Land and New Homes a Huge Part of London Agent’s Market

Posted 23 May 2018 by Keith Osborne

An exclusive interview this week with Jeff Doble, founder of Dexters, a London estate agent with a brand new Land & New Homes division...

We speak exclusively to Jeff Doble of London estate agents Dexters, who talks to us about the company’s recently launched lan and new homes division, the property market in the capital and some of the new build developments he is currently marketing.

Please tell us a little about yourself and Dexters.

Dexters is London’s leading independent estate agency, with 35 offices in central London and over 70 across the capital. It all started in Twickenham in 1993 with a vision to change the common perception of estate agents, and Dexters has expanded rapidly since then. We have no outside investors, having grown organically and through acquisitions, and we are continuing to grow year by year. We've grown largely without funding, but through earning profits and reinvesting. We are relentless in reinvesting profits into growing the business. This year we are going to turn over £85m and now our three-year plan is to turnover £150m. 2018 has been busy; we are organising up to 45,000 viewing appointments every month across London and currently have over 55,000 registered buyers and tenants.

I'm a chartered surveyor. I went to Reading University and did an estate management degree, so I have a background in property. I worked for a smallish firm in the 1980s, which was sold to a big insurance company that genuinely thought big is beautiful. The lessons I learnt were how not to do it. So then in my early thirties, I thought I could do this better and started up with that single shop in Twickenham.

Which parts of London do you cover and are there any that are particularly in-demand with house-hunters right now?

We have London covered – as well as covering central London, we go as far out west as Sunbury, east as Canary Wharf, south as Surbiton and Wimbledon and a recent expansion into north London means we now cover market properties in the Hampstead area and beyond. London is the most important and exciting city on the planet, where everyone wants to spend time and feels comfortable owning property. There is a huge international draw and London is unique in that the political, economic, arts, fashion and education centres of the UK are all within walking distance of one another, so demand for property here ultimately weathers economic and political factors.

The West End, particularly Covent Garden and Fitzrovia, will be an area to watch over the next few years. Developers and large landowners like Shaftesbury and CapCo are transforming some districts, combining areas of West End entertainment with exclusive residential enclaves.

Fitzrovia and Soho in particular are going through a renaissance with exciting new developments. Our office in Fitzrovia is sandwiched between Fitzroy Place, Rathbone Square and Centre Point, all of which have contributed to redefining how people live and work in the heart of London. The area is changing dramatically and with Facebook opening its new headquarters later on this year, there is huge demand from around the world, particularly from investors and tenants.

Is the creation of the firm's land and new homes division a sign of how popular new build is?

We’ve always sold lots of new homes, but the implementation of our four specialist teams across the capital have been in response to developers calling for help and advice from specialists.

The issue of housebuilding in London is not a new one. As the population continues to grow, it is widely agreed that we need to build more homes in the capital. With more supply comes better affordability, but numerous hurdles in the development and planning systems make this a challenge. Helping to address this, Dexters have land and new homes specialists based in four locations, advising landowners, housebuilders, developers and investors who are working on new schemes.

Dexters has recently expanded its New Homes department into buzzing East London, led by Andrew Bridges, formerly of Stirling Ackroyd New Homes. Working for developers all over the capital, Dexters now has four New Homes centres covering all areas of London. New homes are a critical ingredient for this city’s future. To meet increasing demand from both buyers and prospective tenants, supply of new properties entering the market in all areas of London is fundamental. Dexters New Homes teams are selling hundreds of new properties in over 60 sites across the capital.

According to our recent analysis of Land Registry Data, 44% of all new homes bought in London in 2017 was in north-east and east of London. Purchase numbers were particularly strong in Shoreditch, Clerkenwell and Hackney, a trend that has continued into this year. The East London market is very buoyant, and Dexters is thrilled to have expanded into such an exciting area. We expect to sell over 500 new homes across the capital this year.

What's on your books at the moment that impresses you the most?

As we cover all of London, we sell everything from Grade I listed Westminster townhouses to swanky new builds in warehouse conversions in the up-and-coming packets of the City. It’s hard to say which kind of properties impress me most, but our recent expansion into Hampstead and Highgate means we are now working with clients on the so-called ‘Billionaire’s Row’, The Bishops Avenue, which is exciting.

We have some fascinating projects that we’re working on, though many of these are ‘off-market’. We deal with an amazing selection of apartments and houses ranging from a few million pounds to £30m or more. We are working on over 100 new homes sites across the capital.

Do buyers come to you knowing they want new build and nothing else?

Absolutely. We deal with large numbers of new homes buyers. Many overseas investors will buy new build properties off-plan, many will never see their investment in person. For these investor landlords, we have Investor Search and Corporate and International Relocation teams specifically dealing with both a London and a global audience.

We handle more London sales and lettings than anyone else and the majority of buyers looking in London are in contact with us.

We let and manage property for over 20,000 landlords in London, from individual properties to large estates. We are used to taking full responsibility for asset management and delivering consistently high returns.

Are you finding online/hybrid agents taking away business from more traditional estate agents?

We are, of course, the ultimate ‘online agent’ in London – our website gets over 200,000 visits every month and we are dealing with more London property than anyone else. We work hard for our clients, combining intimate local knowledge with unmatched marketing strength.

The tech guys who tell you that estate agents are just finished and that it's all going to be online miss the point really. There's a lot more to it than that. I think people are very excited about the internet and about tech. Yes, there are some clever ways of communicating with customers, but actually somebody still has to ‘drive the cars’ on the ground and has got to win the hard yards. Tech just helps them do that really. People buying or renting want to know that they are dealing with someone knowledgeable and reliable.

Just three out of every 20 viewings Dexters arranges come from advertisements in print or via online portals – we generate the remainder from our own database. Very rarely do people buy or rent what they first enquire about. The internet has not replaced salesmanship or reduced the importance of human contact in property transactions. The market will pale and the guys that never did a very good job anyway will get squeezed out. The best will survive, like any industry.

What are your predictions for the London new homes market for the next 12 months?

The type of buyer has changed a little over the past few years, but demand is still very strong and we have thousands of enquiries coming in every week.

There remains a dire shortage of property in London, with a fast-growing population, which isn’t going to change any time soon. This coming year we expect to excel; we don’t sit back and wait for buyers to show up – our reach, drive and energy combine to get great results.

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