Interview with Nicolai Wilmes, Los Amigos co-founder.
Nicolai Wilmes (Germany) and Marc Levy (United States) are two friends who met five years ago during a trip through Central America. Upon arriving in Mexico, they fell in love with Tulum, and so they decided to work together and establish Los Amigos to undertake a mission: to inspire people, providing high-level vacation experiences that follow avant-garde sustainability strategies. Today, with more than 10 properties in its portfolio, Los Amigos is the largest developer in Tulum. It has become a brand that undoubtedly leaves a green mark in this paradisal destination.
Nicolai tells us the history and vision of this young and promising company, which has managed to perfectly bring together two big goals many real estate investors have: sustainability and profitability.
Where does the idea of developing high-luxury, self-sustaining residential complexes in Tulum come from?
In my country, Germany, most house roofs are covered with solar panels, although we don’t even have that much sun. So, the first time I came to Mexico and didn’t see any solar panels, I thought “how much potential!” because this dynamic country needs a lot of energy! This made me think of the huge opportunity to make a contribution with sustainable developments here. Tulum is a destination that stands out for its rich nature, and so sustainable development is key to keeping it that way. Remember that sustainable basically means that it is not done at the expense of the environment. Keeping this in mind, we try to inspire and show others how to do it [while] presenting technologies that are already available today. Knowing that we can make a contribution in that direction motivates us to get up every day.
Which renewable and self-sustaining technologies do you incorporate into your developments?
We are passionate about researching the latest technologies in renewable energy so that we can bring them to residential developments here in Tulum. For example, this year we will introduce here the most advanced wind system in the world: a system that comes from England, which produces 100% sustainable energy from wind. This will make us the first company in the history of Mexico to make use of this technology, a situation similar to the one we experienced two years ago with the SmartFlower Solar system. This technological solution is 40% more efficient than a traditional solar cell system since it synchronizes with the sun, turning around to capture the greatest amount of energy. Besides these two tools, we also have the technology—already available in Mexico—to make sustainable, non-chemical water treatment by means of bacteria, thus making a significant contribution to the environment. The latest innovation that we are incorporating, being the first company in Riviera Maya to do so, is transparent solar panels that allow light to pass through, but still produce intelligent energy. For example, we have a zero-emission gym, whose energy consumption is provided by a 25 kW solar system.
What is the most outstanding feature of The Panoramic Tulum?
The 360-degree infinity pool on the roof, the first of its kind in the world. Its design is inspired by the nature of the region, with water falling 12 meters toward an artificial cenote, where light reflections are spectacular. Work is almost done, and by the end of the year we will be able to deliver the units.
What is your favorite project and why?
My favorite project is always the upcoming one. We get very excited two years in advance, when we are designing the next project. Right now, we are working in Central Park Lagunas; when we sold more than 50 units in about a month, without even laying the first stone, we knew that many people understand our vision and agree with our philosophy.
What is the approximate return on investment in these developments?
Riviera Maya is a region that is booming, and the market of Tulum is so striking that our products, once the works are finished, are already sold. We offer people incredible opportunities to invest in the pre-sale stage, also taking advantage of the added value that can be generated in the construction stage. For example, in Central Park, owners made 40% annual returns on the added value. Plus, they can also rent their units in the vacation rental market in hotel modality, considering all the amenities they have: gym, spa, Sugarfree restaurant, and a beach club. These returns on investment are impossible to achieve anywhere else in Mexico.
How would the cancellation of the free trade agreement between Mexico and the United States affect the real estate sector in Tulum?
We are not worried about it as approximately 80% of our clients are Mexican. They are proud to invest in their country; they understand that Riviera Maya, and Tulum particularly, are peaking. Although people from abroad are usually interested in our projects, it is more difficult for them to invest because they have to find out how the trust works. Mexicans, on the other hand, are fast with their down payments.
That vision you had more than five years ago; is it a reality now, is it not yet achieved, or have you already gone beyond it?
We are the largest developer in Tulum. Last year we had revenue of 30 million USD. However, we feel that we are just starting, because we really think that we can reach the moon. Fact is, we are designing a project that has to do precisely with that. Let me just state that we are a very young and ambitious company, with a great vision for a Tulum that still has a lot of growth potential.