You took the reins at Akcent Development in an intriguing period, February 2020. What strategies did you introduce to navigate this challenging phase?

It was indeed a unique time. Overseeing both the residential and office segments was a dual challenge. I prioritized bringing in a rigorous approach to our operations, especially crucial in the construction sphere, and advocating for a youthful perspective. Our team’s average age is 32, and while I’m relatively young myself, I’m the senior member in the company.

How do the residential and office segments contribute to your business’s overall value?

We accord equal significance to both. In the office sector, we revitalized older structures into boutique office spaces. For instance, Mendeleev Office 5, completed just before the pandemic in February 2020, is a technologically advanced architectural gem situated in the city center.

The past year, however, witnessed more significant revenue from residential sales, with over 550 units sold. Cloud9, financed in partnership with Raiffeisen Bank, exemplifies this success. We secured a EUR 30 million loan, due in March 2021, yet we paid it off entirely by September 2020, six months earlier. Clearing interest rates has been a key objective, aiming for similar success in future projects.

What set Cloud9 Residence apart, contributing to its remarkable success?

We implemented a customer service department and utilized a questionnaire to gauge customer preferences and areas for improvement. Embracing our mistakes is critical to avoid them in the future.

Customers were drawn to Cloud9 due to its value-for-money proposition. Its prime location and high-quality finishes, notably the innovative ventilated facade and spacious 2.7-meter ceilings, attracted buyers. Some investors also saw it as a lucrative opportunity due to its proximity to major office buildings. Apartments, starting at EUR 93,000, could be rented out for around EUR 800, making them highly appealing.

You prioritize high-quality materials yet offer competitive pricing. How was this achieved?

Long-standing relationships with Italian material suppliers facilitated favorable negotiations. Additionally, we devised a concept optimizing material use during planning. This strategy prevented material wastage, and our contracts with labor suppliers included strict clauses to limit losses.

What’s in store for your upcoming project?

Though details are limited, it’ll be situated in the northern city area. Regulatory disruptions temporarily stalled development due to canceled urban development plans (PUZ), but our individual PUZ remained unaffected. This project, blending aspects of our recent endeavors, will feature high-end finishes optimized for better pricing. While forgoing the ventilated facade, we’ll introduce other compensatory features.

Why the emphasis on two-room units despite the growing interest in larger apartments?

Our area analysis revealed a preference for these units among young, first-time homebuyers. However, there’s a rising demand for duplexes and garden apartments this year, although at premium prices, catering to those seeking a ‘house-like’ feel within the city.

How would you assess the relationship between the real estate industry and public authorities?

Overall, the relationship is decent, but administrative practices are archaic. Streamlining processes, perhaps through digitalization, is needed. Collaboration improved during the pandemic’s lockdown, leveraging digital means. However, traditional paperwork has resurfaced post-lockdown.

What proved efficient in dealing with authorities, considering industry and state interests?

There’s scope for stronger collaboration. For instance, ongoing issues like the 5% VAT dynamic between developers and authorities impact businesses, tax collection, and clients. A dialogue and consultation between authorities and the business community are pivotal yet absent.

Is now an opportune time to invest in Romania’s real estate, and is there room for new players?

Undoubtedly, it’s a profitable venture with ample space for newcomers. Having engaged in this for two decades and foreseeing two more, the consistently growing market indicates sustained demand. While there are occasional challenges like abrupt regulatory changes, Bucharest’s development pace seems steady, promising long-term growth.

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