Interview with Allenah Tereso - Managing Director of PORTUGAL INTERIORS
We have applied our long history in hotel management and rentals to the area of furniture and decoration. Initially for holiday rentals and today for anyone who owns a home in Portugal, applying the same standards of quality that have allowed us to accompany families from all over the world…
Why was Portugal Interiors created?
To answer your question it is probably easier for me to give you some background. Our group has over 25 years of experience in the Real Estate, Hotel and Hospitality sector in Portugal. As foreigners who chose Portugal as our home, we have first hand experience of the challenges that international clients experienced when buying property or choosing to settle in Portugal in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s. Portugal was an interesting emerging market to invest in property, it had joined the European Union only a decade before and billions of Euros had been invested in infrastructures. Expectations were that property prices would experience steep growth. Investors found that besides the obvious challenges of communicating in a language that was foreign to them, Portugal had a reputation for being unregulated and bureaucratic, anything but simple. Our challenge was to adopt a “Portugal made Simple” strategy, a hassle-free and seamless client experience for families buying property in Portugal.
We realised that we had to introduce professionalism and hotel standards to a residential property and tourism industry that was largely unregulated and in complete disarray with private holiday lets that had no standards to speak of. This was a time when it was common to rent a room in a house that a family member had vacated for the summer or just as common for people to rent substandard homes that had been furnished with secondhand furniture. Many of us have memories of summer holidays when we met a lady outside the house or apartment who took our cash and drove off only to be seen again at the checkout. Portugal had started making inroads into the international tourism and property market and the Leisure Launch Group was amongst a handful of companies promoting Portugal as a safe place to visit and invest in. Both from an investment and tourism perspective, it made no sense to allow the residential tourism industry to continue in such a disorganised and unregulated manner. Property investors were arriving in Portugal faced with the enormous challenge to find professional companies to furnish, property manage and rent their homes. Our solution was to use our extensive Real Estate and Hotel/Hospitality experience to establish a complete service and furniture supplier that would meet the hotel standard for quality, functionality and durability, while at the same time customising home decor to the buyer’s taste. We began trading in 2006 under the brand SCH Furniture which we have recently rebranded to Portugal Interiors as a celebration of our love for this beautiful country.
What memories do you have of the early days?
I have so many wonderful memories of the early days. The market was changing so quickly, we realised early on that the Internet was going to change everything, hotels were ripe for disruption and Portugal was not prepared for the onslaught of both tourists and investors. Our property buyers were looking for a rental return on their properties and their competition was the hotels. To compete with the hotels our property owners had to offer properties furnished at the same standard. Fortunately, with our hotel experience and connections, we were able to source directly from manufacturers. An interesting fact is that Booking.com was so impressed with our standard of furnishings, our sister company Silver Coast Hospitality was one of the first holiday lets to be approved for their platform in Portugal.
How does Portugal Interiors contribute to improving a property’s rental potential? As the world changes and people travel more, guests demand quality accommodation. To compete with the hotel industry at the same level, it was important that investors understood that they would have to offer a more professional and organised service. So we applied exactly the same standards to provide a ‘Hotel Experience in a Luxury Holiday Home’, and that became our mission. We go down to the finest of detail, not only in the hotel standard of the furnishings but also in terms of quality because in a rental the wear and tear are much higher than in a normal residential home. We took the positives from our experience in the hotel industry and applied them to a luxury holiday home. Today, we are proud to see that, over the years, our homeowners have achieved consistently above-average rental returns. How would you group your clients? We have essentially three groups of clients. Firstly, clients who buy homes as permanent residences or as a second home for their own exclusive use. These are more fun because we are able to customise and decorate the home exclusively to the client’s taste. The second group are investors who buy a property with the purpose of renting. In this case, the houses and apartments are furnished to meet rental standards and regulations, with limited customising. The third group are clients who are a mix of both. In other words, they are buying a second home that they will initially rent and use for holidays with the intention to eventually make Portugal their home. Does Portugal Interiors only furnish holiday homes? We furnish and decorate all types of houses and apartments, the market has evolved and we have grown with it. We do bespoke home decor and furnishing as well as ready-to-rent furniture solutions.
Why is Portugal Interiors different from any other furniture or decoration supplier in Portugal? Firstly, we are one of the few companies in Portugal that offer all these services under one umbrella. You would normally have to visit many different companies to achieve what we offer, for example, furniture, cutlery and crockery, curtains, linen, appliances, etc. And let us not forget the professional decorating and fitting. We do much more than any other potential competitor. Tell me more about your commitment to local manufacturing and supply? From the beginning, we wanted to have a local approach to our business model. Portugal has a rich history of manufacturing not only quality furniture but also textiles. A little-known fact is that a lot of famous brands have their furniture and textiles manufactured in Portugal. It is quite common to find really expensive sheets and duvet covers, towels, etc. in some of the most expensive stores in the world that are ‘Made in Portugal’. Giving preference to Portuguese products has always been one of the core principles of our company. We also strive to employ locally because we want to contribute to our community, so whenever possible we source products from local manufacturers. Our clients see value in this because they want their relationship with Portugal to be a positive one. Buying Portuguese products and supporting local communities is very much appreciated by the Portuguese people.
In terms of the buying process, how does this work...
Our initial conversation with clients begins with understanding their needs and expectations, discovering what kind of experience they want to have in their homes, and at the same time finding the balance if they want to also rent their property.
We then begin the process. If the property is built, we will visit it with the client or we will take our team along and study the plans to see what is possible. In the past, this would always be done in person but with technology, we are having a lot more virtual meetings using Zoom or other video platforms to communicate. However, we recommend that clients meet with us personally when they eventually do come to Portugal, as we always like them to visit homes that have been furnished by Portugal Interiors.
What does Portugal Interiors include in its service? We supply the complete solution, often referred to as a ‘Ready to Enjoy, or Rent, Furniture Pack’. A pack will include everything big and small, from hard furnishings such as tables, chairs, beds, mattresses, etc., to soft furnishings, such as sheets, curtains, pillows, crockery, cutlery, pots and pans. We also include items that are typically Portuguese. If a client wants to rent their home, one of the things that must be included is a “varinha mágica”, a hand blender. We have the experience so we include all those small details that are so important. We also do the decoration of the home. Choosing colours, hangings, photographs, posters, wallpaper... All the sort of things that will personalise the home for each family. When we leave your home, you can literally walk in the next day to begin enjoying life in Portugal, either as a holiday home or as a permanent residence.
Who are Portugal Interiors’ clients? We specialise in a niche market, focused on foreigners who are investing in or purchasing a house or apartment in Portugal. We research the market quite intensely before we start servicing the client. We find that depending on what country the client comes from they tend to have different tastes. Our clients come from all over the world, so it doesn’t matter where you come from. We take the time to understand you.
How do you meet their needs? We begin by trying to really understand our client’s lifestyle and how they want to experience their home in Portugal. Because they come from many different countries, we do lots of research. It’s important that we have a greater sensibility of their cultural habits as well as an understanding of how they plan to enjoy their homes. What do clients most value when choosing furniture? A combination of durability and design, as well as benefiting from our experience in the rental market. Rental properties have more people “traffic” so durability is an important factor to consider when furnishing your holiday home. What can clients expect from the Portugal Interiors experience? They can expect a very simple and hassle-free client experience. We recommend that clients involve us as early as possible in the buying process, so it is common for buyers to contact us before they have even purchased the property! In some cases, it’s a house or apartment that is already built, but in other cases, it’s a new build property. New build properties are more exciting and at the same time a bigger challenge. Getting in early means that we work together with the clients and builder with a vision of the final decor in mind. It is quite common for the client to invite us to participate in meetings with the builder to select tile colours and finishes. We share the client’s vision for the finished home, so we are able to transmit it to the builder in Portuguese. Clients understand that the decoration is what makes a house ‘their home’.