Anja Graf The traditional career path didn’t work for me. While still in high school, I realized that it would take a very long time for me to graduate from college and gain a foothold in the professional world. And after that I would have to decide whether I wanted to have children. I chose an unconventional path instead, betting everything on starting my own business. That allowed me to start pursuing a career at an early age.
Graf I like to take a hands-on approach. I painted my first apartments myself. I’m currently living in Bucharest, because I have some major projects in Romania that I want to work on. I should also mention that I don’t let myself get discouraged. Looking for financing for my first company, I went to nine different banks. Credit Suisse was the only one that believed in me, and gave me a loan when I was just 20 years old.
Graf For the first ten years we concentrated on the real estate market in Zurich, gradually acquiring additional properties. In 2009 I hired a business manager in Zurich and moved to Poland. For four years I focused specifically on the Polish market, and I opened a support center. Before that, we were just a group of friends who rented out apartments. Expansion forced us to become more professional, so that was an important milestone. The center in Poland is still the company’s backbone. From then on things happened quickly, and we moved into additional markets.
Graf We have a combination of investments in solid markets, such as Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Swiss banks offer excellent financing conditions, and we still achieve the best returns here. We take a very opportunistic approach in other markets. We invest in places where properties have not yet appreciated and we can buy at favorable rates.
Graf The fact that real estate is becoming increasingly expensive has helped us enormously and is certainly the main reason for our success. Over time, I started to recognize patterns and anticipate which markets it was worth buying in. A major advantage for Visionapartments is that we have remained a family company. We have excellent management, but no board of directors that has to approve investments. This allows us to act relatively quickly.
“Over time I started to recognize certain patterns and could see in which markets it made sense to buy.”
Graf I like to surround myself with younger people and listen to what they’re thinking about. In our fast-paced world, that gives me a sense of what the next trends might be. Furthermore, I do a lot of traveling, which I enjoy. I can see first-hand how things are done in other countries and consider borrowing certain ideas.
Graf We recently purchased Acomodeo, a kind of Airbnb for businesspeople. We would like to expand this platform. The challenge, though, is that its apartments are not stand-ardized, and some lack digital infrastructure.
Another new project is “Vision City,” which I would describe as a small city within a building – a single place where certain everyday services are provided. This is an exciting idea, par-ticularly for seniors. I can also imagine that in Romania, where I’m currently living, these buildings might include schools, making high-quality education available outside of city centers.