Robb Reader: Jo Eccles

The Founder and Managing Director of SP Property on the luxury London property market’s finer nuances.

Jo Eccles – literally and figuratively speaking – holds the key to many of London’s finest properties. So what’s her take on an ever-fluctuating housing scene?

Buying off-market – why is it so advantageous?
Buying off-market is a great way of securing highly sought after yet scarcely available properties – those that rarely come onto the open market – and it’s definitely more pronounced during times of uncertainty. It’s no surprise that we’re seeing more of these transactions happening now – they account for approximately 35 per cent of transactions we secure for clients.

How do you spot such properties?
Finding an off-market deal is difficult without the help of an established buying agent because it’s all down to relationships with the estate agents, developers and private sellers, which an individual buyer simply won’t have. Our property search process is exhaustive and methodical, but once we know the specifics of what the client is looking for, we can narrow it down almost to a particular street, and from there we can start to make our approaches.

How do such properties come to be off-market?
One source of off-market properties is the rental market. There are many would-be-sellers who became ‘accidental landlords’, choosing to rent out their property temporarily during the uncertainty. We therefore search the rental market pipeline to see if there are any suitable properties where we could make an offer to the landlord.

What are buyers mainly looking for in the London market right now?
Despite the ongoing political uncertainty, there is increasing activity and appetite for prime property in London. For international purchasers, particularly dollar buyers, the weak pound makes London property significantly cheaper than it was five years ago. There is sustained demand from overseas buyers purchasing family houses in the £6m-£12m price bracket. Particular demand is coming from US buyers – we look after a lot of corporate relocations – and other nationalities where they have plans to move to London or spend more time here.

What sort of locations do they opt for?
Particularly popular have been Chelsea, Kensington, Notting Hill, St John’s Wood and Hampstead. These areas have superb schools and this is often one of the drivers for overseas buyers purchasing in London. We’re acting for numerous investor buyers, too, who are looking to capitalise on long-term capital appreciation prospects. Two of our top area picks for investors are Clerkenwell and West and North Marylebone.

What other preferences are emerging?
There’s definitely a preference for turn-key properties as opposed to taking on big “fixer uppers”. Many UK buyers have waited long enough for the uncertainty around Brexit to lift and now that they’ve made the decision to buy, they want to get on with it and don’t want to wait to carry out a big refurbishment.

How are younger HNWIs approaching the property market?
I tend to group younger HNWIs into two categories – those who have inherited wealth and those who are self-made, as their decision-making and their requirements are often quite different. Those who have inherited wealth typically have less freedom as they often need approval from their parents, trustees or whoever has provided the wealth. We therefore often end up acquiring more traditional properties in traditional areas, which the decision makers are more familiar and comfortable with.

The self-made HNWIs, on the other hand, are often much more independent and have the freedom to be quite creative with their property and area choices. Also, the line between work and home is often more blurred and they choose properties and areas which compliment that.

What areas do younger people favour?
Areas which have been particularly popular with the younger HNWIs are Clerkenwell, Shoreditch, Fitzrovia and Notting Hill. Fitzrovia in particular is attracting a new, younger crowd – we’ve acted for young and very successful entrepreneurs and celebrities, particularly from the music industry, who are drawn to the hipster vibe of the area and plethora of great restaurants, juice bars and cafes. The bar at the Charlotte Street Hotel is always heaving and the new Mortimer Club is a great spot for young entrepreneurs who don’t have traditional offices.

Facebook’s arrival plus the creation of several high quality new residential developments like Fitzroy Square and Rathbone Place have meant that this once down-at-heel part of the West End is now one of the most attractive destinations in central London for affluent millennials. Fitzrovia also has much more diverse architecture, from unusual warehouse conversions to smart new build developments, so it ticks a lot of the boxes amongst the younger buyers.

One of the more spacious townhouse living rooms Central London has to offer 

Gut feeling or meticulous analysis?
The beauty of using an experienced buying agency is that you have the reassurance of knowing that any shortlisted property has been expertly sourced and analysed and it passes the practical and value test. This means that clients don’t run the risk of making a (very expensive) mistake which can easily happen when buying a property, as emotion can quickly and easily cloud judgement. Instead, they can they can let emotion and gut instinct lead their decision making as the properties they’re choosing from genuinely represent the very best.”

What’s your personal definition of luxury?
Personal luxury for me right now is time. SP acts for clients across the globe and I’m forever juggling clients in different time zones and am always on call. I took half a day off the other week and my husband and I spent the afternoon in Selfridges and the Artesian bar at The Langham Hotel – for me that was pure luxury, escaping for a rare afternoon!

Who, dead or alive, is your biggest professional inspiration and why?
My late father has always been a huge inspiration for me. He came from very humble beginnings and through honest hard work he was incredibly successful. He taught my three siblings and me to ‘do what you love and you will find a way to make a living out of it’ and I have absolutely followed that. I’ve lived and breathed property from a very young age, and my passion for the industry means I genuinely love what I do every day. I feel very lucky to have had the support and encouragement to pursue my passion and a role model to show me that you can achieve a huge amount with hard work, integrity and dedication.

www.sppropertygroup.com

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