Looking at the current market there are two key challenges – the first is high Stamp Duty and the second is Brexit.
This is important to make clear because I believe that these movements have caused the mentality of the buyer to shift. Whereas in the past the market was forgiving, in today’s market if a property is not truly exceptional – it will not sell and if it does, certainly not for a good price.
The key to succeeding in such conditions is to build a home that creates an emotional desire for a buyer to purchase. The reality is, nobody looking in London’s luxury residential market needs to buy; they already have a roof over their head and therefore without an emotional desire for a home the buyer simply won’t make an offer. I think of it like this; a short while ago, having taken a trip to Venice I found myself wandering the streets of Murano. Curious about both the manufacturing process as well as the finished product I ventured into many beautiful showrooms, each with their own incredibly intricate hand-blown glassware – I left the Island empty handed however.
In spite of the astounding craftsmanship, I simply didn’t feel an emotional desire to purchase anything that day. I realised then that property was much like the glass, if a buyer doesn’t love the finished product; there is no negotiation or haggling on the price, they simply move on to the next.
Creating the most compelling product didn’t necessarily come immediately to me however. I remember one of my earlier projects; a two-bedroom flat in Wandsworth Bridge Road. In a bid to get the space just right I moved the kitchen three times, one doesn’t need a background in the industry to recognize that there are more efficient ways to develop a property. However, thankfully it paid off and I was able to achieve record prices relative to the market when it sold. This was one of the first indications that cutting corners would not be conducive to my success as a developer.
Unfortunately, on this occasion it wasn’t a lesson that came cheap! Aside from my disconcertingly mobile kitchen I also wound up paying for the time of a Feng Shui specialist – she was very pleased and I could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I wouldn’t need to move it a fourth.
Suffice to say my lesson was learned; pursue excellence in your field but be ruthlessly efficient with how you achieve it.
Fast forward 15 years and I found myself standing in the basement of a 19-century mews house built in 1878, staring up to a 10m water feature and crowned by a stunning mechanical skylight in the centre of Belgravia. The days of 1 bed flats suddenly seemed like a lifetime ago, but I remember thinking that although I might’ve swapped Wandsworth for the Royal Borough, the essence of going the extra mile was my driver and indeed one of my greatest assets throughout.
From a practical point of view, I’m decidedly of the belief that people know if they love a house even before walking through the front door. Buyers unconsciously make judgments and these first impressions are often overlooked by developers. While the conscious mind represents only 10% of your brain capacity, the subconscious accounts for around 50-60% (Journal Psyche, 2015).
Details such as neighbouring houses, local streets signs, even pavements are all key contributors to what should be a welcoming and compelling property. I once, at my own cost, had an Off-Licence exterior repainted because the flat I was renovating was located above the shop. In fact, I recently swapped my Italian brogues for some trainers and got to work pressure washing street signs and pavements outside a project on Ladbroke Grove in Notting Hill.