Microeconomics

On the home front: a Spanish estate agent

Text: Veronica Frenzel
Photo: Veronica Frenzel

Ignacio Ramos lives on the Costa del Sol. Together with two siblings, the 44-year-old runs the family company, Ramos Inmobiliaria, which was started by his father. He joined the company in 1991, when property prices in Spain had peaked after doubling in the late 1980s, giving up his architectural studies to do so. The latest economic crisis, which ended another housing bubble, led to Ramos selling his flat and moving into his parents' holiday home, in an effort to rescue the company. He is divorced and the father of two children.

Income, deductions and pension

The estate agency pays Ramos a basic salary of €650 a month. On top of this, he receives commission, the most recent of which came to €900. From this, €232 is deducted as income tax. At the end of the year, the siblings share half the company profits among themselves, but for the past nine years there has been nothing to divide up. The company pays €350 a month in social security contributions for Ramos, which he is obliged to pay being self-employed; supplementary private health insurance costs him €38. He has stopped paying in to his private pension schemefor now. He pays €400 a month to support his former wife and his children. He pays no rent and his car is provided by the company.

What does your work mean to you?

Work is a necessity, to pay my bills. Nevertheless, I enjoy my job. When I find the home someone is looking for, that makes me happy.

What is the most important thing in your life?

Being happy. When I am, things work out for me and life is beautiful.

What would you change about your life?

Apart from my financial worries, I am leading the life I want to. I spend a lot of time with my friends and family, and live in the most beautiful region I can imagine, Andalusia.

What are your biggest problems and how do you deal with them?

In recent years, my main problems have been financial. I often didn’t know how I was going to survive the month. In 2007, we had to shut down four branch offices as well as our office in Málaga, and lay off all seven employees. My siblings and I worked for many months without earning anything.

How do you treat yourself?

I drive to the mountains or to the beach with friends and my children. Before the crisis, I would have bought myself property there, or booked a weekend at a spa. Nowadays I appreciate the simple things more.

What do you want from the future, and what are you doing to achieve it?

I once planned to stop working when I was 45. That’s not going to happen any more. But perhaps I can stop when I am 55. I still dream of opening a hotel with friends on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.

Do you ever feel that as an estate agent you helped to bring on the crisis?

It was always important to me that the business deals I was involved in were transparent. The advice I give clients is what I myself would do if I were buying a house. But of course I benefited from the inflated prices. On the other hand, I also suffered the consequences.

Spain

Population: 46.5 million
Currency: Euro (EUR)
GDP per capita: €24,500
Human Development Index: 26th place
(Germany: 6th place out of 188 countries)

Current average costs

1 packet of cigarettes: €4.50
1 litre of petrol: €1.30
1 Big Mac: €3.50
1 kilogram of beef: €10.20
1 litre of whole milk: €0.77
1 dozen eggs: €1.59