Real Estate mogul, Shaun Toweel, literally has the Midas touch. This seven times international property award winner sees opportunities and creates viable markets where none existed before.
To date, Shaun Toweel has completed over a billion dollars’ worth of real estate, and is currently involved in large mix-use developments including residential, retail and commercial components in South Africa as well as abroad. In 2002 he grew his company into a multi-million dollar property portfolio, and he is the current founder and CEO of a number of real estate companies including Extra Dimensions Property Group based in South Africa, One Luxury Ltd on the Island of Mauritius and Toweel Property Developments and Investments LLC based in the USA.
Shaun has been developing and building ultra-luxury homes and residential communities for over 20 years, with his work being internationally recognised as the creative force behind some of the world’s most magnificent mansions ever built. This resident from Kwa-Zulu Natal does not believe in a ‘one-design-fits-all’ approach, and the homes and estates he develops are individually crafted and infused with imagination and pristine execution.
Shaun lives according to a three-word motto which he believes custom homeowners are looking for; workmanship, value and satisfaction.
Where it all started
Shaun says his passion for real estate development found its roots in the work that his father did.
“I can recall how amazed I was observing my dad, who had his own electrical company, involved in these huge developments where the developer would build on average 25 homes in one month. I was intrigued by the hundreds of components coming together and then ultimately the final product. I’ve always had a creative and inventive mind, coupled with a deep-set entrepreneurial spirit and goal to one day be a creator and developer of my very own masterpiece homes,” says Shaun.
When he first entered the industry it was not all moonshine and roses. The property market was very depressed and interest rates were at an all-time record high. It was the highest the country had ever seen, 24% during 1998. Shaun had to use his creativity and innovation to find ways to develop niche products in an extremely volatile market.
“Although challenging, I formed alliances with the banks which had distressed properties, and in particular, ones that were half built and incomplete. The banks put their trust in me and allowed me to showcase my abilities. I would apply my vision and innovative designs, and then execute it in a way that was not seen before in the marketplace. This was the beginning of my 20-year journey, which started from a half built repossessed home, into the world’s most luxurious mansions. This journey has taught me how to be a market maker and ‘bubble proof’ my business in any real estate market conditions,” he explains.
One of the most challenging tasks was to establish himself as a credible real estate developer – not only within the industry, but also with strategic partners such as the banks. At the time his competitors had the advantage of having been in the industry for a long time, and as the new kid on the block, he had to up his game.
“At the time my competitors were more reputable and established and I had to face the challenge of bringing a different product to the market to place me at the forefront of the industry. It wasn’t something I necessarily considered from the outset, as I didn’t think too far ahead and naturally took it one step at a time. What started out as a pay cheque, rapidly grew into a drive for extreme success. I suddenly found myself wanting to be a market leader and the best in the industry.”
The challenge to stay relevant and updated with the ever-changing industry remains a constant focus of Shaun’s. “There were numerous occasions where I had to re-invent myself, my product or my strategy and provide a niche offering to the market. But in the end it is worth the effort. And as with any industry there will be economic challenges, and it’s the way in which you deal and adapt in these challenges which will set you apart from the rest.”
The realtor environment has also had a facelift over the last 20 years, especially from a design perspective. When Shaun Toweel built his first homes, the trend was mostly around Mediterranean/Tuscan designs, but has since moved to the more modern and contemporary style. His clientele demographic has also changed over the last few years.
“In the beginning my clientele was middle class, but as my vision and designs evolved, I found that I was attracting a very high-end buyer. I then became not as much dependant on the economic conditions, as the high-end buyers weren’t conditional to market change. With the economic downturn over the last few years in South Africa, I grabbed the opportunity to create an offshore development company, where I was able to cater and develop for my high net worth clients, offering them a hedge against the Rand.”
Shaun is excited about the way he expects the real estate industry to develop over the next few years.
“I see the industry developing into a more mixed-use communities which I like to refer as: Live, Work, Play. I’d like to expand even further on that and incorporate a level of self-sustainability. More than ever, people are starting to see the value of living organically and creating convenient living spaces.”
For the foreseeable future Shaun Toweel would like to focus on creating luxurious self-sustainable communities in countries like Mauritius and the USA, where there is a huge demand for mixed-use development based around contemporary farming life. The design will be based on farming life being the centre, which would feed, provide and teach the purest natural form of life derived from nature.
“My future development, namely YOUFARM, in the USA, will include a contemporary farm hotel, Spa, residences, farm shop or bakery, fine dining and wine establishments that are led by the everchanging tapestry of the gardens. The entire development is self-sustainable and designed to be totally independent from the needs of the real world,” he explains.
YOUFARM is designed to create a landmark destination, whereby people can live, work and play in a unique environment that is one of a kind. It will allow residents to enjoy the fullness of nature, tranquillity, serenity and wellbeing.
Shaun Toweel shares 5 business lessons with young, emerging real estate developers:
■ Think Big, Start Small
Dream big, don’t be afraid to shoot for the stars, but at the same time, know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took me years to finally look back and realise that my accomplishments were dreams that I had once envisioned years before.
■ Be creative and innovative
Don’t fall into the trap of what everyone else around you are doing. Think outside the box and become a leader.
■ Create your Dream Team
Don’t compromise on your resources and suppliers, make sure that you all have the same vision from the bottom up. Form a mastermind alliance.
■ Build lasting relationships
Be consistent, humble and always maintain your good reputation. Failing to do so will come back to haunt you. Strong relationships will give you the freedom to build your real estate career the way you want, rather than the way everyone else does. Good relationships are better than money in the bank, because they will earn you more financial stability, along with greater success.
I believe location is very important, however, I also believe that if you can create a niche and marketable product in an average location, you can still achieve extreme success.