Friday, May 15, 2009

Exclusive Interview - Chris McCarthy - VIVA Estates

Being a fairly popular blog, we have a reasonable number of subscribers now, amongst which a sizable number are unsurprisingly people from within the industry. One such reader is Chris McCarthy, man behind Viva Estates.

We had heard a few stories of a return, and having written about Viva Estates and Chris in the past and him having commented on our musings, we thought we would fire over an e-mail and get some input from the man himself in a bid to get some direct comment from one of the old school movers and shakers in the business.

Investment Property Rumours: I see that "" is up and running, using the old domain.

Chris McCarthy: “Your VIVA” is indeed an operation that is up and running, and seems to be shaking a few things up on the Costa del Sol by its presence and activity yes. I understand that it has its own web domain but that under agreement with VIVA Homes Under the Sun Ltd a UK company who has ownership and control of the old and now defunct Viva Estates domain, this allows searches under the name Viva Estates to be either forwarded or linked to directly to That’s my best understanding of that, I was never too hot on the intricacies of this kind of thing. But I think I have described it simply enough to be true and accurate.

Investment Property Rumours: Could you clarify if this is yourself, or someone entirely different, or, someone else on your behalf?

Chris McCarthy: VIVA Homes Under the Sun UK is owned by Mike Knivett who owns several Internet Marketing companies and various other businesses and a few hundred websites (you know what Internet guys are like I presume) anyway it was Mike and his team who developed and controlled the VIVA Estates website over the last number of years. They took ownership of the site about 2 years ago to save it from complete collapse and disappearing into the ether, and have maintained it ever since.

Now, a couple of years on Mike and his guys also produce, maintain and develop the site for Simply Spain Consulting which uses the brand yourVIVA to promote elements of its service and operations. Complicated I know, and I don’t know why it can’t be a lot more simpler to follow, but then that is probably why my own/old company Viva Estates got into a few problematic areas towards the end of its life, we operated our business entirely in the open and with a very basic and transparent structure, which made our demise easy to follow but perhaps was na├»ve in a business sense related to protection of assets or interests lets say.

Having said that, I wouldn't change a thing about how we set up the company or operated it we kept it simple going up and the same going down. But I digress. The old Viva Estates website is as I understand it dead and buried.

Then there is your VIVA, which is a whole different kettle of fish, but then is it different?
Well, the yourVIVA that is operating in Marbella is run and operated by people who worked in the old VIVA in some cases for 10 / 8 / 6 / 4 or 2 years, in other words an eclectic group from admin, sales, IT, customer service, valuations, design etc who worked for either a long or short time with the old Viva. This group plus some significant others who never worked for old Viva at all, initially set up a company called Simply Spain Consulting and also operated as VIVA Simply Spain when Viva Estates itself closed down, and they worked from a development in Benahavis from when in the early part of this year, they obtained the lease on a building that used to be closely associated to Viva, and launched themselves as yourVIVA.

So, it is/was a significant number of the old Viva Team, who now present themselves under the name yourVIVA. Nothing illegal there I understand, and I am not officially involved no. But personally, emotionally and practically I am totally committed to their cause and endeavours, they know that if they want my advice, involvement help or support in any way or area so long as it is unofficial, non contracted, unpaid etc then I will give it, I think they are a fabulous group of people, who love what they do, and are proud of the name VIVA and what they want to do with it.

Investment Property Rumours: Are they alone in becoming something Viva?

Chris McCarthy: No, I just heard yesterday that the old Viva Estates office in Benalmadena which was quite a large one has been taken over, painted in the old Viva colours of blue and yellow, and has been named/branded with the logo and words in a circle as Viva Choice or some such, now these people I have never heard of and have absolutely no idea at all what that is about. So, I know nothing about the one and lots about the other.

Investment Property Rumours: If you would enlighten us, we would like to put something positive out there especially given all the sneaky closing down and "not really rebranding" that is going on at the moment.

Chris McCarthy: I suppose from your perspective, you need to know are the yourVIVA guys being sneaky, or was Viva Estates being sneaky when it closed, and or are they rebranding or falling somewhere in the middle. It’s a difficult one, but then quite simple also.

I think all of this rebranding stuff that people are doing is despicable when it is one company literally opening up as something else in disguise, and then what happened to the other / old company, did it close down? Was it ever a fully blown declared company? Where was it based? Where did it pay its taxes? What on earth is the consumer supposed to think or feel? How is that companies are allowed to just slowly somehow die and slyly disappear, that would never happen in the UK ? There are any number of companies that have now collapsed and fallen into the pit that was inevitably underneath the biggest property bubble the world has ever known.

I am no saint here, I bear my own share of guilt for what happened in the market between 2002 – 05 particularly, I would think that things would have been very different, I don’t think we ever talked investment, investment, investment, and my priority was and always has been, is to sell real peoples homes to other real people, not create a false market, but some things you just can’t stop and you have to ride the wave in. And I have a few people who are grumpy with me too, some of them have a bloody nerve to be so, but others have every right and I feel I let a handful down.

So let’s be sure I am not without fault just that I hope and pray my mistakes were at least honest ones and not fuelled or filled with greed and advantage taking. But simply put, there maybe a few Viva’s pop up over the years, there are already two.

One group yourVIVA is a group of ex employees or associates of old Viva Estates, along with new folk, who are proud of the name VIVA, who think and believe they stood for more good than bad, who are not afraid to meet their old VE clients on the streets, or in the supermarkets they don’t duck to another aisle.

They are confident in the name VIVA, they work to build that name into something once again.
When the yourVIVA team started I think they looked for New VIVA on the web domains and it was gone, which would perhaps have best described them.

Interesting though, that the old VE did its level best to fulfil its obligations, and I am still very much out front and accountable for all of that, on the web through forums, in Spain itself and the ex staff have had the gumption to continue with the name VIVA. I wonder whether we will see a reappearance of Interealty, Muller, Ocean, or twenty others I could easily sit and list?

If I sound a little bit over the top and proud that the guys decided to continue to work under the VIVA name, please forgive me because I am as pleased as punch they did.

We would like to thank Chris for his openness in commenting in a medium that is little used by agents at the moment, and especially with us being anonymous due to the nature of the subjects that we cover.


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