Behind the Scenes with GUIDO POMPILJ of VIVALDI REAL ESTATE
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Vivaldi, the “Four Seasons” Italian Baroque composer, has inspired an exceptional group of Italian real estate brokers in New York. Vivaldi Real Estate is one of the first companies to assist Italian investors in Manhattan and has so far played a major role in defining and establishing a major world market.
Co-founder, Guido Pompilj, civil engineer with a Masters in Business Administration at Columbia University, has always had a keen eye on technology and the potential it would bring to his profession. Thus, his real estate firm is the first that can boast remote apartment shows for selected clients, through the use of the latest technology, Google Glass. It may seem surreal that people are now virtually visiting apartments in Manhattan from across the Atlantic, but this is the way of the future. I spoke with Guido Pompilj about Vivaldi Real Estate and their innovative use of Google Glass.
Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi: Vivaldi Real Estate was one of the first companies to assist Italian investors in Manhattan, when and how did it all begin?
Guido Pompilj: Back in 1988, Italy eliminated the so-called currency regulations. This allowed Italians to invest outside their mother country. Since I had worked with Citibank in New York, in the field of real estate, I grasped this opportunity to return to the Big Apple. I started working for another firm, Gabetti, and it’s amusing to recall how technology seemed to be written in my destiny from the very start: the broker for whom I was working then didn’t have a fax and I was the one who bought it for the office. The first fax we received was 24 pages longs and described the entire trends of the sales market. Later on, Vivaldi Real Estate came to life in the early 90s with my American partner, Eve Gittelson, who is a strong activist and supporter of Obamacare. We succeeded in selling an important property in the Lincoln Center area, and the press gave excellent feedback. When the moment came to find a name for our firm we decided to pick something that would be both international and evocative of Italy. The goal of our firm is to help buyers throughout the four seasons of a real estate investment: research, purchase, management, and eventually in reselling.
CSG: Who is part of your team?
GP: Eve Gittelson, along with me is senior broker, she and I founded Vivaldi Real Estate. There also some very talented junior brokers: Francesco Cirillo, Piero Massimino and Andrew Brenta. Luca Burato mainly deals with property management. We also have another junior broker who works a lot betwixt Italy and New York, Gerardo Nobile, and there are also two Chinese women, Masa Ma and Helen Toscano, collaborating with us. A Japanese woman, Emiko Hayashi, takes care of the administration and since she is also an accomplished jazz pianist, we can say she holds high the musical reputation of Vivaldi Real Estate.
CSG: What distinguishes you from other real estate firms?
GP: Integrity, competence, discretion, and versatility. The entire team has an exceptional cultural preparation, everyone has multiple degrees and great language skills. All the people working at Vivaldi Real Estate have sophisticated and unconventional passions and abilities that you aren’t accustomed to associating to a real estate broker, from road trips with vintage jeeps, to sommelier qualifications. And naturally there is great care in selecting the deals for our clients with tastefulness and attention to details. We are the ones who generally give the most information on the investment and carry it out as a bank’s financial analysis.
CSG: Tell me about your Google Glass virtual tours…
GP: Skype was the first tool that allowed us to show virtually the estates to potential clients, before they arrived to New York. This way they already had a general idea of what the apartment looked like. In 2010 when volcano Eyjafjallajökul, in Iceland, erupted canceling a number of world flights, one of our Italian customers, couldn’t travel to New York, to see in person a property he had already seen via Skype. The conditions were so good that he feared someone else would buy it so he purchased it, having seen it just through our virtual tour. When Google Glass arrived on the market, we thought that would have been our next step. We were granted the chance, by Google, to be Explorers and get a pair of Google Glass, which now allow us to enhance our virtual presentation for customers. We act as our clients’ eyes in the Big Apple.
CSG: From what countries are your main clients and how many have bought by virtually visiting the apartments?
GP: Customers are mainly Italians, but lately there have been several from China and South America: Panama, Argentina, Mexico. Usually the virtual tours are always preliminary to actual visits, but there have been a couple of cases where customers bought just by having seen the properties virtually. This technology principally helps to speed up the process of decision-making for our customers. We plan to organize some Open House visits that will run 24/7, where clients can see the house without the broker, through several cameras.
CSG: Do you think the future of real estate will head in this virtual direction?
GP: There surely will be a quicker research process by previewing properties virtually. This trend will be essential in years to come. As a matter of fact I think that the actual visits within the apartments with brokers will diminish. Brokers will communicate with clients through a computer, while a robot will show the apartment. Brookstone already makes robots that can be moved remotely. Naturally once the client has switched, in just a few seconds, from the Upper East Side to SoHo and has made up his mind on what he or she likes best, the next step will be to arrange a visit of the property in real life. That experience still cannot be replaced by the virtual world.
Guido Pompilj is the co-founder of Vivaldi Real Estate.
Written by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Photography Courtesy of Vivaldi Real Estate
Design by Mina Darius
Google Glass Virtual Tour, Photography Courtesy of Vivaldi Real Estate