Simon Barnes of H. Barnes & Co talks about what overseas investors need from a buying agent to secure luxury property in the prime property market of London
In London, established property ‘experts’ acknowledge their geographical boundaries. The nature of the city’s geography and spread of property means that not only is there a north south river divide, but there are micro markets within relatively small areas of the city. Areas within close proximity may offer a differing mix, style and proportion of property, the density of housing, the layout of squares and streets and the range in value, all have distinct characteristics.
PROPERTY MARKET IN ‘PRIME CENTRAL LONDON’
In the same way you would not send your prized Rolls Royce to the local garage for a service, you probably wouldn’t go to the ‘local high street agent’ if you were looking to buy or sell a particular type of property. True, they may be able to do the job eventually, but they wouldn’t be specialised enough to get you the best results. You wouldn’t ask your local estate agent to sell your house in the country, or to find you a secluded villa in the South of France. The very small market referred to as ‘Prime Central London’ is particularly specialised. Selling a large, lateral flat in Belgravia, or a substantial town house with adjoining mews house in Mayfair, is not about sticking it on your web site, an advert in the freebie property press, then sitting and waiting for the phone to ring. Just as looking for a particular style of house, with off street parking and gardens in Kensington, is unlikely to be achieved by simply registering with the local agents. Rental investment portfolios, unmodernised properties, with development potential, unusual houses. There are specialist ‘expert’ agents for each, but they’re unlikely to be the same agent.
THE BUYING AGENT
The property I seek out and deal with is largely ‘off the radar’, in fact sometimes it is never actually on the market. This is where that good old fashioned ‘ear to the ground’, tap of the nose stuff really kicks in. His ‘expert’ knowledge of a very specific area means he genuinely knows who lives where, who owns what and can describe the inside of a property from the outside before having crossed the threshold. When someone has been actively buying in an area over a long period of time, they will have their own extensive figures and comparable values to hand based on actual sales,. More importantly, they want to be advised by someone with first-hand experience, who can offer a fistful of examples which will instil confidence in the client and be incredibly useful in buying or selling at the best price and the right time in the market.
In this business some ‘off the radar’ deals take longer than others. Depending on the circumstances of the deal time spans vary hugely. We completed an ‘off market’ deal last year within 10 days of the buyer seeing the property; but in another case, it took nine months to complete the deal because the seller needed time to find an alternative property. Patience and decisiveness wins the prize, one example being a successful purchase in 2011. We bought a house for a client last year. He was incredibly specific on the address in prime Belgravia, the type and style of house. Unfortunately the house was rented so we couldn’t get to see it. So we waited until the tenant vacated, the house would have been available on the open market and the interest would certainly have pushed up the price. We made the decision we wanted the house, so we bought it without seeing it.
SEEK OUT EXPERIENCE
It’s important to recognise the value other professionals can add and finding out about property which is not actually for sale is one of the trademarks of a very experienced buying agent and essential when scouting for the finest property investment in PCL. The bedrock is having a solid relationship with the Capital’s key agents built up over many years. Transacting several deals with serious high net worth individuals ensures one access to the best properties both on and off the market. I will often be the first person an agent calls with their ‘off the market’ properties.