An interview with Hannah Aykroyd

We sat down for a chat with Hannah Aykroyd, founder & MD of Aykroyd & Co, to talk about Aykroyd & Co's upcoming first anniversary and how Hannah advises her prime central London residential property investors in today's uncertain market.

Can you start by introducing us to Aykroyd & Co?

I'm the Founder and MD of the eponymous Aykroyd & Co. We're a residential property buying firm focusing on Prime and Super Prime within Central London. I set up Aykroyd & Co in early 2018, when the gold-standard buying agency where I was a Director was wound down after the agency's Managing Directors were poached by a larger agency. After nearly a decade in the industry, largely on the advisory side, I had a clear vision of the ideal boutique advisory firm. I took the opportunity to set up Aykroyd & Co.

My colleague Sophie Bonsor came with me, and we have now been joined by Edward Towers, MRICS, who is one of the very few London buying agents who is also a Chartered Surveyor. We are all supported by our excellent and very efficient PA, Rachel Quayle who helps us to provide an exceptional service for our valued clients.

Aykroyd & Co is approaching its first anniversary. Tell us a little about the agency's first year?

We have had a cracking inaugural year, successfully transacting on over £60 million of residential property in Prime Central London, on behalf of our clients.

Notable deals included a set of four mews houses in Regent's Park for c.£14.5 million, an eight-bedroom townhouse with adjoining mews in Marylebone for c.£13.5 million, a three-bed house in Belgravia for c.£4.495 million, and a five-bed apartment rental at c.£17,500 per calendar month (asking prices, not achieved).

Business has continued to boom, as we've had more enquiries in the first quarter of 2019 than I've ever had in a decade in PCL residential property, with completed transactions in line to surpass those achieved in 2018. I was also absolutely delighted when Aykroyd & Co was ranked 7th among UK buying agents by PrimeResi, who declared us "a welcome addition to the scene, already giving the big names a run for their money." For our small, tight-knit team to be ranked among and above much larger and more established agencies was a huge honour for us.

What is unique about Aykroyd & Co?

We offer an extremely intensive service focused on excellent client care at all times. For an average client search, we spend time with our clients discussing exactly what they want both now and also in ten years - asking them questions they often haven't thought about - to ensure we future proof their asset.

We then focus on uncovering off-market opportunities, preview 40-50 of the best properties, and carry out extensive research on the final short list before we even show any to our client. This is time-consuming for us but ensures our client's time is used most effectively.

Once a property is found, we negotiate using appropriate comparables, ensure a smooth transaction both through to exchange and completion, and offer exceptional after care including advice on designers and builders. Our goal is to always build a long-term relationship with clients, and importantly, ensuring our client's interests are fully protected at all times.

Tell us a little about your clients.

Discretion is a hallmark of Aykroyd & Co, and we do not discuss our individual clients. What I can discuss is the nature of our relationship with our clients. My colleagues and I are trusted advisors in the truest sense, and my role often goes beyond sourcing and negotiating on a given property.

Residential property can become almost a passion investment, especially at the higher end, where the properties can be historic, romantic, beautiful, even inspiring. At the same time, one must be hard-nosed about property, and make the sometimes difficult decisions that pay off in the long run. This is why it is important to have the support of an objective advisor, and why we work closely with clients to determine the precise criteria of their search. If they are going to live in the house, how do they expect their lives to look in ten years? Will they have children? Where will those children attend school? Is it a good idea to work with an education consultant before choosing an area?

We also look at how they can change a house to fit their needs over time and how best to add value. We then pull in a tried and tested team of professionals to ensure a smooth transaction through to exchange and completion, and offer exceptional after care well after our clients have moved in. Our goal is always to build a long-term relationship with clients, and importantly, ensure our clients' interests are fully protected at all times.

What industry trends are you seeing at the moment?

Much of what you read about property at the moment is a bit doom and gloom, but I think this is a hugely exciting time for buyers.

Prices are down about 20% from the latest June 2014 peak, and the weaker sterling can mean additional savings of an additional 20-30% for clients from overseas. While the wider conversation continues to be cautious, as an insider what I am seeing are a group of savvy buyers and investors moving quietly into the market to take advantage of these discounts.

One of the more interesting trends I'm seeing develop is buy-to-let investors purchasing extremely high end, super prime residential property. The play for these new buy-to-let investors is actually the long hold, capitalising on the weaker market, and they are less concerned about yields.

What advice can you offer residential property investors in today's uncertain market?

I have experienced recent highs and lows with the crash of 2008 (although there was a very quick and unexpected bounce back for PCL), peak of summer 2014 and a decline since then… not helped by the Government's focus on taxes.

Prices have come off, so you can no longer rely on a rising market to futureproof your asset. Buying a best-in-class property at the best possible price offers protection in an uncertain market, but these properties are scarce, and often never even come to the open market. Buying smart is more critical than ever, and a long-term hold is required to mitigate significant Stamp Duty Land Tax outlay.

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit…

It is hard to make predictions for London property with Brexit being so unstable. However, when speaking to clients and potential clients who are based elsewhere in the world, the general view is that Brexit is a very small blip in comparison to what is going on at home. I think it's very important to remember this, and to have faith in all the strengths that make London one of the world's leading cities to live and work in.

If readers would like more information about Hannah Aykroyd and her team, please take a look at their website or give them a call on 0203 0340078.


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