Pierre Beerens, co-founder B&B Real Estate
B&B Real Estate was founded in 2018 by Jerry Berckmans (50) and Pierre Beerens (34) with the aim of developing multi-family homes in the Brussels periphery. The company has several residencies in the pipeline together amounting to around 20 million euros, which they now want to finance in part with crowd lending via BeeBonds. “By investing directly in our projects, private investors are assured of a good return of 8 percent. That can count in times of high inflation. We could just as well go to an investment fund for this, but for us it is precisely about making a very attractive investment accessible to the widest possible audience,” says the Brussels entrepreneurial duo.
With his company B&B Real Estate, Jerry Berckmans has extensive experience in developing multi-family homes in the Pajottenland (Dilbeek, Groot-Bijgaarden, Itterbeek, Lennik, Merchtem, Ganshoren). Pierre Beerens has also more than earned his spurs in the sale of real estate. He started in the Axel Beerens family business and continued his career with various promoters. Today he is Sales Team Manager at IMMOBEL, the largest listed developer in Belgium.
Age is just a number we know that. Yet we are curious how Berckmans and Beerens, with an age difference of 16 years, became business partners. “Since I graduated as a commercial engineer in 1999, I have mainly held financial positions. Entrepreneurship was always there; that is how I started an events company together with my wife”, Berckmans starts.
With the purchase of a piece of land in 2010, he says he ‘rolled’ into project development. “It was quite thoughtless, I had no experience. But my first project was successful, and I found it suited me. Soon I bought new land, on which I then built projects to sell.”
“My great asset was and still is my financial background, which helps enormously in discussions with banks. It is a must that you can convince them with a solid financial plan, because without financing it will not work in this sector.” B&B Real Estate has meanwhile built a hundred apartments in Flemish Brabant.
‘One of my favorite stories’: that’s how Beerens describes his meeting with his future business partner in 2014. “During my commercial engineering studies, I was looking for an internship at the last minute – typical for me. I went to L’Oréal, at the end of the street where my father lived. I thought: I’m going to get in here with my fingers in the nose. But I got the lid on the nose and was refused.”
“To deal with my disappointment, I went for a beer with a friend at a café. That’s where I ran into Jerry, as one deus ex machina. I didn’t know him personally, but had heard a lot about him. As a born and raised entrepreneur from Dilbeek, he is quite well known in the area”, he says with a wink.
Berckmans and Beerens started talking and it clicked immediately. “I told him that I was urgently looking for an internship and he suggested doing an internship at his company. A few weeks later I started working on a project in Itterbeek. It fascinated me enormously, so I said to my teacher: ‘If I ever have enough money, we will do projects together’. To my great surprise, he agreed to my proposal,” says Beerens with a laugh.
After his studies he started working for a project developer in Ghent. “When I had built up enough capital, I called Jerry as agreed and our company B&B Real Estate was born. At the end of 2017 we started our first project together, 5 apartments in Affligem, soon followed by a second project in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw with 6 apartments. Our collaboration went very smoothly, we were off,” recalls Beerens.
After five successful years, the time has come to shift up a gear, the entrepreneurial duo believes. They started looking for additional financing to be able to build 41 apartments right away. This is how they came into contact with BeeBonds, an alternative financing platform recognized by the FSMA (Financial Services and Markets Authority) that brings together private investors and project leaders through crowd lending.
“Private individuals can invest in our real estate projects from an amount of 500 euros. This makes it a very accessible investment with a high return of up to 8 percent. Where can you find such an investment today?” Berckmans asks us.
It often takes until after the age of forty before you have built up enough capital to invest
Beerens explains why B&B Real Estate’s offer is unique in the Belgian real estate world: “This type of institutional investment is normally only reserved for funds, banks or insurance companies. Via crowd lending we are now making it accessible to ‘ordinary’ individuals – Jan Modal so to speak.”
“It often takes until after the age of forty before you have built up enough capital to invest. With the low entry fee, we also want to give people in their twenties and thirties the opportunity to invest alongside ‘traditional’ investors. They give us, as it were, a loan at a very attractive interest rate of 8 percent. In Anglo-Saxon countries, this practice has been on the rise for several years, in Flanders it is hardly practiced.”
In addition to the low entry fee and the attractive return, B&B Real Estate is strongly committed to sustainable energy supply in order to appeal to a large audience. “We want to be a pioneer in the field of energy supply. Most of our projects are equipped with geothermal energy, solar panels, charging stations for electric cars and shared cars. That makes them very future-proof.”
“Today we have a pipeline of 20 million euros. We are proud of what we have already achieved in 4 years. Now we are giving the opportunity to private investors to drive our further growth with BeeBonds. We are convinced that this is the right strategy: involving the general public in investments will become increasingly important in the future,” says Berckmans.
The entrepreneurial duo complement each other perfectly: Berckmans is the technical expert of B&B Real Estate, while Beerens takes care of the commercial part. “We are an excellent tandem,” explains Beerens. “I know he doesn’t like to hear it, but Jerry is like a father figure to me. I am grateful that he gave me the opportunity to do this together. We learn a lot from each other.”
Just getting started
Finally, we would like to know whether the tandem still has big plans. “We want to roll out and expand our pipeline of 20 million into the future. My dream is to reach a pipeline of 50 million euros before I turn 40. We’re just getting started!” says an enthusiastic Beerens. “We have many ideas to expand further and become an established player in the real estate sector in Brussels as well as in a large part of Flanders,” adds Berckmans.
In 2023, 2 projects are already planned in Halle and Aalst. The choice of these cities is not accidental. “In these secondary cities you have the advantages of the city and the proximity of Brussels. With this we appeal to a large local audience. We believe in it very strongly”, they all agree.