Independent real estate agent, Diana Philips, was originally born in Alexandria, Egypt to an Egyptian father and a Belgian mother. She has also lived in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany but currently resides in the south of France.
After finishing her BBA with EU in 1980, Diana went on to complete a master’s in labor law and additional qualifications to work in real estate. She quickly built a solid international career which has spanned from working for a startup to opening her own businesses.
Diana is a big advocate of having a good work-life balance and loves having the autonomy to spend time with her children while maintaining a successful career. She is an avid sports fan, having twice been on the national Egyptian handball team, whilst also previously enjoying horseback riding and playing squash and golf.
Tell us about your career journey since leaving EU:
When I was studying, I didn’t speak any of the local language. Nevertheless, I was hired after my first interview and landed a role as a trainee at a French startup by the Grands Moulins de Paris, which was opening bakeries in different countries. It was a lot of fun, but it was also a big learning curve. The hours were long, but I was curious and wanted to learn as much as possible. Here I also learned how to work with varying labor laws across borders, working as a young woman in business and navigating different cultures. I then had my own event business in the Netherlands for 30 years and later opened a cosmetics and anti-aging business.
As a businesswoman who managed people older than yourself, how were you able to establish authority?
Luckily, when I worked for the Grands Moulins, my boss was very supportive and always backed me up, which made my life easier. I would always try to explain my targets and the company’s interests. If there was a problem, I was always ready to listen. People test your limits but when they realize you are consistent and that you take your role seriously, they respect you for your work and for representing the company in a professional way.
Why did you decide to move to real estate?
I have always been interested in the industry. In fact, when I worked for the Grands Moulins, I chose the commercial location and started to work with real estate agents then. When I moved to France, I wanted to be more independent with more time to spend with family. Being on the coast with the flourishing tourism industry made the real estate business the ideal choice. I took some courses and started working for agencies and now, I’m working independently.
How do you set yourself apart from others in the industry?
The real estate market is heavily saturated, but the international network I have built over the years across the countries I have lived in is what sets me apart. I come recommended by friends, family, and my network. My ability to speak multiple languages is also a plus as well as the directness I learned while living in the Netherlands.
What recent trends have you seen in the property market?
A lot has changed in recent years. Due to inflation, people need to invest so they are still buying property. Since COVID, people are moving out of heavily gentrified areas like Paris as real estate in cities has become very expensive and space is limited. People are now buying bigger properties in smaller towns, even the mayors of small towns in France are trying to attract people from big cities to invest and buy there!
Quality of life is more important now; people can work from home or just go into the office once or twice a week, so they are choosing a more relaxed village lifestyle.
What advice would you give to first time buyers in the current market?
You have to choose the right location. You always have to think of reselling before you buy as you never know what might happen in the future. Although you are not planning it now, you may decide to move away or size up, so it is always good to enter the market with some foresight.
What would you recommend to students who want to pursue a career in real estate?
You need to think outside of the box and follow your own intuition, don’t follow the masses. You should analyze trends rather than following them blindly. Second, build your own network and be honest, hardworking and only depend on yourself. Lastly, I always advise people to work for a company first to acquire practical experience and get to know the business before starting something of their own.
What is an important lesson that you learned from EU?
One of my finance professors always challenged me and taught me to study hard. I still remember starting his course by him flicking through the course book and telling us we needed to learn the entire thing. By the end of the year with him I was fourth in the whole class, and I am very grateful to him for instilling this work ethic in me.