The Business Year

Joseph Schwarzkopf

ECUADOR - Real Estate & Construction

Where There’s Land

General Manager, Uribe & Schwarzkopf


Joseph Schwarzkopf graduated with a degree in Finance from Florida State University. Prior to his current position, he was Manager of Constructora Miracielo, Commercial Director of Paseo San Francisco, and Executive President of Hotel Le Parc. He is also an active member of the Young Presidents Organization.

"Our main competitive advantage is our brand. Uribe & Schwarzkopf has never been late on a project."

What led to you establishing Uribe & Schwarzkopf in Ecuador, and how has the company evolved since?

The company started in 1973. We are in a business that is very dynamic; the market and our targets change constantly. It’s been changing from housing to rental and commercial projects. It is very difficult to say what our core business was 40 years ago compared to now. Currently, our position is that we are a housing company. Our main business is to build residential projects. We have a specific target in the market and we are always going after that. We also do housing projects; not individual houses, but housing urbanization. We also build many commercial buildings, and we recently built our first shopping mall. In addition, we have built and managed hotels. Uribe & Schwarzkopf’s main focus is on housing, and it is expanding in Quito and the surrounding areas.

Who do you define as your target market?

It is an open target. We aim for the middle and upper class. We like to work very closely with the banks and the social security organizations since they provide most of the mortgages. We are always doing projects that fit their financial products. Our main sales come with mortgages, and 70% of the people that buy from the company use mortgages to finance their purchases.

“Our main competitive advantage is our brand. Uribe & Schwarzkopf has never been late on a project.”

What projects is the company working on at the moment?

Right now, Uribe & Schwarzkopf is working on 21 important projects. One of our large projects is in Paseo San Francisco, which is very close to finishing. It is a different concept. It is not a traditional shopping center; it is an entertainment and education plaza. We are also working on two projects in Catalina Aldaz with three buildings each. We are additionally constructing some buildings on the Av. República de El Salvador. We are starting a new project there called HE, which will be a large building in an excellent location of the city. It is going to be a housing project with luxury apartments. We are also starting work on a large office complex on Av. Naciones Unidas, which is a very important location and building for the architecture of the city. It is going to be the best office building in the country. It will incorporate the highest security and technology specifications, and companies are already signing up for the project. We have another project we are planning in Cumbayá. That is our business and we have to keep looking for new land and opportunities.

What are your main competitive advantages?

Our main competitive advantage is our brand. Uribe & Schwarzkopf has never been late on a project. The maximum was two or three months, which is normal for a large residential project. Over 30% of our clientele come back to buy another unit from us. We have an excellent customer support team that helps consolidate our brand and gives value-added services that are better than our competition. Another thing is that we do everything in-house here, such as our architecture, sales, building, marketing, and mortgages. We provide many services to our clients based on their financial situation. If you want to apply for a loan from social security, we help you do it. We have a credit department here that helps you take out a loan. We also have an internal legal company so that all the paperwork and contracts can be officiated here. It is like a one-stop shop. At the moment, we don’t have our own interior design section, but I want to have one. Right now, there is a lot of competition in the country. The last two or three years have been very good because of the money that the banks and social security organizations have been lending; it is like a pump for the business and now the market is steady and growing. The middle class is growing because they have access to credit, and the first thing they do is buy a house or property. The price of land has increased, and so has the price of commodities. The price of prime land has risen two fold in just a year. Also, the final price of housing for the customer has gone up in some sectors; not as much as we would like, but in some sectors it has gone up 15%-20% a year.

There are many people trading between Guayaquil and Quito. Do you see this as a big opportunity?

Yes, it is, and we are aiming projects at investors. I can see now that people have liquidity, and they have a mind to invest. Many clients come to buy units for rent and that has been a good business for them. We are targeting projects at those kinds of clients from all over the country, not only in Quito. It is always going to be a good investment and the prices are going to go up. Quito is still the cheapest capital in South America for real estate. That is a good thing about our business—it never had a boom. It has gone up step by step, which is good because there is no speculation or false business going around. In regards to office projects, we conducted a study and found there was a lack of quality space available. The growth of the country is attracting more projects from mining companies. Everybody is going to start looking for offices.

What are your investment goals for this year?

We sell around 1,000 units annually. In terms of investment, projects are getting bigger all the time. We require more partners, more lines of credit, and more labor. In 2012, we had an average of 3,000 laborers working every month. That is a lot of people if you multiply it out. It is important for the economy, not only us. In total there are 1.8 million laborers working in the construction industry in the country at the moment. That is a huge number, and it is important to keep that business going.

What are your plans for the short to medium term?

We are planning a huge project that is going to be the biggest we have ever built, Ciudad Del Sol. It will contain one of the tallest buildings in Ecuador. It will have a hospital, hotels, commercial space, and residential areas. It is a dream project for everybody in this business. It will probably start in 2014 because we need to plan it carefully and budget it right to start selling the units. It will probably take six to eight years to build. You will belong to a city within a city, and that is the concept we are trying to sell. It is located in a prime location. Before this, the biggest project we did was Parque Real, which was a residential project consisting of 15 buildings that we finished in 2012. It took us eight years to finish. It has two buildings of suites, one office building, and 12 residential buildings. It was the biggest project up until Ciudad Del Sol, which is a different concept because that is more like a city within a city.

How do you promote the company and get involved in your work?

We have always innovated in our projects. We change the architecture and always offer different ideas or services inside a building for our clients. For example, we are introducing small movie theaters, spas, or gyms inside our buildings. We do something better each time and we innovate. That is the key; being different from the competition. If you buy from us you have something different. We have a good history in building, as well as always having good value in our properties and maintaining their value over time, which is very important for our repeat clients. We try to maintain that for the future so our buildings sell well. Our target market is the first-time buyer and real estate investors. Our vision is to always try and maintain our buildings at the highest standards. Our buildings have our logo on the outside and they are well maintained.

How would you rate Ecuador’s human capital?

Our company has been here for 40 years and the majority of our employees have been here for over 20 years. We have very steady human capital here and very low staff turnover. We offer internship opportunities for young people because we need new innovations, and young architects come with new ideas.

What is your assessment of the real estate sector?

The government has always been supportive by trying to promote our industry. People are starting to invest in the country and in the city. They are buying cars, houses, and apartments. The money stays here in the country and that promotes growth here for the banks. Local investments are up. People are now more likely to be buying as an investment nowadays. A lot of people want to buy to have a unit in a good location where the rent goes up every year. It is a good investment and that is our key focus right now.

© The Business Year – March 2013



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