PrimeResi catches up with the ‘Mayfair Guru’ in the wake of his firm’s tie-up with Jeff Doble’s Dexters, to discuss how the partnership came about, and what the future holds for one PCL’s most recognisable luxury agency brands…
You’ve been a stalwart of Mayfair’s property scene for nearly four decades; how has the neighbourhood – and buyer demographic – changed during the course of your career?
The biggest change has been the return of residential to Mayfair – the 1980s Mayfair it was very commercial but from 1990 I have sold over 100 period buildings back to residential from office use since World War II.
I have turned Boardrooms back to Ballrooms and replaced briefcases with suitcases. Since the Millennium we are in the second phase of bringing residential life back to Mayfair with the large-scale development of former offices and diplomatic buildings as 7 star residential accommodation with world class facilities.
Mayfair has regained its title as the most desirable place in London and internationally for people to live and work, following extensive and thoughtful investment in the area over the past few decades.
Whereas a few years ago the buyer demographic may have been slightly older, we are increasingly seeing Millennial and Generation Z customers who are seeking the charming, village lifestyle that Mayfair has to offer.
The buyers today want all the experiences that Mayfair has to offer in culture, leisure, shopping, hotels, offices and clubs. The buyer profile is becoming much younger, they are making their money quicker and they are making more of it. These buyers have a high-performance lifestyle – the experience is as important as well as the job or the leisure activity itself.
The buyer profile is becoming much younger, they are making their money quicker and they are making more of it
By 2021, almost 50% of all residents in Mayfair will be aged 21 to 44, which is a completely different environment than when I first began my career. This is bringing new life back to the area, evident in global brands such as Céline and Marchesi 1824 (Prada Group) recently opening stores on Mount Street.
Another element of Mayfair’s transformation that I have been pleased to witness is the boom in ultra-prime multi-unit residential developments that offer first-class amenities to residents, such as Clarges Mayfair. In 2019 we completed on over £225 million of transactions in Clarges Mayfair and “W1J” has now become one of the golden postcodes.
Over my entire career so far, Mayfair continues to offer exceptional properties, whether you are seeking preserved period features or state-of-the-art contemporary designs.
Wetherell and Dexters recently agreed a partnership – can you talk us through how the deal came about?
It started with our strategic decision to drive letting income to equal sales revenue – to do this we needed to offer Property Management.
As an independent estate agency with one office, I have been searching for some time for the right partnership that will provide my clients with an extensive wider network and a multitude of resources. I have been watching the prime central market over the past few years and I have been continuously impressed by Dexters and their highly successful full range of services, so a partnership with Dexters is a natural fit. The coming together of our two businesses will allow for growth and greater market presence.
Will you be retaining ownership of the Wetherell business?
I will remain the Founder and Chairman of Wetherell, and the Wetherell brand name will be retained. Going forwards, I will now also have a wider role within Dexters, becoming the new Chairman of their Prime Central London board. This partnership is incredibly valuable as it will provide a clear legacy strategy, so that going forwards the Mayfair knowledge and expertise I have amassed over the last 37 years can be shared with colleagues.
The Wetherell brand and my expertise will continue in Mayfair with great longevity, continuing long after I depart in future years.
What changes will clients and customers see on the ground?
Whether you are buying, selling, renting or letting – it is all about the service you provide, the people who give it and the knowledge and reach of the company in providing that service.
The greatest benefit for my clients and customers will be the ‘behind the scenes’ magic that this partnership and shared resources will afford me. In terms of changes on the ground, our flagship Mount Street office will remain but the access to Dexters’ applicant portfolio, market intelligence and staffing resources will allow us to meet our clients’ needs in a greater way than before.
You’ve said that Dexters’ plentiful resources will allow you to significantly grow Wetherell’s lettings and property management divisions; why are you choosing to focus on these sectors rather than sales?
For property management, you should also add “Asset Management”. With all these new developments springing up around Mayfair with 25 metre pools, gyms and cinemas – the old character blocks of Victorian times and the building boom mansion apartments of the 1920s and 1930s will have to work harder to compete with this new Mayfair. We aim to offer a service to “polish up” our clients’ assets to compete in this new decade.
We aim to offer a service to “polish up” our clients’ assets to compete in this new decade
We have launched our three-year plan to focus on enhancing Wetherell’s Mayfair brand presence, which includes increasing our lettings services, offering property management services to our clients for the first time and providing greater New Homes services.
This reflects the current shift in the Mayfair property market towards more rental properties, with over half of Mayfair residents currently renting, and the current boom in new homes as several exciting products launch and complete this year and in the near future.
Are you looking at expanding the Wetherell brand geographically? If so, which areas are of particular interest?
Wetherell are already selling property in Marylebone, Regents Park and Kensington for our clients but our Our initial focus is on strengthening and enhancing our Mayfair brand presence. Once this phase has completed, there is the potential value of opening Wetherell-branded offices in our other existing key operating areas.
It is important to remember that our Wetherell office has been open on Mount Street for over 27 years and is comparable to a luxury brand such as Scott’s, a name which has strength in its individuality.
40% of our enquiries either walk into the shop, are referrals or returning clients. So I see a great opportunity to showcase prime central London from our prominent corner shop windows only a stone’s throw from The Connaught.
As part of the arrangement, you join Dexters’ Prime Central London board as its new Chairman; what will this role involve?
My new role as the Chairman of the Central London Board of Dexters will involve all 12 offices, and focusing on the strategic sharing of market intelligence and data to expand market share. The offices will also share key resources such as staff and applicants, to ensure that we offer the best service to buyers, vendors and tenants across prime central London.
You will also be involved in the agency’s Pimlico-based training academy; what are your thoughts on mandatory licensing of estate agents and whether this will change perceptions in the industry?
I always find it amazing that currently you can be cleaning the windows of the house one day and become an estate agent the next day to sell it! The industry for selling most peoples’ largest asset has no barrier to entry, no minimum standards – I want to turn that industry into a profession.
The mandatory licensing of estate agents is a cause that I have been passionate about and advocating for my entire career. Our industry cannot achieve respect and transparency without a clear marker of professionalism and ability to do the role. Regardless of the market level of a deal, the customer should have complete faith in the estate agent handling the deal, and this should be driven by mandatory licensing and a recognisable qualification. Especially at the prime and super prime end of the market, some of the sums involved are vast, and it is a great shame that the customer does not always receive consistent or professional service.
In the 1990s I brokered a deal between the NAEA and RICS to merge – sadly it fell at the last fence – if it had succeeded, we would all now be “Chartered Estate Agents”.
What are your views on portals and their impact on the estate agency industry?
Everyone said that the internet would severely impact estate agents as it did with the insurance, travel, car and banking industries. They could not have been more wrong as the internet has become the primary first step as an information service for buyers and sellers, tenants and landlords before they speak with the estate agent.
What has changed is the strength of the portals but I think that this will diminish as search engine results provide all the data from the agents offerings in specific areas which will be far more representative in the property search to find the right agent.
Portals work well with a volume product or something at a more affordable level, but the prime and ultra-prime market remains led by face-to-face interactions and genuine relationships
The internet and the creation of online portals plus the sophistication of agents own websites has completely changed the landscape of estate agency, enabling exposure for a property on a global level and becoming a key step in marketing a property. I think that portals work well with a volume product or something at a more affordable level, but the prime and ultra-prime market remains led by face-to-face interactions and genuine relationships.
You only have to type in “Mayfair estate agent” and Wetherell are right at the top of Google search. As I have always said – the world comes to Mayfair, you do not need international offices to sell an internationally recognised location.
When you are operating within the top 2-5% of the market across London, there is a closed circle of wealth wherein deals are led by individuals rather than behind a portal. In addition, a significant proportion of deals agreed are often off-market.
With our main deals in 2019 being off-market and therefore far-removed from the online portals, dealing with a trusted agent is as important as ever. There is no better adage than “pick up the phone”.
Are there any pockets of value left in Mayfair, and if so, where?
Any property in close vicinity to one of the new developments will have an uplift through the comparative value effect. There is now an enormous premium between the value of new stock which can be double the market value of other property in the same location.
For someone seeking good value for money I would recommend the southern boundary of Mayfair by Green Park, where good deals can still be found. The area is undergoing extensive refurbishment and new life is being breathed into these streets, so it a fantastic opportunity for someone to make their own mark.
Also – if you look at what is happening at the top of Park Lane by Marble Arch – The Bryanston Hyde Park by Almacantar is transforming an entire area with a mixed use development with 54 apartments (65% with park views), an office building of over 80,000 sq.ft. and a new public realm Marble Arch Place with new retail food and beverage plus a returning Odeon cinema complex with 5 screens.
You have been involved in some of the biggest deals in Mayfair in 2019; how has the local market been faring, and what are your predictions for 2020?
For both sales and lettings Clarges Mayfair has broken records but the deal data is only now filtering into the market. We were also involved in two big house sales both in excess of £30 million and that was down to the availability and the buyers now being back in the market realising that once this stock has sold there will be little else becoming available at the same value.
For lettings we have seen the “try before you buy” with super lets from nearly £7k per week for a two-bedroom apartment up to £40k per week for a mansion. Tenants can make a quick decision without long term financial considerations.
My prediction for 2020 is that you could see transaction volumes increasing by over 50% as owners and buyers push the button to get on with their lives now that the uncertainties of the last 3 years a nearly behind us. The volume of sales for 2019 were half the number of sales volume in 2013.
The Conservative majority win in the UK’s General Election has provided a positive push for the market and restored optimistic sentiment with buyers, vendors and landlords across the prime market and throughout Mayfair. We are anticipating this renewed confidence to translate into a bounce-back in the market. Despite the political uncertainty, last year did see strength in the ultra-prime lettings market, which I think will continue to grow. For sales, a number of transactions above £10 million were agreed off-market, and I also think this trend will continue, as people have renewed faith in the market and often know exactly where they’d like to purchase, having waited for the right moment politically.
People have renewed faith in the market and often know exactly where they’d like to purchase, having waited for the right moment politically
Just walk around Mayfair and see the vast amount of new developments rising out of the ground. Buy now because once they are sold there will be no others. You are seeing the biggest change in residential Mayfair since the 1920/30s. Local planning laws will prohibit any further developments. Buy now whilst stock is available.
Where do you see Wetherell in five years’ time?
As Winston Churchill said “the farther backwards you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see”.
We are half way through the “Golden Decade” for the revival of Mayfair as London’s No.1 residential area – Mayfair is recognised worldwide as a mark of excellence. As we enter the new “20s” it is difficult not to reflect back 100 years to the last reinvention when the old mansions of Mayfair which were pulled down and replaced by mansion apartments and new 5 star hotels.
In five years’ time, I see Mayfair without all the building construction, as a shining global village for those who live, visit or work in the area. Wetherell will continue to be as being the leading boutique estate agency for in Mayfair and across the wider West End, going from strength to strength.
I started my career as “Mr Mayfair” and am now termed “The Mayfair Guru” – I suppose in 5 years time it will be “Veteran Estate Agent”!