Hannah Aykroyd, as the managing director of Aykroyd & Co, she has helped ultra-high-net-worth individuals buy some of the most high-profile properties in central London, whether it’s at One Hyde Park, which overlooks Buckingham Palace, or the historic Old War Office, soon to be converted into lavish apartments.
Ms. Aykroyd founded her own firm because she saw a gap in the market: Buying agents who worked to protect the buyer’s interest.
“Having a trusted adviser with excellent connections and negotiating firmly is incredibly important,” Ms. Aykroyd said. “You must make all the right moves for the biggest purchase for your principal home, why would you not have an adviser?”
With almost half of her clients buying from the U.S., it makes sense she has become a pro at the remote purchase, whether its two-hour live home tours or liaising with London’s top education consultants to find a home close to the city’s top schools. Meanwhile, as much as 80% of properties purchased through her firm are discreetly sourced off-market. Ms. Aykroyd, 36, speaks to Mansion Global about working with the best consultants, getting nitty-gritty in the details and why gardens are a major selling point in central London.
Mansion Global: What makes your service unique among property agents?
Hannah Aykroyd: I saw a gap in the market for a fully independent residential buying agency covering prime central London. It comes from wanting to give the very best service to ultra-high-net-worth clients and protecting the buyer’s best interest. We don’t sell anything, so we’re not conflicted. It’s just trying to be purist, sticking on one side of the fence and doing it well.
MG: Who are the international buyers right now?
HA: We’re seeing a lot more Americans coming in, but we also help London-based clients, as well. It sits at about 50-50, international and domestic. It’s one thing knowing London but it’s another to know the property market. We really are here as advisers.
MG: Is it true 80% of properties purchased are off-market deals?
HA: Yes. The London property market has shifted quite a bit over the past five years. The £5 million to £10 million-plus (US$6.7 million to US$13.5 million) markets in key areas: The vast majority now is being sold firmly off market. [There are] a few reasons for that, [including] privacy. People don’t want their properties online, it’s a security risk. People can navigate their floor plans and their art collections, which are often more valuable than the properties.
MG: Why is a buying agent necessary for luxury properties in London?
HA: To even have a look in for these properties, you must have a buying agent. It’s all about relationships in the market. We always say if you’re in uncharted territory, get yourself a guide. In any other asset class, you would have an adviser. In property it’s imperative you do.
MG: How does remote purchasing work?
HA: It’s so popular. We feel comfortable advising clients on that, it’s obviously a lot of pressure on our side, but that’s fine. Some scenarios have been when we’ve started the search process they’ve flown over, spending two full days showing 10 properties each day. Getting them up to speed on pricing and architecture, finding which pockets we should focus on.
MG: Then what?
HA: They’ll fly back home; we will get a much better sense of what they’re after. We would see one or two great opportunities a month. We would burst through the door and send information immediately and high-quality preview videos, five to 10 minutes long. Our live tours last an hour and a half. It’s very detailed. We like to present to our clients all the relevant comparable properties that are sold, so the client knows when we open to a situation, they’re comfortable that the target line we’re going for is in line with market value.
MG: What is the market like in London right now?
HA: We are in a sellers’ market, unfortunately, now. A big part of what we do is make sure our clients know where that market value is. If we’re in a competitive bidding situation, that’s their decision if they want to pay a bit more to secure that property. We’ve never been down valued on a bank evaluation ever. We’re diligent on the pricing of every property we’re purchasing for clients.
MG: What are the greatest demands for luxury living in central London?
MG: What is the key to an efficient transaction?
HA: Having the very best advisers working for you. Having a top-tier buying agent pulling everything together for you, having a private banker who is really working for you to get the deal done. It’s about being assertive.
MG: What kind of questions do you ask your clients to focus on the homes they want to buy?
HA: It’s more about getting them to think where they want to be in five or 10 years’ time, how they want to be living. How do you want to live? That includes all the ways of living people don’t always think about.
MG: What is your personal definition of luxury?
HA: For me, it’s to be healthy and happy, to have the financial ability to make the right decisions for me.
MG: What will happen in the market this year, will it remain strong?
HA: We’re seeing pricing records being broken. I’m positive, I predict the market will continue to rise. Rates are increasing. For the best-in-class properties, demand is still so high. The prices are only going to go one way.