Amid one of Europe’s worst housing market downturns, Stockholm-based Beqo Hoti has set his sights on Spain and Greece to better serve his clientele. The sun-soaked countries have long been favored by Scandinavians for second homes—and given their higher levels of income, many can afford the best.
Hoti launched Shaza Luxury Real Estate in early 2021 at age 33, bringing with him a solid network established at other notable brokerages. Hoti’s quality connections and stellar nine-member team helped him and his firm gain recognition this year as the Best Luxury Real Estate Agency in Sweden by the Luxury Lifestyle Awards.
Born in Kosovo, Hoti came to Sweden with his parents when he was a little more than a year old. He and his family grew up in Malmö, at the eastern end of the Øresund Bridge linking Sweden and Denmark.
We caught up with the former professional soccer player as he arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for meetings that could help expand his worldwide network.
Sales have been affected by the pandemic, inflation and your market’s close proximity to the Russo-Ukrainian War. How are you overcoming those challenges?
The gap between the seller and the buyer is still very wide—sellers want prices from two years ago, and new buyers want to utilize that situation and press down prices even more. In Stockholm, most of our clients are in Östermalm, where the most expensive properties are. Also Djurgården, Djursholm and Lidingö. Still, we’ve had notable deals. We recently sold a 1690 townhouse in the middle of Amsterdam for $2.2 million, 163 square meters [about 1,755 square feet] with a roof terrace. It’s rare that an overseas buyer was able to purchase a monument-protected property, so it was a prize deal.
Connecting Scandinavians with second homes would seem to be the wisest course of action given market conditions.
During the pandemic, wealthy people with penthouses or expensive apartments in central Stockholm wanted to move out, they wanted space away from the city. That trend has continued and, as always, the best solution is to expand my network as I connect Scandinavians with other markets such as Greece or the Middle East and even the U.S. I’m also staying on-trend with involvement in tokenized real estate [blockchains are used to store real estate assets in the form of digital tokens, enabling ownership in the form of fractional shares].
Why did you name your company Shaza Luxury Real Estate?
Shaza is my mother’s nickname. We were very close. She had cancer for 10 years and passed in 2019 at age 52. We actually both fought cancer during the same time at one point. Mine started as a tumor and spread. Ten years ago on my birthday, I had an eight-and-a-half-hour surgery and then 32 chemotherapy treatments. When I woke up from surgery, my mom was holding my hand, praying. She was right there with me. I received news from my doctor this year: After 10 years, I’m now free of cancer—no more checkups.
How does her memory affect your business today?
Well, this gets emotional, but my mom was very good-hearted and kind. She put everyone first. She had an angelic smile and was very social, which I got from her. So I honor her with my company, my life. She said to me, “To honor the dead, you’ve got to keep on living.” I wanted to have her with me all the time; it’s given me a different and expanded view on things. Her presence now backs the goals I reach for and then achieve.
How has your career as a semi- and professional soccer player influenced your approach to business? (Hoti grew up playing soccer in Sweden and later played as a midfielder in Brazil and in Australia.)
When playing, I had a very strong winning mentality. I hated losing. And I’m also one of those guys who just never give up. People didn’t like playing against me because I never stopped running. Today, this rubs off on my team because I like to win. Milestone after milestone, I want to make sure that we’re all a winning team. Team spirit is very important to me, and they follow my lead because they see my passion.
Any ‘Ted Lasso’ moments while playing soccer?
You know, I’ve been lucky in winning, winning the leagues. When I was a boy playing in Sweden, we made it to the semifinals in the World Youth Cup, the Gothia Cup, which was amazing. When I played professionally, we reached very high levels, and that was my Ted Lasso moment, a great unified feeling of working with a team to excel, exactly as I do in real estate today. I still play soccer, but not on the same level.
We understand that you’ve secured the Scandinavian sales rights to market the Crete’s new Elounda Hills Resort—a 600-residence/hotel development that looks as close to utopia as one can get. That’s quite a coup.
I think it took them 12 years just to secure the land for this project. It’s fully sustainable and very magical, with the land situated perfectly on the side of a bay. Beautiful surroundings with crystal clear blue water, and it’s very calm since it’s in a lagoon-type bay. The weather is also ideal—other countries can be very hot and humid but Crete doesn’t have that humidity problem. The airport’s about 40 minutes away, but there’s a new one being built that will be even closer and with a private business lounge for Elounda Hills Resort owners.
Greece just upped its ‘golden visa’ limit for property purchases, from €250,000 (about $265,000 U.S.) to €500,000 (about $528,000 U.S.). Does this affect your project? (The visa grants five-year residency rights for foreigners who purchase property.)
It was raised only in Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, but in Crete and other areas, it’s still 250,000 euros. Greece has seen a huge trend change with international buyers searching for second homes. There’s more traffic coming in. A sales director told me that in the past year and a half, about 80% to 90% of flights have been filled with internationals. And in the past six months or so, I believe flights have been filled with 90% Americans. It’s basic supply and demand. Mykonos and Santorini—these places are gems, a diamond place for many. And now we’re seeing it in Crete as well. It’s crazy how many inquiries we’ve received.
We know how important relationships and networks are in your business. How else are you cultivating and expanding these?
In February, I attended the World Government Summit in Dubai, a gathering of heads of state and government. Private sector and thought leaders also attend. A right-hand financial advisor to a member of the Saudi royal family invited me. I met politicians, people from government and from different businesses worldwide. It was a great opportunity to connect with people.
What’s your favorite holiday spot?
That’s a good question—when did I last have a holiday? It’s actually South Africa. Nature there has been untouched for thousands of years. The air, the culture, the food, it’s just different. I get a different buzz in my body, a different feel when I go there.