Here at NVP, as we ease our way into February, we are feeling grateful. Despite the flat market, we are looking back on our best year yet, and we wanted to share a few insights with you that are making the difference. Everyone in property right now is being tested by market conditions and political uncertainty. But our attitude is: why not work together and share ideas openly, as we find our way through this unfamiliar territory? Here are a few of our thoughts on the matter, as told to a colleague.
You’ve just had your best year yet. What’s behind that?
Patrick: We do our best to ban all talk of market conditions, and where possible, politics too. Both these things are toxic subjects that can suck the life force out of a team, if things are unstable in either context. Far more important than either of these things are the conversations we are involved in, right here and now. The minute the ‘cultural narrative’ supersedes the importance of these interactions, and starts to colour them in some way – we’ve know we’ve lost our way.
Nic: In the NVP partnership, Patrick is better than me at shutting these things out. He drives the sales culture in the business, while I focus on managing the affairs of the company as we grow. I guess that means I am more aware of what is happening economically or in our sector, however I agree with Patrick that it’s very important not to let talk of these things distract us from the main thing. So together we try and focus on selling and renting properties in our local area – and nothing else, within reason!
That said, what are your thoughts on the current climate in both areas?
Nic: The government’s main job is to maintain and drive positive economic conditions. In turn the whole country then benefits in a myriad of ways. But currently the government is mired in a four-year red herring, aka Brexit, and as such there is no wind in our sails – the economy is in stasis. The only constructive response is to shut this part of the story down, and to stop wasting energy talking about difficult market conditions, and hope the government is nearing a solution with Brexit.
Patrick: Time invested in these activities means time spent away from the frontline, which is where all the low hanging fruit is… and in times like these, those fruits offer essential nutrition. Awareness and personal responsibility, rather than playing the blame game, mean you don’t miss out. But it’s not just the easy pickings – there are bigger deals to be had. The market is quiet but it’s not dead, and especially not in super-prime deals – large properties with £20m+ price tags still represent good value as so many of them have seen big discounts since the top of the market. Added to which if you’re buying in a foreign currency just now then sterling is weak – so this counts as an additional discount. Just those two factors combined could see real gains for some buyers over the coming years, despite the adverse conditions. You have to know what to look for.
You’ve grown your business every year since you launched, and in some of the most difficult times imaginable – how have you done this?
Patrick: I believe we have benefitted enormously from being clear on two things – who our customers are and who we are as a business and brand. One of the reasons we have done well this year is our situation is in super-prime London, and we have tailored our efforts towards those customers with greater clarity. I wouldn’t want to be in any other area of the market just now.
What are the key factors in servicing a super-prime audience?
Nic: Local knowledge is key. It’s really obvious to anyone looking at a house if the agent accompanying them has real local knowledge or not. Patrick and I have grown up servicing this area, and Johnny our head of sales literally knows the floor plan of 80% of local properties – he has sold a property in so many buildings in this area – and sometimes every property in one building. You cannot buy that type of experience, and it takes twenty years to learn it – or more. People will always pay a premium to get that level of intelligence.
Patrick: I think people in the super-prime market also respect traditional values, where handshakes and eye contact, and good conversations, are important. We’ve tried to ensure these things are present throughout our company culture, in all departments of the business. Added to which we now have our dream premises, which are consistent with our brand, in which we can host people and give them a space to relax in, after the exertions of central London. People walk in, exhale and say ‘wow’. None of this is rocket science but what we are experiencing is that many things that have always worked, still do.
What else has supported your upward trajectory in difficult times?
Nic: We tripled the size of our rental business in the last two years, and plan to keep scaling up. Lettings and management can be very good insurance against the volatility of deal making, and we’ve been lucky to build on our own original team, as well as acquiring a new book to add to the mix, not to mention consolidating local management and lettings knowledge in our area.
Patrick: Life as a tenant has improved and as we’ve blogged previously, longer-term rentals are now seen as a viable alternative to buying. As such we are looking for further acquisitions of this kind and plan to keep expanding. While the market is quiet, it’s a good time to research and develop new opportunities to grow our business. We’ll be ready when things start improving. I doubt we’ll see a return to the bull markets of the past, with all the new diligence and regulation, but things can’t continue as they are and it’s our job to prepare well for the good times to come.