Agent says post-election revival is totally unprecedented in property market

A veteran estate agent says that the election result led to a “mood swing” the like of which he has never seen in nearly 40 years in the industry.

Robin Paterson, chairman of Sotheby’s International Realty in the UK, said: “I have never known anything like it.

“It was such a dramatic upswing, so significant, and it happened so quickly.

“All our offices were immediately busy on the Friday morning with inquiries from sellers and buyers, both in this country and overseas.

“In London alone we undertook 40 valuations in that first week after the election.”

Last August Paterson and former Hamptons colleague Chris Palmer bought the UK licence to operate Sotheby’s International Realty from Countrywide.

The move brought Paterson out of a ten-year retirement away from the industry in which he had previously been very active.

He bought Barnard Marcus in 1987, merged it with the residential business of Cluttons, and led the consortium that acquired Hamptons in 1996. He sold Hamptons to a Hong Kong firm eight years later for £45m. Hamptons is now a flagship brand within Countrywide.

On acquiring Sotheby’s International Realty last year, the business had two offices – in Mayfair, London, and Cobham, Surrey. There is now a second London office, in Knightsbridge, and Paterson said that by the autumn there will be two more London offices.

Outside London, an office will also open in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

In other growth, the firm has opened international desks, covering the Indian, Dubai and French markets.

Paterson said that had the election result been different, it could have meant a different business plan. As it is, the rate of growth is likely to be pronounced: the company eventually plans some 15 branches in London, followed by more branches outside the capital.

Paterson says he has no regrets about coming out of retirement and sees little difference in the industry.

He said: “In terms of the relationship with vendor and buyers, the basics are unchanged. Technology has advanced, of course, so the way you do things is different, but I believe the opportunity is there to offer clients a full service.”

The business has not joined OnTheMarket: “However, we are looking at our options at the moment,” Paterson revealed.

One change over the last year is the loss of its CEO, Sam Mitchell, who left after just eight months, apparently by mutual agreement.  Mitchell, whose CV includes stints at Foxtons and Your Move where he was regional managing director, is now head of lettings at Rightmove.

A key hire, however, is Michelle van Vuuren as managing director of residential development and investment.

Her background is in development, and her brief is to build up the number of new schemes for the business.

“We are currently working on about 20 new London schemes,” she said. She estimates that about 70% of these new-build apartments will be sold to overseas investors. She admits that such sales are controversial but points out: “London property is one of our biggest UK exports.”

She also hit out at the Government’s policy of extending right to buy to social housing tenants.

She said: “Essentially, you are selling off prime real estate in London at very low prices. That will lead to constrained supply, more demand and prices will rise.”

* The election phenomenon is backed up by telephone answering service Moneypenny, which says that calls requesting valuations bounced up 28% in parts of London between May 8 and May 20. Nationwide, there was a 5% jump in calls.

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3 Comments

  1. NewsBoy

    For once the hype is quite correct. When we look back in a few weeks/months time we are all very likely to agree this was the moment the market took off again. Let’s just hope we don’t have a boom and bust.

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  2. smile please

    We have not seen a change, fantastic market for sellers before and fantastic after, lack of property and high demand are pushing prices up. Been like this since February.

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  3. Patricia

    ‘calls requesting valuations bounced up 28% in parts of London’.  More than a coincidence I think that CGT changes for non resident UK property owners which came into effect in April this year required many to get their properties valued!  Still a conveniently timed bit of spin for some agents to exploit.

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