We continue our ongoing weekly series of interviews with senior figures in the UK new homes industry by talking with Rebecca Allsopp, who has recently joined luxury developer Consero London as head of sales.
Congratulations on your new role, Rebecca - can you tell us a little about yourself and Consero?
I graduated from university with a degree in Russian language at a time when the Russian-speaking world was buying London like it was going out of fashion. This made going into the property industry an obvious career choice for me and I’ve been in love with London and Surrey property ever since. The move to Consero in December was also an obvious one for me – having gained valuable experience managing development sales at larger corporate agencies (JLL, Knight Frank and CBRE), I jumped at the opportunity to work ‘client side’ for a luxurious housebuilder with a great client base in Russia and CIS, a sterling reputation and an appetite to expand.
Consero London is a multi-award winning luxury developer undertaking both direct development for prestige market sales and design and build projects for private clients. With an enviable reputation for consistently achieving premium value, the company has the stature and skill set to undertake the complete spectrum of luxury living spaces including stately homes, city mansions and townhouses as well as bespoke multi-unit projects.
Prime Central London has been hit by a number of financial changes in the last couple of years, for example to stamp duty - are things as tough in that market as the newspapers suggest?
There has been a shift in the prime central London property market. Having said that, luxury property is a little bit like fine art – there are those that buy and sell it for its investment potential, however there are also those who will value it for its aesthetic value and appreciate it on another level.
Our buyers are very-high-net-worth individuals who don’t treat their properties like stocks and shares to be traded for return – they will enjoy these residences with their families, host and entertain, and their children will inherit these homes in years to come. This will also mean that these properties will not be transacted on a regular basis – which will mean the demand for new luxury property will consistently surpass supply.
Of course our clients are also intelligent buyers owning luxury residences around the world, and as such will typically have unique requirements which high-end developers need to be prepared to accommodate for.
What are you favourite current Consero developments?
My current favourite in our portfolio has to be Hurstbourne in Wentworth. Each of Consero’s residences has its own identity and character – never from the same mould – and Hurstbourne to me represents the new, classical English residence. Despite its scale and grandeur (at around 23,000 sq ft, in three acres) it has something of the Victorian doll’s house about it, which, coupled with its stunning position beside the Wentworth golf course fairway, makes it an unique addition to our portfolio and to the prestigious estate. It is due for completion in summer this year, price on application.
Which areas of London are you finding are the strongest with buyers of luxury new homes?
2016 has seen a positive start for sales in the Home Counties, particularly from wealthy English, Chinese and Middle Eastern purchasers. In prime London, Mayfair has performed very well with values reported to have risen to £6,000 per sq ft. Kensington and Chelsea and Bayswater has also achieved good sales results, which we feel is due to the improved stock and village feel that these areas offer. Greater London areas undergoing regeneration such as Camberwell, Stratford, Shoreditch, and areas along the Crossrail line, have also been performing well with a lot of new build stock coming onto the market.
Is the approach to building and specifying luxury new homes very different from the average property?
Yes it is a very different approach. At Consero London we are selling homes which are valued at £10m to £60m, so our buyer type is very savvy, well informed and used to exceptional service and product. This is why we build completely unique, ultra-luxury homes which are like no other. We often visit our high-net-worth clients, travelling across the world at times to meet them and discuss their needs and requirements. We provide a one-to-one service and that is what sets us apart from every other developer.
What differentiates Consero in a competitive luxury property market?
Our highly skilled teams, expert craftsmanship, bespoke designs and one-to-one service, is unrivalled. We also treat each project differently – no two residences will be alike – and this is important at the high end of the market, where each purchaser expects, and pays for, a tailored residence which will not be replicated.
Is a well-fitted show home important at the top-end of the market, or are wealthy buyers quite used to off-plan purchases?
We offer a ‘design and build’, private commission service, alongside creating homes to be brought to market, as some of our clients prefer to be involved as soon as we have the land in order to create and bespoke their dream home to their exact needs. We also have clients who cannot envisage a home on paper and they prefer to see a fully dressed property which they can move straight into.
We are lucky to have a fantastic interior design team who are on hand to cater to our clients’ needs. So if they want a ballroom which turns into a swimming pool, they can have it, or if they want a basement car lift which houses 15 super cars, they can have that too!
Is your sector likely to suffer if Britain leaves the EU?
According to Savills, EU citizens make up around 15% of the prime central London market. This is no insignificant figure, however when you consider how much of our market comes from nations outside of the EU, it demonstrates that membership does not mean transactions at the high end will dwindle if we were to leave, in my opinion.
The London market has proved pretty resilient over the past few decades and we are still a haven for many countries around the world – I don’t believe this would change if we were to exit the EU. As long as there are very rich people anywhere in the world, luxury residences will be in demand and London will remain a desirable location to purchase.
There are very few locations in the world which are politically stable safe havens, giving London and enduring appeal. UK legislation makes the market safer for buyers, vendors, agents and developers alike. For the luxury homes market, we are expecting that there will not be the same volume of sales that have been taking place in the last five years but the 3% of the world who can afford a modern stately mansion, will still choose to buy. The difference will be that they will have more choice and therefore the product quality has to be unbeatable.
Are there features of your current homes that you think may find trickling down to more affordable properties?
Our homes are aspirational, with luxurious bespoke finishes and stunning, generous layouts, which certainly provides a good deal of ideas for individuals undertaking refurbishments and also for other developers. There has been an increased focus on high-quality living space in residential property in town which developers must take into account to be competitive.
What's in the development pipeline for Consero?
We are extremely excited to launch Dawn Hill in Wentworth next month – a stunning residence approaching 30,000 sq ft – a project which in my opinion will epitomise Consero’s capability and style.
We are also hoping to take on a good number of prime central London ventures this year which will be coming to the market off-plan in due course – watch this space!