Developer Vastint will build thousands of apartments in Poland within the next few years. The company will offer some innovative solutions in the Polish residential market, says Vastint Poland ’s managing director Roger Andersson.
WBJ: Vastint has just completed its first residential project in Poland. Why did you decide to enter the country’s housing sector and is the decision part of a broader investment strategy?
Roger Andersson: We have been present in Poland for almost three decades now and are well known for our office and hotel developments. We decided to enter the residential market a long time ago and Riverview is the first visible result of that. The residential market has always been of interest to us – we acquired the first plot more than 10 years ago.
Sales of apartments in your Riverview project in Gdańsk have started only now when construction work on the scheme has finished. This is not a common practice among residential developers in Poland…
Indeed, such an approach is very rare in Poland, but it is actually quite common in many other European markets. We wanted to offer something different in the Polish market where people are used to buying apartments at an early stage of the construction process. We believe that many customers will be very happy to have an opportunity to see the final product before they make their decisions. There are many added values for a customer buying a ready apartment. For example, you can select your apartment depending on your needs, expectations and price level. You also have the possibility to see what really fits you in terms of size, location, views, layout, design, etc.
All the apartments on offer in Riverview are ready-to-move-in units, another non-standard policy in the Polish market. Are Polish home buyers interested in such solutions?
Yes, clients are very much interested in this. We are seeing a very positive response to Riverview. Again, we are going upstream here and we are convinced that our product will be very popular in all our projects.
Riverview comprises apartments that offer a turn-key standard and are ready to move in. As a client, you can choose from several different styles, all with a very high standard. Buying a finished apartment from Vastint means many advantages for the customer. Firstly, you do not risk time and money dealing with contractors as you have one partner in Vastint. Secondly, we give a two-year warranty on both the finishing and the home appliances provided by us. Another advantage is that you do not have extra costs for “double living” and you can securely plan your moving.
Will you also implement this strategy in your future housing schemes in Poland?
Yes, we will. We are also putting a lot of emphasis on green building solutions. Green certificates may still be relatively rare in the residential market compared to the office sector, but we will want to secure them for our housing developments. We hope to get Poland’s first residential LEED certificate for Riverview despite the fact that such a decision requires considerably bigger construction efforts. We are a socially responsible company and we also see that more and more buyers want to live in “green” homes.
What is in the pipeline when it comes to Vastint’s residential projects in Poland?
We are going to build more than 5,000 apartments in Poland in the next few years. We are planning new investments in locations such as the Tri-City (another phase of Riverview in Gdańsk with approximately 700 apartments plus over 120 apartments in Gdynia planned as part of the Gdynia Waterfront scheme) and Poznań (around 1,600 units within the Portowo development and some 520 units within the Stara Rzeźnia investment). In the future, we will also probably be active in Warsaw and Wrocław where we already have commercial projects.
All the projects mentioned by you will be large-scale schemes. Is building big also part of your business strategy as far as your development activity in the Polish residential property market is concerned?
Yes, we are interested in building large residential projects, as well as in building apartments within large-scale mixed-use schemes. In the office market, we are known for our big office parks that have transformed entire neighborhoods of Polish cities. In the residential market, too, we want to develop place-making investments which will contribute to the revitalization of neglected urban areas and offer numerous additional amenities for both apartment buyers and the entire local community.
Are you focused on one particular segment of the residential market?
No, our strategy is to offer several types of apartments in one location so that a given project can attract both a buyer looking for a moderately priced unit and a buyer looking for an upscale home. The prices in Riverview vary a lot depending on the rating of the particular apartment.
Will you buy more land for residential projects in Poland this year?
We are currently looking at a number of sites, but it is hard to say if we will make any acquisitions this year. It is not that we have to spend a certain amount of money on land purchases in a given year, we rather wait to find the right opportunities.
Has the coronavirus pandemic had any impact on your development plans in Poland?
No, the current situation has not changed our plans in Poland’s residential sector. Riverview was completed on time, and we have already sold half of the apartments in that project. Preparatory work on the planned schemes is proceeding according to schedules.
Do you think the market will suffer in the long term because of the current crisis?
We still do not have a sufficient amount of empirical data to properly assess the situation and accurately predict possible future trends, but it seems that the market remains resilient. It will certainly be more difficult to get loans for home purchases in Poland in the near future, but many apartment buyers do not actually use bank financing at all. There is a lot of cash in the market and it is worth remembering that in uncertain times the property market is always a good place to allocate capital. We are optimistic about the prospects for the market’s future.
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