Manchester Evening NewsBy Saffron Otter
Oct. 4, 2020
Million Dollar Beach House landed on screens in late August, showcasing the day-to-day life of Nest Seekers’ top agents, working in luxury real estate.
Overnight, it became the number one watched unscripted show on Netflix globally.
The international property brokerage has million-dollar mansions in the Hamptons, Miami, and now... Manchester.
“Manchester for us is the most vibrant city and completely and utterly on fire at the moment. It seems to be the hottest piece of real estate in the UK,” says Daniel McPeake, managing director of Nest Seekers in Europe.
“It started to heat up about 12 months ago when everyone started talking about it," the 45-year-old Londoner said. "There’s so much happening, the town is crazy.
“Over Covid, a lot of guys and girls I know in London have moved back to Manchester saying there’s £2m apartments in the centre. It’s happening.”
Spencer McLeod, from Burnage, who started with the firm in February, is Nest Seekers first broker in the north, and says they have 20 listings arriving in the next few weeks.
Last week, he sold a Didsbury property - which was only on the market for five days - for £875,000.
“Personally I love Didsbury - I love the period houses," he said. "But it’s not a massive area and they’re typically terraced, so you have people paying massive premiums for gardens and parking.
“We have property in the city centre obviously. I have one in Knutsford at the £2m price point, which we’re staging with interior designers, and we’re getting into Hale Barns."
“I have friends in the south who are leaving university and are deciding whether to start a career in Manchester or London. When that starts to become a topic of conversation, then you know Manchester is definitely on the map," Spencer adds.
“A lot of industry has come over here in the past 12 months despite what’s going on. It’s cheaper to run your business here than London or there’s potential to expand here.
“Developers in the city centre are constantly fighting over land. If you look at Deansgate Towers, all that land has been bought and thousands and thousands of units are going up there, but people are still trying to buy land in that area.
"It’s a massive risk as a developer because you have to think that the population is going to double in the next five years or else your investment isn’t going to work - but they have that faith.”
Spencer meets buyers through referrals and developers - half of which are overseas. He’s worked with investors in mainland China and in Singapore who have snapped up units in the city for around £300k.
He came across Nest Seekers' European boss, Daniel McPeake, by chance through a mutual connection.
“Spencer is like a stick of rock,” Daniel said. “If you broke him in half he’d say ‘Manchester forever’ right down the middle. When you’ve got someone completely passionate and with a 360 view of the city and someone his age, young, clever, switched on, you have to listen.
“You have to listen to the young; they’re the one’s renting, they’re driving the nightlife, the economy. That moved my eyes firmly onto Manchester.
"Investors we have in China are super interested in Manchester because they see it as the happening place, there’s a youth movement of young professionals of up to about 35-years-old - talent is sticking.”
Four more agents are joining Spencer in Manchester after being successful in Nest Seekers' gruelling hiring process.
“I’ve got guys and girls that have sent me six emails, missed calls, contacts on Linkedin,” Daniel says. “Once you’re still hassling me two weeks later I'll speak to you. If you can't chase me, how are you going to chase someone who’s trying to sell their house?
“We’re not going to charge you to join us," he adds. " If someone is willing to bet on themselves and we see it, we’re willing to bet on them and back them to deliver. All we ask is when they’re successful, we share the profits.”
Newcomers have received expert training from the show’s Peggy Zabakolas over Zoom as well as tips from the company’s president Shawn Elliott.
Sales tactics go way beyond the usual.
“We think ‘what should we do to make sure everyone that needs to see this will see it?," Daniel said of Nest Seekers approach to selling luxury property.
"At the top end of the market, properties don’t sell, they’re bought," he added. "You need to work out who the buyer is then personalise all the marketing material to that buyer.
“If they’re into pink Ferraris, make sure there’s one on the drive in the video. If Spencer wants to sell a property to one of the Manchester football players, then make sure we can book a seat behind where he sits in the stadium, so Spencer can tap him on the shoulder and hand him a brochure.
“Other estate agents may think it’s rude, it’s not, it’s exactly what he would want you to do.
"We need to use laser accuracy to get to the buyers that one, can afford the homes, and two, complete on transaction.
"Whether that means sending massive boxes of chocolate, with a brochure inside with £100; whether that’s sending a life-size cut out of Spencer though the door with a speech bubble saying ‘we need to talk’. It sounds crazy but if it’s done correctly, and laser driven to the people that can buy it, that’s a fantastic marketing campaign.”
Daniel says he expects house prices to double in Manchester over the next five to 10 years.
“House prices can only increase in line with buyer demand," he said. "The demand has to be able to satisfy the prices being asked for.
"Property runs everything. There’s a micro effect of you moving into the house from the local corner shop you go to and the hairdressers, local services, to the plumber you’re getting round for a new bathroom.
“In a global pandemic, prices are still going up. It allows developers and councils the ability to build lots of social housing in really great areas to invigorate them.
"When a developer comes in, there’s a certain amount of houses that it builds for social needs or keyworkers, cost effective housing, that can only happen when there’s a spotlight on the city.
“Maybe house prices will go up but access to housing has to then increase in line with that for developers to be able to get their planning applications through. It shouldn’t be viewed as pricing everyone out.”
The property expert, who says there’s 'something definitely in the works' for a UK reality property show, said Manchester will soon be showcased to buyers in the Hamptons, Brooklyn, Beverly Hills and Miami.
He said: “It sits with all of them towns now. We will take Manchester on tour and it will pop up in all the Nest Seekers store fronts across the US for two weeks. It’s grown up, it’s matured, and has every bloody right to be there. It’s not flat caps and whippets.
“Manchester at the moment has just got some sort of attraction, Simon Cowell will probably say it’s got the X Factor. It’s not wrong. It’s drawing people.
“It hasn’t even started on where it’s going to be. It’s a sleeping giant and it has been for too long, it’s about to just shake everything off, and I think it’s going to become massive."
With 25 years experience, Daniel, who left school at 15, is at the forefront of bridging the gap between the US and UK real estate industry.
After seeing one of Nest Seekers earlier shows in 2014 - Million Dollar Listing New York -the property expert emailed founder Eddie Shapiro, who started the brokerage in 2001.
Following a year of back and forth emails, Eddie asked to meet. Daniel took the next flight out of London to be there on 5th Avenue in time for Eddie being there on his way into the office.
“I was fed up with how the industry was portrayed in the UK and agents having a bad rep," Daniel said.
"It really annoyed me. If you bought a Rightmove subscription and wore a tie, you could call yourself an agent - the barrier to entry was really low.
"They can't pitch a service because they don’t offer one. It took away the art of the sale and negotiation and what is at the beating heart of our industry.
“But it needs to step forward as one. It’s about time the industry is acknowledged for what it actually does and I’m all for bringing in more exams and regulation. When you’re dealing with someone’s most expensive asset, it’s a big deal and needs to be handled correctly.”
Nest Seekers approach differs from the typical UK model - which sees agents make between £20k-£30k base salary, no matter how many houses they sell, with an average fee of one per cent.
Instead, agents at Nest Seekers are their own ‘individual brand’, driven on performance with no basic salary, but charge a higher fee. They also work with other agents to split commission in 'co-broking' - with one representing the buyer and the other the seller.
Sellers benefit because their property is likely to be exposed to more potential buyers, they say, while buyers benefit as their interests are protected by their agent.
“Who is going to work harder?” he asked. “Other industries have moved on, moved into freelance. The term estate agent is dated - we’re one of the first brokerages here.”
“The Nest Seekers model provides unmatched support, marketing, and technology to develop our agents as individual brands and create new, independent rock stars of real estate that offer a holistic service that is client focused," Daniel says.
Spencer, who was a competitive cyclist before he went into selling property, finds Nest Seekers' way of doing business more exciting.
He started out as an 18-year-old at a local estate agent in Manchester on £18k a year, receiving £40 in commission whatever the property.
“It was good experience for the first year-and-a-half because I didn’t know any better," he says. "There was no passion for the actual business and no one wanted to be there, no one wanted to be there on a Saturday.
“I thought, ‘this could be an interesting job if you had the facilities and the people behind you to do it’. There was no drive because no one was incentivised.
“Properties would be in a right state and we’d list them, representing landlords, our clients. We’d take pictures on our Samsung Galaxy phones and that would be it.
"Upload to Rightmove then we’d sit there. Most would go out because the demand was there but I thought ‘are we marketing these properties or just doing something that actually anyone could do?’”
Selling mid to high-end properties - the £875k Didsbury sale netted a £12,000 commission- suits his passion for architecture - and his belief that the industry needs shaking up.
“I watched Million Dollar Listing NY. I always saw that side of the industry and thought this is how it needs to be and as long as there's a market here in Manchester, you can always do a similar kind of thing.”
Real Estate Broker | Sales Director Manchester