been happening throughout all these years in real estate, that is to say, that it is a business that more and more has to be more refined and more professional, in order to obtain better results. And the fact that there is an entity that can understand what, say, the needs of each intervening activity are, that is, since the acquisition of a property that we raise the investment opportunity and present to our client, since the acquisition, to get to know the whole licensing process, to get to know the whole, therefore the whole management of the construction, everything what is involved in relation to the construction and then in the commercialization part, an entity like us that really knows all the activities that are inherent to the work, process, makes it possible for us to optimize the entire financial resource and in terms of time, so that we can reach the end with the lowest possible costs, as quickly as possible and the best profitability possible.

Miguel Real: Sure! In other words, we are basically one-stop advisors, that is, we are able to provide all the services that our customers need, from the first initial scouting to arranging, for example, constructors or promoters and even effectively doing the repositioning project and everything until it reaches the point of monetization or selling and marketing the asset, which brings me to the next question, that is, what is our strategic positioning? What is our current target and what do we want to operate?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Okay, what we really operate is essentially by, ok... our customers are basically, they are the Investors, they are really the people who can provide, that have capital that can provide so that we can make as many spaces as possible and... the positioning is asset repositioning repositioning we've already done, we're already doing, and let's say, it's our, our expertise because it's one thing we do, in the sense that... from that space we can make the most of it so we can optimize space in which the square meter is very expensive and we manage to give it a use... we usually divide the space quite a bit but we always give a use that will look like... that the person is using a space with much larger dimensions and spaces with large dimensions albeit not being, and basically it is for Investors or even for private clients who want to really take advantage of these characteristics, we also have some... that really look for the comfort of their home, they try to have a space with smaller dimensions but it seems to be a much larger space that is, say, one of, say, one of the great characteristics of our spaces is that, in square meters, they are a few square meters, but... - Miguel Real: We make it seem like a lot, don't we? - ...we do. There is a feeling, the experience of space seems to have many, many square meters - Miguel Real: It is a truly incomparable amplitude. - it is due to the layout, the strategic position of the materials used and then there is something that we, also we, sometimes people do not want to assume but... but we work hard for that. We work a lot for the status of the user, we really sell status because we think people have to feel proud they have to feel happy that they have won the position in life to be able to have spaces like this, because these really are spaces in prime locations, where the sqm is really high and spaces with livingness and conditions that gives them a feeling of well-being and...

Miguel Real: Yes, without a doubt. I think it is very important to emphasize this because our areas of operation also extend, in many cases to several, to other classes of assets, not only to the residential part but also to the part, for example, of logistics, the part of hospitality, so our know-how extends to large areas, large asset classes, and I think that the core that should really be retained is that we manage to capture the feelings and sensations that may not always count in these, in other large, large assets. And why is that? Our understanding of the status and gratitude of having this type of asset from, from the point of view of the investing client, is in fact a perspective of the business in this case also of the purchase mentality, which is often unaccounted for and wrongly so, we know what it is really like to be buying a floor or a building in the historic area of Lisbon and what it really takes to captivate and fulfill the necessities, so to speak, of the investing client who will really be with a tailor-made acquisition for him and leaving him super satisfied. Now I would also like to refer a little to the architecture part, since, of course, it is a great service of ours and it has been, for a long time as we know, I wanted to ask you a question architect, as you said before our architecture is turned to profitability, but this is a... it is a bit of a contradictory perspective, since, of course, architecture is usually linked to be more expensive to be more daring but that may not always be a financially sound bet. How can architecture be an excellent bet in terms of the profitability of an asset?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Architecture, as you said and very well, is connoted as being a, say, one that, an expensive requirement. I guarantee that in our case it is not, it turns out to be a cheap requirement, it comes out cheaper, due to the experience that we really have, the way we put the materials, the methods because we have the experience of the construction methods, the constructive methods that we apply, in which we can actually have a much higher profitability of the work and... and then the important thing is that it seems that it is contradictory, but it is not, but it is, the better conditions we are creating for... for the user, more... the more willingness that user has to pay more for that space as I said a little while ago and so that the person who invested or as an investor who invested in the project and a whole project management with us and so it... had an optimization of costs he will be able to spend less, for our project proposals, and later he will be able to earn more in the sale or rent. And for those who are not really investors, they will make money anyway because if... if they turn to us... for their own home, what will happen is that due to our suggestions that result from all these decades of practice, from really a very empirical attitude of the market, it really makes your property much more valued and that when you really want to change your house, when you sell this house you will always sell this house much more expensive than it would sell if it were a house that did not have a project and may actually have more economic capacity to buy the next one, or even to buy another one to refurbishment and use us to create again great added value, in the new property if you do not want to sell, this has also happened with renting, because what we see in our customers is that they not only sell more expensive, they do the business quicker, be it in the sale side, but also in the renting side. In other words, our houses, fortunately, are preferred to... to others that exist on the market and... and that must be why, because our focus and our concern is always based on the user. And if the user is much more satisfied, that user is much more willing to pay, more, to really be able to enjoy a space with higher quality.

Miguel Real: It's a win-win relationship for all intents and purposes and I also think that a big decisive factor of our architecture, is really the way it ages, in many cases it could even be a very bold architecture and that it didn't even age in the best way over the decades, but the reality is that we are neutral, but at the same time very conservative and very sophisticated at the same time, so, what we notice and that I also know exactly the feedback from the architect, is that the performance of our assets, it remains, or even, appreciates a lot over the years, which in terms of logic would be exactly the opposite, therefore, our architecture is very constant and very consistent in terms of value and this is really a decisive factor for, for the point of view of the investing client.

Helder Pereira Coelho: And I confirmed that what Miguel just said is exactly the experience that we are having at this moment, even at this exact moment in the market, the demand that we are having for foreigners, whether European, be it Northern Europeans, be it even Americans, it's funny that practically all of them, maybe some of them don't manifest themselves, but there's a... say, a comment that is common to all of them is to say «I don't believe this project is 12 years old, it's impossible», - Miguel Real: Yeah, it's curious. - but be Americans, be Europeans whatever, so they are, let's say, from different cultures, that will confirm what you just said.

Miguel Real: And we are talking about people who are commenting from places where the architecture of their hometown is totally different, that is, we are talking about completely different backgrounds and the opinion is unanimous, so, this really underlies the qualities even more and it is not said by us, by our witnesses it is conferred. I had, now, a question to ask the Architect, how could you describe TOTE SER in 3 words?

Helder Pereira Coelho: Hum... optimization... well-being... and profitability.

Miguel Real: Ok, (laughts) it is... this really is very curious, and I couldn't have said it better and it's really to close here, drop - Helder Pereira Coelho: (laughs) - the microphone (laughs), but yes, and for today it is everything, I believe. This is just an introductory podcast, this is our first episode, we will have guests from now on, and other types of subjects will also be discussed, but it is a pleasure to have you here, to be able to watch, I hope you liked it, it was a pleasure my name is Miguel Real, again, pleasure was having the architect Helder Pereira Coelho with us.

Helder Pereira Coelho: I thank you, the suggestion and the idea, really creating all this that I was not expecting and thank you very much for the opportunity that you gave to our entire team, really, but this is what we have to get together and go further with our ideas.

Miguel Real: That's right That's what TOTE SER is.


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