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Interview Series: Fascinating Engel & Völkers Colleagues from Around the World

Juan Pablo Ruiz

Paul & Vince would like to welcome to the conversation Juan Pablo Ruiz from Engel & Völkers Santiago, Chile.
I sold wine for fifteen years. I had a lot of adventures and travels. It was like getting paid to do my favorite things…to travel, have good wines with good food, and stay in nice hotels…but it also came with a cost because travel made it hard to have time with my family.

Before entering the world of real estate, Juan Pablo studied Commercial Engineering and completed post-graduate studies in Chile and the United States. Juan Pablo began his career at Salmoamerica, a company dedicated to the production of salmon in the south of Chile and its worldwide exports.

Also experienced in Chile’s production of pisco, wine, and olive oil, he served as the Export Director of Capel/Viña Francisco de Aguirre, Viña Bisquertt, and Viña Santa Rita/Carmen. Juan Pablo has been the Director/Partner of Engel & Völkers Los Dominicos in Santiago since June 2009.


Paul & Vince:  What are the best things about living and working in your city?

Juan Pablo: Well, we are a big city but also very close to nature and the mountains. I enjoy skiing, and I belong to a mountain biking group that goes out every weekend in the summer. Still, Chile is a narrow country. In Santiago, you can ski in the morning and drink a beer on an ocean beach by the end of the day!

Paul & Vince: Paul came down to run in the Santiago Marathon a few years ago. The city is beautiful, and the setting is extraordinary.

Juan Pablo: Santiago has the tallest building in South America. We call the area around it “Sanhattan.” Downtown is very modern because in Chile, we have many earthquakes…similar to California, so sadly, some of the old Spanish buildings from two centuries ago have been harder to preserve, but we do have several older districts where we have been successful.


Paul & Vince: How did you come into a career in real estate?

Juan Pablo: I actually studied Business Administration in the United States at Miami Dade Community College in Florida to improve my English. I then came back to a Chilean University here in Santiago. I worked for many years in the salmon business. This was the 1990s when we sent fresh Chilean salmon all over the world because Norwegian salmon had some bad press, and Chilean salmon gained a larger share of the global fish market. We would ship all over the world.

Paul & Vince: That sounds like a tremendous amount of logistics to get salmon fresh from Chile around the world.

Juan Pablo: Yes, it isn’t very easy. But did you know today most of the salmon you see in the supermarkets is Chilean? Working there was a great experience, but then I moved into the wine business.

Paul & Vince: Oh, really. Chilean wine is wonderful. What was that business like?

Juan Pablo: Well, I sold wine for fifteen years. I had a lot of adventures and travels. It was like getting paid to do my favorite things…to travel, have good wines with good food, and stay in nice hotels.

It was a great experience, but unfortunately, it also came with a cost because travel made it hard to have time with my family. So, when Engel & Voelkers came to Chile and invited me to join the company, I was happy to have a new opportunity.


Paul & Vince: And how is the real estate market in Chile right now?

Juan Pablo: When I joined Engel & Völkers in 2009, only three other offices were in Chile. Now there are 29! So, E&V has been quite successful here. We have an office from the northern part of Chile to the southern part of the main cities. We do a lot of referrals between those offices, too; people are moving to the coast or moving to the north or the south.

Except you might be surprised that we have a totally different system than in the US. In Chile, we don’t have exclusive listings. You have a contract with the owner, yes, but he or she can sign a contract with twenty different agents, and not all of those agents are as “professional” as you might find in other countries. But since Engel & Voelkers now has so many offices, we have decided not to make referrals with the competition, to work within our branches.

Paul & Vince: Interesting, so the system keeps the process within E&V.

Juan Pablo: Yes, exactly. You see, at Engel & Volkers here, we see ourselves as trying to “professionalize” the industry in Chile, using the German system of neighborhood markets, with salespeople working on listings close to their homes, becoming experts in their area. We are now the second-largest real estate company in Chile. But in customer recognition, we are considered number one.

Paul & Vince: That is impressive! In which areas of Santiago do you specialize? You work in one of its wealthy suburbs.

Juan Pablo: Yes, it’s like in any city in the world, you have many desirable suburbs, but in this case, where I concentrate, they are also higher in elevation, in the foothills of the mountains – that’s where the high-level properties are. And due to currency adjustments, these properties become increasingly expensive every year.

Paul & Vince: And the interest rates are very high now?

Juan Pablo: Yes, the interest rates have doubled in recent years, and Chilean banks used to give credit for thirty years, and now no more than fifteen to twenty years. The monthly payment is very high for people to afford.

Paul & Vince: Where do most of your buyers come from?

Juan Pablo: Mostly from Chile, but you know, besides agriculture and wine, Chile is a big producer of copper. It’s the main producer of copper in the world. So, we tend to get a lot of executive relocations from the Americas, also from Australia, but mainly for mining.


Paul & Vince: Along those lines, what do you like most about your career in real estate right now?

Juan Pablo: Honestly, I love my company and my colleagues. Engel & Voelkers has a very good reputation in Chile. Like in the US, they say everybody wants to have a BMW or Mercedes, so I say we are the Mercedes Benz of the industry here, the best in the world for the high-value property.

Also, my customers. Some agents, in my opinion, want to get a quick commission. But I invest in a long-term relationship with my customers. So people recommend me to their friends, and they say, “Juan Pablo and Engel & Volkers did a very good job with us.” So we call it “de boca en boca” – word of mouth. It’s the best.

…and one more, Just For Fun

Paul & Vince: Now it’s time for our Just For Fun question. What would it be if you could be any mythical creature for one day?

Juan Pablo: Hah!… Ok, I think I would be a flying dragon…but a good dragon that shoots fire to protect the city.

Paul & Vince: So, you’re a superhero dragon?

Juan Pablo: Yeah, a superhero dragon. I want to feel powerful and defend innocent people. To make living in Santiago better.

Paul & Vince: It would be perfect. You could land on the tall buildings in “Sanhattan” and look out and make sure everyone is behaving themselves.

Juan Pablo: Yeah. Like Superman.

Paul & Vince: Where does the dragon live?

Juan Pablo: Well, he has to have a big house…[laughs]...with a nice swimming pool.

Paul & Vince: He’s probably hot because of the fire. He’s got to cool down.

Juan Pablo: Of course! [laughs]

Paul & Vince: It sounds like you would eventually become the city’s symbol. Because there won’t be any other dragons except you, you will become the Santiago dragon.

Juan Pablo: Yes, the one and only!

Original artwork by Jolisa Robinson, Gavriani-Falcone Team Marketing

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