Sometimes you ask me where I came from. Why Spain, why Marbella, why real estate agency? I'll tell you the story.
And that's it? Will it be like that until the end?
November 2005. Gdańsk, 19 Polanki St. I leave work after 6 pm, it is dark, cold, raining and windy. As I drove to my office that morning it was dark, cold, raining and windy. And the previous day as well, and even earlier. I get in my car and drive. At the intersection with Kołobrzeska Street, I experience my everyday dilemma: a gym or a sofa, a pot of tea and a book? The gym wins (this time). I arrive, jump on the treadmill and after about 15 minutes I realize that I am going, indeed, running nowhere. Literally and figuratively. A neon light lights up in my head with the question: “And that's it? Will it be like that until the end?". The weight of this question (two questions in fact) almost takes me off my feet and the treadmill. Then I don't know yet what I want, but I know that I definitely don't want what I have.
I know one thing for sure
November 2006. I am after my first trip to Spain, a wonderful week in Malaga, my Spanish exam, which cost me 2 months of crazy cramming and I’m gathering strength. Because I already know what I want. I want to move to Spain, specifically to the Costa del Sol, and even more specifically to the area of Málaga. Back then, I didn't know if I could drop everything and just leave, but when I remembered what I felt when I got off the plane in Málaga, I knew I had to check if it was real. I felt that I was at home.
THE decision and its consequences
March 2007. I flew to Málaga for a few interviews, which I arranged for, of course, online. I hold in my hand my fresh diploma from Instituto Cervantes like a sword that I intended to conquer southern Spain with. Or to defend myself against it – at that time my feelings were quite ambivalent. I started realizing that this “life swing” that I was going to perform would have consequences. I would quit a demanding but well-paid job, I would stay with a mortgage, a leased car and no regular income. To be precise: no income at all, with zero on the "has" side and a screammy red on the "owes" side.
Looking for a job
I went to job interviews with a firm determination to get any job, so that that zero would stop scaring me. My “diploma sword” turned out to be a piece of completely useless paper – by the way, during my 12 years of living in Spain no one even asked me about it. Instead, they asked about other things, first of all, why was I moving, did I have a family, fiancé, friends in Spain? The answer to all these questions was "no". "I'm moving because of the sun," I added. And I could see that I made a mistake. The look that the interviewer sent me clearly expressed her opinion on my state of mind, and my assurance that I would move to Málaga in June permanently and would be at her disposal did not change anything. Do I have to add that I didn't get any of these jobs then?
Change: ready, steady, go!
May 31, 2007. I collect my things in the proverbial cardboard box and say goodbye to the office and my ex-boss for the last time. He wishes me good luck, but probably not entirely sincerely, because in the coming years he will try to convince me to come back. On June 1st, my great Spanish adventure begins. Right after I take the last suitcase out of my apartment, a tenant moves in. I only take what I need, but my brave little Opel Corsa is loaded to the roof anyway, and when opening the trunk, you have to watch out for the iron that falls out. I'm on my way. My friend accompanies me, she is a spiritual support and a second driver. We have 3,500 km ahead of us, Joanna has a return ticket to Gdańsk in two weeks. And I have the same time to make a new life for myself. In Spain, a country that charmed me and where I know absolutely no one. Ahoy adventure!
Selling properties in Spain? OK, I'll try, maybe I'll like it
June 3, 2007. Interview. A typical Polish real estate office in Spain run by a Polish couple who have been living in Spain for years. They both hardly speak Spanish, which surprises me a bit. Soon it will stop surprising me, because it will turn out that I am in a totally cosmopolitan place, where everyone comes from somewhere and usually speaks several languages. My new employers, because I get this job right away, they speak a lot and flowery – only in Polish. For them I seem to be a kind of a star from heaven. When the next day they invite me to their office in Puerto Banus and talk about their life in Marbella, I have the impression that I have found myself in the middle of a Cinderella fairy tale. They're the prince, I'm Cinderella, and the rest of my common sense tells me that it's all too good to be true. The rest of my common sense is right as it turns out later, but so far the fairy tale continues.
First, Alicante and Costa Blanca
I start working in a Polish real estate office in Spain and go to the area of Alicante on the Costa Blanca to – this is my task – check the market. I check it then, and since I have no idea about real estate, nothing special comes out from this check. I try my best, I arrange meetings with developers and I write reports that nobody reads. After a few days, I am asking for some job description, because I have the impression that no one really needs what I do. Then it turns out that there are no specific tasks, because I went there to… check the market. Well. As an experienced ex-corporate-robot, painfully task-oriented and trained for tasks with an "yesterday" implementation date, I create this unfortunate job description for myself and the world immediately returns to the right track. For a while.
September 2007. My "exile" on the Costa Blanca is ending, I go back to Marbella, find an apartment exactly where I wanted it, which means Paseo Maritimo. Sea, beach, palm trees – it's wonderful. Then it turns out that the lack of a parking space is a serious disadvantage, and living in a block that remembers the times of General Franco is associated with attractions such as: a gas cooker with a gas bottle that needs to be replaced by yourself; water, which sometimes there is and sometimes not, but then there is usually electricity – unless I turn on the washing machine and iron at the same time.
How not to run a real estate office in Spain
I start working in the office and spending more time with my employers. Basically only with the employer because his wife spends her time mainly shopping. I am surprised that no one teaches me anything, that more or less nothing happens in the office, and customers rarely buy anything, if they show up at all. After a few months, two things come to my mind. First my employer cannot teach me anything, because he does not know much himself, and second: a serious crisis on the real estate market in Spain begins. Ultimately, I will work in this company for a year and a half and I will learn one very important thing: how not to do this business.
All roads lead to the property
One and a half years after coming to my dream country, I am again at a crossroads. The only thing I would really like to do is real estate, but I know perfectly well that this is a difficult piece of bread. I also realize that the moment to enter this business is the worst possible. I try my hand as a manager in a restaurant, but after a bit more than one month I give up, because I'm completely unfit for it. I look for other options, but I know that I don't really want to find them, real estate is calling me, I got hooked.
Crisis, and I create Dream Property, a Polish real estate office in Spain
Finally, in 2010, when 40,000 real estate agencies are closing in Andalusia, I realize my dream and Dream Property Marbella – a Polish real estate office on the Costa del Sol – is created. Many friends knock on their foreheads when they hear about my idea, others advise to change the industry. I politely listen to these advices and, in accordance with the principle "what does not kill me, makes me stronger", I do my own thing. At the beginning, I know that I want to help people making their dreams come true (the name of the company is not accidental). Poles are my natural clients because of the language, mentality, contacts. Poles are back then not a large group of buyers, but there are not many Polish agencies either.
I want to be one of them (naturally the best one). I also know that I want clients for years, not just until the deal is closed. I want Dream clients to like being them, to come by the office for coffee, call when they need help, and just to chat. Of course, I also want Dream Property Marbella to grow into a small but stable real estate agency created by people for people and which allows people working for it to earn reasonable money.
I'm starting. The first website in the history of DPM is created. It has cost me a lot of work and money, I am very proud of it, and I hope it will bring me loads of customers. This is not the case. In the meantime, it turns out that working for someone else and self-employment are mentally two completely different things. This is a change for me that I will eventually have to work with a coach. I realize that everything is my business: getting customers and serving them, looking for real estate, servicing the site, accounting, broken printer, receipts, everything. The sense of responsibility overwhelms me. I work 24/7 and I don't see the results. Polish accounts crackle under the pressure of debits, because I have to pay my bills. The financial crisis is raging on markets around the world and Spain is on the brink of bankruptcy. I arranged it well, no doubts.
March 2019. 10 years and 4 versions of the website later I'm still here. Dream has finally become a stable, thriving company, and there is a chance it will grow even further. I don't want it to grow up too much and become a factory, and customers to become faceless reference numbers. I still believe that this is a business based on trust and relationships, and building them is impossible without personal contact with the client. I can see that my early assumptions were correct: Dream has its longtime customers, the best brand ambassadors you can imagine. Some of them went a step further and we became friends, which I appreciate very much.
I like my life here. It's been 12 years since I left, and even though it wasn't always easy, I haven't regretted the decision I made then. I love Gdańsk and I am happy to go back there, but home is here.