Sebastien Nicolleau is a businessman who is passionate about traveling and this is shown in the way how he manages his company Galleon International Property Search. South America and Asia are his favorite destinations, he loves open spaces and nature, and his great passion is climbing.
Seb, for the friends among whom I have the pleasure to count, is a serious, honest and professional man who immediately induces you to trust him. And that is why he has got great achievements in its sector, especially for its particular vision of what real estate is.
He graduated with a Master’s degree in Business Management from the University of Bath in 2001. He then spent 13 years working for large corporations, Nasdaq and CAC 40 companies, mainly in international strategy development and markets launch.
In parallel, for the past 10 years, he has been actively involved in property investment across Europe. During which he has developed an extensive knowledge base and expertise of the UK, French, Spanish and Portuguese property markets.
Through first-hand experience as a property investor, he realised that the current process for finding and acquiring property was unfit for purpose. He found it to be a complex, frustrating and time-consuming journey which could be challenging, even for the most experienced buyer. Sebastien wanted to address these challenges and develop a professional service, tailored exclusively to the buyer’s needs and founded Galleon International Property Search in 2014.
You have a Master’s degree in Business Management and you have worked during thirteen years for large corporations like Nasdaq and CAC 40 companies.
What you have learnt about them and how your experiences have influenced you?
Looking back, this corporate experience shaped who I am today and gave me the right foundation to become a successful business owner. I have learned during that time how to work and perform in my role. In these environments, queues of candidates are waiting at the door to take your place, so there is no room for second best. These roles taught me discipline, team work, attention to detail, developing complex processes to achieve an objective, results-driven, decision making and strategy development based on data rather than opinion.
However, large corporate companies can also be very much risk-averse (as they have a lot to lose). Although I was successful in my roles, I started to feel frustrated. I knew at that point that I was destined for bigger and better things, and could feel this growing desire in me to create my own path. So, I followed my true passion, real estate, made the leap and set up my own business mid 30s. Much later than the usual 20s or so entrepreneurs, but I am glad I did it then as I had already gained the business acumen, self-awareness and resilience to see it through. It was a massive challenge at the start but immensely rewarding, personally and professionally.
How do you describe Galleon International Property Search?
We are A-list buying agents and experts in the acquisition of prime and super prime real estate covering the UK, France, Monaco, Spain and Portugal. We do not sell properties. Instead, our mission as trusted advisors, is to source the very best properties available on the market (public listings, off-market, FBSOs) at the best terms and eliminate the challenges / pitfalls associated with acquiring real estate. Fully independent, we have access to the entire market and work exclusively for buyers.
We are addressing a very simple challenge within the industry. Buyers today, have to deal with estate agents, who work for, and contractually represent the seller’s interests. Selling agents are not there to make sure you / I buy well, but that their client sells well. This is how they make their commission. Our role as buying agents is to address this dynamic, use our expertise to ensure that our buyers are properly advised, and that their interests are fully represented and protected throughout the process.
Your vision about the real estate is really different. What is the value that you have added and the difference with the other ones?
I will give you four: Expertise, Trust, Loyalty and Relationship are the core of our business. These values are driven by the fact that I don’t have an estate agent background. I am coming from the buyer side. I have been a property investor alongside my corporate career and experienced first-hand the challenges faced when acquiring real estate. This is what prompted me to set up Galleon six years ago. Being buyer focused only, is the DNA of the organisation.
Although we have a very thorough process in place to deliver our client’s projects, our role is ultimately to advise and facilitate the decision-making process for them by gathering all information required. As we do not sell properties, we are free from any outside pressure. That led us to develop long lasting relationships with a large loyal clients’ base of very wealthy buyers and influencers, who have experienced the benefits of being represented by a buying agent who puts them first. The real estate industry is changing and changing fast – online portals are a help but do not address the main problems. Buying agents do.
You act solely for buyers. What do you do and how is the process that you use?
We represent private clients and institutional investors who are looking to acquire real estate in Europe. Time is precious for our buyers and our mission is to manage the entire process on their behalf.
We spent a lot of time at the start of any project to understand, in great detail, what our clients are looking for (specification, lifestyle, vision). We advise them on the market situation and go through a reality check together. Once the brief is in place, we then conduct a complete market search amongst all local selling agents as well as our own network to identify the best properties available (public listings, off-market, FSBOs). Fully independent, we have access to the entire market. It takes us 2 full weeks to run a search which is key to our success. From the results, we then agree together a shortlist of our client’s top 15 – 20 properties. We organise the viewing schedule and accompany them to thoroughly appraise the properties. When making an offer, we manage the negotiation process on our client’s behalf. Using our expertise, we are able and incentivised to negotiate the optimum price. Once the price has been agreed, we then manage the conveyancing process as well as ownership setup, tax advices and estate planning.
We cover all aspects from start to finish, saving our clients precious time, money and hassle. This thorough process has allowed us to complete 96% of our search mandates since 2014.
Galleon works only with mandates. To understand more, can you explain to us the way you get these ones?
In the same way estate agents are mandated by the sellers, we are mandated by the buyers. This mandate clearly states our duties toward our clients. Most of them come from word of mouth, personal referrals and previous clients recommendations.
We are retained. This is to ensure that our clients are serious buyers and we do not waste our time as experts. This retainer is then deducted from our success fees, which are a percentage of the savings we negotiate off the asking price. We take 17% of the savings and our clients keep 83%; win-win situation. Our role is not just to find what our clients are looking for, we are also incentivised to use our expertise and insights to secure the property on the best possible terms.
You have great and different partners. What are their missions?
On each acquisition, you will need a team of experts to ensure all aspects are covered thoroughly and that our clients are fully protected and advised. These experts can be Lenders, Notaries, Conveyancing Lawyers, Tax advisors, Architects, Interior Designers, Surveyors or Family Office (post management). At the start of each project, we will put a team together of whoever is required. We will either work with our client’s experts or, if needed, we will recommend international trusted professionals. Our clients will have final say on the team.
The real estate market has crossed a lot of crisis in the last years and now we have a very important pandemic that is stopping all the businesses.
How do you see the next 12 months?
With this pandemic, many of our predictions made in 2019 about key European real estate markets 2020 are falling flat. With economic recessions on the horizon, rise of unemployment and fall of domestic buying power, real estate prices will drop in the countries most impacted by covid-19. And this is before knowing the measures that will be taken by governments to pay back the substantial debts (tax increase?) or to boost economies. One thing is sure. The next 12 months will be challenging for sellers, but will create fantastic opportunities for buyers. Most of our international investors have already been in touch and are on standby waiting for lockdown and travel restrictions to be lifted. For cash-rich investors, the coming months are the right time to buy in markets area where capital appreciation is likely to bounce back quickly. But this new landscape needs to be navigated carefully and with an expert by your side.
You can find out more on our website, as well as an in-depth post-pandemic analysis and forecast for the UK, France, Monaco, Spain and Portugal: https://galleonpropertysearch.com/insights
I am also available most of the time if you have any questions. You can contact me either by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call me +44 (0) 776 882 7957