The London Property Week Diaries: The long way round

A week turns into months and months and months for Alan Page, as plans to launch London Property Week dawdle – but eventually head in the right direction.

Across from me at Brasserie Zedel table was a man I’d known for years. What I didn’t know was how he’d react to my idea.

He’s a very successful man in the property world. An ex-CEO of one of the grandest family-owned property estates, a director of a major developer and an adviser to others.

I knew he wouldn’t be a soft touch, that he wouldn’t be anything but rigorous and honest in his assessment. He isn’t the type to be approving out of politeness.

The niceties of meeting up swiftly over, we got to the point of our all too rare lunch. I presented the idea for London Property Week. And waited for the response.

It wasn’t good. He was sceptical, questioning and seemingly very unconvinced.

As we chewed our cheap steaks an embarrassing silence descended on the table and it was clear we both wondered where the conversation would go next.

Just as I was about to jump in with the usual small talk about family and friends, however, he suddenly started to talk to me about his experiences with his own children and their first property purchases.

How they’d seemed naive and ill-informed in the world of mortgages.

How he’d struggled to work out how best to help them.

How he’d tried to ensure that any financial help he gave was properly structured to protect all parties.

How amazed he was that even the bright, successful children of a senior property executive could find the whole business of finding and buying a property daunting and confusing.

By the time our plates were cleared and coffee ordered, the atmosphere had turned on its head.

And London Property Week had become, in both our minds, not just a genuinely good idea but an essential tool in helping the next generation get on the homeowner ladder.

Emboldened at this outcome, by the time I’d walked to Piccadilly the next phase was in motion. Setting up meetings with some of London’s biggest and best residential developers.

Helping me in this was a towering figure in the industry (I love that phrase, don’t you). He’s a well known ex-estate agent from Chelsea turned proptech visionary (those in the industry might be able to work out his name, but I couldn’t possibly say).

Between us we arranged meetings with senior directors at Mount Anvil, Native Land and, biggest of all, Berkeley.

Although I felt confident the idea was good, I didn’t expect these clever, busy people to fall over with enthusiasm when a couple of characters turned up touting some outlandish proposal that would cost them money.

True to form, they didn’t.

Almost universally, their first reaction was “isn’t there a London Property Week already?”.

There’s a fashion week, a craft week, an art week, a design week and lots of others, we explained, but no new build (or old build, for that matter) residential property week

No. There’s a fashion week, a craft week, an art week, a design week and lots of others, we explained, but no new build (or old build, for that matter) residential property week.

Gradually, as we went into detail about our vision and the real need for LPW, the value of it became clearer to our audiences. And with varying degrees of enthusiasm, they all came to see it as a positive and potentially very valuable idea.

Even more helpful, perhaps, were their ideas.

None wanted just another boring old exhibition. They’d stumped up for these in places like Dubai and China and weren’t entirely convinced they offered good value.

What they wanted was something new that would appeal to a younger audience through the use of technology, that would translate into real viewings and that would burnish their not always glowing public reputation.

By now we knew that potential buyers want it. Developers can see the opportunity. Mortgage and legal firms understand the need for it. Even the Evening Standard told us it is perhaps a timely idea.

All people wanted to know was when and where the first LPW would take place.

But it’s at this point that things started to come to a grinding halt.

To make it happen we needed, I thought, a partnership with an exhibition specialist.

Although I have been heavily involved in large scale events such as London Fashion Week and have helped create and market various other trade and consumer fairs, I have no experience operationally. It needs a range of specialist skills and experience to set up something like LPW.

So I approached various large independent organisers. Several of them (names available) didn’t even deign to respond. With one I had a personal connection to the owner, and could at least get to talk the idea through in some detail over several weeks.

Nothing ultimately came of these meetings, other than the realisation that the exhibitions industry is perhaps a little out of touch with the modern world.

So there we were. A good idea. Great connections into the property world. A proposition that is undoubtedly appealing and needed. And even some investment funds available to kick start things.

Months went by. Summer passed. Nothing.

At one point, I thought seriously about starting a small series of seminars aimed at educating/informing young people on how to buy their first property… just as a way to keep some momentum going.

I even hired a young consultant recommended by a private equity house to prepare a plan for these events. But the hopelessly inadequate work she produced set me (and my finances) back to such an extent I put everything on hold.

Then, a few weeks ago, I had coffee with an old friend, and told him in passing about LPW and how difficult I had found it to make anything happen.

“I know just the person you need”, he said, “if he has the time, he can make anything happen.”

Fortunately he does have the time, as well as enormous enthusiasm for the idea.

So, we’re off again. Thinking, planning, reshaping and working out how to get this off the Powerpoint page and into reality.

It looks like we’re better putting the event on without one of the old-school exhibition companies involved. But need to raise about £1m to do so.

Perhaps we can get a mortgage.

londonpropertyweek.com