After 12 years in the corporate world, Kerime Mahmoud recently set up her own buying agency focusing on Prime London; continuing our special series on prime resi entrepreneurs, she discusses finding her niche in the market, the importance of integrity, and the joys of social media…
What have been the main challenges you’ve faced running a new business in a time of unprecedented economic and political uncertainty?
To be honest, there are so many challenges a new business can face at any time but yes starting in a time with such uncertainty was definitely not easy. I tried not to focus on the current climate so much and remind myself daily of why I started Art of Buying in the first place.
I made the decision to leave corporate life behind me because I had lots of new ideas and could see how things needed to change and adapt especially with social media presence increasing; the ways that I wanted to work no longer fitted the corporate model. It’s about the consumer and in my case the buyer, if I can pass on my knowledge, experience and contacts to help a buyer make more informed decisions with someone on their side especially if they are not familiar with London, everyone wins because it keeps the market moving.
Challenges have been blocking out a lot of the noise of the media and negativity. The key has been surrounding myself with the right people that understand what I’m doing and why.
Do you think the government is doing enough to help small businesses at the current time?
I feel that the government have done quite a lot to help small businesses and offer help pretty much straight away during Covid although I didn’t benefit because of being a director of a Limited Company. I do think offering mortgage holidays and bounce back loans as well as commercial busines grants has helped massively, without that things would have been a lot worse.
Does your experience of the current market correspond with what you’ve been hearing/reading in the media?
I hear so many conflicting stories about the market daily I also get asked my opinion. There are too many opinions about the short term view of the market and not the longer term view. The facts are prices in London especially central are down on average around 20% since the peak in 2014, there are peaks and troughs in any market and scarcity always attracts demand. People need homes to live in and whilst some are choosing to move further out of London for more space and gardens larger than available in London my view is they were going to do that anyway, Covid just pushed them to do it sooner. I try to remain positive and just see the market for what it is right now. There are opportunities if you are smart in your search and focus on the right opportunities, best in class homes will always be in demand at any price level – the key is knowing the difference when you see it.
Have you adapted or changed your business model since launching? If so, how?
I have learnt a lot since going it alone at the end of 2018 after 12 years in corporate. I’ve made a few changes along the way but more about finding my niche within the market and focusing on that instead of trying to talk to everybody and anybody. I feel that the people that need my services the most are either not based in London or the UK and are not familiar with everything or they are based in London but don’t have the time or experience to focus on a property search and need guidance because they have had a bad experience in the past.
Has launching a business been what you expected it to be, and is there anything you would do differently with the benefit of hindsight?
I probably should have planned more but I didn’t because learning and growing the business organically without too much planning has helped me learn every element of my business and take it where I want to go naturally remaining true to myself. I’ve built everything myself including my website and social media and I’m so grateful to friends and good people I have along the way who have helped and taught me so much.
What’s the most valuable piece of business advice that you have been given?
There are so many pieces of valuable advice but I guess it’s stay your authentic self and stay true to your word, integrity is everything. My brother always tells me to be the eternal student too.
Which other businesses or entrepreneurs do you most admire?
I get a lot of my inspiration from the media and creative industry and less so property, which I know may sound a little strange; it works because my experience is London real estate but I add my creative twist which keeps clients and future clients fully engaged as its less robotic and for me more authentic. I do admire Jay Shetty who has built an amazing business in the media industry and his story of how he started is pretty inspirational and is all about mindful thinking and being your authentic self.
What other headwinds are you facing, as a new businesses in the prime residential property sector?
There is just a lot of things happening at the moment that will naturally impact the London property market; Brexit, currency fluctuations and Covid all have an impact. Travel restrictions limiting overseas buyers coming to London or feeling comfortable to has had an impact but that’s what I am here for. At a time when there is uncertainty the savvy buyers are ready to transact and make the most of that uncertainty, some with limited price ranges might not have another opportunity to pick something up at good value. So video tours and having clients trust in me to search on their behalf and use my experience to guide them has been great, I’m lucky to have so many lovely clients.
What’s next for you and your business?
That would be telling but there is definitely growth planned for the future. I want to continue to build the Art of Buying brand but keeping the personal service at the forefront. More collaborations as the London property market is changing and it’s important to stay connected because with more and more agents leaving corporate and doing their own thing, the more I have to ensure that my network is up to date so I and deliver to my clients. There will definitely be more social media stuff coming so you will have to stay tuned…