Easier to get Scarlet Johansson on your bed,than selling a land in Butimanu with 30 euro / sq.m.
(All time Classic, 16.06.2008)
It was 2006. Almost 2 years ago and we were in the middle of a very hot summer. I was in Athens, for my usual monthly visit so as to meet with clients, media people, politicians etc. After a really tiring day and 8 meetings, I had a last one in a so called "bad" area of the city. I was invited to meet there some clients, introduced to me by another investor who was satisfied by my advices. Having in my background almost 15 years in the Greek media, it is normal to have quite a few connections and some very good friends. One of them, working for one of the top Media Groups of the country, heard me saying that I would go to this bad area and volunteered to drive me there.
The first surprise was the voice over the telephone, who was instructing us in order to reach the meeting point. A voice coming out of the… Underworld, so deep and heavy, destroyed by millions of smoked cigarettes and who knows what else… My friend heard the gentleman who was giving usguidelines, but only the third time he managed to understand what he was saying. "Are you sure you want to go there?" he asked me. My positive answer created a storm of arguments, but without any success. One of my endless number of disadvantages is also my stubbornness. The best thing he could do was to stay 100 meters away from the meeting point "with my engine on, ready to come immediately if you want to escape from the jungle".
A really chubby gentleman welcomed me at the most decadent café I have ever seen in my life (and trust me, I've seen a lot…). He was together with a lady from Poland, who didn't like me from the first moment. We sat in the terrace of the café, without any light (actually it was difficult even to read a paper, we could barely see each other). Soon I had around me another 6 distinguished gentlemen and it was a new experience for me to feel as a part of a gang. Strange faces, "not mainstream" for sure. Dressed very simple, without having soap or perfume as their best friend, they were scanning me from my ears to the toes, especially as I was dressed with my typical suit and tie (I guess the last time they had worn tie must have been at the marriage of their child). Also, every 10 minutes there was another woman entering in the café, all of them ugly, with "broken – tired face", over 45, trying to be dressed "sexy" (ok, each of us has his own taste in these things…).
Thanks God, the leader of the company, the gentleman who guided us to come there, was sitting next to me, so I could guess better what he was trying to say. First of all, he introduced me like a rock star ("your back to the wall", I thought). Then he started narrating to his friends some stories from clients of mine, who had multiplied their money, "imagine they were even happy to pay him the commission he asked" (as if I asked them something more than the normal market rate, "press your back to the wall even more", an old advice by my father). His woman, coming from Poland, was very upset on me. I was asked to mention the advantages of Romania and she was trying to convince all people that Poland was better. Not because she had something to sell there, just because she couldn't believe the truths I was saying for the Romanian economy, the people and the country in general.
Two of the guys started asking me really insulting questions regarding Romania. For a part of Greek society, their only information about Romania is what they hear by some poor emigrants who left their villages and work in Greece today. The conversation was already exceeding one hour, when the leader asked his Polish woman to bring him his suitcase. "Enough, you will make my guy tired and he will choose wrong investments for my money and then I will have to kill you all" shouted, laughing for the joke he thought that he said. "Boy, I don't care about the figures you tell me and the market. I have this money in Switzerland and I have to take it from there, because every month they charge me with costs to keep it safe at their bank" were his words before he threw on the tiny table in front of me a huge bunch of papers. I really suffered to see something but I finally saw on the papers the name of the biggest Swiss bank. I dared to ask "is this money legal? If its not, I can not listen anymore". He was laughing like a baby… they all started laughing like this. "Yes, it is SUPER legal" (the next months I was surprised to find out that he was right).
We finished the night in a very good atmosphere and I even brought my friend who kept waiting for over 2 hours. He was surprised to find out that I… "survived" from there in one piece. In the next weeks 4 gentlemen of this company came in Romania and invested in Real Estate properties. Three of them invested with my company. We chose for them lands inside Bucharest, for blocks, lands in Cluj, Timisoara and Braila and we also bought two lands very close to the city, with opening to a nice lake. Today, 2 years after, they have succeeded to multiply their invested capital and in some cases they sold, or they will develop their own projects.
The fourth gentleman decided to do his own approach to the market. First of all, he found useless to pay commissions to agents. Secondly he found some friends of his in Romania, some Greeks for who I am ashamed because they come from the same country as I do. These lovely people convinced him to invest in… Butimanu, Lucianca and some villages around. You don't know where is this? It is around 40 km North from Bucharest, on DN1 A road, the old route to go to Ploiesti. (There, since 2005 I hear that "next month they will start the rehabilitation of the road" but so far this rehabilitation didn't happen, maybe we still wait to find out who are these "they" who were supposed to do it).
So, he bought several lands there, with prices of 3 – 8 euro / sq.m., seriously more than the real prices of the market (but I guess that his friends should also receive some "love" by the lucky owners who sold in these prices). Now, after two years, he is asking for 20 – 30 euro / sq.m., "because these are the prices in the area, actually I am cheap, as some of my neighbours ask for 50" (yeah, the endless problem in Romania, when people, both Romanians and foreigners, don't care for what is the real price in their area, but what price a crazy neighbour may ask). He came to me, so as to find a client for his lands. When I refused, he cursed me and asked me why. So, I sat down to explain to him…
"How easy is for you to have sex with Scarlet Johansson?" I asked him. "Who is she?". "A famous very beautiful woman". "I don't know her". "Who do you know?". "Brigitte Nielsen, that chick who was with Stalone". "Ok, lets go back in time and remember Brigitte Nielsen". "Yes, she was really hot". "Did you sleep with her?". "No, how to do this?". "If you would like to try, would it be easy for you?". "I think impossible". "Ok, it is easier to sleep with her even now, at her 50s than to sell your lands in Butimanu with 20 or 30 euro / sq.m.". "Why is that?" "People have plenty of better offers much closer to the city, to… civilization". "Yes, but you know… the mayor will develop a golf project there". "In which life? The one we are living now? Or the one of our grand children? Because I hear about this for ages and it never happened". "But the lands are very nice, there will be a new road from there too…", "Yes, mister, but in this price range we can find lands all around the city, much closer to Bucharest and with better facilities".
Since then, he keeps running right and left in the market, offering his plots to everyone. Almost anyone who speaks Greek or Romanian knows them and now we have also some other language speakers adding in the queue. He is always "in negotiations", most of the times "with serious funds", occasionally "ready to sign the contracts". But he doesn't sign anything and in the end he will not sign. Even if now he also ordered a valuation by a very small company, which gave him the prices he wanted to read. Not because I curse him or what, but simply because there are another 50.000 people like him, having lands with very big price, searching for a victim to invest on them, for the one "who has vision"…
I wish to anyone who desires mrs Scarlet Johansson to succeed in his goal and at least to… meet her. This task will be easier for him than selling properties in huge prices in the middle of nowhere around Bucharest.Ofcourse there are still some people who believe that if reality does not match with their wishes, too bad for the reality. There is no reason to wake them up. The market will do this by itself, in the upcoming months…