INTERVIEW WITH MR. NIKO LAKOVIC – PARTNER AND CEO OF MONTENEGRO SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY
Niko Laković, partner and CEO of Montenegro Sotheby’s International Realty talks to Miloš Duletić, Sales Director from THE COLLECTION to discuss the Sotheby’s brand, Montenegro today and where we are heading and outlines why Montenegro is such an exciting destination for high-end real estate buyers, competing and winning on a competitive world stage.
Mention Sotheby’s and most people will immediately associate the brand with auctions of the most valuable artworks in the world. However, at the same time, this company also sells luxury real estate. Montenegro has been on the map of 72 countries in which this business empire has been building its success since 2020. Owing to that, the world’s richest people, who buy at auctions, can get acquainted with the trophy property market on the Montenegrin coast. One of the most deserving people for the arrival of this brand in Montenegro is Niko Laković, partner and CEO of Montenegro Sotheby’s International Realty. At the beginning of his career Laković, who has been in the real estate business for over a decade, worked for several British investment funds, operating on the Montenegrin coast. In the interview with THE COLLECTION, he highlights the potential of the Montenegrin tourism market, which, in spite of the pandemic, will continue to grow. In his view, the long-term trend of the arrival of the world’s major hotel brands will also favor the sale of luxury real estate, while positioning Montenegro as an increasingly attractive destination.
Miloš Duletić, Sales Director, THE COLLECTION: Sotheby’s is probably one of the most renowned global brands in the auction world as well as the luxury real estate sector. How did you start working with such a prestigious brand? Can you briefly describe your path to achieving something that can be considered the pinnacle of real estate business?
Niko Laković, Sotheby’s Montenegro: After completing my studies and professional stay in London, I decided to return to Montenegro, which in 2007 was experiencing an unprecedented boom in the real estate and investment sector and commenced working for British investment funds that were very active with projects on the Montenegrin coast. At the end of 2009, I founded the company ‘Luxury Homes’, which created the website Nekretnina.me, recognizable today in the area of luxury real estate. During that period of strategic development, we went through various phases, from the initial boom, through stagnation and crisis, to the recovery and rise of the market. Since I had been connected with British companies all the time and did business within the British work system, I thought about what, based on positive examples and models that system offered, would be best to do in terms of growing a business and sustainable development in the industry.
Guided by that experience, I concluded that there were several names in the world of luxury real estate that set global business standards in this area and whose presence would have a positive impact on our further development. Among them, of course, was Sotheby’s. In mid-2019, I met my current business partner, who today is the master franchisor for Montenegro: Hunter Milborne, a Canadian, a veteran of the Sotheby’s brand, a true legend in the business. He as coined the ‘Dean of Condos’ because he is credited with selling more than 100,000 luxury properties, with a total value of over $25 billion. The intention to bring Sotheby’s to Montenegro was facilitated by a good investment environment, high-end projects such as Porto Montenegro, among whose owners previously featured the Rothschilds, the family of the Canadian businessman Peter Munk, the owner of the Louis Vuitton brand, etc. This luxury tourist resort for mega yachts is largely responsible for positioning Montenegro as an important nautical destination, and today the headquarters of our company is located in Porto Montenegro.The Montenegrin office of the Sotheby’s Realty brand is now able to actively promote Montenegro through magazines and media such as Bloomberg, Financial Times, New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, but also on the official Sotheby’s International Realty website with over 35 million visitors per year. We also regularly send a selection of properties from our portfolio to buyers participating in Sotheby’s auctions. This way the world’s richest people can directly become aware of Montenegro, of its culture, history, architecture and lifestyle.
What standards and rules does partnering with Sotheby’s entail? How demanding and how challenging is it?
Sotheby’s is a brand whose foundations had been set many years earlier and implies high business standards. This requires a certain set of responsibilities to be assumed by everyone who has the privilege to operate within its framework. This implies the structural implementation of the business model and principles in the market in which it establishes its operations, the internal business model of the office operations, employees, the way of advertising, etc. Our brokers are professionals with clear ethical standards in doing business and speak several languages. In each of the 72 countries around the world, the rules that Sotheby’s is guided by are the same: professionalism, ethics, and top products. That goes for each of the 23,500 agents. The culture and standards of the brand, with our carefully selected team, is what allows us to meet international business requirements and respond to all eventual challenges.
In the space of a few years, Montenegro has become a destination offering luxury real estate and as such is recognized in Europe. How have you, as a man who closely followed that development, experienced these changes? What prompted them and what effects have they produced? What is Montenegro’s secret?
Yes, that is exactly so. Montenegro was still an undiscovered destination, but a strong ‘investment-friendly’ policy started to be implemented fifteen years ago. The legislative framework allowed investors to invest in Montenegro under the same rules as anywhere in Europe. A buyer from abroad can register a property in his own name like any other citizen, the company can be opened in three days, and the income tax of 9% is among the lowest in Europe. In addition, the Citizenship-by-Investment Program has accelerated the construction of hotels, primarily in the north of Montenegro. Namely, with a purchase of an accommodation unit or an apartment in a new high-category hotel for 250,000 euros in the mountain region or 450,000 euros in the coastal area, foreigners can become Montenegrin citizens.
Montenegro is also the leading candidate for EU membership by 2025, which encourages people from around the world to buy property here because they feel the stability and security of their investment and expect a certain increase in value. The situation is also facilitated by the fact that we are the only country outside the EU with Euro as a currency. All this results in strengthening the investments and the construction of luxury hotels, which will bring the country a potential investment of 400 million euros from this program alone. Since my return to Montenegro until today, I have been part of these positive changes and initiatives as a professional. They have had an impact on the strategic positioning of Montenegro on the global map as well as the standardization of the real-estate industry in this country.
What is Montenegro still missing? In your opinion, what should Montenegrin tourism look like and what kind of clientele could Montenegro attract?
In my opinion, the key shortcoming is the fact that Montenegro still lacks a strong road infrastructure, and we could also improve airline connections, as we are essentially still an island country. I hope that the planned motorway to Serbia will be completed in the near future and become a major link with Europe and the region. At the same time, the European Union has announced that they will finance the Adriatic-Ionian motorway – and that would be another extraordinary link with Montenegro. When it comes to future potentials, I see Monenegro as a spa center for a rich clientele, a sort of combination of Slovenia, renowned for natural beauty and spa centers, and Croatia, which attracts tourists with high purchasing power.
Montenegro has the prerequisites for that thanks to its amazingly varied natural characteristics and the possibility to spend part of the vacation in the coastal area with a stunning seaside, as well as in the mountains, in the north of the country, only two-hour drive from the coast. The Bay of Kotor is an amazing gem that will always attract attention. Great potentials are also Luštica, Budva’s hinterland, Ada Bojana, Buljarica and other undeveloped locations which are covered in terms of infrastructure, with a view of the sea, glorious nature and vegetation. On the other hand, there is Durmitor as a unique natural jewel.
What are some of the most important real estate properties in Montenegro offered by your company? Which locations do you think will be of interest in the future?
I would single out a portfolio of historic real estate in the Bay of Kotor, such as historic villas in the settlement of Ljuta in Kotor or a 14th century stone house in Reževići, located on its own peninsula. It first served as a quarantine quarter and then as a place where sailors rested after long voyages. Among our listings is the Tripković Palace from the 18th century in the settlement of Dobrota in Kotor – one of the finest examples of architecture on the Adriatic. The four-storey building of 1,500 square meters was built by the famous maritime family, the Tripković family. In our offer there is a large number of palaces situated in the Bay of Kotor that have witnessed centuries, as they date back to the Venetian and Austro-Hungarian times.
Where there is luxury real estate, it stands to reason that luxury brands – from hotel to fashion – should follow. Is there a chance that Montenegro, especially locations such as Porto Montenegro, will get more big names?
The One & Only hotel complex in the Portonovi tourist resort in Kumbor opened a month ago and has already started receiving guests. The fact that we are especially proud of is that it is the first hotel in Europe from the One & Only group. The attractive Nikki Beach resort has recently opened in Tivat, opposite Sveti Marko Island. From October, the works on the phenomenal Marriott hotel palazzo complex near Kotor’s Old Town are expected to begin, for the construction of which a green light was obtained from UNESCO. The construction of the The Ritz-Carlton hotel complex is expected to begin by the end of 2021. In the third quarter of 2021, the construction of the Raffles resort in Smokvica, Reževići, is also set to begin. Also, in 2021, we have high hopes for the long awaited Four Seasons resort at the Blue Horizons in Radovići, then the expansion of the Luštica Bay settlement and the commencement of construction of the Bigova Bay project in Bigova. The construction of the Intercontinental hotel complex in Čanj is well underway.
Some of these brands do not exist anywhere else in the former Yugoslav countries. Also, the expansion of Porto Montenegro marina is expected, which will have up to 850 berths, as well as the acceleration of new investments within the project itself, where works are extensively being carried out on the Boka Place complex, a new prestigious settlement incorporating a shopping mall. The marina consistently receives annual awards as the best marina on the Adriatic and Porto Montenegro also receives awards for the best mixed-use project in the Mediterranean.
For more information please contact:
Montenegro Sotheby’s Realty, Porto Montenegro
Mobile: +382 67 310 006
Source: The Collection