Mr. Nafilyan was initially a lawyer acting for Kaufman and Broad, a very successful property company, headquartered in California, which specialized in building village houses. “The founder of Kaufman invited me to join the company,” explains Mr. Nafilyan. “I developed the firm in France for 30 years. Over that time, we changed our profile and began to specialize in the apartment market, which is the most important property sector in France. We extended our coverage across France, and in 2000 the company was floated on the stock market.”
In 2007, Kaufman and Broad was sold to PAI Partner and Mr. Nafilyan remained as President of the firm for a further seven years, before leaving at the end of 2013 to establish Nafilyan & Partners, with co-shareholders Bruce Karatz, the former President of KB Home, investment group Tikehau Capital, 123 Investment Managers, and the Caisse Epargne bank.
“In contrast to Kaufmann and Broad France, our strategy was to focus exclusively on the Île de France region,” notes Mr. Nafilyan. “That was in 2014. We began as a small start-up, and have grown incredibly quickly.”
Indeed, with 39 projects in the area, totalling around 4,000 residential units, and a turnover of over 180 million EUR for FY 2018, Nafilyan & Partners has developed in just four years into one of the big players in the residential property market in the Île de France.
“We build properties for first and second-time buyers, and for the social housing sector which, in France, are very much in demand,” Mr. Nafilyan underlines. “With 39 sites, our projects vary considerably in size from 30 to 400 apartments. Our target is to build 2,000 residential units per year in and around the Paris region.”
The company’s goal is to be the biggest player in the apartment market in the area. Besides the standard apartment market, Nafilyan & Partners is starting to enter the student accommodation, retirement home and commercial buildings sectors.
“Building living space is something very concrete; you leave a trace and make people happy.” Guy NafilyanPresident
“To support our growth strategy, we have secured another key shareholder, Immobel, a listed company and a big player in Belgium, who wants to enter the French market; this transaction will be completed in 2020,” reveals Mr. Nafilyan. His extensive experience in the property sector was invaluable to the President when selecting the location for his new company.
With a 30% market share, the Île de France is the biggest property market in the country. The area has successfully withstood all of the financial crises of the past 30 years. “We chose this region because it is large, stable and has the highest growth rate,” says Mr. Nafilyan.
For Nafilyan & Partners, there is no such thing as a typical project. “Every district is different, and has its own ideas in terms of architecture and functionality,” explains the President. “We work closely with local councils to develop projects which align to their specific needs.”
In contrast to its larger competitors, Nafilyan & Partners, as a relatively small organization, is in a strong position to respond quickly to client requests and make fast and effective decisions. “We have a very lean structure and strong support from our shareholders, which means we can react quickly when we identify an interesting proposition,” Mr. Nafilyan points out.
Over the years, the President has developed good relationships with many of the Île de France local authorities, and the company’s numerous successful projects have earned it a considerable level of trust. Nafilyan & Partners uses only the best construction companies to ensure that its properties are of the highest possible quality. The principles of quality extend far beyond the standard of the building work, however. In France, environmental requirements are extremely high and costly.
“The apartments of tomorrow are completely different from those of yesterday,” says Mr. Nafilyan. “They are now much more energy efficient, and better insulated against heat loss and noise. New materials have evolved, and sustainability is a key consideration. Everything is changing but it is part of our job to adapt.”
Not only the industry is changing but the Paris region too. “There is enormous potential here,” stresses Mr. Nafilyan. “The transport networks are being rebuilt, and in the coming years, the city will increasingly open up to foreign companies. This is great for us because new, untapped areas will emerge, such as housing developments around the new railway stations that are scheduled to be built over the next ten years. The market is in transition.”
Mr. Nafilyan has never regretted his own transition from lawyer to property developer. “As a lawyer, when the trial was over, the case was closed,” he says. “Building living space is something very concrete; you leave a trace and make people happy. We participate in urban development and create solutions that combat the lack of housing. Our philosophy is to build high-quality, high-value living spaces and create a great living environment for the people of France.”