ANTONI GURRERA

Spain 2021 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Antoni Gurrera, General Manager of Ferratur, about the consolidation of the housing sector, construction and site design, and accommodation for temporary workers.

How has Ferratur group evolved since it emerged? Which process has followed to consolidate the housing sector and design a brand?

We are not new to the construction sector. This year, we turned 130 years old, and our devotion has always been to the luxury housing sector. Two of the long-standing pillars of Ferratur are quality and service. This has brought us great success now that demand for luxury homes is increasing again. Tourists in Mallorca are looking for more high-quality services. It's a trend that already existed in certain areas, but now it is spreading all over the island. We are working with this type of housing in many areas. The old town has the drawback of the protection of old buildings, which is a very important job taken on by the town hall, to protect buildings that are historical heritage of the island. Then, thanks to the investment from overseas, these buildings, which have been left empty for a long time, are being rehabilitated. People from other parts of the world, especially Northern Europe, seek that feeling of calm and well-being that the island brings. Such high purchasing power also has its disadvantages, as it creates two levels of purchasing society: the society of higher purchasing power that comes from abroad, and then local society.

In the success of the construction sector, what is the role of site design? How does Ferratur manage its design team?

Construction has changed a lot. In the old town, for example, nowadays, what people look for is to build in harmony with the traditional building style—but introducing new techniques. They seek to make sustainable houses (with efficient and ecological systems). Therefore, traditional Mallorcan design is infused with new technology. Everyone is after home automation, so they can control their house, lights, and underfloor heating, among other things, from a distance. Beyond this, there are also the family houses that we are building in other areas. Here, what people are after is spectacular buildings designed by great international architects. We implement solutions cutting-edge technology, a lot of which is not yet included in standard housing. This means that we need to have a high proportion of technicians in Ferratur. We are even creating a technical support department in our company to support the architects and engineers in the process of building these amazing projects. This implies that our teams must have a high level of training in engineering and architecture, and that we remain up to date with all these new technologies. It is common for our technicians to receive training when a new product is introduced in Spain for the first time. Therefore, we cannot sit back, as new construction technologies are constantly being developed.

How is Ferratur tackling sustainability and the digital transition? Which long term results are going to benefit the island, in terms of investment and energy saving?

We are builders exclusively; therefore, we do not design the houses. What we do is to contribute in the projects. If we see that sustainability is not being considered, or that there is an alternative way to achieve it, we make it known. Therefore, the engineer, the architect, or the client can decide if they want to take that route. In terms of sustainability, we are soon to start building a self-sufficient house. It will produce its own drinkable water, it will generate electricity with solar panels, and it is not going to be built with concrete; it will be built in the way that the house is as efficient as possible. In fact, we will carry out the construction work with a generator, because there will be no electricity supply. The developer's idea is that this is to be the first of seven houses. Therefore, this is going to be the pilot house for concept and testing. It is drumming up a lot of interest from end customers. All this means that the team must be highly prepared. We have had to learn how to use this new structure. I would say that this trend exists, and it is becoming more and more common, which makes companies use this type of technology more and more. In construction, we have a major problem, and that is labor. There are many technicians and supervisors, but there are very few construction workers—and fewer young people. So we need to reinvent ourselves.

What message do you have for foreign investors about the construction sector in Mallorca?

Mallorca is a safe island, both its streets and in terms of health. As a region, we have been one of the best in handling COVID-19, despite the outbreak among students at the beginning of the summer. It is also safe in terms of investment. When an investor surrounds themselves with the right people on the island, it is very difficult for that investment to go wrong. We see that most of our developments tend to be sold before they are even finished. People want to come to Majorca. In the high-standing sector, there is considerable European demand not only to have a second home, but also to live there. This is owing to remote working, which now allows us to work from anywhere, as well as good flight connections with the rest of Europe. There is high demand, and the limited supply offers great security to the investor, as the product they put on sale is certain to be sold. What is important is good location and a high-quality product.

Can we still expect high profits on luxury properties in the future? What are your aspirations in the medium term?

When a high-quality product is offered in a unique location, someone seeking such quality in a good location is willing to pay that price. We are building for a group of German investors in an area where there are large Spanish developers who have built a good product. This German developer has opted for another concept, a club building which boasts amenities, a gym, a restaurant and high-standing facilities. They have set a much higher price per square meter than the prices of the flats in the vicinity. However, we finished the structure a month ago and 75% has already been sold. This is what people are seeking, and this is what people must be given. Profitability in these cases has been maximum. The mistake is to invest the minimum to get the same revenue. The philosophy of the European investors is a bit different. They invest in a high-level product, they take a bigger risk than the rest, but their profitability is greater. In the other hand and because only luxury housing is being promoted, it would be good for the local government to create policies that allow for the construction of affordable housing for the citizens of Mallorca and Ibiza. We would need the support of the government to make housing available to the locals and working people who need it. In Ibiza, there is a huge problem. There is a lot of luxury catering, but they need services—waiters, chefs, porters, receptionists, etc. However, many people don't go to Ibiza to work during the tourist season because they can't afford the temporary rent. Therefore, we must launch policies to regulate this, if not we will die of success.