Guest blog - Claire Reynolds, Savills
Guest blog post, written by Claire Reynolds - Co-head of prime central London residential, Savills.
From a young age, I was just fascinated by property. Whenever we went on holiday I would always flick through the local property magazines in the supermarket and pick out my favourite houses. It helped that my dad was into it too – property was a hobby of his, he always renovated our family homes so we were regularly surrounded by building works. When I got a bit older and we started to think about careers at school, I was still set on becoming an estate agent and had ambitions to work for one of the big firms. I never gave up on wanting to enter the industry and every day I’m still so pleased that I chose to follow this path.
When Savills opened an office near where I grew up in Esher, I approached them about coming in to help – I didn’t care what I did, I just wanted to be in the environment. I ended up doing work experience throughout my University holidays and then when I graduated, I was offered a position as a negotiator. I spent five years in Esher and from there I moved to a very different role in prime central London, joining the Mayfair office to help grow market share. In 2013, I set up Savills Marylebone office and then at the beginning of 2019, I was also made co-head of Prime Central London residential overseeing seven offices (Marylebone, Mayfair, Westminster, St John’s Wood, Maida Vale, Hampstead and Primrose Hill). In addition I also sit on the Savills Resi Operations board and at the beginning of last year, I returned to Mayfair to head our Mayfair & St James’s office so the majority of my time here has been through the pandemic.
I’ve always loved the fact that my job is so varied, especially in Mayfair as we cover five really different areas; from Connaught Village which is a more domestic market through to the ultra-exclusive neighbourhoods of Mayfair and St James’s, as well as more diverse Covent Garden and Soho. Each offers very different types of properties and lifestyles and I really enjoy the opportunity to experience them all. I feel privileged to meet some of the world’s most interesting and high profile people and to be entrusted with the sale of some of London’s most outstanding properties. Selling someone’s home is such a personal journey and I take great pride in looking after my clients – through giving the best customer service and negotiating the best possible prices for them.
Despite Mayfair being a strong international market, in 2020 we actually had a 60% annual increase in the number of properties sold and a 30% uplift in income while our new instructions were up by over a third. That’s not to say it was easy; we were up against a highly constrained market due to international travel restrictions but managed to sell some incredible properties, including a townhouse on Upper Grosvenor Street which received competitive bids and subsequently sold to an international buyer on a guide of £18m. Interestingly we managed to generate competing bids on 41% of the properties we sold in the last year, and I put this down to the strength of our team and the collaborative approach across our global network. Our database is one of the most valuable assets we can offer our clients, with almost half of the properties we sell are sold to buyers already known to Savills.
With prices in Prime Central London down almost 21% since the peak of 2014, and many having now called the bottom of the market, buyers are recognising the good value and are feeling confident to buy now. Demand is absolutely there and it feels as though once international travel opens up again, an international wave of money will be coming to London from overseas buyers wanting to transact.
Looking ahead, I suspect there will be certain changes we’ve made that will be here to stay. The use of technology has worked really well, be it for virtual viewings or video meetings. Of course it won’t ever replace that in-person contact but there are instances where it’s been incredibly convenient for clients and a time-saver, too. That said, I am of course really looking forward to the opportunity to meet with clients and colleagues again when we can. Something else I’ve started to do is cycle to work each day and also to appointments – not only is it great exercise but it has also given me thinking time as I look to the day or the meeting ahead. Additionally, I think companies on a global level have recognised how flexible working can be effective and the work / life balance it can bring. I would hope to see that flexibility continue so that working parents in particular feel they don’t have to make such a stark choice.
My dad always said, do a job you love and you will be successful. I truly believe this to be the case - doing a job you love is great fun and energising, and I feel very fortunate to be in this position. With the retail and hospitality sector having recently opened up again, the London buzz is already returning and once international travel resumes we are looking forward to a very busy summer ahead.