SCHWARTZWILLIAMS spoke to Alex Peto about his experience in the Moroccan property market.
Morocco is a beautiful country, with a rich history and culture, and a diverse landscape. From historic cities to a long coastline, incredible mountain ranges and vast desert, this country has it all, with the convenience of being accessible by a short flight from most major European cities. Here, one of the founders of Kensington Morocco, Alex Peto, shares his experience in the Moroccan property sector.
How did you get into the real estate business?
In 1991 I was working on my own, on behalf of London buyers who were too busy to look for themselves or who lived abroad, so I was doing their work and showing them the best properties. This later became a big business in the UK, but while I was doing this, Andrew Langton, the boss of a well-established central London estate agency, Aylesford International, asked me to join. I joined the agency thinking I would stay for a year or two to learn the ropes, but I stayed for 21 years.
What are the highlights of your career in the sector?
There have been many, but befriending Boris Becker by showing him houses in London every year before Wimbledon is certainly one of the highlights, as is selling a house to Mick Jagger in Chelsea, London.
What are the main issues facing the industry in your market at the moment?
Now that I live and work in the Moroccan real estate industry, the main problem is the global perception of the problems of the Muslim world. Morocco is a safe country, but unfortunately it has the same reputation as other North African and Muslim countries: people are reluctant to invest, which I think is wrong. I personally bought a house last year in Marrakech.
How has the sector evolved since you started working in it?
The rise of the internet must be the most important factor. I originally started dealing with relocation to the UK, but the market has changed a lot, as have many of the tax implications, such as stamp duty and domiciliation/non-domiciliation requirements. In the Moroccan market, I look forward to people seeing Morocco as a safe country and with its proximity to Europe, it is an excellent place to invest, let alone own a home.
What do you like about the areas you specialise in?
I like living in Morocco for many reasons, but being British I enjoy the proximity to Europe and the UK. The climate is almost perfect and friends and family come to visit regularly.
What do you think is the unique factor that makes it possible to do business in your market?
First of all, no other British agent does what I do in Marrakech and perhaps in the whole of Morocco. Being Christies' exclusive agent for Morocco means that we deal with many of the best properties in the whole country. I also have a very knowledgeable French partner, Marc Leon, who has lived in Morocco for a long time, which is a great help.
What is your favourite holiday destination in the MENA region?
It has to be Morocco!
What is the outlook for your sector in the coming year?
Certainly the market has stabilised and I expect the housing market to grow in the future, but there is a lot of stock on the market and prices are unlikely to soar immediately.
Where would your next purchase be?
Perhaps on the Moroccan coast - Essauouira / Oualidia / Tangier.
Is there anything else you would like others to know about you?
I love living in Morocco. I have 4 dogs, 2 donkeys, chickens, I grow my own fruit and vegetables and I am very happy not to live a very conventional life.