“I was a free person, I did what I wanted”

With the life of Felip Massot i Felip, born in 1945 in Maldà (l’Urgell) and raised in Belianes, a novel could be written: born in a dry land and in the middle of post-war rationing, nothing seemed anticipate that now, at the age of 76, he would celebrate half a century of the life of his real estate company, Vertix, with a concert by the Escolania de Montserrat and a dinner at the Llotja de Barcelona surrounded by 300 friends. Massot talks around his elbows, bluntly and with the confidence of those who have studied at the university on the street and have succeeded in a world of sharks. He is a born salesman, of those who do not close a deal until they see that the customer is happy. The first lesson was given to him by his mother when she sent him to buy bread and made him alternate between the three bakeries in the village: “Being well with everyone is one of the basic rules of the trader, I learned it as a child ”. If you keep in mind, where does it come from, that your company’s headquarters in Barcelona are located in Plaça de Belianes.

What did you think it would be?

– I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My father had a small oil mill on the ground floor of his house. We were having dinner in the cheap kitchen with the godmother and the doorbell rang, and my father would say to me, “You, go and see who it is,” and it was Jaume, who could be 60, and I, 14: do you pay for the olives? ” I replied, “At 4.50.” And he: “The union pays them at 4.70.” “Then take them to the union.” Jaume let go of a renegade, and I said to him: “If you bring them to me on Sunday morning, after Mass, I’ll pay them to you.” He gave her a delivery note and went back up to the kitchen: “It was Jaumet’s cal tal, if I bought him the olives.” “How much did you pay them?” “At 4.50”. And we kept eating dinner.

At the age of 14 he was already negotiating prices.

– And at the age of 16, 50 kilos of wheat and barley sacks passed through his back. Those of corn (corn, it is called in Barcelona) were very annoying, because the corn slips. If we told the kids about a movie about how we lived, they wouldn’t believe it. At school we had a stove that burned thanks to the logs that students wore every day. In the village, no one showered in the winter. Let’s see who takes a shower with cold water when we are less than 2 outside.

How did he come to Barcelona?

– Dad broke down and we ran away because we owed money. I spent a year working at a gas station in Andorra, until the people of the village went to look for my father and told him to come back, that they would already be expected to collect, because if a judge had to fix it it would be worse . We went back and I became the house barn stick. He was 17 years old. We paid off our debts and said, “We’re not going to do anything here. Towards Barcelona ”.

And where did it start?

– A priest we knew told us that in Via Laietana, 30, 6th A, they needed someone to work. It turned out to be the building of Ramon Guardans, made by his father-in-law, Francesc Cambó. I was greeted by a gentleman named Arraut and he made me talk, and since I have a trace of talking, half an hour later he said to me: “When could you start?” “Well, right now.” And, oh, to look for a pension.

What was your first salary?

– 4,000 pesetas. I paid 2,800 for a pension and I had 1,200 left, and I could still go to the movies. If I went there on Saturday, I wouldn’t touch it on Sunday. A year later I went to look for everyone at home and took them to Barcelona, ​​on the 5th floor without a lift. Mom had been a seamstress when she was young and sewed for the neighborhood.

How did you end up in the real estate business?

– Mr. Guardans made small extensions in Viladecans and Gavà, based on buying plots. I was the owner of the La Ballena Alegre campsite and, as life is, I bought the campsite 25 years later. We were very friendly, he was a great character.

You hit the 60s and 70s construction boom.

– It was beautiful, because it was people like me, who had just arrived. They came from Jaén and I from Lleida, but we were the same, and we understood each other. They bought us a plot of land to build a house, paying 30% of the entrance fee and the rest in three or four years. You had to see their excited faces making their home. Maybe they came from a place where the owner was riding and now they had a property and a life project.

And he bought and sold plots.

– I saw that there were people who needed land to build flats in Viladecans, Gavà, Castelldefels … And I thought: “If I find out who owns the land, I will facilitate the sale and charge a commission”. And so it was. He was 21 years old. In the year 69 I bought a 124 which cost me 120,000 pesetas. At the age of 26, he had saved 6 or 7 million. Of course, I didn’t go on a trip to Honolulu, I kept everything.

And he settled on his own.

– I thought: “I will decide and no one will send me.” I have been a free person. Within the limitations we all have, I did what I wanted. I have only been conditioned by law, morals, and good manners. Now doing such a business would not be so easy, there is a lack of plots to build at the right price for me to endure the scandal.

What is the scandal?

– How much does the land cost me, the bricklayers, the architects, the municipal permits, the deeds, the property records, all that, and then you get to the cost price, and when you have it you add the same percentage of profit and you will know at what price you have to sell it. It doesn’t fail. To make a fuss you have to know how to count.

Did you never go to college?

– I came second in law, but I didn’t have hours anymore and I was shocked, eager to work and common sense. And to inform me: what do people want, who owns the land, what plans does the city council have … I’m a big gossip, I always ask. Knowing the territory takes hours, and I enjoy going to see territory on Sunday morning.

How much was a new flat 35 years ago?

– For a million pesetas.

6,000 euros. How much is this flat worth today?

– 40 times more.

Salaries have not gone up 40 times. Who is left with the difference?

– Let’s see, everything has changed. Those apartments did not have the quality of today. Now a meter of work costs me 1,000 euros: if we did them as then they would be worth 650. Today, the cost per square meter of urbanization can be 200 euros. At that time there may have been 25. The city council takes between 4% and 5% of the value of the project. I am building a 90 room aparthotel in Sitges and the building permit alone costs me 1.2 million. Wages could be higher, but social burdens were lower. And 40 years ago people saved more because they lived in a simpler way. I didn’t know what the holidays were like until I was 30 years old.

How do we get affordable housing?

– In Barcelona it is very difficult, because to find something new you need at least half a million.

Where do I get half a million euros from?

– You have to go to Sant Feliu or Molins de Rei. We can’t all live in Barcelona, ​​it’s only 96 square kilometers. Note that, if not recently, Barcelona has the same number of inhabitants now as it did 40 years ago. There’s been a lot of rotation but it hasn’t grown, because it can’t grow anymore. The problem is always the ground. Making a flat of 100 square meters and three bedrooms, well done, if it is done by the public administration, which has no taxes, is 120,000 euros, the same in Lleida as in Tarragona or Girona. Every time you build a new neighborhood, you have to give 10% of what comes out to the city council and you have to put in 30% of everything that comes out of official protection. Apart from the fact that today, in construction, we do not find bricklayers or carpenters or electricians. And that we have a lot of unemployment.

Wouldn’t they have more people if they paid better?

– I do not argue that there are mileurists or less, but in my house there is no one who charges less than 1,000 euros. It has also happened that, as so many people from outside have come out offering cheap, their salaries have gone down.

We haven’t talked about what you call “the big party”: when you go to a bank and they give you 120% of the cost of the flat.

– The promoters got drunk, they financed everything for you. My friends came who had nothing to do with the real estate world and said, “Philip, now I’m a developer,” and they taught you lessons. All his life there had been blacksmiths, butchers and bakers who came together with a surveyor and built a flat, but from 2000 onwards the banks left a lot of money to people who called themselves “Mother of God”. And we were all wrong. The thing is, if you make a mistake, you’ll get away with it. We stuck our fingers out, but we had a lot of heritage and we were able to fix it.

Would he be a prosecutor again?

– Yes, I know how to do what I know how to do. You can always find the owner of a plot of land that you trust, give him some money and two flats and convince him. And if I want to see who it is, I know where to call. It’s called a trade. It’s just that people think that doing economics and a master’s degree in real estate already knows that, and no, you have to do the master’s degree in the store. You have to be excited and, in the beginning, you have to give more than they ask for, because with that you will learn the trade.

Has Núñez been the most important builder in this country?

– Núñez was a great real estate developer, to the point that, in the Eixample of Barcelona, ​​a Núñez flat is worth a little more than a flat other than Núñez, because they are well made. There are houses that I like more and others less, but I find them more than worthy.

The aesthetics are very debatable.

– Yes. Maybe I shouldn’t say it, but I don’t care: let’s take FAD award flats made ten or twelve years ago and go see how they are. And when they say, “This house is ugly,” is it the developer’s fault? No, sorry, this house has an architect and the project has been approved by the College of Architects. And it has passed through the town hall. And you have to follow some rules. If you don’t like it, we change the rules.

Has this country been built by socialist mayors or the converging Generalitat?

– Both of us. The great defender of town planning was Joan Antoni Solans from the Generalitat. The big change was made by the socialist mayors. One day we should pay tribute to mayors and councilors, the vast majority are honest. Bring me only one proof that the metropolitan land plan has a reclassification of private interest. Well, there was Espanyol in Sarrià, which I would have said yes. They said yes because Lara had to charge. Anyway, at least I didn’t go down without explaining myself first. But there has been much more honesty than corruption. We must congratulate Catalonia for the good things.

How many hours do you work a day?

– All. It’s just that I don’t work, I just have fun. I don’t see myself going for bread and walking the dog. And until the last day I plan to do what I did. I have been a happy man, with a wonderful partner, with whom I would remarry right now, and we have been together for over 40 years.

Source: Ara.cat – Portada by www.ara.cat.

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