The cook, the maid, the porter… The boardroom. ()
To say the lines are blurring these days is an understatement.
Anyone who has risen through the ranks of society now has multiple levels of complex representation around them.
Let’s just call it what it is – an entourage!
And September is the month they all return to London after time away in the sun.
We’ve had knocks on the door in the past few weeks from a cook and a porter (introducing themselves as ‘family office’!) and a chauffeur and a maid (‘buyers agents’!).
These guys are not shy and they are absolutely aware of their value in the buying chain. They are especially fond of a fresh coffee around the NVP walnut as we try and crack a deal!
But enough of their diva demands – we’re not complaining…
(We just can’t resist a dig at our good friends in the property search game – everyone is in it these days!)
Of course we would never question the validity of some of our professional search partners, or the family offices who work on our clients behalf.
Some buying agents are pros. They save their clients significant sums and are paid handsomely for it, with fees coming in well under their savings. The prudence of professional wealth managers in the family office preserves similar value for our clients.
And while the nanny, the chef and the bodyguard will always urge the buyer (their boss!) that the right time to buy is ‘IMMEDIATELY!’, at NVP we pride ourselves on advising clients that the time to buy is whenever a confluence of factors converge.
Often the best advice is wait, and an anxious middleman seldom risks his payout on such caution.
Yet these relatively new buying roles – whether pro or amateur – are in themselves a part of the entourage phenomenon.
Everyone is in business for themselves these days and everyone wants value.
Deliver that and you can have your day in the sun.
In London property the spirit of free enterprise is in full swing.
The people who think on their feet as well as keep an ear to the ground rise quickest.
We always enjoy making arrangements with such individuals and the opportunities they represent.
The NVP door is always open.
NVP round up:
- The continued fall of sterling could benefit the UK market, giving international buyers who are on the fence a reason to jump in (although there are signs of slight recovery this week we believe it may fall further over the mid-term).
- August was unusually busy here, which is upsetting for two guys with Mediterranean roots! We had 50 viewings on one £8m property alone, we are transacting regularly and the top end of the market is buoyant (we did three separate sales in one Knightsbridge building over the summer).
- Triple A stock is still going up. We know locally of two adjacent flats being bought to make one £140m flat (btw if you only have £4m we can get you 800sq ft in the same building! … share of freehold and illustrious neighbours included).
- Interest rates are still on the floor so borrowing is easy for super-prime clients. Our feeling is that hi-end customers these days are immune to socio-economic fluctuations and in the game more than ever before.
- A west end development is currently being sold off-plan at a record-breaking 7k per sq ft. It helps to link with a four seasons hotel and offer prospective residents access to room service.
Read our latest blogs here:
- Transformations in residential property: http://nicolasvanpatrick.com/
- NVP Unplugged: http://nicolasvanpatrick.com/
- Buyers ascendant: http://nicolasvanpatrick.com/
- New and cool in K&C: http://nicolasvanpatrick.com/
To celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit among the various entourages that orbit NVP on a daily basis we are offering a super-generous offer for one month only:
Our fee down from 2.5% to 1.75%, from 12th October – 12th November!
Considering how many of you are on the payroll these days we really are pushing the boat out here 🙂
There is never a bad time to buy property in London, especially with the long-term view in mind. Yet that doesn’t mean we can’t choose our moments.
Buyers are more scarce (and as such more important) than ever before in the acquisition chain, and often the best way in is through the entourage.
Call us or drop in for the best coffee in Knightsbridge anytime.
Your chef probably already has.
NVP: the ascendancy of the buyer ()
We are going to stick our necks out and say something radical: the most important person in London property is no longer the seller.
It’s the buyer.
Don’t get us wrong, we know who our clients are. Selling property on behalf of the seller is what pays our bills.
But it’s in our client’s best interest that we treat buyers like gold dust.
To say there are more sellers than buyers at the moment would be an understatement of epic proportions. And for the time being at least, it looks like this is the new normal.
This gives the buyer a certain status – one that they haven’t enjoyed in as long as we can remember.
The buyer is going up the value chain, fast.
In effect it means that NVP has two types of client.
We have to be nice to everyone these days!
Seriously though, our job is to bridge the gap.
What are the reasons for the ascendancy of buyers?
Supply outstripping demand
It used to be seller and agent on one side of the river, and buyers on the other, frantically waving to get our attention. These days, with fewer transactions happening, a rise in premium lettings, and such an abundance of product, that equation is different. We have to be humble enough to cross the river and see the buyer ourselves. We have to build bridges that last.
As we have mentioned in previous blogs, long-termism is on the rise, and people are holding on to their homes for ten years or more. With pipelines down 50% on two years ago, today’s buyer is tomorrow’s client, and people always remember their home-buying experience in crystal-clear detail. As such we treat buyers in the same way we do our clients, without losing sight of our contractual obligations. As a result, the days of gazumping (where the seller accepts a higher late offer, prior to exchanging contracts) in London’s prime residential property market, are increasingly rare. When there is little supply and lots of demand, gazumping is much more common, and today the opposite is true.
Indeed, with more bargaining power in the hands of the buyer, sellers are far more likely to be ‘gazundered’ – where the buyer lowers their offer, prior to exchange, on the basis of new information from surveyors’ evaluations. This means the buyer at the very least shares control with the seller. It’s a new development in residential property and as such estate agents like ourselves are operating in a greater advisory capacity than ever. The user experience has to be optimal all the way through, for both sides, if we want to thrive in this new landscape.
Our role is to bridge, and ensure both sides are supported in meeting in the middle. It’s all about win/win.
Political fear is rife
Added to these changing dynamics, buyers are nervous about the economic and political climate. For the first time since the late ‘70’s, they are super-conscious and alert to the tides and policy of UK government. Previously everyone took the UK’s stability for granted – it was a given that the UK economy would keep growing – the only question was by how much.
The property market within that economy, especially London’s prime residential sector, was seen as secure an investment as perhaps any in the world.
Then came Brexit, a catastrophic general election for the conservative party and the rise of Corbynism. These things have shaken that faith, highlighting cracks in the establishment that, at least in the minds of the buyer, could potentially widen.
As we have stated in previous blogs, at NVP we view this as unlikely, as when one looks at the electorate in composite form, they are voting centrally as opposed to radically. However, we won’t know either the nature of Brexit or the cost of any divorce for some time, and as such the buyer no longer views the UK as the paragon of safety, security and prosperity it was in the 80’s, 90’s and noughties. In fact, you might say for the UK’s entire stay in the EU. Even if you include recessions during that time, the UK never felt as if it is in unchartered waters, like it can do to buyers at the moment.
But it is difficult to see a hard Brexit going all the way with so much opposition and no majority in the current government or confidence in its leader. If the few do lead the many over the cliff, and a ‘no deal’ Brexit becomes a reality, then the UK economy could indeed take a generation to re-shape into whatever it is to become. In this eventuality opportunity would certainly open up again for investors and speculators across all industries, including property of course.
The cynical, as well as many young people in the UK, would say that is precisely the intention of hardline Brexiteers. Unprecedented levels of propaganda in the press and a seemingly kamikaze approach to the complex task of negotiating our way out of a 44-year political and economic union, would also seem to back up those conspiracy theories. It all makes buyers more cautious than ever before – for the time being – as they wait to see which route works best to re-enter the market.
Diminished speculative opportunities
Many buyers are waiting to see if this type of divide and conquer mentality could indeed prevail, and are doubtless ready to capitalize on the flood of opportunity a traditional power-grab would open up. Until clarity on either political eventuality is here buyers will remain scarce, and as such very important people to agent and seller. Allied to the bizarre political situation, development opportunities, after decades of plenty, are simply drying up.
London is fully re-gentrified. Only the prime residential sector where money is no object, and agents working in the outer zones of greater London, report the type of activity that made many developers and speculators rich as still happening.
The prime residential property market is thus faced with the everyday reality of servicing people who actually need to move home. In sobering times like these, at NVP we see our role as being more essential than ever, particularly at the top end of the market in which we operate. As speculators and developers go to ground, and online aggregator websites become the norm, buyers and sellers are more in need of bridging – of solid, objective advice – than ever before, as they navigate a traditional market in which London is still seen as a steady option, and buying a home is as delicate a process as ever before.
Good bridges are solid structures, well designed and able to link previously disconnected territories.
And crucially, maintain those links.
This is the business we are in.
NVP Unplugged! ()
We’ve talked previously about family offices being our principle customers.
And about our existential inquiries.
How are these things related?
One of the current principle trends in residential real estate is the introduction of technology platforms to consolidate both the product offering and the database of buyers. One of the outcomes of this is to decrease cost of sale by downgrading the user-experience, and increase the volume of transactions by cheapening, and speeding up the velocity, of the buying process.
The result is that buyers are more vulnerable than ever to amateur, subjective advice and speculative activity. They have no one to guide them, as faceless intermediary robots such as Zoopla, Rightmove and other start-ups in the sector continue to cut out the middleman.
We can almost here you applauding:
‘This is a good thing, no?!’
In many cases we agree with you. One of the benefits of technology is it flushes out entire industries in double quick time. Mediocre operators living on borrowed time move on or fade away.
But how do bricks-and-mortar businesses with real-world, long-term experience and valuable expertise navigate this new terrain?
At NVP are spending more time than ever with both buyer and seller. And our customer service practices are proudly non-digital.
You might call us NVP Unplugged.
Don’t’ worry – we have email and we use Whatsapp!
But time and again, our clients tell us they miss the old ways.
And not just in real estate. Our clients miss having a personal contact at the bank, with their insurance companies, at their stockbrokers, and with airlines and hotels.
This love of the old way, of a more analogue existence, is what sparked the phenomenon of the family office in the first place.
It was also an intrinsic motivation to why we set up our business.
At Nicolas Van Patrick (NVP) our intentions could not be more different from the industry trend.
Wealthy clients (the kind who purchase premium residential properties in Knightsbridge where NVP is based) began to develop private infrastructure to support their investments as soon as the personal touch began to die out. In many cases we know, they literally poached their investment managers from large well-known banks to come in-house, when it became clear those people would not be continuing as their one point of contact.
This migration of highly skilled investment professionals away from big accountancy firms and banks towards UHNW concentrations of wealth is the principle reason behind ‘the family office’ being our principle client focus. As we talk to our customers, they tell us about preoccupations on their time and thinking. Often this includes how to pass on on real-world values to the next generation. In addition to the above, in a world where excessive screen-time is an issue for all young people, our clients hold traditional values in the highest regard. Obviously for wealthy families this includes instilling the value of money, and how to invest it wisely. And one of their biggest fears is that this generation, the first truly digital natives, have surrendered their ability to relate to people in socially sophisticated ways, to read between the lines and to develop a trust for one’s intuition and higher intelligence.
Often these things were the principle drivers behind a family’s wealth creation in the first place.
In addition to the above, many of our clients are international investors from markets where real face-time and curiosity about your business partner’s family and personal interests are still deemed integral to the business process. At NVP we are passionate about understanding these global business cultures, and in our experience the likelihood of overseas investors warming to automated aggregator websites or similar, as they invest in London property, is remote.
This type of attitude extends all the way through NVP’s approach to the prime residential property market in which we earn our living. Typically in-house investors at the family office make decisions in a less emotional, more rational way than your traditional property investor. They plan ahead, they think organically, they read the market and they know when to stick or twist.
It’s essential our services at NVP compliment this type of thinking. As such, although obviously we believe in technology enough to spend time blogging these thoughts, we have not been seduced by our industry’s move into software and the promises of riches therein. We often experience long-term gestation processes, where we are in touch with both the seller and the buyer, sometimes for years, before a deal is done. We consider the management of this often-delicate process to be a key strength.
On this basis, our partners know that an investment they see as part of their legacy is being viewed with the same respect.
Despite the efforts of the technology, old-school real estate is alive and well. And in the digital age, ironically it is traditional values which ensure a memorable, stand-out customer experience.
In these ways we see ourselves, and our approach, as extensions of the family office.
Come and see us sometime for the best coffee in Knightsbridge. We are just opposite Harrods.
Transformations in residential property ()
Recently at Nicolas Van Patrick (NVP) we’ve been asking ourselves some existential questions.
25 years working in London’s prime residential property market will do that to you!
We know what you’re thinking: ‘Here’s where they tell me they’ve discovered their essence and how different they are to all the other estate agents.’
Actually we are not going to do that – far from it. There are too many similarities!
But shifts in our industry are happening fast and we are conscious of the need to embrace change rather than resist it. So we are spending time getting clear on what these transitions are, and making a commitment to blog about our views.
Stand by, for the real NVP is now standing up!
But before we start sharing our existential findings with you, let’s zoom out and look at the macro trends.
Specifically we want to tailor our views to be of use to our core customer base – family offices making prime residential investments.
Largely speaking, family offices are professional teams who are paid, in principle, for capital preservation. This means they are value investors who think long-term, and make buying decisions in a less emotional, more rational way than your everyday property investor.
You might say this fits well in light of the below trends, in which long-term thinking is perhaps the most prominent thread. Being based in Knightsbridge, our views are also informed by our locality, which has the advantage of significant international investment. While the rest of the UK may be slow, in particular the central London market has a stronger heartbeat. It certainly feels that way to us, having had one of our busiest months in June since we launched four years ago.
There are three main transformations taking place in residential property that you should be aware of:
- The shift to long-termism
The first is the rise of long-termism. Over the years, most especially in the eighties and noughties, UK residential property became a playground for short-term gains. The flip-it-and-get-rich ‘developer mentality’ is now officially a thing of the past, with most of the sales we see being long-term investments, and buy-to-let portfolios largely on hold, as economic uncertainty continues. This newfound long-termism is not only to be found in sales, however. Many new-builds are overpriced, and as such are turning into rental opportunities (some London riverside developments have been block-bought in 20-unit chunks for this purpose). As the rental market is flooded with quality product, tenants are in a more powerful position than ever. They can afford better homes, demand longer leases and expect more protection on pricing when it is time to renew. As such once again it is not uncommon to see people renting property long-term. The mindset phrase ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’ is truly being shaken to its foundations, as landlords are forced to hand more power to their clients, in order to compete. You no longer have to own your home, to have the same sense of stability.
- The shift to volume over expertise
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Jedi estate agents set out to serve their clients, and their buyers, with the type of expertise and advice that made long-term relationships, trusting handshakes and legacy planning a part and parcel of buying and selling homes… ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ we can hear you exclaiming loudly! As mentioned above, industry-wide volume in sales is down, rentals are up, and estate agents across the board have responded by creating technology platforms and websites which increase the number and speed of transactions, while simultaneously eradicating customer-care and client face-time altogether. This means that the heritage skills of estate agency are being lost, a victim to the transactional nature of life in the 21st century. At NVP we stand for precisely the opposite, largely due to our focus on the top of the market. We know that the homes our clients buy are seen as legacy investments, and as such expertise, client-time and customer services are present in the NVP value chain above all else. They have to be, not just to give buyers and sellers a reason to steer clear of competitive technologies, but also to the protect the unique nature of investments at the top-end of the market, which is NVP’s specialty. We aim to consult and partner, as well as transact, and if the outcome of our thinking is to hold, we are happy advising our clients to do so.
- The shift to central politics
Although recent years has seen waves of nationalism in both the UK and US, seemingly stemming the rise of central politics which began in the mid-late nineties, what is actually happening is record numbers of young voters are coming to the polls for the first time. In the UK at least, it is very difficult to foresee another far-right result like Brexit ever happening again. In the recent general election, if we made one composite voter from the whole country, that individual voted centrally. In fact none of the parties offered such a proposition, and in simple terms the result was a hung parliament – the electorate took the middle road, collectively. We are now seeing the emergence of what is likely to be a highly ineffectual coalition, and the prospect of a new prime minister by Christmas is a real probability. Whoever that is, they will be under immense pressure to give the electorate the central focus it has asked for, as the next general election is likely to be a game-changing vote in which youth has its say like never before, as they seek to wrestle their future from the hands of the baby boomers. In terms of property, this means more of point one: there will be no return to get-rich-quick deals that might happen under a hard-right conservative leadership, and instead investments will be made for the long-term, with more and more people renting.
So, for all but the long-term investor it is a time to wait rather than act. As such at NVP we are in familiar territory and the market is alive and steady – if not exactly kicking – for investors of our kind. The family office is careful, not afraid, and in tune with the longevity of perspective that is required to perform well in these times.
NVP is here to support them in making decisions that complement their responsibilities.
And about those existential questions? More from us soon!