International Real Estate Expo

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Dritan Leka

CEO of Century 21 CPM

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Building Success and Changing Perspectives: A Journey in Albanian Real Estate with Dritan Leka

We are honored to welcome Century 21 CPM, the shining star in the Albanian real estate market, as a new exhibitor at the International Real Estate EXPO 2024 in Prague. Their deep roots and exceptional contributions to the Albanian real estate landscape make them a truly remarkable addition to our event.

Here's why C21 CPM perfectly complements our Expo:

Local Dominance: Part of C21 Albania, a network of 40 offices across six vibrant cities in Albania, including Tirana, Durrës, Shkodër, Vlora, Saranda, and Korça, C21 CPM stands as a local real estate powerhouse. They understand the intricacies of the Albanian market like no other.

Regional Empowerment: C21 CPM’s presence has not only opened doors to countless real estate opportunities but has also contributed significantly to the growth and development of these areas. Their impact is tangible and inspiring.

Innovative Leadership: Merging their deep local insights with a forward-thinking approach, C21 CPM is a beacon of innovation in the Albanian real estate sector.

Community Connection: Their strong community engagement exemplifies their commitment to the areas where they operate. Their dedication to the local community aligns seamlessly with our Expo’s ethos.

International Real Estate Expo: Dear Dritan, thank you very much for your time and I want to say one more time, “Welcome to the International Real Estate EXPO 2024 in Prague”. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
What is your background?

Dritan Leka : Certainly. I’ve been studying communication here in Albania as a university student. After that, I pursued an MBA in business administration at the University of Bordeaux, Montesquieu 4. That is where I started. After completing my studies, I worked for many years.

International Real Estate Expo : How did your career journey lead you from studying in Bordeaux to the world of real estate?

Dritan Leka: Well, it’s quite a journey. I began my career at the Coca-Cola company here in Albania, initially as a Horeca representative. Over time, I progressed through various career opportunities, eventually becoming a key account manager and left while I was holding the Trade Marketing Manager position . At the time, key accounts represented a small target group of clients in Albania. We worked to make key accounts the most important for the company, which changed the perspective of growth.

International Real Estate Expo: Transitioning from a corporate role, what sparked your interest in real estate, and how did it lead you to your involvement with Central 21?

Dritan Leka: In 2013, we began discussions, but it wasn’t until the mid of 2014 that we delved into the numbers. Mr. Jonian Antoni, who represents Central 21 in Albania, had been friends since elementary school, and we later became business partners. He had studied in London and, upon returning to Albania, aimed to establish a business with a presence in Central European and Albania. He invited me on this beautiful journey, and here we are.

International Real Estate Expo: Taking the leap into real estate can be challenging. What motivated you to join this venture, and what was the vision behind Central 21 in Albania?

Dritan Leka: The vision was to promote real estate jobs and provide support to future clients. In June 2014, I joined the venture, buying my share of the company. Throughout that year, I worked to shape the company into what it is today. By the end of 2014, I resigned from Coca-Cola, maintaining a good relationship with my ex-bosses and colleagues.

International Real Estate Expo: Leaving a stable position at Coca-Cola to venture into real estate seems like a significant decision. What were the initial challenges you faced in the real estate market, and how did you overcome them?

Dritan Leka: It was initially challenging, as the real estate market was nascent, and people didn’t understand the role of a realtor. We built everything from scratch. The Century 21 Master provided valuable information and training, but much of our success came from our own efforts. It was a learning curve, but I believe challenges are opportunities in disguise.

International Real Estate Expo: Starting from scratch, you built Central 21 in Albania. How did you go about establishing the brand and growing it in the market?

Dritan Leka: We started with two offices in Tirana, then expanded to the third, fourth, and fifth. We even ventured into Saranda, a beautiful city on the southwest seaside of Albania with some of the most gorgeous beaches. It was a gradual process of building a team, providing them with training, and instilling a culture of professionalism and customer focus. We aligned ourselves with the C21 brand but also adapted to the unique aspects of the Albanian market.

International Real Estate Expo: Saranda, with its beautiful beaches, sounds amazing. What challenges did you face while expanding to different locations?

Dritan Leka: Expanding internationally posed different challenges. In 2017, our company went international, establishing our first offices in North Macedonia, specifically in Skopje, in collaboration with local partners. Subsequently, in 2018, we expanded further with offices in Montenegro, located in Podgorica.
The second challenge revolved around navigating diverse markets and adapting to different cultures. While these countries are our neighbors, there are significant differences in the way they operate, their mentality, and various other aspects. Our proactive approach, oriented towards the West, and situated by the seaside, contrasts with their more laid-back pace. It proved challenging for me to align with their approach, where people often tended to adopt a more patient attitude, saying, “Let’s wait for this. No rush.”

International Real Estate Expo: You mentioned leaving Coca-Cola, starting with limited knowledge, and being provided with books for self-education. Considering your transformation into the person you are now, where did you concentrate your efforts when entering a new sector?

Dritan Leka: For us in sales, the focus remains consistent – it’s the product that changes. My focus, and that of my team, centered on building sustainable relationships with our clients. This proved to be crucial in transforming the real estate market in Albania. Establishing and maintaining strong client relationships, providing information, consultancy, and facilitating the buying or renting process were key aspects. We emphasized the analogy that buying property is like marriage. You can do it once, maximum twice. We aimed to make the process beautiful, focusing on both building relationships with clients and adhering strictly to the principles advocated by the Central 21 brand.

International Real Estate Expo: You made a great comparison about buying a property and a marriage. It’s not just about the property; it’s about the emotions, the empathy, and the connection. Would you agree that buyers aren’t just purchasing the best properties but are also buying from the best sellers – those who understand and connect with them on a personal level?

Dritan Leka: Absolutely. Except for investors who approach property as a business, regular buyers, seeking a home or a vacation property, are buying into the emotions. The normal buyers are buying their own home or their seaside home or something that they will live in, they are buying the emotion. I don’t think that they are buying the property. They are buying the emotion that the real estate agent is sharing with them. They are buying the emotion that the property by itself is giving them and the vibe. Let’s say if you have a property that gives you a good vibe, you are buying it no matter what you want.

International Real Estate Expo: As we meet in Prague for the International Real Estate Expo, I’m keen to discuss your 10th anniversary since you started in 2014. Let’s also celebrate the journey. Before we explore the beauty of Albania, could you share the most challenging aspects of your role over the years?

Dritan Leka: For myself, first of all, was the financial part. It was the biggest challenge because at that time, we were dealing with very, very small transactions, and it was very difficult to keep up with them. That was the first thing.
The second part was dealing with people that don’t know me. I’m a very relational type of guy, and I know, let’s say, like everyone. Wherever I go I meet people, I salute people, and all the time I’m smiling and talking to people. In this market I have no connections because I was coming from the Horeca market or from the FMCG market. And it was very difficult for me to… And that was one of the biggest challenges for me to adapt to this market. But as I told you, as a sales person, we know to sell. And every one of us in the sales market, independently of the product that we are selling, we try to have our own scripts, our own model, and we stick to that. So my model is relational, on client side, on empathy, on building the relationship, dealing with the client even after the deal is done and maybe become friends with them.

International Real Estate Expo: Do you think that Albania, despite its beauty, often faces misconceptions, especially regarding criminality. Could you shed light on why people tend to overlook the stunning locations and properties in Albania?

Dritan Leka: Just give me a few minutes to explain the history of Albania. We need to understand that Albania emerged from 50 years of communism in 1991, a challenging time marked by internal conflicts and loss of lives. It was tough for us as we felt isolated from the rest of the world, considering all other countries as enemies. During that period, all properties, and cars and even home appliances were state-owned.

In 1991, when democracy arrived, we essentially had to start from scratch, rebuilding what was destroyed during communism. This transition resulted in significant emigration. Albanian people went to Italy, Germany, and elsewhere to find jobs and support their families. Unfortunately, along with the good people, some criminals also left Albania. This contributed to the negative reputation we have, especially regarding criminal activities like theft and drugs.As you may know the bad news travels faster than the good news. Anyhow in the present albanian diaspora is among the biggest in the whole world, and the albanians naturalized on the countries they are living have positioned themselves in high directional roles in medicine, sports, science ect helping the community or doing businesses.

So to answer your question, I think that people are not coming to Albania or are not looking at Albania to invest because of these things. They see Albania as a small country in Europe that produced a lot of criminality. But that is not true. This small country in Europe produced a lot of intellectual people too, a lot of doctors, and lawyers. We produced Skanderberg, who was the hero of the region, who fought the Ottoman Empire in order not to take Rome, in order not to take Venedic and a lot of other countries.
And Skanderberg at the time was the fence between the Ottoman and the other parts of the western world. We are not producing all the criminals, we are also producing heroes. We have very beautiful beaches, We have very modern properties and resorts. Not only that, but we are very, very much oriented on new construction. We have the best in the world. I mean, not only Albanians, we’re dealing with architects coming from Miami, from Holland, from Germany, from Italy, every part of the world has good architects.
They are coming to Albania because of the way they are working at the end, they are willing to do things in a very beautiful and modern way. Also, we have since, as you mentioned before, we are a Mediterranean country, and we take coffee from Italy, we take food from Greece and Italy. We drink like Germans. We drink like England people. We have Hungarian Telecommunication and Banks, we have Austrian wurstels, Belgian chocolates ect. We are like a small brother of all the countries of Europe, but with our own character and with very beautiful things to show for people to come to us.

International Real Estate Expo: I met many people from Albania, and they seem very welcoming. Would you agree?

Dritan Leka: We are very welcoming people. We welcome everyone. So even the foreigners when they come to Albania, they are so excited to be here because they do not feel like they are foreigners. Except for the language that they don’t speak, everything else is we have a saying, our home is your home. And we put everyone to sleep in our own rooms, and we have things that now in the modern world that are not even considered anymore.

International Real Estate Expo: I would say, first and foremost, we must do this interview to erase misconceptions and prejudices. Many people have these views without ever having been to Albania. As I mentioned, this interview will be translated into Czech for Czech and Slovak readers. When I talk about drinking habits, it’s something that resonates with them, as it does for me as a German. So, I aim to include perspectives that relate to the readers and bridge cultural understanding.

Dritan Leka: Czech people are some of the biggest visitors to Albania. They come for different types of tourism, enjoying both winter and summer experiences. Whether it’s the beautiful beaches or the stunning mountains, Albania has a lot to offer. The northern part, with the Alps, and the uncommercialized mountains in the south are especially attractive. This wild, untouched aspect brings in many Czech tourists, and a good number of them keep coming back

International Real Estate Expo: What are your expectations from the International Real Estate Expo 2024 in Prague?

Dritan Leka: My expectation in the International Real Estate Expo is to make a lot of connections with not only clients but also partners that are all in the markets. For example, the Czech market and the German market and all of these markets. Rather than Central 21 being represented in all of these countries, we need to collaborate and share experiences even with other agencies or even with other players in the markets. So first of all, this is what I’m expecting. Secondly, I expect to share the Albanian experience through the images and the materials that we will have with the clients or to the people who are interested in having their second home in a small country that is developing very fast and with very beautiful beaches and with cheap food, but very good quality and very good taste. With 300 days of sun, because we have to mention all this, and with temperatures that going minimum to zero degrees in the most winter day of our country and to maximum 34, 35 degrees in the most summer days of our company

International Real Estate Expo: I believe this final sentence can capture the attention of many potential buyers. If you’re interested, you can explore Century 21 CPM properties by clicking here
Let’s cut to the chase, as we’ve discussed not just your role as a salesperson but also the human side. Your openness, communication style, and the welcoming atmosphere you create are truly commendable, Dritan. With your impressive 10 years of wisdom and experience, what advice would you offer to new real estate agencies or developers entering the market? What words of wisdom would you share with the young minds venturing into this industry?

Dritan Leka: I can say that the first thing is to focus on themselves and to work very hard like there is no tomorrow and to wait for their moment, but to be prepared for the moment.

International Real Estate Expo: Beautiful answer. Considering your ten-year anniversary, what is your vision and mission for the next decade?

Dritan Leka: Our vision is to change the page to the real estate market, which means when we entered the market in 2013, the real estate down through an intermediary was not more than 2 %. Right now, the real estate transaction done through an intermediary is more than 25-30 %. And by changing the page to the real estate market, I mean with one… We will go to more than 70 % through an intermediary agent transaction. This will be together with the help of our teams and also the help of the government, because we need to change laws for this. But I can mention that last year we got officially, professionally registered from our government. We have now license because before we were not even licensed. And things are moving fast. So it will be a moment that all transactions will pass through a real estate agent. And this is my personal vision and my company vision. The mission is to spread the golden experience of Century 21 in all the markets. As we are saying Relentless, smarter, bolder, faster.

This is coming from Century 21, and we are trying to use it in everyday jobs, in everything that you do. And we say that we are blessed, rather than everything that we faced along the way. We’ll do everything to bring up, let’s say, a wonderful experience for our clients.

International Real Estate Expo: Thank you, Dritan Leka, for sharing your insights and experiences with us today. We look forward to your continued success and the positive impact you bring to the real estate landscape in Albania.

Dritan Leka: Thank you, Armin, for this interview, and I am looking forward to meeting you and everyone else at the International Real Estate EXPO in Prague!

Mr. Dritan Leka was interviewed by Armin Khani.

You can meet Century 21 CPM at the
International Real Estate EXPO 2024 in Prague