By Edward Towers, MRICS, Director at Aykroyd & Co
"It is so powerful to have someone with the MRICS qualification on the team. Property isn't regulated as an industry so anything we can do to give us an extra edge over our competitors is helpful. More importantly, it provides a deeper level of professional care to clients. Both our private and investor clients appreciate that we have a professional on our team with a detailed understanding of architecture and the inner workings of buildings." ~Hannah Aykroyd, Founder and MD of award-winning buying agency Aykroyd & Co
As there are no set required professional qualifications in the property world, it can be difficult for vendors and buyers to know whom to trust. Property professionals have a responsibility to earn and keep that trust, and to maintain our own high standards of professionalism - and in my case those standards set and underpinned by RICS. Having my MRICS qualification has meant buyers recognise a seal of quality and respect, which has stood me in good stead.
Most of my clients are professionals who are buying in Prime London because they are hardworking, ambitious, and highly educated. They recognise the value of professional qualifications to uphold high standards of service and transparency. These standards are something the estate agency world has not always, sadly, been famous for.
I started my career as a Chartered Surveyor in Commercial property nearly 15 years ago, advising large corporate occupiers such as Mercedes-Benz, O2, and others in the United Kingdom and Germany on acquiring, refurbishing, renewing leases and saving operational and acquisition costs. In 2012, I moved to a prime residential estate agency in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Residential agencies, whether buying or selling, are largely unregulated compared to commercial property. I wanted to bring some of my professional experience and mindset from advising large Corporates, as well as the professional rigour of my MRICS qualification, into the residential sector.
Last year, I made a further refinement, joining buying agency Aykroyd & Co, where I solely represent buyers and investors, not sellers. I made this move because the 'trusted advisor' role of a buying agent felt more comfortable after my years as a Chartered Surveyor.
Although buyers rightly have concerns regarding Brexit, Prime Central London is currently offering incredibly good value, with some properties selling for the same price per-square-foot as other lesser properties in the suburbs.
The market has been unsettled by Brexit, and now more than ever it can be difficult for buyers, sellers, and advisors to correctly assess market value; as a Chartered Surveyor I am better able to do this authoritatively, as well as to see where latent value can be unlocked.
I not only look to advise on acquiring a new property at the right price, my professional qualifications also put me in a good position to reduce acquisition costs and add value where possible. This includes extending or reconfiguring properties and assessing the unlocking of value. For example, by purchasing unmodernised properties, or finding short lease opportunities and extending them - which saves on the collective purchase cost and the stamp duty cost, while facing reduced competition because fewer buyers look at short leases. Or in finding off market properties where real value can be had.
At Aykroyd & Co, we often work with private residential property investors. Understandably, given the unsettled state of the London property market, they are concerned about future-proofing their assets.
Thanks to my MRICS qualification I understand the perspective of the bank loaning against the property, and how it comes to its valuations. I have undertaken valuations for banks as part of my previous position at Colliers CRE (now Colliers International) and understand, as a surveyor how to correctly value and analyse comparable evidence whilst keeping an eye on local market conditions and opportunities to release value. This is especially important in future-proofing against today's unsettled 'Brexit market'.
Many agents rely too much on 'hope value' rather than actual value, coupled with unrealistic vendors who are holding out for prices their neighbours achieved several years ago. Because prices have come off around 20% from the highs of 2014, there is great value for buyers but less so for vendors unless they are upsizing.
Whatever the market conditions, we always advise our clients to buy 'best-in-class' or blue-chip properties. These hold their value in a down market and appreciate at the highest rates in a rising market. The difficulty can be in identifying and sourcing these properties, especially as there is a lot of competition for them; this is where a qualified professional buying agent can provide an invaluable service.
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