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Interview with Sophie Hardy, Director of Villa Vie – PERSPECTIVES L’EXPRESS PROPERTY
Sophie Hardy, Director of Villa Vie, reviews the impact of the coronavirus on the four areas of expertise of her real estate agency. She reinforces the feeling that real estate, despite the complex situation, remains a safe investment, while hoping that Mauritians will emerge more aware of their immediate environment.
What impact has the lockdown had on Villa Vie’s operations?
At Villa Vie, our IT infrastructure has allowed our team to be 100% operational remotely for several years. So the lockdown had no impact on this.
Naturally, digital technology has not been able to replace the human relationship that predominates in our sector. We followed the guidelines and did not make any visits. Nor was there any question of prospecting during this period of crisis; that would have been inappropriate.
Of the four core activities that make up our expertise, two have been heavily impacted by the current situation, notably our holiday rental division with 100% of our bookings cancelled or postponed. We managed the emergencies because some of our clients and tenants found themselves in problematic situations, and it was important for us to remain at their disposal and to support them as best we could in their efforts. Some were stranded in Mauritius and we had to relocate them, others had to leave the country urgently with all that this implies, and others, unfortunately, impacted by the crisis, had to find other housing solutions.
We took advantage of this forced break to also take a step back, and we focused primarily on our families. The lockdown acted as a “wake-up call” for us. It made us realise how lucky we are to live in Mauritius, with weather conditions that allow us to stay close to nature, but also with the real spirit of solidarity and sharing that we saw unfold among Mauritians.
How do you see the recovery of real estate in Mauritius?
At the moment, it seems difficult to know what the property market will look like when the lockdown ends. The closure of the borders and the global situation leave us in the dark.
I share the view of property experts, both in Mauritius and abroad, who see property as a safe investment in these uncertain times. I have received several calls from clients who have completed a purchase with us in the last few months, who have expressed their relief that they did so in time, simply because their stock portfolio has lost almost half of its value. Compared to the stock market and the volatility of the markets, real estate is certainly a much safer investment. And this is in the short and long term. Finally, property investment creates a sense of security for the home and family in the long term.
Family values have also prevailed during this time of confinement. Having all invested some of our time in DIY or gardening, we realised the importance of home and feeling good about it. And, in this way, the acquisition of one’s main residence is definitely a way of protecting one’s family. So I think that housing will remain a concern and that the housing market will still be active after containment, driven by lifestyle changes.
In terms of real estate, what will be Mauritius’ strengths in the international market?
Mauritius has a lot of advantages compared to other countries. We have experienced it during these 7 weeks of lockdown: the exceptional climate, the extraordinary way of life, the security, the solidarity… Moreover, to date, we have no new cases and no more active cases of the coronavirus in Mauritius.
We are already starting to receive calls from potential European clients who are only waiting for one thing: the opening of the airlines, in order to prospect and settle in Mauritius as soon as possible to change their life. This is where the problem lies: as for tourism, we are very dependent on air access and the foreign property market will not take off again until the borders are reopened.
The government must take advantage of this crisis to rethink the country’s real estate and ecological strategy. Tourists as well as Mauritians and expatriates, we are all sensitive to the direction Mauritius has been taking for some time with the systematic concreting, the multiplication of real estate developments of all kinds, but also the pollution of our environment.
We hope that new values will emerge from this crisis, as well as true awareness of all concerning the preservation of our environment!
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