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Meet Daniel Treasure, a property professional who started his real estate career in 2002 and progressed from Negotiator to an Estate Agency owner. He has witnessed first-hand the exponential growth of Canary Wharf and then subsequently navigated his business through the credit crunch, Brexit, numerous legislative changes and eventual all share sale to a larger competitor. Daniel is now about to begin his second start up agency from his hometown of Bromley in South East London. Here is his story:
Can you start off by telling me how and why you got into real estate?
When I moved to Limehouse in 2002 I instantly fell in love with the area. It has a lot of fascinating history, older warehouse properties and more character than the newer shiny surrounding areas; it is very much akin to Wapping. I noticed straightaway a lot of investment and change occurring all around East London and within the Canary Wharf area which offered a lot of potential opportunity.
I rented a flat on Narrow Street at the centre of Limehouse. The whole experience of being taken on multiple estate agent viewings to different developments along with the ‘buzz’ of East London peaked my interest in the industry. Before this, I never really considered property as a career, but the idea of dealing with property for sale and rent in a busy market like E14 and in particular Limehouse was very exciting. An opportunity that wasn’t office bound and was more focussed on dealing with clients face to face very much interested me. In addition to this, I was attracted to being able to view properties with differing architecture and buildings with history. So, I thought I would take the plunge. I started as a Negotiator in a Limehouse independent and after a couple of years, in 2006, decided to start my own estate agency, Lourdes Estate Agents.
At that time the area was very up and coming with vast amounts of investment pouring in with strong demand from owner occupiers and investors alike. The market was growing and there was a lot of international interest particularly from the Far East. Buy-to-let was extremely popular which satisfied the ever-growing tenant demand, and it was a very exciting period of time to be an agent.
Tell us about Lourdes Estate Agents
The agency was based in Limehouse and we started trading in 2006 and for a start-up we were instantly busy. There was not a lot of choice of software or property portals for the estate agency space. There were a few different software offerings, but nothing like it is now. I recall we started trading using FindaProperty as our CRM along with Propertyfinder and Fish4Homes as our chosen property portals. Zoopla didn’t start until 2008 and Rightmove was relatively new in 2006/2007 and no way near the dominant juggernaut it has become today.
It was such a busy period and our record time from listing to under offer was 30 minutes. I distinctly remember the buyer rushing to our office in a taxi from work in his lunch hour to view the property as soon as we had phoned him. We were achieving amazing things and it wasn’t unheard of for letting negotiators to agree 30 lets in a month. 2006 and 2007 were phenomenal years for us and we had recouped much of our start-up costs within 6 months. Then the credit crunch of 2008 came along and I had to quickly adjust the business in line with what was going on in the industry and wider economy. We managed to keep afloat and effectively trod water for 3 years focussing mainly on rentals. It was evident that the rental market had risen by 10%+ whilst the sales market had dropped by a similar amount.
The market noticeably recovered by 2012 and we decided to expand so we opened up an additional office in Whitechapel which would enable us to benefit from the new Crossrail station and facilitate us easily covering from the City to Silvertown.
After 10 years of trading we had racked up 19 industry awards, had 15 members of staff and were looking after in excess of 450 rental properties and had agreed the sale of £200+ million worth of property.
The shock announcement of Brexit in 2016 triggered me into reviewing all of our processes, suppliers, IT and software to ensure we were streamlined as much as possible and braced for any market variables. There was a period of transition whereby the entire company transferred to cloud computing and after a few months, we were totally paper free and no longer used printers or franking machines. I wanted to be a more technology focused Estate Agency and become as efficient as possible with the aim being that we could effectively carry out our roles remotely or hot desk between offices if need be. Now in 2021, it is clear to see that the pandemic has proved that any agency which is not embracing PropTech and cloud-based computing will inevitably find themselves at a distinct disadvantage to more tech enabled competitors.
Over 12 years we traded successfully through the good times and also the bad. By 2018 the business was in good shape and the time was right to sell the company.
What have you been doing since selling the business?
I stayed with Lourdes for 3 months to oversee the smooth handover of the business as agreed with the new owners. After that, I was keen to take a break to spend time with the family and unwind before reviewing what I wished to do next. Regardless, I knew I wanted to do something property related because that is my background, experience and passion. I put together a start-up property development company in 2019 based in my home town of Bromley called SDK along with two partners. I have also created a buying fund for acquisition and management of rental properties. Whilst these new ventures are exciting, I realised that I missed estate agency, and wanted to find a way to combine it alongside these new businesses.
Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, it’s fair to say the estate agency industry has certainly changed. The property market was initially shaky and following the Government’s intervention has since recovered very well, proving its resilience. From the side-lines witnessing the age of social distancing I’ve seen estate agency develop at a fast pace with remote working, videography, virtual tours, 360-degree tours and social media becoming more and more important. Personal brand self-employed estate agency has made headway and proving that the customer can prefer this personal offering to the more established high street brands.
Following this period of reviewing and assessing from the side lines, I’m really excited to now be setting up a new estate agency under the umbrella of eXp who will supply me with market leading software, systems and technology. This will enable me to provide clients with a very personal, bespoke and exceptional estate agency offering. One of the problems within the typical estate agency set up is the fact that there are too many people involved in the buying process: valuer, negotiator, manager, progressor, post completion advisor and then the ‘brand’ for any future advice, enquiries or transactions. Many people do not use the original agent again, possibly due to poor service and lack of accountability. The whole process can be disjointed, impersonal and in my experience customers prefer to deal with one person throughout the whole buying and selling process. I will bring my many years of experience and knowledge to each client, as well as being the sole and committed point of contact.
What is your prediction for the market for 2021?
It’s very difficult to generalise about what will come next as it is never an exact science, especially with so many variables at the moment. For example, London and the Home Counties have many micro markets, each with their own pros and cons. What is happening in the suburbs is also very different to what’s happening in Central London. There are apparently around 630,000 properties under offer that are yet to exchange and the predicament of these transactions will certainly have an impact on the property market. Will the chancellor approve the stamp duty holiday extension is another big question? My best guess is that prices will generally level off through the year.
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