Investing Talks - Massimo Forte

Investing Talks

Name: Massimo Forte

Age: 53

Country of birth: Italy, Milan

Country/City of residence: Portugal, Lisbon

Biographical note:

Living in Lisbon and working in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Brazil, Massimo Forte is first and foremost an Italian from Milan who fell in love with real estate, a business he considers to be people to people.

In his more than 30 years of experience, he has worked for the biggest brokerage companies and has been involved in all stages of the business as a salesman, team manager, operations director and administrator.

Massimo Forte is now recognised as a leading real estate professional and influencer of best practices and trends. He is the author of the biggest best sellers in mediation in Portugal and works as a consultant, coach, trainer and lecturer.

He accompanies various brands and professionals in the development of their property business with the aim of changing paradigms and motivating people to think and act in a professional, ambitious and positive way.

He also shares his knowledge as a guest lecturer at INDEG-ISCTE and ESAI

- School of Real Estate Activities. He regularly contributes content to partners and specialised blogs and is one of the guests on Visão magazine's expert list.

Massimo Forte is the author of the sector's reference books, ANGARIATE TO SELL, COMMUNICATE TO SELL and THE POWER OF PROSPECT, which have already been published in Portugal and Spain.


Tell us a little about your personal and professional career. How did Massimo Forte come to the world of real estate and how did this journey lead you to become an expert in this sector?

I got into real estate, and real estate brokerage in particular, by chance.

At the age of 23, in the third year of my Business Management course, I decided to enter the labour market and at that time in Portugal, still without a university degree, sales was the most certain and desirable destination.

After several interviews with companies in different fields, a real estate brokerage company hired me and that was the start of my experience in this real estate career, which has lasted to this day and which I hope will continue!

After about seven years of hard work in sales, ups and downs and, above all, a lot of development of knowledge and experience, I decided to specialise and resumed my learning and graduated in Real Estate Management.

It was around this time that I moved on from collecting and selling property to learning how to lead teams in different companies and activities, always in the property sector, including valuations, consultancy, investment and mediation.

In 2007 I was challenged to take on an ambitious, large-scale coaching and training project as an independent consultant for the market leader in the field of mediation. I ended up being hired by this brand, where I stayed until 2009, when I took up a management position with a competitor brand.

It was in 2013 that I decided I was ready to dedicate myself to developing my own project and business, which I launched with the mission of "helping property professionals to be better professionals". I did this with a personal brand project that aimed to provide training, talks, consultancy, mentoring and coaching for companies and people in the property industry.

It was during this journey that I strengthened my desire to help and share knowledge with people. I edited four books for the sector, three in Portuguese and one in Spanish, and was invited to teach at my old college, ESAI, and later at INDEG-ISCTE.

We're familiar with your idea that training is one of the pillars of success in the property sector. What skills and knowledge do you consider fundamental for a consultant who wants to stand out in this market?

Today, fortunately, there is a very wide range of technical training for the core needs of the business: prospecting, canvassing and sales.

The brands themselves in the field of mediation offer and develop in-house training on the activity, but this more activity-centred knowledge doesn't seem to be enough to make us better professionals and see the activity as a successful one, and why not, a long-term career. Training needs to provide professionals with other and more varied competences, skills and, if you like, fundamental characteristics for those who really want to make the activity of mediation a serious project. In countries where mediation is more developed, this training need and reality has already been in place for many years, specifically in the areas of ethics, property law, the property market, property products and, most importantly of all, entrepreneurship. 

"Generalising, I think that the most profitable real estate in Portugal will possibly be that linked to health and perhaps tourism.."

In addition to traditional academic training, such as university courses, are there other qualification options you recommend, such as technical courses, certifications or specific training?

Just as I said before, Portugal needs better training and tighter legislation when it comes to licensing estate agents and mediators. Continuous and compulsory training in the areas I mentioned is fundamental to guaranteeing the professionalisation of the mediation sector.

Networking is a fundamental part of success in any area of business. What strategies does Massimo Forte suggest for a property professional to expand their network and build solid relationships?

There are various channels for networking, but in all of them the essentials prevail: willingness and ability to relate to your peers and your community.

Networking is about giving and not asking, so the concept of giving something relevant to the people you want to connect with or already connect with in order to become relevant, useful and respected is key.

Returning to the channels, whether online or offline, you need to understand the best way to connect in order to extend your business and realise who the people, companies and activities are that can be sources of contacts and influence. Authenticity, relevance and consistency in being present in whatever way works best for each person is essential.

Seeing and being seen, as a long-time friend of mine says, is important, but it's consistency and purpose that for me represent the most important thing in a relationship, and with more than 30 years of relationships and interactions in the market, I can say that at the moment, 95% of my business is networking.

In addition to the technical aspect, communication is essential in the property market, whether with clients, peers or business partners. What tips can Massimo Forte share on improving communication skills?

Like any skill, communication is also learnt. I can give you tips on the buzzwords you'll find in any book, or now on social media, such as: creating rapport; knowing how to listen; knowing how to be; knowing how to speak. But the most important thing is to be authentic and genuine within your context.

Communication always obeys a social, temporal or circumstantial context that must always be taken into account, otherwise the communication will not be properly received, or worse, misinterpreted.

Communication is learnt, trained and practised every day.

Training isn't just limited to the start of your career; it's a continuous process throughout your professional life. What opportunities do you recommend for the continuous improvement of a property professional?

In fact, it's when we think we know everything that we make the biggest mistakes.

Any professional, and especially a brokerage professional, should include training in their business plan as one of the most important investments to improve results during the year. That's why training needs planning, objectives and also measurement to evaluate the ROI (return on investment), otherwise you could be investing pointlessly and without any chance of having the best effect.

It's not just saying it, it's doing it, and that's why in my business plan the training I do every year is usually the item with the highest investment value, and has been for years, because without it the purpose doesn't make sense.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in the property industry?

Before diving into any project or course that promises immediate results, look for a company that you identify with, don't just go for the one that gives you the highest commission, evaluate and choose the one that actually gives you the best support tools to learn and work effectively.

Ask for the training, integration and follow-up plan of the company you're thinking of joining. Then, bearing in mind that you're just starting out, you can assess whether you'll need external training, or whether you'll just have to dedicate yourself and follow the training that the company you've decided to work with will provide.

What are the main trends you are currently observing in the Portuguese property market? Do you expect the rise in prices we've seen in recent years to continue? Or do you think the curve will flatten?

In my opinion, and taking into account the latest available data and its evolution, everything indicates that the market will stabilise, with some retraction in transactions and some price readjustments expected in some areas.

In the case of residential property, I think we could be creating a big gap between two different realities, as has happened in some European cities: a market in the big urban centres, with high sales values and only aimed at the upper-middle and upper segments, and of course the foreign market, and another side with outlying areas under pressure, needing more supply for the middle, lower-middle and lower segments, creating real satellite towns and not just disorganised outskirts.

The critical factor for this natural evolution to take place without pressure on prices and supply is mobility, especially the contribution of public transport, particularly the railway, which in Portugal has fallen behind the times compared to most other European countries.   

Massimo Forte, knowing the American market well and how it is organised, do you think that, in the future, the European market will come closer to the procedures used and in force in the American market, or will it be the other way around, or will they maintain their differences?

Good question! The trend has been to move closer together, both in terms of methods and business models. The MLS (property sharing system between professionals) and tighter legislation could be the final act of this rapprochement.

We always talk about the North American market, but Canada and Australia are similar models to follow. 

Does Massimo Forte work in countries other than Portugal? If so, how do you observe the particularities of each market? Do the national metrics echo those of European countries? Is there a country that we can consider as a mirror of our own?

Yes, I work mainly with Italy, Spain and more recently Brazil.

The case of Italy and Spain, perhaps because they are geographically close, is where I find many similarities. To summarise, I think that Italy has a clear advantage over Portugal in terms of legislation and regulation of the activity, because technically I even think that Portugal has a higher level. In the case of Spain, Portugal generally has a better property brokerage business, not least because Spain doesn't even have legislation. However, both Italy and Spain have an unrivalled competitive advantage, and in my opinion it's decisive: the size of both markets compared to Portugal. Since Brazil is almost a continent, the Brazilian case is a different story and a different reality, any generalisation in the comparison would be a huge mistake.

Professional ethics are fundamental in the property business, considering the responsibility of dealing with financial transactions and important decisions for clients. How does Massimo Forte encourage ethical behaviour in the sector?

Ethics is always present in all my courses, articles, books and lectures.

Unfortunately, I feel like a drop in an ocean, because in the Portuguese market (and others like it), it seems that anything goes and nobody does anything. There is a clear and evident lack of will to take responsibility on the part of the regulatory bodies, which can make it seem as if this activity should be left as it is.

The future of the property sector can be influenced by various factors, such as demographic, technological and social changes. What trends do you foresee for the sector in the coming years and how can investors adapt to these changes?

Not having a crystal ball and not being an expert in futurology, I would say that the market is very local, so it will depend from place to place. Generalising, I think that the most profitable real estate in Portugal will probably be that linked to health and perhaps tourism.

What are your long-term plans for your career? Do you see yourself in this training project for many years to come? Do you see this context of constant uncertainty as a problem or an opportunity?

As always, I consider myself an optimist and so I always see my business as an opportunity!

My project has changed over time. Today, training is no longer the most important activity in my business. Consultancy for property brokerage and investment companies is naturally filling a larger share and balancing the weight of the various areas of my business, which continues with the same purpose.

Until I succeed, I'm sure I'll continue to write and lecture, as I'm very passionate about both activities.  

What was the most challenging project you've ever worked on and why? Would you like to share a specific aspect of that challenge?

There were so many, it would be unfair of me to mention just one.

However, there is one that has been the most challenging, with constant learning and revelations: my long-term life project, which is my two children.

Would you like to leave a message for stakeholders in the property sector?

Always remember, real estate was created by People for People.

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