Living as an art of living
About five years ago, David Fonteyne and Philippe De Backer founded the real estate office Found & Baker in Bruges, focusing on the luxury segment. Today it has three offices and further growth seems unstoppable. An interview with both managers about their passion for art and design, the power of experience and the value of a well-oiled team. "Our people are our strength.
They are not yet in their seats, or they are already talking. About an art object that David's brother has just discovered. "He has his own art gallery," explains the younger of the two directors. "Art can really move me. I got that from home. My parents themselves have always been avid collectors."
"David and I have a lot in common," Philippe adds. "We are both hedonists. Architecture, design, art - these are things that touch us. Aesthetics and perception play an important role in who we are and what we do. It is also from this background that we started Found & Baker. We are not typical salesmen. That's not what it's about for us. To us, living is an art of living. Just like a great design piece or piece of art, you need to experience a house emotionally. You have to be able to find a part of yourself in it. It is a place where you find peace, well-being and serenity. Transferring that feeling to people, that is what we are all about.
People as the foundation
Found & Baker focuses on special residential real estate. In the portfolio you will find castles, villas, mansions and country houses. One by one breathtaking buildings that distinguish themselves by their location, history, architecture and level of finishing. It is a sector that would unintentionally cause you to lapse into grandiloquence and pompous language. Yet you notice little of that with David and Philippe. They are not the ones for big words and showboating. They are enthusiastic and ambitious, but also down-to-earth and affable. "I do not need to be in the spotlight, neither of us do," emphasises David.
"What we have achieved so far is a team effort. We have grown significantly in five years, but that success is widely supported. That is something that Philippe and I have always been very aware of. We have a strong structure in place and a strong product, but it is the people behind it who make it all happen. Found & Baker relies on ambitious people who are in the driving seat and truly believe in our story. You can also see that in the work atmosphere. Our employees are competitive in a healthy way, but they are also there for each other. Actually, that is what makes me the most proud.
Philippe De Backer: "You have to let people grow in their ambition. Give them the opportunity to help build your story from within. The sale of a house is a collective event for us. Each property is discussed in the team, after which a case manager is appointed. This is a fairly atypical approach in our sector, but one that works for our customers. They know what they can expect from us. We are aware that we are not the cheapest player. But that is actually relative, because we focus so hard on quality.
We really take our customers in hand and that translates into great results. We have contact with owners every fortnight, so that we can continue to make adjustments and get the best out of a sale. I think that also typifies a good estate agent: someone who uses his expertise to enter into dialogue with his clients. You have to assert your knowledge and experience, on the one hand by proactively looking for buyers, and on the other hand by consulting and constantly following up and communicating."
Five years, three offices. Found & Baker has undergone a tremendous evolution in a short period of time. David and Philippe founded the first office in Bruges. Today, there are also offices in Sint-Martens-Latem and Elsene. "We started from scratch and systematically gained the trust of the market through hard work," says Philippe. "Again, this is also thanks to our employees. From the beginning, we trusted a number of people to take the lead. Thanks to them, we have been able to grow and expand geographically in a short time. Especially now that we also have a foothold in Brussels, you notice that we are really on the map nationally."
David Fonteyne: "That remains the big ambition. We want to further strengthen our position nationally. But we mustn't put too much pressure on ourselves. Nothing is compulsory. Three offices in five years is very nice. Suppose we could add another three in the next five years, that would be almost unreal. We are not going to force something like that. We will see what comes our way. There are still plenty of opportunities to come."