Words: Michel Cruz Images: Courtesy of Panorama Properties
Founded in Marbella in 1970, Panorama Properties is much more than just a real estate agency. In half a century, it has not only surmounted the vicissitudes of time, experiencing both the good and leaner times, and in the process chronicling the evolution of Marbella, and becoming part of its very fabric.
The company is family owned and managed by Christopher Clover and his two children Alex and Katinka, and is today comprised of a team of 22 professionals speaking ten different languages between them.
FOUR GENERATIONS IN THE REAL ESTATE SECTOR
Half a century of presence in Marbella's real estate sector is an unbeatable success story. Panorama is indeed the oldest agency in the region. However, the family's connection to the real estate industry dates back over a century, spanning four generations, from 1904, when Chris' grandfather, Burtt Byron (B.B.) Clover, founded B.B. Clover and Company, a real estate agency in Chicago, USA.
In addition, B. B. Clover was also a real estate developer and the builder of one of the first professional golf courses in the United States on the outskirts of Chicago in the 1920s. Itasca's clubhouse and golf course still stands proudly in his honor today, as do most of the elegant wood-frame homes surrounding the golf course. A true testimony to the philosophy of quality and service that has gradually permeated through the generations to the present day, and which is the foundation of Panorama's characteristic entrepreneurial spirit. "Panorama's fundamental principles are the fruit of the family values of honesty, transparency and effort, which I inherited from my father and the latter from his own father. All our successes have been the result of applying these principles to the letter...". Christopher Clover.
A few years later, the Clover family moved to Charlottesville, a thriving university town in central Virginia, a two-hour drive south of Washington DC. In Charlottesville, Chris's father, Williston 'Bill' Clover, continued the family business, opening a real estate agency and creating a successful real estate development company through which he brokered the sale of many of the area's most important historic homes and rural properties. In his youth Bill was also a professional tennis player, a tennis professor at the University of Virginia during the war, an architect, property developer and specialist in the breeding and raising of Aberdeen Angus cattle.
It was in this setting that Chris and his brother, Bill, grew up. After graduating with distinction from the University of Virginia with a degree in economics, commerce and French, Chris taught French for two years before joining the family business in 1971. Three years before in 1968, his father had acquired the Washington DC-based property agency Panorama International Ltd, as a means to market luxury international homes to American buyers. This led to the opening of the Marbella office in 1970, later followed by Mallorca and also Mexico City, established by Chris’s brother Bill.
When Chris arrived in Marbella in 1973 to head up the Marbella office, the town was still small and truly glamorous. The Marbella Club was in its heyday, attracting an international A-list clientele that included aristocrats, royalty, Hollywood stars and the cream of Spanish and European society. This much was evident at the inauguration party of Puerto Banús, which was attended by the likes of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, the Aga Khan, José Banús and of course, Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe. A certain Julio Iglesias provided the live entertainment.
“They were heady times,” recalls Chris Clover. “Marbella was in full development and already a very exclusive, special place where you could not only enjoy the finest climate in Europe within a beautiful setting, but also rub shoulders with fascinating people from around the world. It was an enriching experience which, together with the Andalusian culture and gentle pace of life, produced a unique quality environment that continues to attract people from around the world.”
Even before 1980, Panorama was already a prominent name in Marbella real estate, and continues to be even more so as it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. Operating from two offices on the prestigious Golden Mile, Panorama is involved in the listing, promotion and sale of many of the most important properties in this region, expanding its expertise to also include luxury rentals, commercial property and a special division dedicated to land acquisition and providing a bespoke service for both institutional and private investors
The relationship forged with clients is at the heart of Panorama’s success, where Chris and his team have been involved in finding and managing properties on behalf of royalty, managing the acquisition of an embassy building in Tokyo for the Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia, as well as transactions involving large tracts of land on the Costa del Sol and prime office premises in Madrid and London. The main focus of the business, however, has always been and continues to be marketing quality residential properties in the Marbella area.
“There are always challenges to overcome in this highly competitive business and we are in an industry that is constantly evolving. My greatest personal pleasure has been to meet so many wonderful people from around the world who come to Marbella, many of whom have become close friends,” says Chris Clover. “We have had clients from well over 50 different countries, and have learned something from each of them.” It is this passion both for real estate and the personal relationships forged with clients that forms the basis for Panorama’s longevity and dedication to professionalism. “It has been said of me that I am a stickler for precision and detail, but how else would it be possible to survive and thrive for 50 years in such a competitive industry as this?”
Chris' perseverance in maintaining a clear and correct process is his customers' guarantee, and this involves not only excellent service but also a very deep level of technical and market knowledge, which is the result of 50 years of experience. "Over the years, we have dealt with every conceivable real estate situation, and have therefore become experts at solving problems as soon as they arise. We act quickly, efficiently and safely on behalf of our clients, and make our own case before putting a property up for sale, but without turning ourselves into an "aggressive" estate agency. We have a vocation of permanence, and we always offer the highest quality service and professional competence in all areas".
As a result of his many contributions to the real estate industry in the area, Chris was invited to become an Eminent Fellow of the renowned Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in 2015, the largest real estate organisation in the world with 120,000 members in 140 different countries. As a result of this, the following year, Panorama became one of only two residential real estate agencies in Spain to be RICS regulated, which gives important guarantees of professional conduct to its buyer and seller clients.
In 2019 the firm was awarded Best Real Estate Agency in Spain out of hundreds of applicants by the prestigious International Property Awards.
Panorama also operates another real estate agency called Puente Romano Real Estate as part of a joint venture with the Puente Romano and Nobu Hotel Group, giving their seller clients highly effective, direct exposure of their property listings to the hotel’s clients.
It is this pedigree that clients can count on when buying from or selling through Chris and his international, multilingual team. “We jealously protect our role as negotiators of the commercial elements of a property transaction and are very good at bringing the two parties together in harmony,” says Chris. “We work closely with other agents and colleagues, as well as learning from them, but we always seek to distinguish ourselves through the quality of our service and our efficacy. Through our experience and market research, resulting in our annual market report, we have become an authoritative source of information, offering our clients hard market knowledge and statistics that is well documented and of great value to both buyers and sellers.”
Continuing the long-standing real estate tradition of the Clover family Chris’s children, Katinka and Alex, both born in Spain, joined the company after the turn of the century. Katinka, a graduate from the American University of Paris, and Alex, who graduated from his dad’s alma mater, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, have become an integral part of Panorama, bringing an essential perspective and added leadership to help the company to adapt to changing times, opening a new chapter in the history of Marbella’s longest-established real estate agency.