Interview: When is luxury really luxury, Kristina Giacomelli?
When Kristina Giacomelli founded “Sangreal”, she was just 24 and today, seven and a half years later, her real estate company is one of the top players in the luxury sector. The Viennese’s team consists exclusively of women, which is no coincidence at all. “In my opinion, women,” says the mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, “perceive vibrations and atmospheres better. And I appreciate the fact that they go the extra mile and often approach things differently than men.” A conversation about female power, the courage to do more and the answer to the question of what real luxury real estate really needs.
Ms. Giacomelli, let’s start at the beginning. Where does your passion for real estate come from?
I am often asked whether I have taken over an existing company because Sangreal already seems so established, but that was absolutely not the case. No one in my family had anything to do with real estate. It just happened.
I studied economics at the University of Applied Sciences in Wiener Neustadt and specialized in finance. The idea was actually to shake up the stock market as a woman at some point. But then I added real estate and quickly realized that it actually sounded much more exciting than finance. And I knew that I was good at sales, I always did that on the side when I was at school, at Peek & Cloppenburg. I also worked in guest services, in the catering industry. I’ve always really enjoyed being around people. During my mandatory internship at a large real estate service provider in Vienna, I quickly realized that as a part-time employee, I was more successful in acquisition than many of my full-time colleagues. I also wanted to develop internally there, but no one responded for ages. So I set up my own business straight away.
A bold step.
My partner was already working as a project developer at the time, his company was still much smaller, but he was already working with estate agents. And I noticed serious marketing errors in the advertisements. For example, he had a construction project in Kaiserstrasse in Vienna’s 7th district – and it was illustrated with a photo of Lugner City. I told him I could do better, he gave me the chance and the very first viewing was a sale. Today, his company, LNR, works exclusively with us on marketing.
Was that your fastest sale?
No, I once had a project in the 12th district and received a call that a client and his interpreter were interested and wanted to meet me for a coffee at the Park Hyatt Hotel. Because I’m curious, of course I went. I presented the project, 24 hours later the next call came that the client wanted to buy eight apartments – without ever having seen the construction site.
Do you have a recipe for success?
In principle, it is important for us to get involved in projects at a very early stage. We receive the architects’ submission plans and redraw floor plans if necessary, because we know what the customer is looking for thanks to direct customer contact. And they should be able to participate in the decision-making process as early as possible. Of course, there are also customers who don’t buy anything that is still under construction, but most of them have no problem buying off plan. It is also important to me and my team to look after every customer perfectly – no matter how big the budget – and to provide reliable support during the purchasing process.
And when is a plan a good plan?
It depends on which segment we are in. When it comes to luxury, there are a few things that need to be taken into account. However, the following applies to every segment: storage space!
For example? When do we talk about luxury?
Large bathrooms and separate WCs as well as a storage room are already standard for upper mid-range apartments. In the luxury sector, there is also a spacious utility room, because people who can afford this naturally also have domestic staff – and they shouldn’t be ironing in the living room. There should also be a back kitchen to complement the show kitchen. And an appropriate room height. A loft-like design is very popular here, so that at least part of the apartment has a room height of five meters. Anything up to 2.80 meters is not luxury.
But a concierge service and the like are probably also part of it.
Yes, this is becoming increasingly important. Especially in the luxury segment, you have to offer something that sets you apart. If I take one of our projects, for example, the “Telegraph Yards” in the 7th district – some of the buyers here are also people who have an apartment in New York or London. They are familiar with this service and naturally want it in Vienna too. We have to be able to keep up internationally. If this is not physically possible, we offer a mobile concierge service – although not physically in the building, it is available around the clock to take care of things. Depending on the project developer, this service is included with the apartment in absolute luxury for two years, after which the owner can decide whether or not to extend it. But I also see that services are becoming increasingly important in construction projects that are not directly luxury, but which people with a good salary can afford.
Give us a few examples.
We have a project on Rennweg with a hundred apartments. Our idea was to integrate a co-working space and other amenities such as a gym or a dog washing station on the ground floor. If I give up two apartments that are difficult to sell at ground level anyway, I’m adding enormous value to the building for the remaining 98 owners. This is also very well received. I believe that this concept also enabled many sales in the crisis year 2023. I think that project developers also need to rethink this and make concepts more interesting.
You mentioned the crisis year 2023. How has the market changed in recent years?
The Russians, Arabs and Chinese that existed seven and a half years ago are no longer relevant. The market has focused on European customers, and many Ukrainians are also looking for and buying in Vienna. However, little has changed in terms of the search profile for real estate. They all want high ceilings, preferably an old building floor of 200m2 on one level with a terrace and two parking spaces. Sounds great and I could well imagine it – but unfortunately it rarely happens (laughs).
They deal with luxury apartments day in, day out. May I ask how you live?
We moved into our absolute dream property a year ago, a house on a hill in the district of Mödling. We spent two years completely renovating it, and today we have a wonderful view over the vineyards to Vienna, with a piece of forest thrown in. A dream for child and dog. I couldn’t imagine it being more perfect.