Leach & Lang was founded nearly 20 years ago in Poland and has extensive expertise in a wide variety of services, such as residential letting, property management, apartment sales and accounting solutions.
CEEREM: Since you represent the “Leach” side of the company, could you please tell us more about how the company came into being?
Seeing the huge potential of the Polish real estate market, in 2003 I moved to Krakow and bought a property in the city centre that I turned into a Bed & Breakfast, this being the best method to get the highest possible yield at that moment. It immediately struck me that there surely would be other interested investors from Western Europe, whom I could help navigate all the administrative difficulties (language barriers, local rules & regulations etc.) that I had initially ran into myself. Poland was still uncharted territory since it hadn’t yet joined the EU, so in the first year I collaborated mainly with clients that had some kind of Polish ties. Later on, more and more “pureblood” investors started to hop on the bandwagon, and by 2006 I had upscaled the solo business into a proper company that specializes in linking clients with architects, lawyers and other helpful consultants on top of the basic property search.
CEEREM: You now offer a wide array of services, how did you observe the market evolve in the past few years and adapt to that?
After the influx of individual investors came foreign developers keen to buy land or buildings and build or renovate apartments. We helped them locate properties and assisted them through the planning process. Even the 2008 crisis brought a business opportunity to the market: fitting out apartments, so we embraced this new activity in different cities across Poland: for example in Lodz, Katowice and even in Swinoujscie. Our property management portfolio also saw an incredible expansion over the next couple of years as units that investors had bought during the boom were eventually delivered and needed to be taken care of. When the market started to recover once more we also started offering outsourced sales offices for developers. This service line started with one particular standout project in Krakow – a former brewery site reconverted into 300 apartments where apart from running the residential sales we also helped the investors commercialize the 8,000 square meters of office space and 5,000 square meters of retail space and eventually set up a building administration company to run the complex which has since grown and taken on buildings all over Poland.
CEEREM: PRS now plays an important role in your portfolio (through Leach & McGuire): how did it all start in Poland and when did you join the trend?
PRS made an appearance on the Polish market around 2014 with a state backed project (BGK) in Poznan, but only very recently has it started gaining speed with more foreign institutional investors entering the fray. Over the past five years or so, German, Dutch and Scandinavian funds started to look at entering the market and we established Leach & McGuire to provide B2B solutions specifically for these investors. Especially for the past year and a half we have really seen the PRS market take off and ourselves advised on the purchase of around 5,000 apartments all over Poland during that period. We help investors during the acquisition process with feasibility studies, particularly with regard to estimated OpEx, rental assumptions and structural analysis of the apartments.
CEEREM: How did the pandemic affect your business, and what changes have you noticed in terms of demand?
As investors shied away from office and retail investments, so they started more seriously investigating the residential segment. As such we have never been busier! The pandemic did initially have an impact on the occupation in some of the buildings we manage, dropping even temporarily by 15-20%. Residential rents also decreased thanks to a lack of tourists and students. The occupancy was swift to bounce back though and we are back to close to 100% occupancy whilst the rents have also started to recover. In terms of demand, people prefer newer builds with underground parking and lifts, and green areas are increasingly important. Developers and investors alike are also focusing more on ESG requirements lately.
CEEREM: Which sub-segments has the demand been the most prominent in the past three-four months, looking at investor profiles?
Most of the demand in residential still comes from Polish people – either to live in or as a solid investment to rent out. The institutional PRS investment only takes up 1% of the Polish market, but in the future it will undoubtably grow. All in all, the middle to high-end sub-segments (luxurious buildings, green spaces, retail on ground floors etc.) are the most sought after because clients are usually interested in valuable long-term investments.
CEEREM: How much room for growth do you believe PRS will see from its current 1%, given the massive financial opportunity but also investors’ concerns surrounding potential regulation?
Foreign investors are already coming over and investing in residential units, which is accelerating the development stock while also providing higher quality buildings. PRS has a great deal of advantages that need to be accentuated, so it depends how the political parties judge and handle the process. Even if PRS will dramatically take off it would still take several decades to match the rate of Germany or Switzerland, for example.
CEEREM: Turning our attention towards what the future has in store for Leach & Lang, what are your goals for the next two-three years?
I would say our main goal is always to keep our clients satisfied and aim to grow together with them. We’re in a good place at the moment with this current focus on PRS, being the only company that currently manages residential properties for institutional investors in Poland.