Gemma Immobiliare 20 in 2022
2022 marks 20 years of Gemma Immobiliare as a leading real estate agency at Lake Como. So what better way to celebrate this milestone by reflecting on the development of the business by interviewing Gemma Fumagalli the owner and driving force behind Gemma Immobiliare
2002 and the start of something new
How did Gemma Immobiliare come about?
After leaving school, I wasn’t certain what career I wanted to pursue and so tried a number of jobs, retail was one area which I was attracted to and in a short space of time became the manager of one retail outlet. Whilst retail appealed to me, it wasn’t long before I decided that it wasn’t a career for me and so I tried something new which I had a keen interest in – real estate. Subsequently I gained employment at Acca Studio a real estate agency in Menaggio, which proved to be a very good grounding and enabled me to gain the relevant qualifications. The work was interesting, I liked helping people find their ‘perfect’ home, especially foreign purchasers where I could use my language skills. For many foreign purchasers there was an element of uncertainty as it was and still is a major step to purchase a property in a different country with possible issues regarding language skills. I soon realised that building confidence through active listening and discussing precisely what the purchaser is looking for, not just in a property but also lifestyle, was key in finding their ‘perfect’ home. It also helped my English and German language skills, the latter more than the former
This was the start of my passion and I spent more time with foreign purchasers which was intrinsically rewarding. I knew that this would be my long term career and it wasn’t long before I was ready to take the next step, a big step, I wanted to open my own agency and predominantly focus on the foreign purchaser. In January 2022, I took my big step and Gemma Immobiliare became a reality with a physical presence, an office in Lenno
Hard work pays off
Gemma Immobiliare is recognised as one of Lake Como’s leading real estate agencies, what makes it so successful?
Like everything in life achieving your goal takes a lot of hard work, but if you have the drive and passion then the hard work doesn’t seem as hard because the passion takes over and believe me, I am passionate at what I do.
How difficult was it in the early stages?
The early stages are always the most difficult when establishing a business, obtaining properties establishing a client base of interested purchasers, marketing the business and developing the services we offer all takes time and yes, hard work.
From the very first day and even before, my philosophy for the business was to give the purchaser exactly what they wanted and to do this the purchaser has to be front and centre of everything we do. This is without doubt the key to our success, many purchasers in the early years have become regular clients either selling the properties they had bought from us for other properties or utilising our property management, property rental, or other services that we offer. Some clients have become great friends and a number have become residents of Italy and have even started businesses in the area. I think this goes to prove that our philosophy works
How did you implement your philosophy for the business?
It started with thinking about the purchaser and putting myself in their position, sounds simple but, you soon realise it isn’t. You have purchasers who know exactly what they want and they buy it, others know what they want but change their minds and buy something different and then others who don’t know what they want but have some idea of what they might want. So, if I put myself in each of these purchasers shoes it becomes evident that a different approach to each is required. Which brings me back to ‘active listening’ and communication skills in general. How do we reply to an initial enquiry whether verbal or written becomes very important, and we can ask ourselves what is the purchaser really asking? From this initial point we enter into a dialogue - ‘two way communication’ is established and as it develops we continue to listen and ask questions that help establish precisely what the purchaser or as I prefer to use the ‘client’, wants. This is essential in building - the client’s confidence and the relationship with the client. I often recall the phrase ‘a client buys you before buying a property’ which sounds a little creepy but is true. Unlike other countries, real estate agencies in Italy can have the same property for sale across a number of competitor agencies, so why does a client use one agent over another? The answer is confidence and strength of relationship established.
I would also say that ‘time’ is very important, prompt responses to clients requests, giving clients the time to absorb the information sent, etc., we do not work a set number of hours each day nor a set number of days per week. This is especially true for clients from North America and Asia.
In addition ‘cultural awareness’ is equally important as many of our clients come from different countries and cultures and so developing an understanding of cultural differences is invaluable in relationship building and communicating with clients
You mention North America and Asia, is that predominantly where your clients come from?
When I started the business the majority of our clients come from European countries and as the business developed so did our reputation and the number of clients form North America and Asia increased. Currently, the majority of clients come from Europe, but with the favourable exchange rates we have experienced an increase in clients from America.
We pride ourselves in anticipating trends in the property market and so we are quick to adapt to changes. Many people thought that the UK market would rapidly decline as a result of Brexit, but we took a different view and experience proved we were right. As for future trends in the property market, well… let’s see, I don’t want to give too much away, you never know who might read this.
What advice would you give to potential purchasers/clients?
Lake Como is a beautiful part of Italy, the scenery is stunning, the climate is fantastic, the food and wine are excellent and… I could continue but clients are generally knowledgeable about Lake Como when they consider buying a property at our beautiful lake. So my advice would focus more specifically on the property and local area and consider the following:
• Research the specific locality – some areas do not get a great deal of sun in the winter months due their location. Also property prices generally decrease the further North from Como Town that you travel as we highlight on our website - https://www.gemmaimmobiliare.com/news/location-location-location.html
• Type of property – apart from the number of bedrooms etc., is it a resale or brand new, there are advantages and disadvantages of each and property purchase tax is different for each. Is generating a rental income a consideration?
• Be familiar with the purchase process, we have information on our website - https://www.gemmaimmobiliare.com/news/the-purchase-process.html
• Ask questions – we like most real estate agents will answer any questions potential clients might have, we understand the more a client knows the better informed the decision making
We know purchasing a property is a major financial investment and purchasing one in Italy, a foreign country for many of our clients, can be daunting, so anything we can do to make it less intimidating is essential.
Given your success over the last 20 years, where do you see Gemma Immobiliare in the next 20 years?
Well that is looking forward a long time! By then I will be an old lady, not in my dotage for sure but probably slowing down a bit. I have two young children and would be more than happy for them to take over at some stage – if they want to. I’ll still be here as it is my passion and my passion has never waned since day one, so I can’t see it waning in the near future.
Talking of the near future, we are a small flexible team which helps in adapting to shifts in the market, communication with clients etc., so expanding our team is not something we would consider.
We know we are doing a good job, but we will not rest or become complacent and so the future is to focus on what we are currently doing, striving to continually improve whilst maintaining our philosophy of keeping the client front and centre.
This said we will continue to develop the services that we offer to clients in a responsive and reactive means thereby meeting their needs even further, more organic growth. As highlighted previously, this has been the way our business has developed and has proved successful
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I have thoroughly enjoyed developing the business and I have met some lovely people and made some great friends from clients over the last 20 years. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all my clients for helping establish Gemma Immobiliare as one of Lake Como’s leading real estate agencies, you have made it the success it is today