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

Sonya Clarke

Paul & Vince would like to welcome to the conversation Sonya Clarke from Engel & Völkers Côte d’Azur.
…and we just said. “We’re going to buy it!”. And we did. It actually took us two years because the process was so complicated. That was part of that interested me in working with Engel & Völkers…to help people with the process.

Paul & Vince would like to welcome Sonya Clarke from the Côte d’Azur region of France, situated on the French Riviera between Monaco and Nice.

After an early career as a professional ballerina with The Royal Ballet, dancing at Covent Garden London, Sonya transitioned to investment banking. When personal circumstances dictated a change, she joined the small team of Engel & Völkers’ consultants at St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, where her performance led to many awards within the company, including top sales agent in France / Benelux for the last three years. 


Paul & Vince: What are the best things about working in your area of the world?

Sonya: Well, certainly, it’s one of those places with the “wow” factor when you first arrive. I meet so many people from all over the world, and the one thing they say is, we’ve traveled, we’ve seen so many places, but here, there is something really special. The mountains, the water, the architecture of the villages…it’s amazing. We also have a little micro-climate because with the mountains, the Alpes-Maritimes behind us, it protects us a little bit from bad weather.

The colors are just amazing, and the light…there’s a famous glow, a kind of orangey-pinky glow that this area known for, and it’s why it attracted so many artists…And Nice International Airport is only 20 minutes away. So you have everything cultural of a world-class destination, and yet the little bays and beaches and villages give you so much to discover.


Paul & Vince: What did you do before coming into real estate?


Sonya: Well, as you know, I’m English and was born and raised in the UK. But I studied ballet, and the language of ballet is, of course, French. I had a French teacher who also made such an impression on me. So, I always had a desire to be part of France and always wanted to buy a house here. And my late husband was a big car fan, and we would always go to the Grand Prix in Monaco.

So, we were here once in 2002, and we went for coffee in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. And we both arrived and said, “This is it.” This is where we want to be. And a friend told us about a place for sale, and we saw it and saw the potential of the village, and we just said. “We’re going to buy it!”. And we did. It actually took us two years because the process was so complicated. That was part of what interested me in working with Engel & Völkers…to help people with the process.


Paul & Vince: So, what’s happening in your real estate market now?

Sonya: The market seems calmer but in terms of inquiries we are very busy. The clients are genuine buyers, and decisions are being made quickly. The local market has bucked the national trend, and prices are holding up.

One of the things I love is we have a truly international client base: Australians, Americans, Scandinavians, and we have a lot of Ukranians and Eastern Europeans moving west. I think something like 18% of our recent sales have been to Americans since the dollar is so strong. One thing to keep in mind, though, is we are primarily a second-home market. Clients buy a home here to enjoy with a young family, or they buy a retirement dream. Sales, therefore, are typically cyclical, around 10-15 years. Investors aren’t likely to make a quick buck here, but they will enjoy a fabulous lifestyle and won’t lose money.


Paul & Vince:That’s very interesting. What do you like most about your career?

Sonya: I really love the personal contact and the variety of clients in terms of backgrounds and nationalities. Every day is different. And since this is primarily a second home market, people need help with the purchase process, the law, financing options, and a general understanding of how things work or not! I get a lot of job satisfaction in ensuring transactions go through smoothly.

…and one more, Just For Fun

Paul & Vince: Ok, now, your Just For Fun question. If you were in charge of converting a famous building into luxury condos, which would you choose?

Sonya: Well, since I was a ballet dancer in London, I have always loved the theatres there, like Royal Albert Hall. It’s a beautiful building with a fabulous history. What if I converted part of the Royal Albert Hall into luxury pied-a-terres?

They would have external windows across Hyde Park, and internal terraces overlooking the huge auditorium. Every night there would be new entertainment on display right from each terrace. It could be ballet one night and boxing another, tennis tournaments to Cirque du Soleil, Christmas concerts, and summer proms. It would be a great way to entertain friends and clients with no need to travel home afterward! [laughs]

Paul & Vince: Hmm, and would there be a need for a particular prima ballerina?

Sonya: [laughs], I could be tempted to dust off my pointe shoes one more time…

Paul & Vince: People could watch you perform with a cocktail in bed!

Original artwork by Jolisa Robinson, Gavriani-Falcone Team Marketing

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