Quarterly Mews Sales Market Update
by Zoe Dare Hall, Property Freelance Journalist of the Year 2021, International Property Journalist of the Year 2021, Lifestyle & Interiors Journalist of the Year 2021 (Property Press Awards)
The return to the city is fuelling high demand for houses in London. But vendors need to be careful which agent they choose…
No one expected Covid to be knocked off the top of the news agenda quite so suddenly and for a different type of global catastrophe to take over. Just as London was starting to regain its old spirit, and the property market had a certain giddiness caused by huge pent-up demand and short supply, along came a new reason to stop in our tracks and take stock of our priorities.
After more than five years of uncertainty since the EU referendum and then the pandemic, the war in Ukraine has sent some buyers and vendors scuttling back to the fence to which they had become accustomed.
Not all, though. Property is occasionally just a luxury, but usually it’s a necessity. Speculative browsers have disappeared for now. But serious buyers – those who need or really want to move, including many families who have held off from moving throughout the pandemic, unable to find anything to buy – are out in force, fuelling bidding wars, paying over asking price figures and trying to beat the competition by looking off-market.
In some senses, it’s party time for vendors. But they need to keep their wits about them. While buyers have their eye fixed firmly on the prize – the property – and may not be overly concerned about which agent is marketing it, vendors could find which agent they choose to use makes the difference between having an extra 10% in their pocket, or not – or between their property selling or staying put.
Particularly, in a niche market which mews houses are, there is a growing chasm between how corporate agents versus specialist agents deal with their clients – the vendors – thinks Marlon Lloyd Malcolm, Sales Director at Lurot Brand. The corporates are the big, often very well-respected brands, “but that doesn’t always mean they will get the best price for their clients. It takes more than global offices and marketing across portals. It takes building a relationship, trust and networking ability,” says Lloyd Malcolm, whose record-breaking sales since the start of the year – some at 25% or more above the street’s average price per square foot – include houses in Bayswater’s Bathurst Mews and Lancaster Mews, and Laverton Mews in Earls Court. So far in 2022, Lurot Brand have seen at least 60% of their new listings and price reductions result in competitive bid scenarios.
It’s telling, too, that while shortage of stock is a general theme across the prime London market, Lurot Brand has 48% more listings compared with 2020, and 17% more than pre-pandemic. “Many vendors come to us off the back of dealing with more corporate agents. They know their property is special and it needs a certain type of buyer – and we know more of that type of buyer than any other agent,” Lloyd Malcolm adds. “Quite a few vendors throughout the pandemic haven’t been able to sell. Simply advertising a property on an internet portal and waiting for a nicely-spoken graduate to get a lead from Rightmove won’t work.”
While a brasher kind of estate agency is coming into play among some new companies seeking to emulate the American realtors’ model of hard sell and high stakes marketing techniques (think helicopters in the driveway and models in the pool) in return for high commissions, there’s also an emerging culture change among many traditional London corporate agencies, Lloyd Malcolm comments. “Many are being bought up by finance companies and run by numbers. Even the great, highly-regarded brands are focused more on transaction volumes and less on getting the best price for their clients.”
Where independent agencies excel is in honing an area of expertise, whether it’s a particular street, or a certain type of property. Increasingly, highly experienced agents disillusioned by the blinkeredness of the numbers game are migrating away from the corporate agencies to join specialist firms, brokers or indeed set up shop on their own. “In hard times, especially, independent agents can capitalise on the expertise they have in a certain sector of the market. We’ve been part of that wave,” says Lloyd Malcolm, who adds that having a view across the whole of their market, rather than “siloed offices” across London, gives firms like Lurot Brand greater expertise at valuations.
STATISTICS FOR MEWS SOLD BY LUROT BRAND IN 2021
Of asking price achieved on average. Up 2 percentage points compared to 2020
More available mews listings compared to 2020 and 17% more compared to pre-pandemic levels
Increase in transaction volumes from 2020
Record sale of the year achieved 25% more £/sq.ft. than similar properties on the street
A corporate agent based on Old Brompton Road might get one or two mews houses a year, so they will base their knowledge of prices on a blend of all sorts of different property types. If, like us, you have circa 20 mews on sale in just the South Kensington office and 48 around Hyde Park, you gain a much more accurate version of the market value of a mews specifically, and you can provide the right advice to the vendor, such as whether they should sell or wait for another offer.”
Since the pandemic began, there has been a rush among families for large London houses with big gardens, but demand has returned to other sectors too, buoyed by a return to London as a financial hub and workplace again. “People are looking forward to being back in the office, and they’re the sort of middle and senior managers who can afford to buy a central London property,” says Lloyd Malcolm.
Most mews hunters are owner occupiers. Some have bought country houses in the last year or so, but grown slightly bored of full-time rural life, “so they’re looking for a mews house as Monday to Thursday accommodation when they’re in London to see shows and friends. There’s a huge catchment of buyers who consider a mews a useful base,” Lloyd Malcolm comments.
In two recent cases, clients sold their mews houses, only to do a U-turn. “One sold up to buy a big pile in Oxfordshire, but then realised prices in the countryside had doubled and they prefer living in a mews after all. The other sold their mews for £5.25m in late 2020 and now wants to buy it back again for £1m extra. They’ve clearly invested their money cleverly in the meantime.”
Though not all buyers are quite as easy, Lloyd Malcolm adds that the buyers Lurot Brand deal with are attracted to their agency because they already want a mews house, or at the very least, are interested in a mews house. Therefore, instead of having to convince them into these special properties like other agents, they can spend their time improving the buyer’s perception of value for these properties. Needless to say, this is probably the reason why Lurot Brand hold the record price for mews sales in every postcode across prime central London.