Milan Vančát graduated in law, played for the Czech national beach soccer team, experienced what happens behind the scenes of tennis thanks to his girlfriend Kateřina Siniaková, and has become a successful real estate agent in his early thirties.
Is it easy to gain a foothold in the real estate business as an agent?
I am not sure exactly how to answer – I know people who took a year to do so as well as those who never did or those who managed it in a matter of months. Some people decide to become an agent, they call up their friends and family, maybe they get a listing or two. But if they do not work as hard as possible and have the necessary skills and knowledge, they will end up quitting or doing a very half-baked job of it. I am not a big fan of that. Good agents do everything to the best of their abilities. You can see it in their presentations, in the way they conduct themselves, in the fact that they do not mind cooperating with another agent, and so on. That is the difference between average and good real estate agents.
Did you look for properties yourself when you started?
Those were my beginnings, but luckily it did not take long. Nowadays, clients come to me on their own so at home I work based on references. Subsequently, I started selling properties in Dubai so I am trying to curb my work in Czechia and concentrate on Dubai. I would like to add Qatar, and potentially Bahrain, to my portfolio in the future.
How does one start selling apartments in Dubai?
It kind of happened by chance. I went there on vacation and I liked it, which got me thinking about what it would be like to live there. I reached out to local property developers, and I was on a plane on my way to several meetings. We agreed on my buying a property there, but offering it for sale in Czechia. And so the bytyvdubaji.cz website was born. The majority of my work comes from one developer whose properties have been selling the best.
Does it happen often? You think “I like it here,” and start looking for apartments to list?
There might be possibilities elsewhere, but I only got this idea in Dubai so far... (he laughs) And it worked. I arrived there, they showed me their projects, the way they work. And I have to say, they have things worked out down to a tee, which also showed me what we are lacking here in Czechia.
What are the biggest differences?
In technologies, for one. The way they present their properties. You can get into an apartment before it is even fully built and see what it will look like. First, you can do so virtually – you will get a blueprint and even a 3D render. But they also have model apartments, which is complicated and expensive. That is why developers usually do not do this, also because it takes up a lot of space. But there you can walk right into an apartment and literally touch the materials that will be used, see what it will look like in real life. What the bathroom will be like... Whatever you pick, you can see it right there in person.
Do you have an exclusive deal with this developer, or are they free to offer the apartments to others as well?
It is not strictly based on exclusivity, but rather on trust. Even if somebody from back home called them, they would let me know.
How interested are Czech people in Dubai apartments?
Since the beginning of this year, we have sold eight apartments to people from Czechia. They either fly there and live there, or they do short- or long-term rentals.
Which of those is predominant?
It is roughly half and half. Some people do it purely for investment – if they know what they are doing, the return can be interesting. We can achieve capital appreciation in the range of six to eight percent a year. That is impossible in Czechia right now, if we are talking about properties in and around Prague. Or you can rent through Airbnb. Not very profitable right now, but once the pandemic quiets down, Airbnb in Dubai will pick up again, which would mean an even higher appreciation than what I mentioned previously. And some people just want to come to Dubai and have their own place – they usually buy apartments by the beach or Downtown close to Burj Khalifa, where everything is close by, and the airport is just thirty minutes away.
Eight buyers – was that what you were expecting?
I was surprised. But I think the potential in Czechia is great. Dubai has a lot of positives. I see its very modern architecture as one. Another one came to light during the lockdown – the local government said that they will not close down Dubai or the Emirates themselves. They make sure that the measures they take allow their economy and tourism to keep functioning, and they do not mind making sacrifices to make that happen. They look for solutions even though they may not always be the easiest ones. I like that.
Dubai is definitely modern and technologically advanced. But an acquaintance of mine once told me that he went there for two weeks, and was bored out of his mind after the first one...
If you want to go on a hiking vacation, you might want to reconsider Dubai as your destination. Pick a place where nature is different as are the possibilities – a place with mountains and forests and such. For me personally, Dubai is absolutely fantastic for relaxing. Hotels are not extremely expensive, but they have high standards, some even have a private beach. Everything is relaxed. You arrive at a resort and you are in a bubble (not a covid one) where you have everything you need and you do not have to do anything. And what's best – the Dubai city centre is quite small, you will not spend hours driving places. At the same time though, there are a lot of things to see: shopping centres, the Frame, Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab,... Take your pick, all are places known around the world. Dubai has one more thing that makes it a good place for entrepreneurs and businessmen, in my opinion. When you look at a map of the world, it is almost right in the middle. It is just an eight hour flight away from pretty much anywhere. That is a big advantage. The main airport is the headquarters of Emirates, one of the best airlines in the world in my opinion. The only ones that might compare are Qatar Airways or Delta in the US.
Where are the apartments that you have in your portfolio situated?
The majority are now in Jumeirah Village Circle, close to a golf course. A relatively expensive area. It has the most projects with “my” developer's apartments. A shopping centre bigger than Dubai Mall is being built nearby. That is a place I have probably never been through in its entirety. It has a ski slope, an ice rink, amusement and science parks, and many other things...
A neighbourhood in Dubai probably looks a little different than one in Prague…
A little… (he laughs) The thing is, each building looks completely different over there. Czech construction offices would go insane. It stems from the fact that different buildings are designed by different architects, based on the investor’s requests. After some time, you start to be able to tell developers apart by their style. The one I work with the most does residential housing – four- to five-story buildings at most, made to fit families. That means a common room and a shared study if you ever need to talk to someone, and a pool in the middle – they build these two big L-shaped buildings that create a zone for relaxing in between them, which the ground floor apartments have direct access to from their porch. There is an outdoor gym right next to the pool as well as indoor gyms in the building. Of course, they also build taller buildings, it depends on the project.
Are apartments big there? Can you find Czech apartment types like 2+kk, 3+1, and so on?
It is similar. Except they categorise apartments based on bedrooms. You can have one, two, or even four bedrooms, and a living room and kitchen on top of that, which are not included in the total room count. So in Czech terms – a two-bedroom is a 3+kk.
What is working with local entrepreneurs like over there?
Their reaction was really surprising to me. I reached out to them and they immediately went, “Come, we will show you a completed project. We have a model apartment so you can see what they look like, we will show you the common areas…” Then we arrived at the property developer’s headquarters and I saw their sales system in detail, the way they present apartments to people and so on. They have that worked out down to a tee. You just come up to a screen and go through the apartments on offer. You can pick based on where the porch or balcony is, what floor the apartment is on, upstairs, downstairs, its size… You just keep clicking and you get through the entire apartment virtually. 3D rendering is available for every apartment.
How do apartment prices compare in Prague and Dubai?
In both, it largely depends on the conditions and location. The closer you are to the beach or to Downtown, the more expensive they are, for one. Broadly speaking, however, you can get an apartment cheaper in Dubai, and that is in brand new buildings. This is caused by the fact that there are a lot of new apartments being built. Things are lightning-fast over there, all of the official business is done within half a year. And if you want to start a construction project in Czechia? I think I will not be too far off when I say – ten years.
Can you make a guess on whether construction in Dubai in the future will keep on going as well as it does now?
I sure think so. Dubai itself announced that it wants to become the “city of the world”. Burj Khalifa is over 800 meters tall, and there is talk of another building twice as tall being in the works. Of course, it is hard to tell whether something like that will happen, but the city is growing at such a rate that I would not bet against it.
Have you learned any Arabic during your time there?
Not a single word! (he laughs) I do everything in English. I have not met anyone who does not speak English.
Besides Dubai, you also mentioned Qatar at the beginning…
Qatar and Bahrain. That is the direction I want to start heading in.
Are you already working on something there?
Not yet, but we plan to in the upcoming six months.
So not too long before the football World Cup.
Exactly. I would already like to have some connections there by that time.
Football is close to your heart, isn’t it? I read that you even played for the national team.
That is true, but not in regular football (although I used to play that too), but in beach soccer.
How did you get all the way to the national team?
By chance once again. In college, I was a goalkeeper in futsal and five-a-side football, and one of my professors was into beach soccer. They were headed to a tournament, but their goalkeeper dropped out, so he asked me if I want to come along. I said yes. That was how it all started, and in the end, I have a couple dozen national team games under my belt.
Is there any other sport you know well? I assume that it might be tennis due to your relationship with Katka Siniaková...
Yes, that’s right. We were partners for almost three years. Thanks to her I had a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes of big tournaments, all the work that goes into it, and so on. I have to say that tennis ranks as one of the three toughest sports that you can do, in my opinion. If you do it professionally, it takes a lot of hard work and discipline. Seeing that was a huge motivation for me, and it translated into my current life as well. The tennis environment and Katka’s mindset motivated me in my work as well as my business.
It is not exactly a sport made for dating, though, is it?
That is a little more difficult, sure. Tournaments take place all over the world, and it is up to you to choose whether you come along or stay and wait. If you do not like flying, or are not that much of a tennis fan, it is hard to find the time to see the other person. It was okay in our case, because I do not mind flying and I liked tennis even before I met Katka. So I would often come along to her tournaments, to America, to the WTA Finals in China... It was great, and I could also support Katka when I came so I do not regret going and I am grateful for the opportunity.
Do you like just wandering around the places you go?
Kind of, yes. Katka would probably laugh right about now because whenever we went somewhere I was always a real slowpoke. I walk slow and do not rush anywhere, I like to look around a lot. That always drove her up the wall... (he laughs)
Do you keep in touch?
From time to time. I always congratulate her on her results. Not too long ago, when she beat Serena, I was elated. And the victory alongside Barbora Krejčíková in the Roland Garros doubles was absolutely amazing. It was her second, but it is incredible every time. I will always be rooting for her.
Let’s circle back to work – you are slowly phasing out Czech real estate work then?
I still have clients here. I sold six properties in the recent past and four new potential clients reached out to me in a matter of two days. They are either former clients or they come based on referrals, so I do not turn them down of course. But I am not actively looking for work.
Is there anything specific in terms of the real estate business in Czechia and local clients? Do they always look for kinks and faults, as is sometimes said about Czech people?
Let me explain a bit more broadly... When I do business, a handshake means more to me than a signed contract. It works in Dubai as well – a deal is a deal. Or at least I have been lucky so far. I am sure it is not always the case. The odd thing is, the cheaper the property, the more the person tries to haggle for price, commission, and everything else. While if it is a more expensive one people just say, “OK, that’s the way it is. I am fine with it, I am the one who came to you.” We shake hands and it is a done deal.
Don’t you think it is because people who buy more expensive properties are not as worried about the money they spend?
I think it is because more expensive properties are being bought and sold by people who have already achieved something in their lives, and they know that trust goes a long way. We were just working on the sale of a house worth 40 million Crowns, the owner was Azerbaijani. We had no contract signed for a long time. We did eventually have to sign one for the legal needs of RE/MAX, but the relationship was based on trust the whole time. I never try to cheat people, I play fair with everyone. And I always keep my promises.
Has that ever come back to bite you?
Once. It was one of the cheaper properties, not something I would have expected. The owner found out that they could save money, and decided to cut me out because it was all done in good faith without a contract. That is when I stopped selling residential property without an exclusive contract. It is a no-deal when somebody says that they are not willing to go exclusive. It means risk and signals dishonesty to me. Those are deals that are just not worth the work to me.
Milan Vančát (born September 20, 1988, in Příbram) is a real estate agent.
He graduated in law and worked as a mortgage broker during his studies.
At the same time, he played football and got into the Czech national team of beach soccer. He also plays futsal as well as five-a-side and regular football, and even played in a lower division in Austria.
#In 2016, he started working as an attorney for the West Bohemia University in Pilsen, specialising in public procurement. Later he did the same for the Na Homolce hospital.
In 2018, he started working as a realtor in the RE/MAX agency. He was the agency’s top salesman in January of this year, and is currently in the top five. “The place has a great feel, the people, as well as the owner, are amazing. Despite having some experience, I was not as well versed in sales, and they helped me out a lot in the beginning. Even though I am a bit of a maverick and I like learning things my own way. I have been like that my entire life. I do not mind taking advice, but it has to make sense to me. As soon as it doesn’t, I get nothing out of it.”
He started selling apartments in Dubai earlier this year (bytyvdubaji.cz and bytyvdubaji.com).
With his ex-girlfriend, Kateřina Siniaková.
If prices have been on a constant rise in any field in recent years, it is real estate. And according to predictions, they will keep going up. “I cannot say what the extent of the real estate price increase will be, perhaps the prices will plateau for a while or grow a little slower. But they are definitely not going down any time soon,” says Milan Vančát. “Here in Czechia, it is due to low interest rates on mortgages, a lengthy construction approval process, and the demand still being overwhelmingly higher than the supply. But apartments in Dubai are also being snapped up like crazy, which is caused by people from all over the world looking to buy. It goes to show how multicultural Dubai really is.”
Milan played regular football on the third division level. He made it to the national team in the beach variety. What does he say to not many people even knowing that Czechia has a national team in this sport? “That is true, probably not many people know. It was something that only a very small group of people did for quite some time. When I started playing, I found out that it is a completely different game. The movements are different, as is the style of play and the rules. The ball is airborne most of the time, the best players can do incredible things. It is very demanding in terms of movement, having to move rapidly in different directions on sand is tough. I sometimes say that the only thing it has in common with football is that the score is kept in goals...” (he laughs)