At the age of 16 he entered the property market for fun and never left. Jorge Próspero dos Santos has extensive experience linked to the industry, with roots that start in the family and fly to… the Amazon. In this interview with CASAFARI, he talks to us about technology and sustainability in real estate, explaining what makes a Proptech mentor.
Your entire professional career has been linked to the property market. How does this connection come about?
When my family came to Portugal from Italy in 1983, they created what is still the INS Group, with the international experience they brought with them. I can say that, while it was a taste that was instilled in me, because it was a way for the family to generate capital, I also began to have a natural interest in the market. At the age of 16, I was renting and selling houses in my spare time.
When it was time to look for work, Remax had just arrived in Portugal and I started this project with Pedo Alvarez and four other people. At that time I sold a house worth 3 million euros. When I was refused my holiday request, the moment I received the cheque, I left and went travelling. As soon as I returned, my family convinced me to go and work for INS, where I stayed until I was 30. In between, we built an office and resorts in Brazil, in Ceará, and I stayed there for a while.
I started to realise that the leads from buyers and sellers were always coming from doormen, taxi drivers and coffee shops. So I designed a business model that would allow anyone to generate leads in the property market and monitor the flow, and be rewarded with a commission. This had great organic growth, with many people registering on the platform. I decided to patent the business and introduce it to the world. REEVO is growing and heading to Brazil this month.
Meanwhile, I started getting invited to a more training side of things. I went to Proptech events in NY, Madrid, Paris, Cannes. Because of the know-how and how to also help some startups, I was recently invited by the Startup Club to be the manager in Portugal and help people who want to develop startups in the housing market.
What is REEVO and how can real estate professionals benefit from this network?
REEVO – Real Estate Evolution – is a platform where any person or a company can register and generate leads in a very simple way, through QR code. Each registration will become a sticker to be added in strategic places, with the notice that you are selling or buying a house.
As soon as a lead enters the code, we make a very assertive qualification through the call centre. This qualification has been studied with LENAR (the largest construction company in the United States), our partner since 2019. Then, we refer it to the best professionals in the area where the client is interested.
Once the deal is closed, the person who generated the contact receives a 10% commission notification. These are usually amounts of one thousand or two thousand euros. It is a way for people to earn extra money. It is a sustainable method of generating contacts, as opposed to the “200 flyers a day” that several real estate agents still use. In the first years of the project my biggest partner in Portugal was JLL, we closed many sales in 2016 and 2017.
REEVO opened a door that didn’t exist before, and that I always thought was very important since I started working: to guarantee people who are not connected to the housing market that the information they have is valuable and should be rewarded, in a transparent way.
When will REEVO 2 be launched?
Until March, I believe. It’s going to be more focused for professionals. As a Proptech mentor, I will be creating technology partnerships, aggregating them all into one platform, which will be REEVO 2. The idea is to create a real estate ecosystem where professionals, clients, investment sources and personalities with authority in the industry will collaborate, not only for the development of the housing market but also with a focus on sustainability and philanthropy.
This new version will be divided into 3 parts: for professionals, for the end client and for society, with a focus on philanthropy. The aim is to develop economic development and sustainability actions in Third World countries. We have partnerships with fairly large organizations, with a series of programmes in which part of the value generated by the property market is then reverted to these objectives.
For professionals, we are going to have an academy, to professionalise newcomers to the real estate market, especially here in Portugal. Regarding the final client, we are going to introduce several technological solutions (add-ons) that will support them in selling their house.
ESG policies have never been more on the agenda and there are agreements for carbon neutrality by 2050. What is the role of the housing market and how can there be almost proactive management of these goals?
In order to achieve these goals, the real estate market must forcefully change. This starts with the types of building materials and the type of construction that is done, going through 3D options, organic materials, even printers with “not so harmful” materials. It’s an industry that represents millions of dollars a year, so on a financial level it should support anything that allows us to achieve these goals by 2050.
The world is not sustainable as it is and we have to regenerate, give back to nature what we take from it. Buildings should be designed to catch more natural light, for example. Big developers are starting to build buildings that produce their own energy, sustainably and regeneratively.
There’s a big educational process going on here, even with the end customer, and I see the industry moving towards the sustainable and regenerative side. The housing market is one of the areas that needs to worry because it has the most to offer. If everyone follows the philosophy of regeneration, it becomes easier.
In a post-pandemic portrait, how do you think the housing market will develop from here on out?
I’ll be honest, during the pandemic, I kept working and selling houses. I didn’t see a crisis as sharp as I did 9 years ago. Prices did not oscillate much, the property market remained resilient, especially in Portugal.
Nationally, the pandemic has led developers to rethink locations, Comporta and Costa Alentejana are all being developed. In the North, too. So, we’re getting a very attractive product for foreign buyers. I think that, unfortunately, the Portuguese will have to leave the urban centres and move to the peripheries, due to the brutal increase in prices. I foresee the middle segment disappearing. There is still little product, in this country that offers all the characteristics that anyone likes: climate, gastronomy, people and geographical position, a small country.
Your CV includes positions as CEO, broker, marketing director and mentor in the property market. Is there any role in which you feel most fulfilled?
It is extremely rewarding this role of mentoring Proptech, especially when I can boost startups through the Startup Club, where there are cases where they go straight to market, without the need to go for funding.
It’s not that the issue of mediation doesn’t give me pleasure, but I’ve been doing it for a long time. Now I have preferred a strategic positioning and I am focused on finding new solutions for the real estate market, which I believe are an asset to the industry as a whole.
What does a Proptech mentor do in practice and what is the procedure to be able to monetise a company?
I confess that when I was introduced to that title, I didn’t know what it was. Today I know it’s a very realistic and pragmatic role, and even a bit ‘tough’. I put the ideas that are on paper in a more practical environment, with any client who wants to go to market and make the ideas real. This is difficult, because there are many ideas that don’t make it past the paper because there is no sensitivity to how the industry works. This is where I add, with my experience.
After all, is there a magic recipe for capturing potential customers?
I’m always a bit biased because I invented a platform that generates leads, so if they ask me what the magic formula is, I refer them there. Really, all technological tools help, but I think persistence and the ability to create empathy, education, experience, the ability to deliver trustworthy work and knowledge, are unbeatable.
Technology alone does not work miracles. People have to be persevering, follow a line of work and not step out of it at the slightest obstacle. Excellent commercials have this in common: willpower, professionalism, education and persistence, especially in this very saturated market.
It is very difficult to sell a house, from the beginning of the process to the CPCV [Promissory Purchase and Sale Agreement], it usually takes 3 months, hence the drop out rate in real estate is very high. For professionals without persistence, I advise them to sell other types of goods, things that sell fast. You can’t come to the housing market expecting immediate results, unless you dedicate yourself only to rentals, and even then you would have to have a lot of help.
What is the essence of leadership? And where does Amazon come in, given that it is the title of the book you wrote on that subject?
It all started when I had to give a training course on leadership and used a technology company as an example, in analogy with an Indian tribe. Meanwhile, I went to the Amazon and confirmed my theory: perseverance, willpower, love for work and the ability to set an example are human values that lead a person to evolve and make others follow suit. In any organisation the essence is there, whether applied to a small group or a company with 20,000 employees.