The Role of Property Exhibitions

by Michel Cruz

Real Estate and Property ExhibitionsYear after year, the many property exhibitions that are held across the world, and Europe in particular, draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to their diverse offering of luxury homes, affordable mass housing, rural getaways and holiday homes. What attracts visitors to these fairs, what do they do for the exhibiting companies and what kind of an impact do they have on the property industry as a whole?

If the numbers are anything to go by, property shows are definitely popular; not only has visitor attendance been very high in recent years, but the number and scope of property fairs has increased apace, offering a wide variety of both exhibitions and the kind of real estate on offer at them. With highly visible annual events in Madrid, Barcelona, Marbella, Cannes, London, Birmingham, Dublin, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, to name just a few, the property exhibition industry seems to be booming. But what is it that draws people to them and how effective are they?

The past two decades have seen a rapid growth in the number of well-to-do entrepreneurs and professionals, who now also increasingly include people under the age of 40—and even 30. The result has been a boom in consumption that has seen spending on luxuries such as first and especially second homes rise rapidly. But the increased demand for upgraded first homes and (often first-time) acquisition of holiday homes is not restricted to the wealthy. A large proportion of the populations of EC countries, and Northern Europe in particular, are now in a position to enter into these markets, giving rise to a huge real estate boom at the turn of the millennium. Billions are traded each year, and the property exhibitions play an important role in simultaneously promoting the industry and informing buyers.

Real Estate and Property ExhibitionsThe main value of a property show is that it brings buyers and sellers of real estate together under one roof,” says Fernando Urías of Grupo Planner, organisers of the annual Salón Inmobiliario de Madrid. “For individual companies and for the industry as a whole it is a great way to promote and market their products on a grand scale, while the fairs also serve to inform prospective buyers of what is available and for what price.” When the property circus comes to town, hundreds of exhibitors work for days to get their stands and presentations ready in time to receive the tens of thousands of visitors who will be passing through the gates. “Organising events such as these requires immense planning and preparation,” says Fernando, “but by now organisers have it down to a fine art.” Indeed, not only have the exhibitions increased in attractiveness and (technological) sophistication, but organisers have also realised the need for specialised events that cater specifically for important segments of the market. In this way, luxury properties are targeted at wealthy customers at small-scale events held at luxury hotels and resorts, while larger-scaled residential and tourist real estate is offered to a far broader public at large convention centres such as the NEC, the Jaarbeurshal and the Pabellón Internacional.

The bigger exhibitions, often organised in conjunction with property magazines, radio stations and television channels, are huge affairs that attract not only people looking to buy a property, but also those who are fascinated by the shows themselves. “This is not a problem,” explains Fernando, “since they too are potential future homebuyers and are absorbing information and becoming familiar with the main real estate companies during their visits. You see, besides bringing together supply and demand, and generating a lot of direct and indirect business, property shows also serve to increase brand and product awareness among clients.” At the larger events, indeed, a significant proportion of visitors only come to dream about owning a snazzy city-centre apartment or a sun drenched coastal villa, but at the specially-targeted up-market shows, it is a different story altogether. Often individually invited, the visitors at these select events can all be expected to have more than sufficient financial means, so the properties and developments offered are adjusted accordingly.

“These clients are usually well-informed. They travel a lot and normally have a good idea of what to expect in terms of quality, price and the locations themselves. Such events are therefore very focussed and often serve as a screening facility for prospective buyers, who can compare all the offerings from different companies and different regions without having to go to them individually. A lot of business is done there and then, especially where renowned companies are selling projects off-plan, but in many cases the fair forms the basis for visits to the areas where people are thinking of buying.” At the larger events, a somewhat less well-informed public receives important information in the form of visual inputs, brochures and documentation, price comparisons and the insights gained from personal contact with real estate professionals. “People may walk around with the idea of buying a property abroad for a long time, but they are not likely to walk into a succession of estate agents, that is more the way it works with local property purchases. The property shows, therefore, are very important in allowing potentially interested homebuyers to browse, look and inform themselves in a more relaxed, no-strings-attached way. In short, it helps to convert many a dream into a home buying reality.”

Copyright 2007 Michel Cruz

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