Source: eKapija | Sunday, 17.07.2022.| 13:18
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Niko Lakovic, Partner and Managing Director of Montenegro Sotheby’s Realty – Investors Ready to Pay up to EUR 10 Million for Luxury Villas and Historical Palaces on Montenegrin Coast

Niko Lakovic
Niko Lakovic (Photo: Privatna arhiva)
In the past, when there was talk about Montenegro as a luxury tourist destination, everyone had Sveti Stefan in mind, which has remained a jewel within this offer. Today, however, throughout the country, numerous projects which have raised the offer of Montenegro to a whole new level are being developed, and the interest of foreign investors is constant for more than a decade and a half now.

As Niko Lakovic, a partner and the managing director at the Montenegrin office of Sotheby’s Realty, said in his interview for eKapija, it all started in 2005, when foreigners first discovered Montenegro and its investment potential, which became even more attractive thanks to the strong investment-friendly policy and the adoption of laws which facilitated and simplified for investors to the greatest extent to invest here and buy real estate directly to their name, enabled the opening of a company in only several days etc. More than 15 years later, the interest in investments in still strong and it is taking the form of a mature market. People increasingly appreciate life in resorts and all the benefits it offers, and according to Lakovic, it is becoming a trend to which all investors will have to adjust in the future.

The possibilities offered by the market of real estate, especially of the luxury kind, were recognized by Lakovic after he returned from his studies in London. After working for two big investment houses, Pluto Developments and Black Mountain Development, at the end of 2009, he decided to open the company Luxury Homes, and then also launch the portal, which quickly became one of the leading real estate sites in Montenegro, but also in the region.

– On our portal, we were among the first to introduce the standard of having exclusively professional photographs of the advertised real estate. We had also recognized a market gap and introduced very expensive real estate in our portfolio too, which was not the case at the time. Aside from us, there were very few agencies selling facilities whose value exceeded EUR 5 million. We started strongly investing in marketing, we increased the presence through regional magazines, publications and website, but we also started appearing at international fairs – Lakovic says for eKapija.

They also soon established cooperation with Porto Montenegro, and it is precisely that project that he sees as the turning point in the development of the luxury real estate market in Montenegro.

– The successful development of our portal, as well as the continuous results we had achieved in our cooperation with Porto Montenegro, made me think about how we could make something more, some better connection with the world, because we had already set up a standard in the region. I felt that a strong name would have to appear in the market, which would raise the bar even higher and position Montenegro as a destination even better – our interviewee said.

That is how the famous Sotheby’s arrived to Montenegro.

– When I was thinking about who could come to the market, the options were Sotheby’s, Christie’s or Knight Frank. The choice ended up being Sotheby’s International Realty, since I have strong ties with Britain and their business standards. Also, as circumstances had it, at the time I met by current partner, Hunter Milborne, who is a Sotheby’s veteran and a man who has sold real estate worth billions. We decided to establish a partnership and we opened Montenegro Sotheby’s Realty in July 2020.

The arrival of a brand like Sotheby’s gave a strong additional value to the market of Montenegro, as well as an incredible exposure in the world. When asked how he managed to bring this global leader in the luxury real estate market, Lakovic says that it is primarily the successful development of Porto Montenegro that is to be thanked for it, and then of other high-end project which are realized in Montenegro as well.

Villa in Baosici with a pool and a view to the sea
Villa in Baosici with a pool and a view to the sea (Photo:
– At our company, in our relations with our clients, we foster a truly professional practice. Everything functions as if you were at any other office within the group, in London or New York. For each client, for each sale, we fight at the highest level and we try to have every purchaser be satisfied with the price they’ve achieved, but also their life at the settlement. We have opened offices in Porto Montenegro and Budva. We belong to a network of 75 countries which has 25,000 agents, our real estate is promoted through the strongest global medias and we are trying to spread an image of a different Montenegro every day in the world – says eKapija’s interviewee.

He adds that an office was also opened in Belgrade, Kadena Sotheby’s, which has a franchise for Serbia.

– Behind the office in Serbia are serious professionals from the fields of real estate and hotel management, Nikola Nedeljkovic and Zivorad Vasic. I truly believe that, together with the offices in Split and Belgrade, we will very soon become the main force in the former Yugoslav market when it comes to luxury real estate.

That it will be so is also shown by the fact that the Montenegrin office has also earned significant acknowledgments. The jury of the accreditation house International Property Awards gave the acknowledgment in the category Best Real Estate Agency Montenegro for 2021/2022 and all 5* to Montenegro Sotheby’s Realty. Also, the website was pronounced the best in the category Real Estate Agency Web Page.

Development initiated by the British, continued by Russians

Talking about the development of the real estate market in Montenegro, our interviewee says that, until 2005, it was mostly the region that was interested in that country. That’s when the turning point happened, however, and it was the British who came first and then Russians.

– The British are always the vanguard of other investors, they have it in their DNA. After they opened the market, they started selling real estate to Russians, who started coming to Montenegro in droves at the time. Like us, Russians are emotional buyers. When they like something, they don’t ask how much it costs. In time, that started raising the value of real estate. The potentials of Montenegro were then also recognized by people who founded Porto Montenegro. They bought the old navy base Arsenal and made a phenomenal resort for megayachts. They started building in 2006, the first building was ready in 2009, and to date, some 40% of Porto Montenegro is used for construction. Around 400 units were made, they brought luxury brands like Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Rolex… For example, Dior has achieved excellent results in Montenegro and pulled in other brands from their group. Next year, we expect the arrival of some more, very important world names, which have not been that present in the region so far – Lakovic says.

As he points out, Porto Montenegro plans to develop as a year-round destination, so the construction of the Boka Place settlement, within which another hotel is being built, is well underway.

– It will have 150 units and operate within One&Only group. The settlement will also have a small shopping mall of 55 units, where medium-class brands will arrive, as well as a cinema, a gym of 1,000 m2, an Olympic-sized pool… everything that will secure interesting features throughout the year for people – he says.

In addition to that, Porto plans to develop new projects, which will considerably improve the resort’s offer.

Luxury apartment in Hotel Regent with a view to the marina
Luxury apartment in Hotel Regent with a view to the marina (Photo:
– The continuation of the development of the complex will be on an even higher level. The next project will be called Synchro, it will have five plus starts, it will be run by one of the world-famous operators, it will have condo units, but also its own beach – reveals eKapija’s interviewee.

When it comes to the development of other projects, Lakovic also highlights Lustica Bay and Portonovi.

Lustica Bay is developing in a very serious direction, they’ve started building a golf course with 18 holes and it will be the first such project in the region, which will have 300 to 400 high-end residential units at the golf course, and they will also start building another two hotels. The residential part is being expanded as well, and Lustica Bay now has no unit in the market that is up for sale. On the other hand, Portonovi put Montenegro as a destination on another level through the One&Only brand. The project lives, functions, they have a nice marina, their own beach, high-quality residential units, and the retail offer is increasing too – Lakovic says.

He also mentions the residential project Dukley Gardens, which has luxury apartments, high-class features, as well as beaches which operate under the Nikki Beach brand.

– A second part of the Nikki Beach resort is opening in Kaludjerovina, and in Smokvica in Rezevici, the construction of a settlement which will be managed by the world hotel operator Rosewood is beginning. The construction of the first Marriott hotel near the old town in Kotor is beginning and it will be the first Marriott in Boka, with 150 hotel rooms. Kotor doesn’t have enough hotels, so it’s a good thing that the construction of Fjord is expected to start soon. In Budva, two hotels are being built on Slovenska Plaza, Intercontinental in Canj, Iberostar in Sutomore… The realization of another serious investment is beginning in Ulcinj, so a modern hotel complex will be built in the location of the former Galeb – Lakovic says.

In addition to the seaside, thanks to the project of economic citizenship, serious investments are realized in north Montenegro as well, primarily in Kolasin.

– Six or seven hotels are being built in Kolasin, so brands such as Swiss Hotel, Westin, IHG are coming to the north. Aman is coming to Zabljak, and the construction of Hotel Chedi is planned as well. The project of economic citizenship had plenty of positive effects, so the construction of luxury resorts in places where, if it hadn’t been for that, those hotels would probably never have been built, or it would have taken years for the investments to be realized and developed. This project has truly brought new value to Montenegro as a destination – our interviewee says.

He points out that there’s a wrong perception in the public that criminals are buying real estate through the economic citizenship program, which cannot be true at all.

– All the applications for citizenship go through the strict control of a specialized due diligence company from Canada, so no one from the criminal world can go through that check. The people that we have sold units for passports to come mostly from Europe, America, Canada, there’s a certain number of Russians, the Lebanese… The program will most probably end on December 31 under the pressure of the EU, but it has already produced results. A significant number of pieces of real estate has been sold and plenty of projects have been launched. The interest in the program is still very intensive and my estimate is that the majority of the units will be sold by the end of the year – Lakovic says.

Villas in Uvala Maslina in Utjeha, with pools and private access to the sea
Villas in Uvala Maslina in Utjeha, with pools and private access to the sea (Photo:

Luxury villas and palaces from the 17th century

In addition to the real estate offered within luxury resorts, Montenegro Sotheby’s Realty has rare jewels along the entire Montenegrin coast in its portfolio, which are meant for those who truly know the real estate field.

– I would highlight the phenomenal palaces from the 17th and 18th centuries throughout Boka – the palaces Tripkovic, Zmajevic, Mrsa… Those are all facilities which have their own character and history, their own story and originality. We offer sophisticated penthouses owned by very famous world families, but also signature apartments within branded hotels. Montenegro Sotheby’s has in its portfolio One&Only villas, which are unique, located right next to the sea, and which are run by the operator of such a level and class. We also sell attractive land at the seaside, but also some exclusive properties which feature several houses for the owners and guests, whose value exceeds EUR 10 million – Lakovic reveals.

Each real estate they offer has its own buyers, he points out.

– If we are talking about these individual villas, that niche is a bit narrower and specific, but there’s certainly an interest. Everything that’s on the seaside, in settlements such as Ljuta, Dobrota, Krtole, Kaludjerovina, Rose, Perast, if the price is reasonable, can be sold. For example, in Porto Montenegro, we achieved prices of up to EUR 12,000 per square meter for real estate, and in Portonovo, several One&Only villas were sold for more than EUR 10 million. That is truly good news for Montenegro. We are proving that we have such facilities in the market and that we can sell them, which further opens some new horizons and perspectives for investors. Also, we have in our portfolio everything that Sotheby’s group offers in the world that is very attractive to people when they visit us, especially apartments in London and New York, as well as houses on the Italian, Greek and French rivieras – Lakovic says.

Trends and perspectives in the market of luxury real estate

What’s currently the trend in the real estate market and what’s particularly in demand are serviced apartments.

– People are losing enthusiasm for the purchase of real estate where there is no kind of service at all. Those kinds of projects are becoming a thing of the past, and everybody who builds in the future will have to make facilities with features, a reception desk, maintenance, pools, a gym. The increasingly present trend is for people from the region to buy real estate. They come and stay here for three to four months, and they are still not too far away and they reach their destinations of origin easily. This year, we had as much as 50% buyers from Serbia – our interviewee says.

Villas in Uvala Maslina in Utjeha, with pools and private access to the sea
Villas in Uvala Maslina in Utjeha, with pools and private access to the sea (Photo:
In addition to the region, the purchasers of luxury real estate also come from Great Britain, West Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Scandinavia, Poland, the Czech Republic…

– We have noticed that we are getting increasingly more clients from those countries who knew the former Yugoslavia as a destination. As Sotheby’s, we are managing to promote Montenegro in a special way and to prove that our country is not the way it used to be, but that it is developing into an entirely new lifestyle destination. In the future, I imagine it as a spa center for rich clients – he adds.

He sees infrastructure as the biggest weakness of Montenegro.

– I hope that the tender for airports will be realized, where some world operator will continue operating them and that it will work on the seaside infrastructure, especially on the main traffic routes between Tivat, Budva, Herceg Novi, Kotor… That is our main area, that’s where big projects are realized and that’s where real, big money is coming from. The highway to Kolasin opened as well, and if we connect with the highway to Belgrade, it will be a very important thing for us. We are happy that things are going in the right direction. Unfortunately, we are not a destination that has a developed economy, so we have to have real estate, tourism or some atypical businesses – Lakovic says.

When asked how the war in Ukraine influenced the real estate market, our interviewee says that around 25,000 Ukrainians live in Montenegro.

– A slightly richer class of Ukrainians arrived to our country and they truly pushed the market and raised the rent prices. Now that trend of growth that is recorded in the rent market initiates the construction of new facilities, which is certainly a positive impulse for Montenegro. I am sorry for everything that is happening in Ukraine, but I am glad that they are finding a sanctuary and a safe base here. We still have a large number of Russians coming, with whom we have excellent business relations. Russians always have a strong interest in purchasing real estate, but it has been made very difficult for them, because they can’t carry out payments – says eKapija’s interviewee.

Despite the crises and the events on the global level, the luxury real estate market in Montenegro is stable.

– The market is currently very strong and we expect a good trend in the future as well. The interest in Montenegro is taking on the form of a mature market, the trend of interest is stable and, when it comes to projects, I can see that Montenegro is gaining the kind of value that it is supposed to have. As I’ve already mentioned, people are aware of the advantages of living by the seaside, especially in resorts, and I am quite convinced that, in the future, there will be fewer and fewer traditional buildings and increasingly more settlements and resorts with additional features. It is simply a trend that all investors will have to follow – concludes Niko Lakovic in his interview for our portal.

Dragana Obradovic

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