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Meet Adam Dockley, the director and founder of Dockleys. From the age of 14, he knew that he wanted to get into real estate and jumped at the opportunity when it came after his GCSEs. He’s been in the industry ever since. We spoke about the industry, the importance of a strong network and how the industry is in major need of a shakeup. Here’s his story:
Can you start with how you got into real estate and why?
At the age of 14, I was told by my dad that I need to get a job. We had a work experience week at school and I decided to work with my next-door neighbour who was an estate agent at the time. I spent a week there and I was in love, I knew this was something that I wanted to do. As soon as I wrapped up by GCSE’s, I told my parents that this is what I wanted to get into. They of course wanted me to finish my education, but college wasn’t for me. I just wasn’t engaged in the classes, except for History and Geography, which proved to be quite useful in my line of work now.
At 17 I left school and got a job at the local agency. After I had worked with them for a while I got an offer from Countryhouse Agency and they asked me to come and work with them and that’s where I really learnt what I know today. The director there was probably my favourite mentor and still is a mentor to me.
We still have brainstorm sessions and stuff, which is amazing. We still do deals together. Countryhouse agency was wonderful. It really got me to understand how to look after people because at that high end of the market so much is expected of you. At that end of the market, you have to know your audience. And you have to listen. That’s the one thing that’s stuck with me. And then you work from there and that’s when I started putting deals together especially off-market deals. I’ve taken all the way through my career, wherever I am. I listen to what the client wants and that really takes you far.
So though working at Countryhouse was great, it was also very slow. Great for a 50-year-old but for me, a 19-year-old, I knew I wanted to be in the City. I managed to secure 2 interviews and one of them was at an agency called Stirling Ackroyd in Clerkenwell and one at Alex Neil in the Docklands. I fell in love with the Docklands. We actually have family ties to the area as well. There’s a Dockley road, where my great-great-grandfather used to have a shipbuilding yard there.
I don’t know whether it was the water or something else, but something took me to Canary Wharf. I knew the area was developing and knew I needed to be there, and this was back in 2003-2004. So I have literally watched Canary Wharf boom.
I used to take coffee and croissants to my clients on a Saturday morning view and my colleagues would make fun of me and call me the “croissant boy” but this is how I built relationships. And this is what the industry is all about, building relationships is the core of the business. Work hard and be nice to people. And that’s my mantra. That’s how you get on in life.
That’s how I started my career and worked up the ranks. I started to learn about new homes and land and development, which is something that I excel at. I didn’t want to be in the corporate world. That wasn’t me. So I set up a company with a client of mine who bought on flats for a company called Henry Wilshere. I worked there for five years. I set up offices for them in London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. And then I came back and said, I’d like some shares, please. Unfortunately for me, it was all in a family trust. So that wasn’t going to work. But that network is priceless. And knowing what works with Middle Eastern buyers or with Asian buyers, you know WHAT investors look for and what their driver is. That got me to think I could do this. And that was that.
Out of that, I looked at all the way the industry was run. I hate the way it’s done now, the mentality and the practices, it really needs a proper shakeup. I think we should be like America and that’s how I’ve set up Dockleys. Everybody is self-employed under my umbrella, but they have their own autonomy. So we put the marketing, advertising, and lead generation behind and then they do their business. Because I think everybody in this industry needs to be accountable. Working solely on commission means you are not able to hide if you aren’t selling you aren’t earning, and you really put yourself out there.
That’s what I’ve seen, many agents are comfortable just working in their area and not really expanding further than that.
It’s important to learn about the industry, about what’s going on in your bubble and understand that if trends are focused for a specific area or do they apply to the larger masses. I wanted to know more. I wanted to learn more and I can now use my experience. We have agents all over Greater London, Hertfordshire and Essex.
This year we’ve seen a lot of people moving out of London, this is no secret and I have had several clients, who’s property in London were bought through me, they’ve instructed us to sell their home, then the client retains us to help them find a property outside of London. I have very strong relationships with agents and developers in the home counties and dealing agent to agent make our lives and the clients so much less stressful and allows us to transact so much faster, I really believe this is the future of agency.
Everybody’s so scared of losing out. if it was like America, where it was 3%, we’d be doing this every day. Collaboration is key.
My passion is land and development, I love being involved in the land deals from the very start as I can really add value with my experience of New Homes, regeneration and commercial property for my clients. Currently, I’m involved in a very large land assembly deal which lends up over about 1500 units and 1m sq ft of leisure and retail space.
Do you have any family in property, because your passion extends just the love for the job?
For me, property is in blood. My mum was in property and she’s working for a developer. My stepmom also was in property. My father was a policeman, we have a joke in my family that if my sister had been a traffic warden we would be the most hated family in the area!
So my dream is this. I find a piece of land. I am retained by the developer, acting as a consultant on their preplanning and pre-marketing, selling the project off-plan to investors, who we will act in letting and managing their property and sell to home owners who will sell back through us when they move on. In the last year we did a deal where we sold the whole scheme to one investor. They then gave it back to me to manage the rentals. I follow the journey from when it was a big hole in the ground to people living and calling it a home.
How have you guys had to adapt during the pandemic?
Not really to be honest. We have always used videos and I’m a big believer in property videos, So I’ve been doing them for years. When we couldn’t do walk-throughs, we actually did zoom walkthroughs. We would share our screen and walk through the video with them and tell them about the property, which was successful.
So could you tell me what is one thing that you’re looking forward to in the new year?
The one thing I’m looking forward to coming back to some sense of normality, I’m a people person. I’m a very social human being. I need to be stimulated by people. The first lockdown was just so stressful.
What is one thing that you believe agencies or agents need to change in the new year?
I think the licensing is going to make a huge difference and I am a big fan of that. Regulation will really help bring accountability to the industry. There are so many dodgy agents and they really need to be regulated.
Many people come into it for the money, but without the love of it they really destroy the reputation. Agents are seen as a hindrance for the industry, when really, we should be seen as the oracle when it comes to moving home.
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