A new real estate agency in Spain is looking for its thing

Alyona Kovaleva
Impulse Media Contributor
July 15, 2022

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay
Real estate agency Meridan officially incorporated at a notary in Barcelona on a special day in history—February 24th, 2022. Initially, the business was targeting clients from the former Soviet countries and support from Russian-speaking bloggers, but the target market was quickly revised.
How does the new company feel in this highly competitive market and what can be done to cope with economic turbulence? Meridan founders Mikhail Shaposhnikov and Denis Shchurov are sharing it with us.
Mikhail Shaposhinkov and Denis Schurov, founders of Meridan. Photo by Impulse.Media
Russians are “trapped”
Meridan specializes both in commercial real estate and in the sale of housing—apartments, villas and other attractive investment properties. Initially, the company’s target market was Russian-speaking clients—mostly Russians. Mikhail Shaposhnikov (also co-founder of the well-known marketing agency Yoola) saw the potential of the business in synergy with his media assets, but the February events have changed his plans.
“I know almost all the top of the Russian-language YouTube, I can say that I am friends with many of the influencers. They trust me, and their trust could be converted into customers and attracted to advertising for mutual promotion. But the war crippled our sector,” says Shaposhnikov.
It is very difficult to work with Russians in Europe now: you can say they are “trapped”. One of the main problems is banks. If initially there were difficulties with the withdrawal of funds, now the difficulties lie in using the European accounts in general and Spanish in particular. It is a vicious circle: to buy property, you need a residence permit, and to get it, you need a bank account with funds on it, which is opened only for those who have a residence permit.
“One of the important investment factors for Russians was obtaining a European residence permit when buying real estate over 500,000 euros,” says Shchurov. “This program continues to function, but the citizens of Russia have to run a difficult quest.”
Russian buyers, of course, have not completely dried up. Those who have been living in the EU for a long time, have a residence permit or citizenship of one of the EU countries are showing interest in investing in real estate. Most requests come from the Baltic States, Poland and Germany from those who want to improve their climatic conditions.
Who will be Meridan’s client?
According to the founders, the agency is looking for a new strategy to help them become visible in the local market. This is the priority, as there are more than 2,100 players in the real estate industry in Barcelona.
The niche remains highly competitive but very attractive, primarily for investment. Property prices in Spain have begun to rise and all forecasts indicate that this trend will continue. The construction of many new buildings has been frozen due to a jump in prices for building materials, and those that are at the initial stages of construction have already included an increased cost, taking into account inflation. Accordingly, all this provokes an increase in prices for secondary housing and rent, which is the opportunity to earn profit.
The National Institute of Statistics (INE) registered an 11.9% increase in sales last year compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. This increase, according to the portal idealista, is primarily in the most prestigious areas of Barcelona—Eixample, Gracia, Sant Marti and Sarria Sant Gervasi.
Sales in Spain (blue) and the province of Barcelona (green). Data source: bcn-advisors.com
Foreigners made up 9.5% (2019) of the total buyers of Barcelona apartments before the COVID-19. Travel restrictions have reduced the foreign market, but last year it began to grow again. According to the Catalan government, in 2021, 8.67% of apartment purchases in Barcelona were made by foreigners.
“In Barcelona, ​​the French and Italians buy the most. Then in terms of sales — the Germans, the Dutch, the Belgians and the British. The share of Russian-speaking buyers in the total mass was small even before February 24,” says Shchurov.
While maintaining their specialization in working with foreigners, the founders of Meridian will gradually rely on locals. The market figure of more than 90 percent looks very attractive.
“I don’t know where this business can take us. Real estate has different areas that are interesting to develop and invent. For me this is a unique opportunity to meet interesting people, as well as to get to know the country in which you live,” Shaposhnikov notes.
A palace VS a property for rent
It was customary for Russian-speaking clients, says Shaposhnikov, to buy property in Spain and visit it here and there. From an investment point of view, he calls it "complete nonsense."

“We offer a reasonable strategy: let’s not buy yourself a palace, but diversify the risks. If you want residential real estate—buy it, but invest in a commercial one as well. There will be passive income and there are rarely problems with it,” says Shaposhnikov.
Interesting to note Russian-buyers who purchased commercial real estate before the military operation, as Meridian notes, do not experience any problems with the Spanish financial system and receive a stable income in euros.
The most difficult thing in investing in commercial real estate, Denis and Mikhail explain, is to find a suitable object: there are few good ones, the best ones are sold quickly, the market is very active.
If in the "residential" sector, any person, with some effort, can obtain a sufficient amount of information from open sources, then in the commercial sector, things are more complicated. More than 90% are sold only through real estate agencies. Attractive options are also "dispersed" in the databases of notaries and lawyers and are generally not available to a mere mortal.
There is no single resource, including digital, because privacy is valued in the market. For example, objects that are already occupied by the tenant often do not want to "shine". The tenant may not even know that the premises are involved in the transaction, because this may excite him with the upcoming price increase or termination of the agreement. Shaposhnikov says that one tenant was looking for a new buyer for the premises in advance so that it would not be sold suddenly. An object with a reliable tenant and a long-term contract for a client who wants to invest in a rental business comes with income from the first month of purchase.
Not surprisingly, in Spain, unlike the residential real estate sector, digitalization has not penetrated the commercial real estate sector as much. However, Meridan wants to use the digital space as a competitive advantage. According to the founders, they are developing a digital system that will help collect information and offer loyal customers a personalized selection of opportunities in an automatic way. Now this resource is created for internal company needs.
Starting a new agency is both easy and difficult at the same time. Easy, because there is an opportunity to bring innovation to the market, and difficult, because trust in this sector can only be built up over the years. Nevertheless, Denis and Mikhail are sure that their professional background is an important asset of the company.
Mikhail Shaposhinkov and Denis Schurov, founders of Meridan. Photo by Impulse.Media
Mikhail Shaposhnikov
In Russia, he was a professional military musician, playing for 7 years in the orchestra of the headquarters of the Ural Military District. Then he emigrated to Israel, worked as a laborer in a steel mill, worked in advertising, online shopping, then entered the business of website creation. After trying different niches, he discovered a way to stand out and, together with partners, created Yoola, an influencer service and one of the largest official YouTube partner networks in the world. For example, Morgenstern and Yuri Dud chose it to monetize their content.
Moved to Barcelona in 2021, as the Spanish business climate and the country’s climate are generally considered milder than in Israel.
“There is no secret pill in business. You have to believe in your product and move ahead. Because if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, why do it at all? It’s a simple and complex thing at the same time.”
Denis Shurov
Didn’t see a future for himself in Belarus, his home-country. With a degree in microelectronic engineering, he came to Spain in the 1990s to try testing himself in a new environment. He tried various rough jobs until he found employment on his specialty in a Japanese company of Honda group. He continued to work in the automotive industry, and then was invited to a startup that was engaged in assembling computers. After some time, he opened his own computer company, but during the 2009 crisis he decided to quit the business. Decided to try himself in the real estate sector for foreigners, where worked as a realtor in industry-leading companies. Has the status of a licensed broker, a member of the Guild of Realtors of Catalonia.
“Always have the desired goal in mind and remind yourself more where you are striving. Then consciousness begins to focus on some elements, to mark signals in the environment, events and communication with people. All this is collected in a single picture and inevitably leads to the desired goal.”