Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Who is the best estate agent to have in-house?
Wednesday 21 July 1999
Group Managing Director
WHAT I really enjoy about my work is the deal brokering. That's where I get my buzz. Whether the investment is of pounds 50m or a smaller individual purchase, the deals are what I relish most. It's important to have strong interpersonal skills to succeed in this business. You have to listen and retain a glut of information from clients.
You should be numerate and also possess a certain entrepreneurial flair to know which property to offer to which client: some clients may be risk averse, others not but you should be able to understand their mentality. Then in terms of becoming a market leader in the business, you've got to know the risks that exist and you must be able to quantify them, otherwise the business is a potential minefield.
For me, Andrew Langton, managing director of Aylesford, is one of the best deal makers in London at the moment. Really no one apart from him stands out.
IT'S EXTREMELY easy to be interested in this business because everyone has to have somewhere to live. For me, much of the enjoyment comes from seeing a deal go through, and I also love seeing my officers getting excited over deals - they are the people who make the business work.
For the business to be a success, you've got to make sure that you are running a successful, well-motivated team. I think it is important that I am seen to be motivated and that I pass that motivation on to those who work with me. You've also got to be able to deal with clients effectively, be they the billionaire investors or the one-bed home-owner.
A good agent, must be a consummate problem-solver and be able to predict the market efficiently. All agencies have their good and their bad points. Savills and Knight Frank have extremely good teams of agents. Savills in particular has come a long way and has produced some astounding results.
John D Wood & Co
ESSENTIALLY, I'M a negotiator, a trouble-shooter. I've been in the business for 20 years or so and often I've learnt my skills the hard way. What I can now do is impart the experience I've gained throughout the rest of the company. It is important to remember that one's reputation and the reputation of your company rests implicitly on the advice that you give. I thoroughly enjoy dealing with our employees; we nurture them and make them blossom. Then of course, there's the thrill of the chase. I love selling property and if I can take the stress out of moving house, it's a plus.
To be a success, you need to enjoy the job and you have to be transparently honest. Estate agents have a reputation for being sharp, what I try to teach is that you have to be direct. Life experience, though, is all that can really make you a market leader.
There are probably only half a dozen proper estate agents in London. Of them I'd single out Andy Buchanan, one of our directors, for his sheer expertise. He's survived the ups and the downs and is thriving.
YOU NEED to be a psychiatrist to progress in this business. You need to understand your clients' needs. Even the chief executives of major companies need their hands held when competing in the house market. Hard work is essential but traditional standards are the clue - good manners, enthusiasm, loyalty and honesty to clients and colleagues alike. The top people in the business have a natural flair for handling people and selling.
My team here is superb. But if I had to choose three people they would be: George Inge, chairman of FPDSavills for 10 years, who changed us from a partnership to a plc. Victoria Mitchell, who set up our London Region and kindly handed it over to me in good shape. Her enthusiasm and ability to best the odds are second to none. And Geoffrey van Cutsem, our managing director, the best connected and the most convincing estate agent I have come across.
Beyond Savills, I would single out David Forbes, a partner of Chesterfield, because he is a marvellously flamboyant chap at the top of the market. Another who stands out is Andy Langton because of his vast and impressive array of contacts.
Jackson-Stops & Staff
THE PLEASURE of the job comes from doing deals and dealing with the public. There are times, however, when their behaviour is horrendous, and irrespective of whether the fault lies with the vendor or the buyer, the estate agent will always be blamed. Gazumping is a case in point. The estate agent always receives the flack but the final decision to accept one or another offer lies with the vendor. I do so loathe gazumping. It is a fundamentally immoral practice, which the Government should do something about.
In order to get ahead, you have to be universally liked: you should be personable and a good networker. Honesty and integrity are particularly important qualities.
I particularly admire Niall McMahon, the proprietor of McMahon & Co. He worked with an agency for 20 years and then took a massive risk by going out on his own. He has done exceptionally well and is a delightful man.
Head of rural division
Strutt & Parker
I LOVE the variety of people I deal with - both clients and employees - and I enjoy the variety of properties I look after. What I've taught myself is to listen to what people want because the absolute certainty is that any preconceived ideas we may have will be wrong - adapt to their needs.
What also marks out those who are successful is a general knowledge of the business world, as the ebb and flow of the property market is a consequence of individuals personal fortunes. There is a strong correlation between the property market and the stock market. With this in mind, two people whom I admire are Andrew MacPherson, a director at Clegg Kennedy Drew. He is the most perceptive rural property dealer of our generation. And there is Patrick Ramsay, who has maintained Knight Frank's degree of excellence and high standards at times when it might have been easier to cut corners.
YOU HAVE to have the right structure in your company for it to succeed: you need close teams, a strong brand name and an effective global business to spread as wide a net as possible. In terms of individual traits, you don't merely have to be good at selling, you also have to be a very good listener. Clients need the best service you can give and someone who they can talk to about what they want. The client has to trust you and feel that they are being fairly and sensitively dealt with in a very active market. If people feel this they will respond positively - so the trick is to play with a straight bat.
Most major agencies have some very fine people working for them. Andy Langton, of Aylesford, stands out as someone who is very well connected; Ian Stewart, of Savills, is also a senior player I respect.
At the end of the day, I have immense respect for so many in this business. And we are all friends. You've got to be able to talk to other agencies and for them to trust you too.
THE GENERAL impression is that estate agents are dodgy - that we get paid lots of money for doing very little. But you do forget the agonies of moving house after a while and the truth is, a good estate agent will try to make that as painless as possible. We put in a lot of hard work and we turn the other cheek time and time again. We also only get paid on performance. So it's important to be able to take deep breaths from time to time. The joy of the work for me is getting it right - finding the perfect house for someone who will fall madly in love with it. An attitude-free transaction is also a plus. To succeed, you have to be straight and honest. Endless patience would also prove useful as at times it can be a long process. But what will mark you out is a good memory. All great agents remember all the houses they've ever sold. I just think thank God for computers as they've made our life so much easier. Peter Young, of John D Wood, has an exceptionally good memory. He's found his own niche in Kensington and is thoroughly impressive.
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