Robert Fraser is the managing director of London-based agent, Fraser & Co, and here he tells us his thoughts and experience on working in the new homes sector in the capital.
Hi Robert, please tell us a little about yourself and your company.
I founded Fraser & Co over 20 years ago, initially working from home in north-west London. Starting small, I secured a couple of good instructions which I sold and then set up properly in a small office on Boundary Road in St John’s Wood. Having worked for other people for well over a decade, I knew I wanted to do things differently and could see a huge market in investment property. It became an obvious move to sell investment property to overseas purchasers who were looking for a safe haven for their money.
Can you tell us a bit about your career path and what brought you to your current role?
Since leaving school, I entered straight into the working world. I have always been business minded and knew that I wanted to eventually run my own business. Sales and management is my forte and property quickly became my passion, so setting up an estate agency was a natural progression for me. After working alone for a number of years, we opened our first office in Paddington, which remains our head office today, followed by Baker Street, Hong Kong and then Kew Bridge in 2012 and a City office in 2016 just a short walk from Old Street station. In addition to our ‘local’ offices we have an office in Dubai. We have come a long way since we started and Fraser & Co now has over 60 staff in seven offices on three continents.
What is it about the new homes industry that you really enjoy?
We work with a number of respected developers who create exceptional properties, so being instructed to market these homes is always highly rewarding. A big part of our business is also securing off-plan sales, which gives confidence to developers and helps to secure forward sales for them, which is something I find extremely satisfying. The London market in particular is forever evolving with new developments completing daily, so myself and the team are certainly kept busy.
Is there something about the London market that requires a different attitude from staff than in other parts of the UK?
The London market definitely requires versatility; our staff need to keep up with the evolving nature of the market, which is challenging, but also exciting. Sector knowledge is also essential as the capital continuously develops and new neighbourhoods and villages are being created at pace. Paddington for example is almost unrecognisable from what it was five to ten years ago due to significant regeneration in the area and its surroundings.
When your company has roles to fill, do you get a lot of interest from those with a background in housebuilding?
We receive applications from people with a variety of backgrounds, but I would say most commonly our office roles are filled by those with sales or customer service backgrounds, many of whom have worked in the industry for a number of years.
Have you ever been tempted into property development yourself?
I haven’t been tempted into property development as I’m very much a sales-minded person and I like to be at the forefront of the process. I get a buzz from liaising with buyers and investors to help them find their ideal home or investment; however it must be very rewarding as a housebuilder to see your vision realised with a new development.
Are there simple steps that the housebuilding industry can do to attract a more gender-balanced workforce?
The industry has changed over the past 10 years and attitudes are much more flexible. It is all about education and helping to show off the diversity of the industry; there are plenty of different roles to choose from, which all require a different skillset, from interior design and sales to engineering and property management.