From prime property to politics, Glentree’s Trevor Abrahmsohn can always be relied on to tell it like it is. Compared to some of his peers, he is unusually optimistic: ‘Over the past 18 months we have sold some £381million of residential property and at least 50 per cent is to foreign nationals, who want to buy a piece of English heritage in the “greatest city on earth”.’ He adds that London buyers can enjoy a ‘currency discount of 15 per cent’ in addition to prices falling by 25 per cent from the ‘halcyon days of 2014’. ‘If this isn’t nirvana, what is?’ he asks. Ever a bold and buoyant voice along ‘Billionaires’ Row’ in East Finchley, Abrahmsohn has four decades of experience selling properties around the £100 million mark to the likes of Lakshmi Mittal, Simon Cowell and Ringo Starr. However, he tells Spear’s that prime London still risks falling […]
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 Advisers 2019
‘A little bit of grey hair is quite valuable at the moment,’ says Robert Bailey. ‘A lot of young people haven’t seen a bad market before. Ask the questions that need answering and you’ll get there.’ Indeed, it seems Bailey’s experience has insulated him from some of the difficulties. ‘It hasn’t been tough for us at all. We’ve had a really good year – everything has stabilised. But it’s been a long time coming.’ That, of course, refers both to Brexit and to the stamp duty increases under the Coalition. But Bailey has been able to add value: ‘Buyers have dipped their toe and in and thought, “We need some help – maybe a buying agent will open up the market?”’ Bailey had ten years at Knight Frank, as head of its private office, and founded the firm’s dedicated buying arm, the Buying Solution. It’s that level of experience and in-depth […]
Hindle Baldock co-founder Stuart Baldock acts for British-based and international buyers looking to invest in properties across Paris, St Tropez and the Alps. The firm acts totally on behalf of clients to find what they are after: the only thing it sells is its service. Baldock has found himself giving more general advice to overseas buyers who ‘have found a property themselves but want to be sure they are paying the right price and there will be no unpleasant surprises if they do go ahead’. Challenges have mainly come in the form of Brexit: ‘The majority of our retained clients have their centre of interest in the UK and the uncertainties of Brexit have impacted their thinking.’
Recoco’s chairman and managing director has been operating in the South West for 45 years. ‘There aren’t many good houses and places and people that I haven’t come across in that time,’ he says. Nigel Bishop’s approachability and knowledge of the market have brought a steady stream of buyers to his office since its inception in 1999. ‘A client once said, “You really do know every house here, don’t you,”’ he says, laughing. After a successful 2018 that saw the firm’s turnover increase by 35 per cent, Bishop, also a Devon Life columnist, is bullish about the country market. ‘My advice to people at the moment is: don’t sit on the fence and wait,’ he says. ‘I think life will pass you by.’
‘Things are not so brilliant out there,’ says Valerie Brecher, half of the brother-and-sister team that founded the company. ‘There’s a certain nervousness in the market because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.’ However, Brecher explains that many of her clients, insulated by a cash-rich portfolio, are ‘opportunists, just waiting to pounce on a good deal’. From the firm’s perspective, the slowdown in transactions doesn’t represent much of a threat. ‘There’s been a huge surge in litigation and property finance. There are more disputes, and more people are refinancing and restructuring and that’s very good for us,’ she says.
For Andy Buchanan, 2018 was ‘very, very tough’. He tells Spear’s that the ‘awkward market’ at the top end of London property presented potential buyers with ‘very little temptation’. For Buchanan, the political climate has made it ‘difficult for a lot of people to see too far ahead until the European fiasco is settled’. However, he adds that John D Wood is still 30 per cent up on the previous year for income – a result fought for through smaller properties. ‘Small house turnover and medium house turnover was all right,’ he says. Something of a Chelsea champion, Buchanan says the firm enjoys a ‘commanding position’ in the Chelsea market and has enjoyed ‘enormous loyalty’ from people in the area for ‘a very long time’. He says 92 properties were sold in Chelsea last year but he suspects the actual number is much higher, with private sales taking place between […]
‘The two big months in the property market were June and July of last year,’ says Alex Christian, director of Savills’ London private office. With £250 million of sales logged by Savills’ Sloane Street and Knightsbridge outfits, he says 2018’s success was down to the fact that his clients – who usually look to spend more than £20 million – are ‘totally Brexit-proof’. Furthermore, with the pound weak there is an influx of US money. However, he adds: ‘People aren’t playing the market because they want to make a quick buck.’ Rather, they are viewing property primarily as a place to live, and a safe place to hold capital long-term.
Spear’s speaks to Stuart Cole fresh from what seemed a rather alarming holiday doing the Cresta Run. ‘I’ve got bruises all over my body and I can’t raise my right arm – but I feel invigorated,’ he says. Less invigorating is the property market. ‘Our viewings are up 60 per cent on the previous year and yet our trades are down. We have buyers interested, circling, watching… There’s the possibility of doing 12 months’ business in six months,’ he says. But Cole – who is also Knight Frank’s ambassador to China – reserves his main fire for stamp duty. ‘I sold a large house to a Russian and the stamp duty bothered him. He said, “I can afford it but I just don’t want to!”
With a track record of dealing with clients from A-list celebrities to Middle Eastern royals, Ian Cooke has become an authority to global UHNWs looking to buy the best property the capital has to offer. Cooke is the head of the private property team at Charles Russell Speechlys. Around 90 per cent of his work is based in London. ‘We’ve got some very big deals over the line,’ he says, adding that the lull caused by 2014/15’s stamp duty changes has ceased: ‘[It] doesn’t seem any longer to be deterring people at the top of the market.’ Explaining his approach, he says: ‘You have to put yourself into the shoes of the client and think, “What would you want in this situation?”, and try to give them that.’
David Cooper’s profile as the ‘king of planning’ was enhanced in December when he won a landmark case in the Supreme Court (Franses v The Cavendish Hotel). The 5-0 ruling means that landlords’ ability to use redevelopment proposals to oppose lease renewals has been substantially lessened. ‘Hopefully, this case will shake the system,’ he says over breakfast. Cooper has strong connections with the major London estates, including the Grosvenor and Crown estate, and has many billionaires among his clients. He is also passionate about saving the ‘artistic soul’ of the St James’s area of London, often defending the rights of art dealers to stay put and pay a reasonable rent.
You’d expect the man who’d just helped sell a £95 million mansion near Buckingham Palace to be in a better mood. But Knight Frank’s Daniel Daggers doesn’t particularly want to talk to Spear’s about his national headlinegrabbing work for Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of Chicagobased hedge fund Citadel: ‘It took three years’ – that’s all we get. However, on the rumoured £30 million discount, the obvious perks of a currency hedge for a US buyer up against the whopping £14 million stamp duty bill, he adds: ‘Americans pay 1 per cent per annum of their house cost to the government as a holding charge. If an American is going to stay in a UK home for 12-15 years, it’s going to cost them the same amount as having a home in the US. The UK charge is just up front. If that charge is mitigated by a big […]
A four-time nominee for Spear’s Property Adviser of the Year, Camilla Dell is described by peers as ‘tenacious and dedicated’. And Black Brick, which she founded in 2007, is growing in strength. Dell believes the market has become far more difficult for buyers to navigate. ‘Supply has become an issue right across prime central London,’ she says. ‘Anyone who doesn’t need to sell isn’t selling, and a lot of people who do want to sell won’t put their properties on to web portals.’ With more transactions happening off-market (‘30 per cent last year’), and stamp duty so high, buyers are seeing the sense in engaging buying agents. ‘The stakes are too high not to,’ she says.
Rupert des Forges is an adviser of rich experience. ‘I’ve lived and breathed it: I worked in Knightsbridge and Belgravia from the early 1990s,’ he says. ‘I then changed roles and now head up the prime central London developments team.’ Des Forges’ team of ten handles new-build schemes mainly around Hyde Park, with clusters around Knightsbridge, Kensington and Marylebone: ‘It’s a new product – a fusion of residential and hotel. London was late to the game, and then there was the adjustment 2008-09.’ Though the Osborne-era changes dampened things, des Forges notes a ‘resilient new-build sector’. ‘It’s a generational change,’ he adds. ‘In the Eighties and Nineties, prime and super-prime was led by addresses – everyone loved the aesthetic of garden squares. The market has moved to these new buildings.’ Why such a dramatic shift? ‘For transient people, houses are a compromise: they’re not secure when they’re not there. Our […]
Paddy Dring is global head of prime sales at Knight Frank – and it’s a position hard-earned for the likeable adviser. ‘I have worked for Knight Frank for 29 years in the country business but more than 25 years in the international residential business,’ he says. For Dring, it’s all about providing ‘HNWI and UHNWI clients and their families a single point of contact’. He sits atop the business and has a bird’s-eye view of its activity – and there are positives to be seen. ‘The key European cities, including Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin and Madrid, have all witnessed a combination of strong domestic and international demand and in excess of 10 per cent growth over the last year,’ he explains.
Philip Eastwood heads the London bureau of the Buying Solution, Knight Frank’s ultra-exclusive independent buying consultancy. ‘Because the number of clients we have is small, we can spend time and effort doing research and coming up with the information,’ explains Eastwood. He highlights a case last year where he saved a client ‘effectively £1 million’ because of a floorplan error from the agent. ‘We can introduce them to solicitors, architects, planners, builders and make sure that we’re holding their hand through [each] step,’ he says. ‘As I said to one client, “If I was an Englishman buying in Istanbul, I’d be scalped. I wouldn’t know one end of Istanbul from the other.”’
Jo Eccles has spent the past 13 years building her business, from its initial beginnings as a pure buying agency back in 2006 into a search and management offering of the highest quality. ‘She’s smart, and very switched-on – in fact, brilliant,’ a peer says of her. ‘No client or requirement is the same and that’s one of the many things I love about my job,’ says Eccles. ‘We may be buying a trophy family home, building a long-term buy-to-let portfolio with inheritance proceeds or for children, or advising on how to achieve the best yields on a rental portfolio.’ It’s clearly working: 65 per cent of SP Property Group’s clients are repeat or ongoing clients, and the firm has built an especially good relationship among the leading private banks and law firms. ‘We are immensely proud of our track record for gaining our clients access to properties they would never […]
Philip Eddell is a linchpin in the rural market. Formerly of Knight Frank in Hungerford, he has forged an impressive career from his ability to assist HNWs with running their mansions. The pivotal moment in Eddell’s career was acting for Madonna and Guy Ritchie during their (mainly successful) attempt to have the right to roam restricted on their estate. ‘That was a good watershed moment to identify ourselves more specifically with the mansion house,’ he recalls. The rural market has been resilient. ‘We’ve seen good progress in the country with significant new instructions in Surrey, Sussex and Shropshire,’ says the likeable Eddell. ‘The outlook for 2019 is good.’
‘I don’t sell anything – I don’t transact,’ explains David Forbes. ‘We are a single point of contact into the wonderful world of Savills globally.’ After Savills bought Forbes’s business in 2007, he soon realised clients needed a point of contact. ‘My business had 27 people. Suddenly Savills bought us and there were 27,000 employees worldwide; now there are 35,000 in 70-odd countries. It was almost impossible to navigate.’ Forbes is in an excellent position to comment on global trends. As a result of this, he now acts as both an internal directory for Savills, and as the likely first port of calls for banks and family offices.
‘There’s something about me that quite likes a tough market sometimes – it gets rid of a lot of chaff,’ says James Forbes, a director at Strutt & Parker. ‘Your knowledge has to be absolutely A1.’ Asked how the firm copes with the competition from Savills and Knight Frank, he says: ‘We’re now owned by BNP Paribas, and we’re the UK affiliate for Christie’s: we have a lot of access to private wealth around the world.’ Forbes says the £10-50 million range has been pretty buoyant, but he notes headwinds for sellers of traditional townhouses. ‘You can be in a historically prestigious address but it doesn’t have a swimming pool or services. It’s affecting prices.’
Simon Garcia has reason to celebrate 2018 as a ‘fantastic year’, with ‘a multitude of clients covering all areas, from British house buyers in Hampstead through to global clientele purchasing in Mayfair’. On the challenges for the year ahead, he says: ‘Post-Brexit we should see an improved political and economic clarity, and whatever the outcome the momentum will grow in the sector as people will start making decisions again. Global investors are far less impacted by Brexit than their European counterparts, so I think we will continue to see the dominance of strong international investment within the London property market.’
Savills director James Gilbert- Green works mainly for sellers on exclusive properties in Knightsbridge, Belgravia and Chelsea. He works with a team of seven directors on the open market and in discreet sales to a discerning UHNW clientele. ‘If something comes up and it’s available, it may be a once-in-a-generation chance to acquire it, and we’ve seen some very good results for those very special properties,’ he says. Gilbert-Green crowned his first year at Savills with the notable £63 million sale of a house in Knightsbridge. The 13,616sq ft property was sold to an anonymous buyer. Other significant deals have included properties in Cadogan Square and Holland Park, all above the £20 million mark. Despite a decrease in transactions across the superprime market, Gilbert-Green says the year was ‘a bit of a balancing act’, with sentiment liable to change with each Brexit-related development. However, he’s noticing an upsurge in interest […]
Jonathan Harington’s experience is unrivalled: he has been a buying agent since 1986 and single-handedly created the purchasing arms of Lane Fox (now Strutt & Parker) and Knight Frank. It’s no surprise that his firm survived 2018, but Harington says it’s ‘bizarre’ that it was the most successful he’s seen by far. ‘We saved our clients an enormous amount of money,’ he says. ‘You’ll get a price that gets offered privately and you get a price that you get on the market – we weighed down both of those for most things this year.’ ‘It’s a bonkers business,’ he says when asked about the main challenge he faces, ‘because you have to get in front of the right people, convince them that we’re the best people to do it, and then you’ve got to find the property – there’s a whole lot of things that can go wrong.’ Harington possesses […]
Spear’s connects with Philip Harvey a year after he became Property Vision’s senior partner. It’s been a good 12 months, he says, adding that one can’t ignore ‘the dark clouds gathering’ regarding China, the US and Brexit. However, Harvey is sure HNWs will continue to buy properties, especially prized country estate homes. ‘They don’t want their lives to be derailed by the goings-on globally or nationally until there’s actually something tangible that changes their focus,’ he says. The firm’s asset management arm is doing well: ‘We’ve seen a lot of property which has been sat in a trust without being actively managed for many years. We’re helping those trusts unlock value.’
Mark Harvey oversees the European sales business of Knight Frank, heading up its divisions in France and Spain. ‘This is a very rarefied market, and we’re very privileged to have access to the machinations, strategy and thinking that goes on behind the scenes,’ he tells Spear’s. It was a second consecutive record trading year in the residential market for Harvey. Highlights included record sales in Tuscany and Marbella ‘in the multiple tens’ of millions, as well as a company-best year in Italy. Harvey is positive but cautious heading into 2019. ‘The truth is, we’re going to see some uncertainty,’ he says. ‘We have our eyes open.’
‘We are one of very few firms who cover both London and the country, and cover it well,’ says Ed Heaton, co-founder and managing director of Heaton & Partners. With one office in Berkshire and another in Knightsbridge, Heaton explains: ‘Our cars almost become a mobile property shop. We’ll be bombing up and down the country, on the phone the whole time.’ He adds: ‘This year has been our best year since setting up the business. We took an active decision as a partnership not to grow too big in terms of headcount, given the prevailing market conditions, and it seems to be paying off.’ In terms of the country market, Heaton says: ‘There’s a very clear trend.’ People are looking for country houses one to two hours from London. ‘These buyers tend to be Brits who are either selling up in London and buying in the countryside, or buying a […]
‘I don’t think any area has been Brexit-proof,’ replies Naomi Heaton when asked if there are any safe spots in prime central London post-referendum. ‘All property had to take a discount,’ adds the founder of London Central Portfolio, who is both a property buyer and investment adviser and facilitator. ‘What you find is that the only people who are selling tend to be those who need to sell and therefore are prepared to take a discount.’ The past year has seen some of the lowest ever numbers of transactions recorded and a scenario where ‘the majority within the market are just sitting tight, because they can’. ‘It’s exactly what happened during the credit crunch,’ she observes. The result is a shortage of stock, especially ‘interesting assets’ such as hotels and serviced apartments. Still, London Central Portfolio has at least thrived in the private rental sector, which Heaton says shows ‘no […]
Many in the property world may be undergoing a whirlwind of emotions due to Brexit uncertainty, but Gary Hersham, true to his nature, is unfazed. Transactions are steadily on track at Beauchamp Estates, its founder assures us. Hersham speaks to Spear’s barely weeks after completing hisbiggest single transaction of 2018: a family house in Belgrave Square worth £50 million. He casually mentions another £40 million-plus sale completed in the same month, adding that the rest of Beauchamp’s branches (in Marylebone, Herzliya, New York, Mykonos and Cannes) are ‘doing very well’. Hersham speaks seven languages and is well versed in the art of catering to billionaire buyers. ‘Whatever they want they have to have,’ he says, pointing out that the cash-rich are often time-poor. ‘They are used to being able to access and have things that ordinary people do not, in a manner that is convenient for them,’ he says. ‘Their […]
Jonathan Hewlett is celebrating his 25th year at Savills, where he presides over the London region in Sloane Street. ‘The key areas have not changed,’ he says, but he has noticed a shift over the past few years into a ‘needs-based market’. It’s true that prime central London has dropped in value, but ‘only marginally year-on-year,not anything dramatic’. Despite this, the division sold five properties over the £50 million mark and 20 over £20 million in 2018, according to Hewlett – not a bad return for a year fraught with reports of Brexit uncertainty and hesitant buyers. ‘In and among a really tricky market, we’ve still managed to achieve some good results for our clients,’ he reports. The past year has also seen the expansion of Savills’ private office, to meet increased client demand for a discreet service, including expansion in the Middle East across residential, commercial and rural property […]
It has been a tough year for London’s top property experts, but the best of the best remain open, honest and, most importantly, optimistic. Nathalie Hirst, Spear’s 2015 Property Adviser of the Year, tells us she’s had to adapt after what she describes as being her ‘worst ever in terms of acquisitions’. She adds: ‘The uncertainty in the market has paralysed people, and understandably I did more rentals than purchases. And although it is reassuring to read about some major transactions taking place – and in fact I was outbid between Christmas and New Year on a property that originally came on the market at £140 million – these stories are few and far between.’ However on the other side of the coin, ‘for opportunist buyers, this is an excellent time. Vendors, however, have to be realistic and appreciate the quality of the bid, and not just the bottom line […]
Crispin Holborow focuses on providing a versatile service at the very top end of the country market: ‘I cross over between country houses and estates, which no one else does.’ The rationale for that? ‘I believe that buyers don’t decide whether they want a house with 50 or 200 acres. So I try to shy away from specialisation.’ Always operating in the £5 million-plus range, Holborow has a wide-ranging remit in the countryside, all over England and with reach into Ireland and Scotland. ‘It’s a big footprint,’ he admits. ‘I’ve done something in every county.’ The statistics speak for themselves. From January 2017 to August 2018, more than 80 of the country properties sold by Savills were over the £5 million mark, and 37 per cent were in excess of £10 million. Holborow explains that many of the firm’s clients are ‘lifestyle buyers who are truly multinational’. He explains why […]
Once dubbed by an industry peer as ‘the most proactive buyer in Hampshire’, Tom Hudson isn’t seeing business slowing in the lead-up to Brexit. ‘Our enquiry levels for new clients hasn’t changed at all,’ he tells Spear’s. The country market has remained robust, he says, because the principal drivers of business are prep schools and people whose children are growing up: ‘There are always going to be those wanting to move out of London to the country – that’s still going to happen whether or not we’re in the European Union.’ Hudson started his career at Property Vision. Since he co-founded Middleton Advisors in 2008, his client base has continued to expand, as has his team – ‘excellent property professionals who are some of the best in their field’, according to a peer. There is an increasing number of international clients looking to buy UK land: ‘A country house is […]
Tracy Kellett founded BDI Home Finders in 2006 with the aim of providing a bespoke service for clients looking to buy in London and the South East. Clients commend her personal approach, bolstered by a deep understanding of the market that few can rival. Kellett admits to having had an ‘appalling’ year in 2018. ‘If people are telling you differently, they’re lying or very lucky,’ she says. Brexit blues and stamp duty might have brought negativity across the industry, but Kellett is looking on the bright side: ‘If you’re going to hold on to something for more than five years, then it’s an absolutely prime time to buy,’ she advises. ‘That’s not business talking, it’s a no-brainer.’
Giuliana La Pera Davies is half of the husband-and-wife team behind some of London’s largest off-market acquisitions. The duo are as discreet as many of the properties they search for – an essential quality for their clients. La Pera Davies fell into London’s property world in almost a literal sense more than two decades ago. The Sicilian, who arrived in London as an aspiring contemporary dancer, suffered a fall that ended her dream. However, she says the accident guided her to her true calling in real estate. GLP Fine Properties specialises in acquisitions in prime central London, as well as catering to enquiries concerning the Home Counties and abroad.
‘It’s been a slightly turbulent period over recent months and arguably over the last couple of years,’ says Alex Lawson, who heads up the national farms and estates team at Savills. But he has seen a growing interest in landed estates. ‘There’s been marginal price adjustments, but generally speaking farms and rural estates have been quite a resilient sector of the market,’ he says. The perennial shortage of stock (‘less than 0.5 per cent of available farmland is on sale’), combined with ‘very strong and very varied buyers’ profiles’, means that when quality property does come on sale it justifies prices remaining strong. Furthermore, renewable energy and other diversified income streams are proving increasingly attractive. Last year Lawson’s team dealt with more than a dozen properties priced at £10 million or more. One particularly satisfying sale was the £19 million Hexton estate in Hertfordshire, a classic country estate being sold after […]
Legal director James Liffen specialises in residential conveyancing at Mishcon de Reya, covering ownership, auction sales, portfolio purchases, tenancy and planning issues. It’s a technical and complex role. ‘Sometimes we’re getting involved at the very early [stage], other times it’s all about just getting the deal over the line or just looking at getting the right deal,’ he explains. Like most in the industry, Liffen has noticed a slowdown in transactions, but it doesn’t mean he’s not busy – he wrapped up a £85 million deal over Christmas. ‘From the rest of the world’s point of view, there is only one London,’ he says.
‘Never has writing such a large cheque given me so much pleasure,’ a client testimonial reads, praising the skills with which Andrew Macpherson and his team at CKD completed a transaction. Client satisfaction is high at CKD under sporting estates specialist Macpherson, one of its founding directors. He has spent 36 years in the market, with knowledge of the farmland market, major residential developments, break-up positions and the sale and purchase of country property. Macpherson has the magic touch, an ability to make extremely rare deals happen. A particularly memorable moment was when a client was initially sceptical of Macpherson’s advice in relation to the purchase of a grouse moor and said: ‘If the grouse come back, I’ve got a great deal; if they don’t, I’ve bought a pup.’ Three seasons later, ‘The first day yielded over 250 brace,’ Macpherson laughs. He believes in acting only in each client’s best interests, […]
‘This has got nothing to do with Brexit – this is about stamp duty,’ says Mark McAndrew, cutting through the hype and the headlines. Strutt & Parker’s Mayfair-based senior director for national estates tells Spear’s the property market is feeling the ‘hard hit’ of George Osborne’s 2014 tax reforms. ‘Stamp duty has affected the domestic market,’ he adds. ‘Buyers are right to say, “I pay 45 per cent PAYE tax, I pay 20 per cent VAT, 8 per cent National Insurance – there’s no way out of what’s left I’m going to give the chancellor another 15 per cent stamp duty – you’ve got to be joking.”’ On the property market in general, McAndrew is seeing the drop in prices that started in prime central London fanning out across the south. A 22 per cent fall between early 2015 and late 2018 has been matched by a 50 per cent […]
Set up in 2002, Charles McDowell Properties has been a fixture of the property landscape ever since. ‘We’ve always sold and always bought, so we’ve seen a lot of fluctuations,’ explains McDowell. The firm is noted for off-market deals – an approach he knows is sometimes pooh-poohed. ‘They work because the market is quite random and people don’t want to have their properties seen hanging around,’ he counters. It’s a nimble, and personalised offering – and it’s working. ‘My criticism of the bigger agents is that they’re not so readily available. Clients will call us at the weekend, and at night,’ says McDowell, who is extremely connected in the Middle East and Far East.
Guy Meacock of Prime Purchase is brimming with positivity when Spear’s calls. Following news that 2018 saw a 30 per cent uplift in new client registrations, he adds: ‘Our average deal size, deals done, and all the financials were up, but the key driver was that we did a number of large deals that weren’t there in the same way in 2017. That said, we did a great spread of business at all levels, so a healthy market in our humble opinion!’ Now into his 14th year at Prime Purchase, Meacock adds: ‘It was a very strong year. We’re all chipper here. Hoping for more of the same – but it is a difficult world to forecast. Last year we transacted on a number of sizeable deals in both London and the country and that seems to have made the difference.’ He says the twin uncertainties of Brexit and stamp duty […]
‘A poor market is a good time for quality to shine,’ says Alex Newall, managing director and founder of Barnes Private Office. ‘The bottom of the cycle is a great time to invest for the mid-term.’ Newall has an impressive record advising affluent individuals in prime central London and Surrey. However, it has been a tough year for foreign investment. Newall told the Times: ‘What we are now seeing is purchases by Russian investors being placed on hold or cancelled altogether.’ On the unpopular issue of new taxes, Newall writes: ‘I believe the rate of stamp duty is too high. The general escalating rate is far too high over £1 million.’
Knight Frank’s private office – which Rory Penn and Thomas Van Straubenzee have been co-directing since March 2018, having co-founded VanHan together in 2012 – has attracted more than £400 million of new instructions since its launch. Penn previously had stints at Grosvenor, as a director in private equity firm Palmer Capital, and as managing director at VanHan. He says Knight Frank’s private office is a ‘well-connected and fully integrated prime residential and commercial real estate advisory team, focused on execution and delivery for UHNW clients, family offices and wealth advisers’.
Simon Pring’s ability to strategise and guide his clients through the process of agricultural and rural development is second to none. Pring, who celebrated 30 years as a qualified solicitor last year, has built up a formidable network of land agents, accountants and financial consultants, as well as extensive knowledge of contextual factors. ‘It’s a team game, [where we] ensure that not only are we recommending the thing that the client would like, but the client absolutely understands what the endgame is,’ he explains. Pring is effusive about his 30 years in the game: ‘Some of the clients I work on now, I started working on then, and it’s very satisfying to have that continuity.’
Richard and Sophie Rogerson meet with Spear’s at the George, still glowing from their deserved victory as Property Advisers of the Year at the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards in November. ‘There used to be articles about how the most expensive house in London was £25 million,’ says Richard. ‘Now you see the entry level for Chelsea Barracks is £37 million. It’s amazing,’ he says, with an empathetic amusement which must be reassuring to clients. ‘They want to buy a view, definitely; they want to buy a location,’ explains Sophie. This husband-and-wife team has an impressive mix of expertise. William Drake brings decades’ worth of private client experience as the firm’s chairman – and the Rogersons themselves are ex-Macfarlanes and able to add value in that way during deals. Lawyers love them. What kind of clients come to them? ‘It’s rare now for people to sink all they have into a home. […]
‘It’s no secret that it hasn’t been an easy ride,’ Property Vision’s Roarie Scarisbrick tells Spear’s. ‘However, given the context, we’ve actually had a really good year. In London we’ve done well in tough market conditions. When it comes to the upper end of the market we’ve had one of our better years.’ Scarisbrick, a history of art graduate, joined Property Vision in 2004 and spent his first year on a scooter whizzing from A to Z, looking at nearly 1,000 properties in his first 12 months. He tells Spear’s that more than ever the clients he deals with – when the conditions are tough and the market becomes difficult – want advice. He adds: ‘It’s been refreshing to engage in more of a buyers’ market than we’re used to. The deals we’ve been doing are great deals. We’ve been rolling our sleeves up and getting involved in some really interesting […]
‘It’s been my best year ever,’ announces Jess Simpson, who bought £80 million-worth of prime property and bagged ‘the biggest country deal’ in terms of estate in 2018. ‘We’ve been quite lucky we managed to dominate the top-end estates market,’ she says. Simpson has seen an upsurge in the number of Londoners escaping to the countryside, making the market more resilient: ‘Their houses in London are not going to go up in value and they are deciding now’s the time to make the move.’ Two years ago she left Strutt & Parker to set up her own firm. She enjoys her freedom from more ‘corporate elements’. ‘It allows me to be more responsive,’ she says. ‘Clients need much more detailed, comprehensive advice,’ Simpson stresses. ‘You never just buy and then walk away – you’re involved all the way through, from getting involved in appointing project managers, architects and interior designers to […]
Alex Stroud is not here to report doom and gloom, despite describing the past two years as ‘incredibly testing’. Last year he enjoyed the second highest value of transactions, the highest having been 2014. A memorable moment came when a Kensington pied-à-terre was exchanged off-market after a year’s search ‘at five o’clock on Christmas Eve’. The purchase was agreed at £8.25 million, even though the asking price was £9.5 million. ‘I told my clients what it was worth, I stuck at it and stuck at it, and we got it at the right price,’ Stroud says. Besides ‘working incredibly hard’, Stroud’s success is driven by his belief that he’d only lead clients to property he himself would buy: ‘I’ve done 152 transactions in eight years now and I would have bought every single one of them.’ Stroud prides himself on his knowledge of London homes, particularly in the £2-10 million bracket. […]
‘The trend is there is no trend, it’s all led by your personal contacts,’ says Caroline Takla the founder of The Collection LLP. ‘In the last few years, deals have only opened due to personal relationships with clients: it’s down to that trust.’ Takla – who speaks Arabic – has a remarkably international client base and so has benefited during the troubled postreferendum years from the decline in value of sterling. ‘The pound was a godsend,’ she admits. Even so, this is no Brexiteer. ‘Brexit has been on people’s minds,’ she says. ‘The sole reason to invest here is because it’s a safe haven. With Brexit, we’ve begun to erode those fundamentals.’ Although Takla doesn’t necessarily measure her success in terms of transaction volume – ‘It should be difficult right now, people shouldn’t be rushing to make multi-million purchases’ – she has seen some impressive deals in recent times. She […]
Sonal Thakrar, a Mishcon partner who leads one of London’s largest residential property practices, rarely sees ‘vanilla deals’. ‘I don’t think they exist any more,’ she tells Spear’s. ‘Deals are taking much longer and are much trickier, I feel like everything on my desk is more complex than usual.’ But Thakrar is the problemsolver HNWs need: ‘I get told that I always deliver without cutting corners.’ She sees Brexit as an opportunity, noting continued inward investment from the Middle East and China. But she worries the tax regime might put off buyers. ‘It’s almost like there’s a messaging going out to the international investor, “We want your money but we don’t want you.”’
As head of international residential at Savills, Hugo Thistlethwayte has presided over another period of expansion. ‘Our acquisition of Aguirre Newman in Spain and Portugal has considerably increased our presence in those countries,’ he explains. Talking with Thistlethwayte, one notes the sheer range of his footprint, from the Middle East to the US and beyond. Rather than Brexit (‘I’ll leave others to comment on that’), it’s Macron’s France that has his attention. ‘We probably have seen problems there,’ he admits. ‘Having said that, the fundamentals are pretty good, and the economy is growing. And sadly, the world is getting used to a bit more political risk.’
‘In excess of £50 million there have been probably a dozen deals,’ says Ed Tryon, the impressive founder of Lichfields. He adds: ‘Where we’ve seen a huge drop-off is in the £10-50 million range. There has been less than half the amount of deals than when the market was going gangbusters. All in all, we’re seeing a 40 per cent drop-off in deals per year. It’s a drought.’ Tough times then, but Tryon is determined to see through the difficult part of the cycle, believing that once the market turns it will reward those who have stayed true to themselves. ‘One thing my father taught me – you only have one reputation,’ he says over a coffee in his favourite haunt, 5 Hertford Street. Tryon has some tough words about the UK taxation system. ‘My biggest frustration is for domestic buyers. You’re paying 45 per cent on the majority of […]
‘It’s basically making sure that the big families around the world are going to Knight Frank,’ says Thomas Van Straubenzee of his role. ‘Right now, people are looking to have their hand held. They don’t want to be pushed to do a big sale tomorrow; what they do want is really good advice. These houses that are going for 20 per cent off are still going for pretty substantial prices, but there are still concerns and uncertainties.’ Van Straubenzee, who worked at Strutt & Parker before co-founding VanHan, says many of his clients are ‘hardcore London lovers’ and won’t be put off by Brexit or even the prospect of ‘massive wealth taxes’ that might come with a change of government.
London property has slipped into ‘uncharted territories’, says the straight-talking Ross Ward. ‘I don’t know what’s going on. Do you?’ he laughs. Uncertainty has worried many of Pereds’ clients, with vendors harder to persuade than usual. But the firm, which has found homes in discreet locations for the likes of the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, has a clear sight of where the good stock is. ‘We have a very simple saying here, which is, “We’ll find you what you want, we’ll find you the best thing we can, then we’ll buy it as inexpensively as we can,”’ says Ward. ‘That’s all you can really do; we can try and guess the market but frankly, it’s a false game.’
Julien Ward has made an impressive name for himself, acting closely with David Forbes in the firm’s private office. ‘We’re that single point of contact into the wider world of Savills,’ he says. The goal, he adds, is to ‘concentrate on building relationships, on client enquiries and situations’. With his background at Credit Suisse, Ward comes at his work ‘from a different angle… The idea is that banks are happier referring to people who are going to handle people the same way they would.’ Where is he most often to be found? ‘I spend a lot of time in Switzerland, then Jersey and Monaco.’ Ward is also seeing ‘a lot of cross-border capital coming out of the Far East’.
Geoff Wilford will celebrate 20 years in the prime central London market this year. He sold ‘in excess’ of £200 million worth of property between 2006 and 2009 before launching his own firm in 2011 with Simon Welfare, and is one of the most sought-after agents in the local area. Significant deals of the past 12 months include a house in Portland Road ‘just shy’ of £7 million and a penthouse on Earl’s Court Square for close to £3 million, in ‘a very good sale for the client’. Despite the uncertainty of Brexit, Wilford is bullish: ‘We’ve got some incredible stock, some beautiful property to sell. We’ve got quite a few interested parties in the products we’re selling.’