The property market in London is recovering better than in any other region, says developer Paul Eden.
The founder of Regal Homes, a London-based company with a market valuation in excess of £100m, Mr Eden believes activity is picking up, particularly at the higher end of the market.
Earlier this year, he sold a house in Hyde Park Gardens, revamped by British interior designer Kelly Hoppen, for £4m. Having been introduced three years ago, the duo are now working together on several of Regal’s top-end projects. Mr Eden is launching close to £50m-worth of property in collaboration with the designer, most recently 100 Clifton Hill, which is expected to sell for £12.5m.
It is the higher end of the market that is busier at the moment, says Mr Eden, whose portfolio ranges from £275,000 to £15m properties. “Over the past couple of months, the amount of inquiries and viewings that are coming through have quadrupled.
“I’m not saying we are going back into a property boom — but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are seeing a lot more activity, a lot more footfall going through our properties, a lot more offers and a lot more things going in hand.”
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment sold in Hyde Park, which was the former home of the late Lord Mishcon, achieved a record price of £1,750 per sq ft.
Mr Eden, 36, says he is witnessing predominately overseas buyers; Indian, Russian, Nigerian, Israeli and South African Jewish clients.
What makes London so attractive? “London is a special place. We believe the prime London market is recovering much quicker than outside the M25. It’s a hub. I speak to the City boys and people moving from abroad and I say: ‘Why don’t you go and live in Manchester or Leeds?’ Everyone wants to live in London because it’s the place to be. It is completely overpopulated and we are aware of that.” He adds: “London is recovering much quicker than outside. You go to Leeds, Manchester and those areas and they can’t give away the properties. There is building after building after building that is empty in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, but London has this special feeling about it.”
Established in 1998, Regal Homes turns over around 100 units a year. Not bad considering Mr Eden left school at 16 to become a “market boy”. He became a regular at Wembley and Bovingdon markets, selling gloves for 99p a pair before he got approached by an old friend who was working at Ellis & Co in Knightsbidge at the time.
“He wanted me to help him set up a property lettings business. I told him that I had no idea about lettings, and he said he would teach me. The duo invested their barmitzvah money — around £4,000 each — to set up In London Properties, specialising in residential sales, lettings and management. They then joined forces with Clive Truman and Company. “Three years later I thought: ‘Why am I supplying developers with all these deals when I can set something up by myself?”
Mr Eden invested his earnings from In London to launch Regal Homes. His first deal was 31d Fitzjohn’s Avenue. This remains the only deal in the firm’s history that made a loss.
How concerned is he about the current state of the market? “At the beginning of the year, you might as well have jumped off a building. It was just horrendous, but you can’t even compare now to then.” He predicts the situation will improve in the early quarters of next year. “We have levelled off. We had a little jump at the beginning of the summer. We have gone through this ‘W’ shape and are coming back out of the last part of the ‘W’. We are at the bottom and people are going to take advantage of cheap interest rates at the moment.” And of course, the addition of Kelly Hoppen is helping the company.
“Kelly has taken us to a completely different level.” That said, Mr Eden acknowledges that business is by no means easy. “You have to work hard. A lot of companies have sunk over the past 18 months but we have managed to ride the storm.
“If you want to get through this credit crunch, it’s all about hard work, focusing and make sure you cut your costs,” adds Mr Eden, who was at In London Properties during the 1991 downturn. “You can’t compare them. This has been the worst credit crunch and it is a worldwide recession, which we have not experienced before. Hopefully we will never see this again.
“Banks are slowly starting to lend again but at huge fees. Usually we were paying 1 or 1.5 per cent arrangement fees and now they are trying to squeeze us for 4 to 5 per cent, which is not helpful. But they are obviously trying to balance their books again and take their nice chunky bonuses.”
As for Regal, the plan, he says, is to keep expanding. “We have got through the past 18 months and are now a lot stronger. We thought the market would continue to rise up until the Olympics. We have seen how quickly it can turn.”
Kelly Hoppen’s five top tips
The intertior designer says you can revamp your home on a budget:
● Plan, and plan well. Thorough initial planning makes all the difference
● Set your budget, if you have planned well this should not go too far off
● Spend money on important areas
● Create something that is neutral and timeless, that way you can update with accessories rather than having to totally re-design