Michael Norton, Ben Buyl

Embark on the Open Frontiers Real Estate journey: a tale of family, resilience, and growth. Starting in 1996 with a vision in Belgium, we navigated initial setbacks to establish a trusted name in ...

The History of Open Frontiers: A Decade of Growth and Success

Our story of Open Frontiers Real Estate begins in 1996 in Belgium, where myself and my wife Grietje started a real estate company. We were young with no real estate experience, and a new-born girl: Innin. We had some experience in sales and running a business, as we previously owned a tennis club with a restaurant, but I wanted to finally realize my dream. 

We kept hearing about the growing real estate market in Spain; and two years later, in 1998, I was offered a chance to buy a company in La Duquesa, Cadiz, complete with offices and everything needed to start. However, when I arrived, I found out that there was no company, no office, and no customers. Despite this setback and with my family still in Belgium (which had now expanded and welcomed my son: Maxim), I managed to sell a property under the name of the Belgian company, Open Frontiers.

This first sale in Spain was life changing for me. It led to a lasting friendship with the client who till his sad passing in April 2020 bought and sold 5 properties with Open Frontiers, and who I will always hold dearly in my heart. This sale allowed for the registration of the company in Spain, the opening of a real office, and most importantly, enough funds to bring over my family and start a life here. 

By 2003, Open Frontiers had grown to have a large office with 12 employees in La Duquesa (between Sotogrande and Marbella), but at that time, world class international education was only available in Sotogrande. This is when I made one of the best decisions of my life, and decided that it was time to move to Sotogrande, but not just the school, everything! To this day, we still operate from Sotogrande and have established deep roots here.

The year 2008 was a tough time for real estate businesses, many of which closed down. Open Frontiers managed to survive. Despite advice to give up, I kept the business going through the financial crisis, moved the offices into our house, and operated as carefully as possible. I remember that in 2009 we didn’t sell a single property, not one! Incredibly however, Open Frontiers still won an award for ‘Best Development in Spain’ during this time, awarded by the International Property Awards. Giving up simply wasn’t an option, and I am so thankful I didn’t, because after the crisis, the company became even more successful than before.

The story of Open Frontiers gained a new chapter when Michael decided to join the Open Frontiers family. Michael had been working at Sotogrande S.A. (the original developers and owners of Sotogrande) since 2002 and we had built a great working relationship. I had a lot of trust in Michael’s work, and for many years we collaborated closely when he was the Director of Sales at Sotogrande S.A., traveling to multiple trade fairs and closing many deals together.

I have to admit I especially laughed and valued Michael’s friendship over a glass of good wine, and this is thankfully still the case today. In 2015, Michael became a partner at Open Frontiers, and together, we have continued to grow the business. 

In 2023 a new major chapter started for Open Frontiers, when after many years of silently hoping, my daughter stepped into the business. 2023 also marks the start of our collaboration with Knight Frank, being the preferred agents for Knight Frank in Sotogrande and surrounding areas. I am proud of what the company has become, and look forward to the future, with many more chapters to come. 

Ben Buyl Founder & Director

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