‘I went from despair to elation in a matter of hours,’ says Trevor Abrahmsohn. He speaks to Spear’s over the phone from his Florida pied-à-terre, but his good mood is more down to politics than the balmy weather. ‘I have followed the macroeconomic ramifications of politics for the last 45 years, and there has never been such a stark choice,’ he says of the recent UK general election. ‘The result was one that you didn’t dare dream of. The whole of Britain dodged not just a bullet but a nuclear device.’ Boris Johnson has ‘turned base metal into gold’, he says. One of the first things on his agenda should be to reassess the stamp duty changes ‘imposed by that hapless former chancellor’ George Osborne in 2014. It was ‘arrogance’, Abrahmsohn says, that stopped Osborne from understanding that they would stymie the market and actually generate less money for the […]
Welcome to the Spear’s Indices
Each issue of Spear’s Magazine contains an exclusive Index prepared by the experts at the Spear’s Research Unit identifying the very best providers of professional services to the high net worth audience. Comprehensive, authoritative and indispensible, these are the definitive lists of the top HNW advisers in Britain working in property, family law, wealth management, tax and trust, alternative assets and reputation management. Once a year the Indices are updated and expanded to form the core of the Spear’s 500, the bible of HNW advisers. Go to the drop down menu below for the latest indices of top professionals from the Spear’s Research Unit
Property Advisors 2020
Having occupied various senior positions at high-profile property brands, David Adams is operating as an independent broker and is due to start a new position in April. His niche is people looking to own both London and countryside properties who want one point of contact. ‘The market from 2015 to 2019 was down because of government policy, not Brexit,’ he says. ‘Increase of stamp duty, mansion tax and tax on investment properties caused a collapse in volume and price.’ Now the government has a choice to sustain recovery or relapse, according to Adams: ‘Whether the market recovers will depend on the March budget.’
After a strong recent run, Fisher German partner Matthew Allen is in bullish mood. He says his regional sales team has ‘shattered the dominance of the so-called national agents’ in the Cotswolds and surrounding areas. The region has been given a shot in the arm of late, and Allen reports a number of recent sales. His team has also secured new instructions to launch around £30 million of residential and rural property, including a 480-acre farm in Northamptonshire. And, despite ‘challenging market conditions’, results across the 500-employee firm have been strong. Revenue is up 11 per cent on the previous year and has almost tripled in the past decade.
Former VanHan director Hannah Aykroyd’s eponymous firm might be barely two years old, but it has already developed a reputation for unearthing exceptional off-market opportunities for clients. ‘Our mantra is to be looking after a small number of good clients who we can properly look after for the long term,’ she tells Spear’s. ‘Uniquely, there are so few buying agents who actually manage properties as well,’ she notes. After a ‘cracking’ inaugural year, the full-service boutique consolidated its early success in a tough market, and Aykroyd reports a very busy start to 2020. The firm stands by its commitment to clients. ‘We’re not going to leave anyone in the lurch,’ she adds.
Many of Robert Bailey’s 35 years of experience were accrued at Knight Frank. He set up the firm’s dedicated buying arm, the Buying Solution, then struck out on his own in 2005. Bailey has a knack for finding the right property for his exacting clients. He tells Spear’s about a recent deal he engineered for a Middle Eastern family based in London. Having been briefed with a list of very specific requirements, Bailey knew just the place, but there was a problem: it wasn’t for sale. Undeterred, he put a handwritten note through the letterbox. ‘I introduced myself and, without giving too much away, outlined that I was acting for a retained client who would be very interested in buying their house.’ Soon after, Bailey received a call from the owner. ‘He began by telling me that he received letters virtually every week from agents claiming to have a buyer […]
Hindle Baldock co-founder Stuart Baldock is one of the most experienced property professionals in France and today acts as a consultant for HB French Property Intelligence. The firm acts for UK-based and international buyers looking to invest in properties across Paris, St Tropez and the Alps, advising on everything from surveyors to tax advisers. The firm acts totally on behalf of clients to find what they are after: the only thing it sells is its service. He’s bullish on the state of the French market: ‘It is certainly a good time to buy in France; financing has never been cheaper and many sellers are becoming more realistic in respect of asking prices.’
The personable Grant Bates rapidly climbed the Hamptons ranks to become associate director in seven years. ‘It’s been a bit of a whirlwind,’ he says of both his career progression and the rate at which enquiries have been flowing in since January. He is skilled at off-market transactions, through which he disposed of ‘a third of the stock’ in 2019. There is effectively no place to hide in terms of performance, he says. ‘It gives vendors confidence that you’re ahead of competitors. Bates’s on-market strategy involves Instagram. ‘It allows you to portray your personality – your life outside work – and it enables you to reach potential clients when they’re also in that downtime.’
Peter Bevan is a hot property in this index, propelled straight into the top ten by the intensity of his peer recommendations. At the time of publication he is mid-move, from Knight Frank to Savills. ‘I’m told he was the top biller for Knight Frank in his final year with them,’ a lawyer reveals, adding that ‘he is a legend’ who is ‘hugely likeable and really knows his patch’. According to another agent, Bevan is ‘a great hire for Savills… extremely intelligent, engaging, smart and always gives candid information… you know you’re dealing with someone who’s a cut above’. Knight Frank has credited him with delivering ‘exceptional levels of service to both buyers and vendors alike’. Furthermore, he was responsible for executing ‘one of the highest value sales recorded in London’ in 2015. Spear’s tracks down the discreet adviser, whose USP is off-market deals, to ask about his imminent role […]
Jonathan Bramwell is the head of The Buying Solution, Knight Frank’s independent buying consultancy, which he joined in 2011 after having founded Prime Purchase, Savills’ independent buying service. ‘The search is only the start of the service for us and we pride ourselves on giving clients access to off-market and private opportunities,’ says Bramwell. A specialist in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds, he also heads up the firm’s country team. ‘As a buying agent these are really exciting times to be in,’ he says. ‘Clients need advice in what is a very confused market… record prices are being achieved in certain areas.’
‘It’s frightening to think how many years I have spent here,’ says property veteran Andy Buchanan. He joined John D Wood in 1973, and has become a pillar of affluent Chelsea: ‘If I ever retire, I will have to have a party of about 20,000 people,’ he laughs. John D Wood has done business in 142 of Chelsea’s 145 streets. But although this track record is a glowing one, the past few years have been frustrating: ‘The problems we’ve had haven’t been caused by Brexit or the general election,’ says Buchanan. ‘It’s all about supply and demand. There are lots of people who want to move but can’t find anything to replace what they own.’ Stamp duty is also a concern for Buchanan: ‘We have sold houses where stamp duty is 5 per cent, and in the same terrace you have another house sold with stamp duty at 13 or […]
Stuart Cole is a connoisseur in the North Surrey and East Berkshire locales. In this rural/urban interface, he deals with everything from prime to super-prime, land, new homes and country estates. Now in his seventh year at Knight Frank, Cole is looking forward to ‘business as usual’ after a stifled year. ‘There was a lot of pre-election hedging, but now that the Corbyn threat has been removed vendors are starting to think the world is fine again,’ he says. But he cautions against being too enthusiastic: ‘If vendors raise prices unduly, that’s going to affect deal flow.’ For now at least, things seem to be flowing; he sold £65 million-worth of property in December.
Farrer’s personable partner Laura Conduit enters our Index thanks to high praise from peers and agents alike, who credit her specialist practice covering all aspects of residential property matters. She credits her speed to the network of contacts she’s built up and maintained since qualifying in 2008, and her relationships with clients and ‘most of the top operators’ in the industry. ‘It makes the transactions so much easier,’ she says. She is sought-after in both acquisitions and sales. Conduit says her team like to be involved ‘as early as possible’ in a transaction, ‘so that we’re not on the back foot because we haven’t got the [plans and consents] that were issued ten years ago’.
Spear’s meets Ian Cooke and Sakhjit Randhawa fresh from their transition from Charles Russell Speechlys to Keystone Law. The pair are glowing about the move: they have their own small base just around the corner from the Ritz, distinct from the firm’s head office. ‘Our clients love coming here,’ gushes Cooke. It is no secret that the past year has been tough for the market. But, says Randhawa, ‘There is something about London that makes people never want to stop investing.’ Certainly, recent upheavals have not impinged on Cooke and Randhawa’s success: they have been involved in some of the biggest recent deals, at Clarges Mayfair and 20 Grosvenor Square.
David Cooper’s reputation as the ‘king of planning’ was cemented in December 2018 in a landmark Supreme Court case (Franses v The Cavendish Hotel), which reduced landlords’ ability to use redevelopment proposals to oppose lease renewals. ‘The distinctive “old-fashioned” character of St James’s looks to be assured,’ mused Spear’s editor-at-large William Cash of the decision. Landmark rulings aside, it’s been ‘much the same’ for Cooper, who established his firm in 1993 and counts several billionaires as clients. He has links with major London estates such as the Crown and Grosvenor and is passionate about saving the ‘artistic soul’ of St James’s.
Camilla Dell has worked in the prime London property market for 20 years, heading Black Brick since she founded it in 2007. She describes her company as ‘75 per cent buying agency’, helping private clients sell, rent, and manage property as well as buy. The past year has seen the firm strike standout deals despite headwinds. Among those was a Mayfair property bought for £15 million with an original asking price of £25 million. Dell believes London will remain a ‘beacon’ in the industry: ‘The geopolitical scene remains very unstable. Clients look to put their money into what they believe are safe assets – I think London will remain one of those places.’ Despite her faith in the capital, she foresees a number of threats for a new decade coming into play. ‘Climate change is something that clients are thinking more about before they make buying decisions,’ she explains. Clients […]
A property guru with an ‘encyclopaedic’ knowledge of Knightsbridge, Belgravia and Chelsea, Knight Frank’s head of prime new homes Rupert des Forges has worked in London’s gilded postcodes for more than 30 years. More than half of this has been spent at Knight Frank. Des Forges has overseen the headline sales of the penthouse floors at No 1 Grosvenor Square, 16 sales at Holland Park Villas, and the penthouses at Clarges Mayfair. He’s witnessed ‘the greater resilience’ that prime central London developments possess in a challenging market, and notes that the ‘deal count’ is improving from recent years. He has noticed increasing international interest in fully serviced apartments, which are aligned with the global and ‘transient’ lifestyles of the contemporary HNW. ‘The demand for service therefore increases,’ he says. Nevertheless, the market is still led by the product, as the best properties often have the ability to retain most value. […]
Paddy Dring, global head of prime sales at Knight Frank, once told Spear’s that his job is ‘one of the best in the world’, with variety that makes it ‘rewarding on every level’. The equity partner has spent three decades at the firm as his career has spanned spells in the international, country house and super-prime London markets. Dring has cited the opportunity to co-host the firm’s global residential conference – which attracted more than 160 delegates from 30 markets last year – as a recent highlight, adding that the firm’s global network ‘has never been more important’. Knight Frank’s 512 international branches now account for more than 60 per cent of buyers.
When Jo Eccles worked in banking, she and her colleagues felt misunderstood by estate agents. She felt they were trying to sell clients whatever was on their books, regardless of suitability. The idea took root, and in 2006 Eccles founded SP Property Group. ‘We were initially a buying agency with a clientele of bankers, she says. The firm now serves a miscellany of clients from bankers to boxers, and has extended its services to property management. It is this unique split, says Eccles, that sets the firm apart: ‘Fifty per cent of our revenue is property management, which is very sustainable and recessionproof, as opposed to the buying side, which is more transactional and less easy to predict,’ she says. ‘Because we’ve got such an established property management share, and because we are so stable financially, the integrity of our advice never needs to suffer.’ Since the election, says Eccles, […]
Philip Eddell might be masterful at keeping rural life off the press radar, but he does recall being in the limelight once when he helped Madonna and Guy Ritchie during their attempt to have the right to roam restricted on their estate. ‘That was a good watershed moment,’ he says. In Eddell’s own words, he helps HNWs ‘create Downton Abbeys’ after the purchase of a rural estate, expertly coordinating the architects, surveyors, planners and designers. Being a trusted adviser, he says, involves ‘being brave enough to stand up and stop clients when you think they might be making mistakes’. Otherwise things can ‘very quickly become dysfunctional’.
Saul Empson looks after the London equation of Haringtons. It’s a patch he’s been familiar with since he operated in Holland Park and South Kensington for Stickley and Kent in the Eighties. These days around 90 per cent of the properties he buys are in the ‘golden rectangle’ between Richmond and Hampstead. A ‘dull’ year was swiftly made exciting by the general election result. ‘It speaks volumes that Jeremy Corbyn has managed to substantially damage the property market without being in office,’ he tells Spear’s. The former car racer can be found around town on his 500cc scooter, on which he covers 10,000 miles a year.
Spear’s readers will be hard pressed to find a figure more attuned to the global property world than David Forbes, head of Savills’ private office. ‘We are a single point of contact into the wonderful world of Savills globally,’ he says of his department, where he makes himself available to UHNWs in their quest for ‘exceptional’ real estate. ‘You have to be a complete chameleon, doing what I do,’ he tells Spear’s. ‘You have to be as comfortable dealing with an old duchess in Tuscany as someone from the music industry in St Tropez as someone from the film business in Los Angeles and New York. You have to tune in to people. One size doesn’t fit all.’
James Forbes is ‘a key driver’ behind the growth of Strutt & Parker’s Sloane Street office, which the firm says is ‘one of the most successful’ in the prime market – so much so that he’s recently had a grudging nod of approval from a famously fiery competitor. True to his calibre, he achieved transactions worth around £200 million in 2019, in what many other agents considered a difficult year. Forbes has specialised in London prime property since 1997 and operates across Knightsbridge, Belgravia and beyond. ‘I have a bit of a hybrid role,’ he says, referring to his expertise in selling homes in golden postcodes to focusing on some of the most expensive new-build schemes. ‘There’s certainly been an attraction for the Asian buyer to get their money to the UK,’ Forbes reveals, adding that investors have a pattern of spending ‘tens of millions’ across a number of different […]
Simon Garcia, who runs Quintessentially Estates’ London buying arm, enjoyed an eventful 2019, which saw an influx of enquiries from buyers from the US, the Middle East and the Far East. ‘There’s a lot more traffic coming in due to the political upset in Hong Kong,’ he says about the new-build market. The trend of both Chinese and Hong Kong real estate buyers and investors buying, holding or renting out London properties can continue for the next five to ten years, he predicts. Garcia is an integral part of what Quintessentially Group CEO Ben Elliot often refers to as ‘the only global lifestyle real estate company’.
James Gilbert-Green had recently concluded two mega-transactions in One Hyde Park when he talked to Spear’s, with one achieving the highest resale value in six years: circa £40 million. His optimism is cool but inevitably infectious. ‘People are positive about the London market for the first time in five years, rather than talking about impending doom,’ he notes. Last year landed Gilbert-Green a transaction pool worth £100 million, which is a ‘reasonably consistent’ figure for him in recent years. The super-prime London operator, who’s worked across the golden postcodes of Kensington, Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Belgravia for the past 15 years, predicts that prices might go up and transform London into more of a seller’s market if other factors don’t come into play. ‘Uncertainty has reduced significantly, particularly for my clients,’ he says. ‘Brexit is often seen more as an opportunity than a threat.’ How does he appeal to clients? Gilbert-Green […]
‘Flying again’ is how the charming Jonathan Harington describes business at the firm he founded in 2004. A period of ‘stagnation’ until the general election was quickly made up for by the result. ‘Going forward, we’ve now got stability,’ he tells Spear’s, revealing that he had four potential clients come to the firm within 48 hours of the election. ‘On the back of that, people make plans about their lives and I would think that things will move on again on the basis of what we’re seeing. ‘We’re only a tiny microcosm,’ he says of the firm, which only retains a small number of domestic and overseas clients at one time – always on an exclusive basis. Harington ‘would love’ to see a change to stamp duty, but not the speculation and ambiguity that could come with a pre-emptive announcement. ‘Any discussion of legislation in advance I don’t think helps […]
After two consecutive record-setting years, things were a little more ‘lacklustre’ for Mark Harvey in 2019: ‘We saw the same number of transactions in 2019, but the total transaction volume was smaller. In other words, the same amount of work for less money!’ Harvey, the head of Knight Frank’s international team, deals with everything from ‘sunbelt’ properties in the likes of Marbella and Tuscany to city boltholes in burgeoning tech hubs such as Berlin and Lisbon, as well as Alpine hideaways. Private individuals are building increasingly diverse portfolios, he reports, with mixed-use and commercial property becoming particularly popular.
Property Vision is about more than getting deals over the line, says senior partner Philip Harvey. ‘We’re so much more than a buying agency,’ he tells Spear’s. ‘Our specialisation is helping private clients, helping people who want to find and acquire the best.’ For Harvey, the buck doesn’t stop at bricks and mortar when it comes to service. ‘We try to identify with the emotional requirements of our clients as well as the property requirements,’ he says. ‘How do they want to live their lives?’ He recalls a client who wanted a ‘really special’ house in West Sussex that ‘didn’t exist’ in the allotted area. He convinced the client (and their pilot) to take their helicopter over the area to illustrate his point. ‘We ended up finding them a beautiful house in Hampshire,’ he beams. Harvey joined Property Vision in 1991 and has built up one of the strongest contact […]
Heaton & Partners managing director Ed Heaton continues to take the firm he co-founded in 2013 from strength to strength. ‘We’re slightly ahead of 2018, which was in turn our best ever year,’ he says. ‘Given the trading conditions, we’re thrilled to have been able to have that consistency over the last two years.’ In a year marred by political drama and uncertainty, the former Savills director saw ‘a pick-up of people just wanting to get on with their lives’ in the country. ‘We bought quite a few second homes for people,’ he says. ‘In previous years, second home owners have not been quite so dominant.’ With one office in Knightsbridge and another in Berkshire, Heaton & Partners is one of the few firms to cover both capital and country. Heaton himself has extensive knowledge of both residential and agricultural property. With the political storminess (hopefully) a thing of the […]
Naomi Heaton has taken a step back from private client work in order to focus on a ‘lifestyle hotel’ project with Dutch pensions group APG. At London Central Portfolio she is ably deputised by Miles Atkinson, who joined in 2018 and describes himself as a ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ due to his experience in sales. ‘It’s nice to be on the other side of the fence for a change,’ says Atkinson. ‘It helps to have had that background to work for the buyer instead.’ He is cautiously optimistic about the market: ‘At the very high end we’ve seen some movement already, and it only takes a few extra transactions and a few extra buyers to create a market.’
A stalwart of the Spear’s property index, Gary Hersham’s numbers consistently astound. But the Beauchamp boss might have topped even his own remarkable record with the brokering of the UK’s most expensive home: the 45-room, seven-storey 2-8a Rutland Gate. The Knightsbridge property was reportedly sold to Chinese billionaire Cheung Chung-kiu for north of £200 million, far exceeding the previous record of £140 million for a UK house. Hersham confirms involvement but is unable to reveal anything more (see page 18). Thankfully, he’s got plenty more besides to talk about. The firm was involved in the sale of ‘several trophy assets both in London and abroad’ during 2019, he says. The firm’s transactions included penthouse flats at £50 million, and it was ‘instrumental in introducing clients to mega funding deals’. With more than 40 years in the game, Hersham is a true property specialist. He speaks seven languages and is well […]
Louise Hewlett started her own firm in 2014, and it epitomises boutique. ‘A lot of people don’t want to go to the big corporate firms,’ she says. ‘With smaller specialists you are able to give that level of personal service that a big organisation simply can’t. Hewlett is overwhelmingly positive: ‘We have the certainty of a Conservative government for the next five years, Brexit is organised, and London is back to being a place where people want to be,’ she says. People who have been sitting on the fence will be taking the plunge, she says. ‘This means that properties will get sold – what it doesn’t mean is the vendors should believe London is going to spike in value.’ Looking to the future, Hewlett believes the rise of the internet means that boutique agencies are now more important than ever. Online agencies, where you can practically get through the […]
Savills’ jocular head of London residential sales was in good spirits during his catch-up with Spear’s, noting that the property market does seem to have ‘turned the corner’ after experiencing a ‘tough and declining market’ for five years. ‘It hasn’t turned into a boom, but what I would call a standard marketplace,’ he cautions, as he observes that buyers are still not willing to pay ‘tomorrow’s price today’. ‘Whilst we think we’re in a stronger market, don’t go mad.’ He is happy to see sellers emerge, but says stock level is still low. ‘But clients who have been sitting on the fence are now coming forward to say, “Right, this is the year we move.”’ Hewlett, a property juggernaut with close to 30 years’ experience, remains ‘available 24/7’ to help vendors navigate the market. He says Savills is successful in operating its private office arm as a means to meet […]
‘Sometimes, when you’re a good buying agent, it’s a slow game,’ says Nathalie Hirst. She recently told a prospective German buyer, for instance, that it simply wasn’t possible to purchase a good enough property before the next budget. ‘You have to be very honest with people; you’ve got to set realistic timeframes,’ she says. ‘However, buying something on the first day I’m with a client has happened – I think twice in 25 years.’ Otherwise, the search can take two years or more. Hirst explains that her role extends beyond simply finding properties. ‘I always say to clients that even a blind pig could find a truffle,’ she says. ‘What I do is very much about giving serious advice on a serious subject. It’s usually the most amount of money they spend out of their own wealth. Finding aside, it’s all about the negotiating and making sure that someone is […]
‘Our view is that the country property market is very well set,’ says Crispin Holborow when Spear’s catches up with him over the phone as he makes his way to Oxfordshire for a viewing. The deputy chairman of Savills’ private office deals with country houses, farms and estates, but he only touches the top end of the market, where his firm enjoys a position of strength. ‘There were only a small handful of those top-end properties sold last year – three or four – and Savills sold all of the ones worth £20 million or more,’ he reports. ‘We are all very excited about this year,’ adds Holborow, although he cautions that the coronavirus could affect the timing of some travel to the UK. That’s especially important given that more than 50 per cent of buyers now come from overseas – a trend that he can’t see being reversed any […]
Since Tom Hudson co-founded Middleton Advisors in 2007, its client base has continued to expand thanks to its five-point mantra: focus, independence, trust, diligence and knowledge. ‘It’s a way of encapsulating how we’re different to other people,’ he says. ‘For me the most important thing is trust.’ The approach is paying off, and the firm claims it has saved clients an average of 3.5 times as much as its fees since 2008. ‘Our client list is very strong, so we’re just out hunting very hard for houses,’ says the affable Hudson, who was once dubbed by an industry peer as ‘the most proactive buyer in Hampshire’. Middleton sources a large chunk of its properties off-market – a skill that requires excellent contacts and hard graft. ‘The bulk is overpriced or substandard for our clients and it takes some time to wade through,’ says Hudson. He’s aware of the rumours about […]
‘There’s clearly an appetite,’ says Trevor Kearney of the market as he drives Spear’s to view a £17.95 million mansion at St George’s Hill. ‘Improved political confidence could see sellers taking a slightly harder line on offers.’ Kearney used to be Savills’ youngest director at 28 and was previously Knight Frank’s youngest partner at 26. He claims to have sold the UK’s ‘highest value residential property in the country market’ in 2018, many of the properties sold were in the £10 million bracket. A recent sale was a £15 million new-build to an Instagram follower. ‘My @SuperPrimeSurrey page attracts over 20,000 views per week – we have sellers specifically asking that their property is featured on it,’ he enthuses.
The head of estates and farms at Savills believes there’s more to country property than meets the eye. ‘A lot of what we sell can be described as a business rather than just a property asset,’ Alex Lawson says. ‘There are a number of moving parts, and people and sentiment and emotions involved. So to put a bit of time and consideration into things beyond the financial is hugely important.’ Lawson has seen interest in rural land growing steadily. He believes estates are relatively insulated from economic cycles. He is rarely seen too far from the countryside, and according to a peer he has ‘an exceptional knowledge of the market, its idiosyncrasies and key players’.
A deft hand at complex deals involving shared ownership, auction sales, portfolio purchases, tenancy and planning issues, Mishcon de Reya’s residential property partner James Liffen is noticing a ‘lot more positivity’ in the market since the election. ‘Stability helps,’ he tells Spear’s. ‘We now have a government with a clear majority, and whatever anyone’s view on that is, it means we’ve got a hopefully reasonably stable period coming up.’ HNW clients, he adds, have ‘seen that this is a good time to invest in the London market’. Liffen is cautiously optimistic. ‘I’m not full-on bullish, but I think we can feel positive about the year ahead,’ he says.
Irene Luke is the property savant raising Savills’ profile in the ‘crowded’ marketplace of Monaco, where land reclamation is progressing more slowly than the rise of new-build apartments. ‘Whether clients are buying or selling, you’ve got to really know the market to make sure they are getting a fair deal,’ she says, adding that she was a commercial property lawyer in London who moved to Monaco and then joined Savills in 2011, becoming a co-managing partner a year on. Luke says she is an ‘extremely cautious’ adviser to HNWs looking to buy: ‘I just don’t think you can really give concrete advice that someone can rely on for ever – things change very quickly here.’
‘We’re dealing with some of the most beautiful and interesting properties in the world – it’s like selling masterpieces,’ James Mackenzie says of his role as Strutt & Parker’s senior director and country head, specialising in waterside homes. He saw a 332 per cent increase in enquiries in January. Buyers, he says, ‘have decided that there’s no excuse not to take on the next step and have stopped waiting for politics and economics to change’. Mackenzie cut his teeth at Savills at the turn of the millennium. ‘You used to follow wherever Waitrose was being set up, to see if the housing market was improving. Now you look and see where Soho House are opening next.’
Andrew Macpherson is one of the founding directors of CKD, which he launched with Jonathan Kennedy in 2000. His track record of 35 years in the market of buying and selling premium rural property across the country is formidable. A renowned sporting estates specialist, he has extensive knowledge of the farmland market, major residential developments, break-up positions and the sale and purchase of country property. ‘I like nothing more than to head up, or be part of, a professional team effort to ensure the best result for my clients,’ says Macpherson, who is known for his ability to make rare deals a reality. Client interests are always front and centre, and the firm specialises in off-market deals, leveraging its considerable contact book and conducting deals with maximum discretion. In one memorable moment, Macpherson’s advice in relation to a grouse moor purchase was met with initial scepticism from a client, who […]
‘If you have £20 million, you can buy a building or two,’ says Dermot Mahony. ‘If they’re small ones, you might even be able to buy three or four.’ But, the head of real estate at Smith & Williamson adds that investing in property isn’t that simple. ‘Unless you have expertise in the sector, the asset class, the location, then you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.’ For many of the firm’s clients, an indirect route to real estate exposure is a more attractive option. Real estate investment trusts have existed in the US since the Sixties but are newer in the UK, having been introduced in 2007. Mahony and his team create solutions that are tailored to individual clients.
A country boy at heart, Mark McAndrew only ever intended to stay in the big city for three years. Now, 31 years later, he is meeting Spear’s in the lobby of Strutt & Parker’s Mayfair office, but at least he’s wearing a farm-ready khaki gilet. Talking to McAndrew, it becomes clear that country property is somewhat distinct from the rest of the market. ‘Since 2007 the property world has been turned on its head, but farmland started to increase in value,’ he says. ‘This is because of the realisation that the world was consuming more food than it was producing.’ High values have been solidified by the Boris bounce after sales fell 30 per cent last year. But rural property is as subject to change as the rest of the market, adds McAndrew. Brexit trade negotiations will undoubtedly affect agricultural land, as well the looming Agriculture Bill and the threat […]
‘Success breeds success, and reputation breeds success in this market,’ says Charles McDowell, the discreet agent who’s been operating in London’s super-prime market for more than two decades. He branched out from Russell Simpson to set up his boutique firm in 2002, focusing on homes and mansions in Chelsea, Kensington and Belgravia. McDowell largely operates as an adviser to vendors, while also being active in buying advisory. He is valued for his discretion. ‘Some agents are inclined to tell people what they want to hear,’ he says. ‘We would pride ourselves on telling it as it is, and letting clients know when something is not the right fit.’
‘You have to be a bit of a detective in this market,’ says the gregarious Guy Meacock as he catches up with Spear’s after a viewing. That means having a network of contacts with the right sort of knowledge, but also thinking laterally and investigating opportunities for off-market deals. ‘You need a bit of enterprise about you.’ After 15 years at Prime Purchase, Meacock has a sure feel for the market – which he describes today as ‘greedy’. ‘It’s very hard to find things of quality,’ he says. ‘The challenge is discerning whether the premium asked for by a vendor is justified – because, in the vast majority of cases, it isn’t.’ He emphasises the importance of managing clients’ expectations, and of establishing a foundation for honest dialogue. ‘You have to have a relationship that is open enough to give them difficult news and to be firm with them when […]
Penny Mosgrove was headhunted by Quintessentially and has risen to the top spot at the company. ‘I saw the amount of requests we were getting internationally and started realising that we could do top real estate on an international scale,’ she reminisces. Mosgrove deals with clients ranging from tech entrepreneurs to millennial families. Asked about her most notable deals, she says: ‘The good thing is that we do a lot of interesting deals; the bad thing is that we can’t talk about them!’ The future will, inevitably, be as unsettled as the global scene, according to Mosgrove: ‘We have Brexit happening, the US election coming up, a virus in Asia… these things cause change,’ she says.
Rory Penn has been running Knight Frank’s private office alongside Thomas van Straubenzee since 2018, when the duo’s own agency, VanHan, was acquired by the larger firm. According to van Straubenzee, Penn is ‘always able to calmly deal with any situation’ – a trait that must have been useful when the pair completed on a house worth £30 million last year. One of their main objectives when they launched the private office was to ‘join up’ Knight Frank’s London offering, and the evidence suggests that approach is working. Of the 90 residential deals in prime central London last year, Knight Frank was involved in 70 per cent.
The outlook for rural property is mixed, says Simon Pring, an experienced lawyer with a network of land agents, accountants and financial consultants. The Farrer & Co partner reckons the country house market ‘will go up because it’s been quite subdued’. Similarly, renewed confidence could help the market for ‘strategic land’ sold to developers. Despite uncertainty over subsidies post-Brexit, large deals are still being done. The Crown Estate has been selling down ‘non-core’ farms to restructure its rural assets, while Savills has sold the Strutt & Parker Farms business (thought to be worth £200 million). ‘That just shows you can still sell huge amounts of stuff,’ says Pring.
Alasdair Pritchard is Knight Frank’s super-prime specialist for American and European clients, who consult him on everything from sales to acquisitions of villas and waterfront properties to global real estate investment and lifestyle decisions. ‘It’s quite heart-warming,’ he says of his trusted adviser role. ‘They’ve put a lot of trust in me – I’ve been their first port of call.’ Pritchard, who is celebrating ten years at Knight Frank, had an eventful start to his career under the mentorship of Rupert Sweeting. His conscientious manner is helping to boost an increasing number of referrals from ‘happy customers’, making up more than half his client base.
‘The telephone has been going mad,’ says Richard Rogerson when he speaks to Spear’s over a breakfast of boiled eggs and toast in his private members’ club on Mount Street. The former Macfarlanes partner says there has been a ‘Boris spike’ – there’s plenty of willing buyers. But the London property market isn’t quite firing on all cylinders just yet. ‘The lack of stock is still a problem,’ explains Rogerson, Spear’s Property Adviser of the year in 2018. And with the balance between supply and demand out of kilter, it’s likely that ‘some buyers will do silly things’. One example is a property that Rogerson and his wife Sophie, who founded RFR Property together a decade ago, valued at £5.8 million. A price of £6.1 million was agreed with a buyer. However, following the general election result, the vendor upped the asking price to £6.8 million. Eventually the deal was […]
The Russell family is well known in property circle and Jake Russell, one of founder Alan Russell’s four children, is rapidly identifying himself as a star. His sales expertise in Notting Hill, Holland Park, Kensington and Chelsea is highly regarded. Russell Simpson has managed to maintain its unique selling point as a top-end boutique agency. The firm celebrated its 40th birthday last year, and its success is almost certainly, at least in part, attributable to its family orientation. ‘Having your name above the door means we feel personally responsible, so we probably put in that little bit of extra graft and that makes us stand out to clients,’ says Russell.
‘A few people claim to be the oldest buying agent,’ says Roarie Scarisbrick, ‘but Property Vision genuinely invented the concept.’ When Scarisbrick started out at Property Vision back in 2003, he was simply given the keys to a scooter and told to get on with it. He has since worked his way through the ranks and now personally advises on just under £100 million-worth of acquisitions. Last year was a ‘strange one’, he says. ‘The higher end of the central London market has had all sorts of issues – it’s been the perfect storm.’ And if the year was a storm, stamp duty was the eye. High rates, says Scarisbrick, are stagnating the market on both the buyer and seller side. They also mean that the availability of quality property suffers. ‘Supply fell off massively from 2016 to last year, which is making our job very difficult,’ Scarisbrick observes. He […]
With more than two decades of experience in the prime country property market, the latter part of this time spent running her own firm, Jess Simpson is one of the most trusted names around. She operates nationally, although her main area of operation is within a 90-minute radius of London. Like the rest of the industry, Simpson has felt the ripples of a turbulent 12 months, with the amount of land sold last year down about 50 per cent from the year before. And while the general election result has caused a bounce, she remains cautious: ‘We’re not out of the woods yet. There is a nervousness that the upcoming budget will look at stamp duty for country estates, and the 3 per cent surcharge is also a concern. In the past, when we have had a difficult market, values have been underpinned by international buyers.’ If early activity this […]
The prime central London market might have stalled in 2019, but that didn’t prevent Alex Stroud from doing more transactions than ever. His 20 transactions in a single calendar year took his total to 180 over a decade as a one-man-band. The self-described ‘workaholic’ says his office hours often stretch past midnight as he seeks to do deals for his stable of clients, who are mostly international and often looking for a pied-àterre worth between £2 million and £5 million. ‘They need me to be their eyes and ears,’ says Stroud, who prides himself on his deep knowledge of London. ‘I know the porters that get drunk, I know where the tube runs underneath, I know where the lifts don’t work, I know the right side of the street to buy on.’ That attention to detail has won Stroud plenty of fans across the globe. He reports that one client […]
Rupert Sweeting is a perennial feature of the Spear’s Property Index. Clients have previously told us that if he’s selling for you ‘no one will work harder’, and that buyers will often ‘end up paying top dollar’. Sweeting worked his magic on a range of tough deals in 2019, the most significant being the sale of Outstanding in fieldFIRM SIZE BoutiqueFOCUS West CountryJess Simpson Jess Simpson Property SearchNewton Park Estate – a Grade I-listed Jacobean manor on the edge of the New Forest. While the guide price was advertised as being ‘in excess of £10 million’, Sweeting’s team deftly achieved ‘almost twice’ through bidding from seven different parties. Another highlight was the off-market transaction of Millers Barn. The property exchanged hands ‘in a very short timeframe’, which Knight Frank quotes as ‘an example of excellence’. This was one of many deals he reportedly orchestrated with his distinct style – pushing […]
The Collection has just had its tenth anniversary, and founder Caroline Takla’s drive to find the best property deals in London shows no sign of wavering. ‘In the last 12 months, we saved our clients an average of 30 per cent off the asking price. Many of our competitors are hovering around 7-10 per cent,’ she says. And the firm has proved that this is no fluke, consistently securing deals such as a Sloane Square property that dropped from £20 million to £13.5 million. Takla foresees some potential adversities over the next year. These include the ever-present question over Brexit, which she notes may have no impact at all but may also erode what makes the UK a ‘safe haven’ in the eyes of many investors. The other potential swayer of fortune is the intervention of government, such as in the case of the proposed 3 per cent surcharge on […]
Mishcon partner Sonal Thakrar has been ‘excruciatingly busy’ over the past year in spite of the uncertainty that has claimed much of the market, working with an ‘interesting array’ of clients on a number of big-ticket deals. ‘We saw a trend of those who are savvy enough to take advantage of the political climate and the property market fluctuating,’ she tells Spear’s. Business was busier still after the election: ‘In the last week in December, I got a £40 million transaction that had to be done in six days.’ Thakrar continues to see her department go from strength to strength. ‘We’re doing so much more non-property work on how we deliver,’ she notes.
‘We’re research-driven,’ says Hugo Thistlethwayte of his specialist department at Savills. The international residential head has ‘the most enviable contact books in global property’, through which he ‘feels the pulse of world wealth’. Thistlethwayte joined Savills’ Knightsbridge office in 1994 to sell flats and new developments in prime central London. In 2000, the company identified a need for an advisory service looking after buying clients’ interests across the whole market, so Thistlethwayte co-established Prime Purchase, the firm’s buying subsidiary. In 2015 he moved to his current role, where he oversees ‘some of the most exciting development projects in the world’.
Ed Tryon set up Lichfields in 2007, and it has since perfected the art of acquiring high-value newbuilds in prime central London, accruing £250 million-worth of off-plan acquisitions since 2012. ‘Our average ticket size has historically been around £8 million, the highest value has been just under £60 million, and we start at about a million,’ Tryon elaborates. In recent times, however, he has felt loath to tell buyers to commit. ‘The twin headwinds of Brexit and the uncertainty about the change in government has made it extremely difficult to advise with any level of confidence,’ he says. However, the new year heralded a change in fortunes at Lichfields. Although this upswing has yet to be translated into deal flow, appetite is there, says Tryon: ‘The certainty and optimism that is currently prevailing has been sorely absent in recent times. I’m more positive than I have been any time in […]
Thomas van Straubenzee is succinct when Spear’s asks him to explain the role of Knight Frank’s private office, which he founded with Rory Penn in 2018: ‘It’s to look after the firm’s best clients and, using Knight Frank’s platform, offer them “everything property”. ‘Most importantly, we sell properties for them, whether it’s a house in Chelsea, investment offices in Reading, sheds in Portsmouth or their house in the South of France.’ The key thing for clients to note, van Straubenzee says, is that London is a ‘safe place’ to invest. ‘Despite high taxes, we have the advantage of a very fair legal system. For preserving wealth, you can’t look much further than London.’
As an associate director at Savills’ private office, Julien Ward works closely with David Forbes as a ‘single point of contact into the wider world of Savills’. The purpose of the division, says the former Credit Suisse relationship manager, is to ‘concentrate on building relationships, on client enquiries and situations’. Operating both as a part of and distinct from Savills, the private office is able to assist with a wide range of client enquiries . ‘The scope of work changes day to day,’ Ward explains. ‘One moment I’ll be in discussion about possible commercial acquisitions, the next talking about a residential transaction for someone’s child.’
When there’s a buzz about a challenger brand in the market, Spear’s is naturally curious. A call to Christian Warman, co-founder of Sloane Square firm Tedworth Property, proves fruitful. ‘We’re at the coalface, we are doing market appraisals and viewings the whole time,’ he says. ‘We’re not having meetings about meetings about meetings, which is what most senior people at big firms do.’ Warman was previously a director at Savills, while co-founder Simon Tollit was a director at Knight Frank. Warman puts the partnership’s success since its 2017 inception down to the duo’s combined experience. He and Tollit ‘were each other’s competition’ he laughs.
‘I’m going to christen my next child Boris,’ enthuses Charlie Wells after seeing a ‘marked increase’ in new buyers, applicants and the rate of client activity levels. Asked to rank his confidence in the country market on a scale of one to five (with three being neutral), he says he ‘feels like a seven’. ‘In reality, it’ll be a four or a five.’ He says the boost in the market is happening across the board, from the £3 million bracket through to the £40 to £50 million levels: ‘There’s a belief that properties are worth a premium more than they were before.’ Wells is noticing that the money pouring into the prime central market is ‘trickling down and out’ into the countryside, even as far as three hours from London. ‘The last few years, the maximum was a two-hour drive.’ The nature of his job is that he is often […]
Peter Wetherell, known by some as ‘Mr Mayfair’, prefers ‘The Mayfair Guru’ these days. Since he started his business 37 years ago, he has specialised in the super-prime hub of W1J. Sitting behind a gleaming desk in his gilded Mount Street shop, Wetherell epitomises Mayfair. ‘I once got in trouble for saying [Mayfair] is a rich man’s club. Apparently you can’t say that because it’s sexist and elitist,’ he says with more than a hint of disdain. ‘It is an oasis,’ he concludes diplomatically. And his role within this? ‘An ambassador, an advocate, an aficionado.’ Indeed, he credits himself with reintroducing residential life to the area: ‘Mayfair was very commercial in the Seventies and Eighties. From 1990 onwards we sold over 100 office buildings back to residential.’ It is again the most expensive area in London, back above Knightsbridge – a badge that Wetherell wears with pride. ‘I reclaimed the […]