26. May 2023
Photo: Sanjin Kaštelan

The idea of connecting markets in the region is gaining more and more importance and momentum in all economic activities, including the real estate industry, which is perhaps the fastest developing and adapting. Firmly positioned in all the countries of the Adriatic region, the global company Colliers has widely recognized the potential and advantages of the unified regional real estate market and is ready for new challenges that will ensure the growth of their clients and much-needed new investments. We talk about the potential integration of Colliers Adriatic but also about the success of Colliers in the markets of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina with Vedran Likan, Managing Partner at Colliers Croatia and the founder of the Croatian Green Building Council.

Colliers has established a strong presence throughout the region over the past 20 years. How closely do the offices collaborate with one another, and are there any plans for Colliers to become even more integrated at the level of the Adriatic region?

Both globally and regionally, at Colliers, there is a strong sense of community and collaboration that we are very proud of. Every day we cooperate with colleagues from the region, share knowledge and experience, and enter into partnerships on individual projects, all with the aim of providing the best possible service to our clients. We will certainly deepen this connection over time through further cooperation and potential integration. We have formed a team of top people in the entire Adriatic region, including Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, and Greece, working to develop a joint approach to large global clients and new markets. Ten years ago, we entered the markets of China and the UAE in this way, and the results of that work are visible today through the strong presence of investors from those countries in our region. Now we have a new set of target markets on the radar, as well as the strengthening and deepening of relations with some of the biggest players on the unified Adriatic market.

What do you see as the advantages of the unified Adriatic market, and what trends are currently prevalent?

The dynamics of the world of commercial real estate are perfectly reflected in the market in the Adriatic region. It is located in an excellent geographical position, which is why it is interesting for investors and numerous companies. We offer investors a whole range of opportunities in different investment circumstances, and in doing so, we unite countries from long-standing EU members through relatively new ones to those that are candidates for EU membership, thus opening new markets for the expansion of our clients. In the entire Adriatic region, there is extremely high demand and insufficient supply in all market segments. All this leads to a reduced volume of commercial real estate transactions, but not to a decrease in investor interest; quite the opposite.

In our region, in the office segment, the highest concentration of supply and demand is in the capital cities. The situation in each of our big cities is different but also very similar, with a noticeable increase in the influence of world trends that raise the standards of the regional market. As for the commercial and industrial segments, we are witnessing expansions to secondary locations, whereby the retail sector adapts its business model to the influence of internet commerce. Like office space, stores are also going through a certain transition, and expansion plans in existing and new markets are strongly emphasized. The HTL sector in the region is becoming interesting for investors, especially because the offer of accommodation in higher categories is somewhat weaker. Big international brands have already started to enter this market, so, along with the already-known Croatia and Montenegro, we can no longer say that Albania is an undiscovered market for global investors and hotel brands. In recent months, the hot topic has been the residential real estate market. Thanks to inflation and a lack of supply, square footage prices have risen significantly. The construction of new residential properties is still below the level it was at before the last economic crisis, while demand is high. It is interesting that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with Serbia and Croatia, this sector is the most active.

If we look at the cross-section of the current situation in the Adriatic region, there is a visible lack of investment and development products in all segments, especially when it comes to more modern A-class square meters. Also, in perspective, the ESG agenda will be one of the most important directions for the development of the real estate market in the region.

For years, Colliers Croatia has consistently been named the top consulting firm in Croatia and the region. What distinguishes you from others?

The fact that for the last 10 years we have been receiving the most important world and European awards for the best consultant in Croatia and the region is a great confirmation of our work. We recently received the "Best Place to Work in Croatia" award. The fact that we are part of a global company with incredible resources—more than 18,000 experts are employed in 65 countries around the world—plays a big role in all of this, and that is an advantage that we often highlight and use. We have a global reach, but what really sets us apart is our in-depth knowledge of the local market. We have been present in Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina for almost 20 years, but more importantly, we have continuity, constant business growth, and thus a great role in the development of the entire market. However, what makes a significant difference for our clients is the company culture at Colliers, which means that the support of a colleague from any office in the world is available by call or text message. So, there is nothing that is unknown or impossible for us to do for a client. The work we do is not different from what others do; we just do it differently. The difference is precisely that human factor, and clients recognize it.

On January 1st, Croatia adopted the euro and joined the Schengen area. How much did these changes affect new trends in the real estate market?

The adoption of the euro as an official currency enabled a greater presence of foreign buyers, who now find it easier to buy properties here. On the other hand, the euro has eliminated currency risk in financing, which has an additional favorable effect on the price and security of borrowing. In the new circumstances, we expect that the market will open up further for foreign investors who have been showing interest for a long time, especially in greenfield investments and brownfield urban regeneration. At the moment, investors are somewhat more cautious due to uncertain expectations regarding recession and inflation, but interest is still there because Schengen has brought us a safer investment environment. Our half-yearly Market Overview  shows that the warehouse and logistics sector is still the most attractive in Croatia, where several large industrial-logistics complexes are currently being built, mostly in the vicinity of large cities: Zagreb, Split, and Rijeka. However, even with projects currently under development, there will not be enough square footage to meet the growing demand in the commercial real estate market.

Colliers Croatia also covers the markets of Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. What experiences do you have with these two markets, and what are the advantages of operating in all three markets together?

We have been covering Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Zagreb office since 2007. Last year we opened an office in Ljubljana because the market has grown, matured, and enabled the strong development of local companies. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we also have continuity of presence with colleagues who have been with us since the very beginning. Although we are talking about neighboring countries, each market is unique, and what works in one market does not necessarily mean that it will be well received in another. The very type of clients, their origin, and their approach to development and project management are different, so it is important to provide them with local support. Covering three different markets is dynamic, challenging, and above all, interesting. Our big advantage is that clients often operate in the same markets as us, so we can provide them with local experts for different projects. Let's take, for example, clients who want to expand business from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this case, clients who have already done business with us know exactly what to expect, and for them, it is a saving of time and resources. One phone call is enough, and we start the action.

Your "success story" is further evidence of the fact that women are taking over the real estate sector. What made real estate win you over so much that you gave up a successful career in communication management and became synonymous with the world of real estate and investments in business circles in Croatia and beyond?

I've always been the type of person who likes to work on multiple projects at once. I like challenges and new situations to test my own limits. After almost 10 years in communication management, the move to Colliers, in a completely new area, was precisely on the wave of that desire to broaden horizons. However, my job is still related to communications, but also sales, politics, economics, etc. Fortunately, throughout my career, from the very beginning and even after 17 years at Colliers, I have had the privilege of doing work that I love with people who inspire me in sectors that are exciting and dynamic. When I look back today, I am proud of everything I have achieved with my teams. Of course, the fact that we represent the Colliers brand gives us additional strength, which, along with local knowledge, expertise, long-term continuity, and presence on the market, is the reason we hold a leading position in the region.

How much has the fact that you were Colliers' "child" from the very beginning of the office in Croatia influenced your professional growth and achievement in the real estate industry?

It's wonderful when I think back to my first job interviews at Colliers. The first interviews were already online: first with a colleague from Canada, then in the office in Sofia, and the final interview in the office in Belgrade. By working at Colliers, I got the opportunity to learn from top experts, which really enriched me, both personally and professionally. I can say that Colliers and I have grown, developed, and learned together, and the result is a company that clients can rely on. Company culture, our connection, friendship, optimism, and positive approach to work are the result of the dedicated work of current and former members of our team, and we are extremely proud of that. We are happy to hear how many former employees, who mostly become our clients, praise us and talk with joy about the time they spent with us, which is an additional confirmation that we have built a team where people feel good and safe.

The "Woman of the Year" award for 2012 is one of the many recognitions you have received, among other things, for your strong social engagement, especially in the field of women's empowerment. How do you view this still-current issue?

I am often asked how it is that today there are so many women in leadership positions and that we talk about rights and equality so much more than five or ten years ago. My answer is that women today are simply more visible. And I am happy that I contributed to it myself and that my work and my contribution were recognized by the public. I look forward to each nomination, and even more so to an award, as if it were the first, and each of them gives me the wind at my back to keep going because I see that what I am doing has an effect. When I received the "Woman of the Year" award 11 years ago, it further encouraged me to become even more involved. In the meantime, I became a mentor in numerous domestic and foreign programs dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurship among women and young people. Thanks to my involvement in the empowerment of women, in June 2022 in Brussels, I received the "Female Business Leader" award from the Emerging Europe Awards. To be chosen among wonderful women from 23 European countries who contribute every day to the creation of an even better environment is a huge honor and something I could not even dream of, and it gave me another confirmation that what I do is important for all women, but also for my daughter and the daughters of your readers. On the trail of that mission, one of my projects, which is dear to my heart, was born: "21 Ways to Success,", from which the LeaderSHE conference was born.

By: Gordana Knežević Monašević

Photo: Sanjin Kaštelan

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