48 Years In Marbella
You might say that no-one knows the property business better, for not only is Panorama the longest established real estate agency in Marbella, its owner Christopher Clover continues a family tradition in real estate that goes back over 114 years.
His father, the late Williston ‘Bill’ Clover, established a highly successful estate agency in Charlottesville, Virginia, named Clover Realty that specialised in the sale of farms and important historical estates. He opened his agency in 1952 and during over forty years he built a reputation as one of the most prominent professionals in his field within this prosperous historic town surrounded by the lovely countryside of Albermarle County. The birthplace of Thomas Jefferson, it is an area known for its exclusive properties and the prestigious University of Virginia – from which Chris graduated with distinction in 1969, as did his son Alex, in 1998.
But the tradition goes back even further. Though Bill Clover was a remarkable man in his own right – an accomplished athlete, Black Angus cattle farmer, tennis professor, a designer and builder of beautiful homes, and a property developer – he too built his business on foundations bequeathed by the previous generation. Bill’s original partner had been his dad, Burtt B. Clover. B.B. opened his first real estate agency in Chicago in 1904, and went on to an important role in his development of the town of Itasca in the newly expanding suburbs of Chicago in the early 1920’s.
Having helped to put this once small village on the map, B. B. Clover was a seasoned real estate professional well-versed in both the development and sale of private homes at a time when Frank Lloyd Wright was also making a name for himself in Chicago. As one of the very first golf course developers in the United States, B. B. was a design pioneer in his own right.
From Clover Realty to Panorama International
Clover Realty is still a prominent name in Virginia real estate, but when Bill Clover bought a Washington D.C.-based agency called Panorama International in 1968 he immediately started laying the foundations for an unheard of expansion across the Atlantic. In fact, Panorama had been the first agency to offer international properties and developments for sale to investors in the US, with a focus on Mexico, the Caribbean, France, and Marbella, Spain, where Bill Clover commenced a brave new venture by opening an office in 1970.
Marbella was already internationally renowned as a luxury “jet set” resort destination at the time, having earned a fame that spread beyond Europe to the United States. “The original idea was to primarily service American buyers and investors interested in this area,” recalls Chris, “but soon we had built up an international clientele based mostly in Europe that reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Marbella”. Chris moved here in 1973 with his first wife Kirsten to head up the rapidly expanding new ‘foreign office’, and it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with Marbella himself and set down roots here. “Those were the days when you had to ring the operator in Malaga and sometimes wait all day to get an international call through. The main link to the outside world was our cherished telex machine” recalls Chris.
“We were the first real estate agency to organise property inspection flights to the Costa del Sol, bringing in clients gathered through exhibitions and our extensive associate network in the United States at the time, and when people saw the setting, the lifestyle and the Andalusian culture they too were sold.” On one memorable occasion, Chris and his sales team received a charter plane of 120 people comprising 75 ‘buying units’ to whom they made 49 sales that week – mostly of apartments and villas in Nueva Andalucía and Bahia Dorada in Estepona, priced at between $5,000 and $30,000. “My father showed great foresight in targeting Marbella as the jewel in Europe’s second home market” says Chris.
Two years after Chris arrived, the worst recession since the war forced the Washington office to close. Brother Bill took over the Mexico City branch and became a top consultant in property development and financing, active in over 65 countries. Chris and his first wife Kirsten stayed on in Marbella to develop the local business, already well underway, enjoying focusing on higher-end properties and clients rather than the property inspection tours.
“We have always worked very hard but we were also always accompanied by a lot of good luck,” says Christopher. “During the mid-1970s we were introduced to members of the Saudi Royal Family and other important individuals from the Middle East and sold them and their friends many properties at the time.” Since that time Panorama has become a name synonymous with quality real estate in southern Spain.
His brother Bill, meanwhile, had taken over Panorama International’s Mexico office to develop it into a leading international resort consulting, marketing and finance company that has been active in over 65 countries across the globe. Bill is still very active and his company is currently based in San Antonio Texas. Chris and Bill still exchange clients and advice on a regular basis.
From early, pioneering beginnings in Chicago through the exclusive estates of Charlottesville, Virginia, to the successful modern luxury resort and real estate firms in San Antonio and Marbella, the Clovers have built on a wealth of experience and know-how to contribute to the development of their home markets.
A name synonymous with Marbella real estate
The facts are impressive and speak for themselves, providing the kind of reference to longevity and success that only very few real estate companies can boast. It is fair to say that the Clovers have real estate coursing through their veins, but even more importantly, they have all been larger than life characters who have made an impression on their profession and their environment. Today, having celebrated 48 years in Marbella real estate, Chris runs Panorama with his children Alex and Katinka, who are taking the family trade into its fourth generation, and the Panorama team covers sales of villas and apartments, investment properties, real estate consulting, rentals, and property administration.
“Even though we live in a rapidly changing world full of new realities and challenges, it is a great privilege to build on my family’s rich tradition of expertise, service and integrity,” says Alex Clover. Together with his sister Katinka, Alex learned early on that, while good marketing, sales and property listings are the cornerstones of the industry, only personal levels of service, efficiency and professionalism are what ultimately make the difference. “It’s how clients become friends that trust in you and are pleased to refer you to others.” A longstanding presence, a respected name and offices in prestigious locations on Marbella’s Golden Mile, combine with the desire to evolve along with the times. “Real estate marketing today is very different from what it was in years past,” says Alex. “In fact, the rate of development is so great that what applied only ten years ago is no longer applicable today, so it takes consistent daily effort not only to track and apply where necessary the latest trends in advances in real estate business and technology, but also, to do our best to lead the way.”
Having thrived in prosperous times and successfully weathered many recessions, Panorama has always maintained a balance between the resources of a sizeable agency and the personal touch of a family run business. Today, as Panorama finds itself at the beginning of a new period of growth in this region, 26 professionals are engaged between the two Panorama offices, reflecting the multinational nature of Panorama’s clientele with their broad professional and linguistic skills.
“Combined, we speak twelve different languages,” says Chris Clover, who takes pride in the fact that Panorama has been a constant reference to quality and service within an industry that can be turbulent at times. “We have a personal and corporate commitment to Marbella, our home.” Indeed, both as a company and in his private capacity, Chris has been keen to make a civic contribution to the town that has become his home. He has been an active member of the Rotary Club of Marbella and has contributed to a great many cultural and charity initiatives over the years, passionate to make this beautiful place even better. More than anything, Chris has been one of the most consistent and dedicated promoters of Marbella itself. But “it’s the incredibly interesting people from all over the world that we meet and serve professionally that makes our profession so especially rewarding and has been my greatest source of personal enjoyment,” says Chris.
Chris summarizes: “Success comes in many forms, but it is the pillars of experience, consistency, dedication, market knowledge and professionalism which will make any business stand the test of time. The values of a family and our profession, as taught by my father to me and by his father to him, are the basis for any success that we may have had. Honesty, fair and transparent dealing, and a penchant for perfection are fundamental ingredients. Little by little we have gathered together the best team of champions in our field we have ever had, including our support team, which is perhaps the most fundamental reason for our success and longevity.”
“…it is the pillars of experience, consistency, dedication, market knowledge and professionalism which will make any business stand the test of time.”
This article combines an interview by Belinda Beckett published by Essential Magazine in 2010, with a recent interview by Michel Cruz.