It’s been three years since we last ranked and rated the UK’s top buying agencies, and the interim has proved a tumultuous time for the top end of the market. Deal slumps have followed deal surges; economies have waxed, waned and shuddered; tax regimes and government policies have been re-written.
All of which means it’s been a particularly tricky time to be an authority on acquisitions.
Stark proof of this emerged very recently, as PrimeResi revealed that the number of buying agents registered in the UK had plummeted by a third in under two years. The total now stands at just 374, down from 547 in January last year. 497 were on the books of The Property Ombudsman just six months ago, but the drop-off appears to have accelerated dramatically as the UK’s prime market faces some of the strongest headwinds in a decade.
Recent research by London Central Portfolio showed just five £10m+ transactions were recorded by the Land Registry in the three months to August; that’s a fall of 86% on the same period in 2015, when 35 such sales were officially lodged. The deal drought hasn’t been confined to the super-prime range either: sales volumes in Q2 were down by 42% across prime London compared with the same quarter the year before, according to LonRes.
That’s not a lot of potential clients to go round, and it seems many operators have simply decided to throw in the towel, just as quickly as when they sprung up during the boom years.
Ironically, it’s during markets like this that buyers most need expert representation. Buying agents have become increasingly essential for serious purchasers to make good decisions in a complex and shifting landscape; a genuine understanding of local markets (and people), of individual properties, and real experience of the art of high-value property negotiation – combined with access to those elusive pre- and off-market prospects – means that the best and most innovative agents have more than earned their keep over the last few years.
To make sense of this fascinating – but often misunderstood – sector, the 2016-7 edition of Prime Movers profiles the 40 most influential, successful and respected residential property buying agencies in Britain.
This isn’t about who’s got the biggest office, or who’s done the most deals; running a successful buying agency has always been less about volume, and far more about expertise, experience, connections, judgement, tenacity, discretion and solid gold client servicing. It takes a rare combination of skills to survive, let alone thrive, and there are no shortcuts; the art of buying will always trump the science. PrimeResi’s editorial team canvassed a broad spectrum of the luxury property industry – a sector that we have been covering in granular detail for the last five years – to shortlist candidates for this Prime Movers index…
Prime Movers: Britain’s Top 40 Buying Agencies, 2016-17