Feb. 15, 2021
Nest Seekers International, the brokerage that took center stage on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York,” has launched in the U.K., and its managing director is Daniel McPeake.
Mr. McPeake, who is in charge of Nest Seekers International across Europe, oversees offices in Moorgate, London, and on Oxford Street in Manchester. A team of real estate agents sell some of the most high-end homes in the U.K., with prime listings in Mayfair and Chelsea in London, Wentworth Estate in Surrey and Cheshire.
Mr. McPeake said he saw an opportunity to create a brokerage environment in the U.K. that’s more similar to the U.S. “Real estate in the U.K. is the Wild West. There’s no licensing for brokers, and anyone can call themselves estate agents. Agents are salaried and get a small commission. Commission is 1-1.5% is average in the U.K. Our agents get 3%.”
The company has expanded into Portugal, too. “The reason is because last year 33% of all buyers in Lisbon were American,” he said.
MG: How has the U.K. market fared throughout the different lockdowns?
Daniel McPeake: At the first lockdown, the country’s housing minister said we couldn’t make any deals. But we encouraged our agents to network. We couldn’t do viewings, and we lost some clients, perhaps, but we focused on brand recognition, and having events, like a Zoom meeting with the stars of “Million Dollar Beach House.”
Now we can show homes in the second lockdown. We’re ultra cautious, and we have something called a sniff test. If the vendor isn’t comfortable, we don’t push them to show. It’s all a bit discombobulated, but it’s moving.
MG: Do you expect activity to drop after the stamp duty holiday ends and the foreign buyers tax is implemented in the spring?
DM: There is definitely a push to move now. We’ve had one of the busiest Januarys ever. We’ve seen a massive push into the market. We’re also seeing more developers who are coming to us and want to get marketing going.
Because there’s a crowd of people shouting “buy, buy, buy, buy,” I don’t think it’s gonna slow down completely in the spring. The busy market is not all because of stamp duty. People are thinking house prices are dampened because we’re in a pandemic, so it’s not a bad time to move.
We’re seeing a change in buyers throughout London. In the past, if you went into super luxury areas of London, like Kensington and Mayfair, the main international buyers were from Dubai and Saudi Arabia. They’ve pulled out, and we’re seeing more French buyers coming for superprime. If it was once £20 million (US$27.6 million), it’s now £17.5 million, so there are deals there.
Towns outside London are seeing massive increases. Europeans are getting in as the Saudi Arabians and other Middle Eastern buyers aren’t coming in. Some of these areas have French areas and French schools.
People are making lifestyle changes and going to places like Cornwall, like Sandbanks. Those are a little bit remote, great for a holiday. But I do think in a world that’s made easier by screens, people behind them will eventually crave interaction. We’re gonna see a big move out to these places, and then a contraction to come back. Human beings forget, and they forget quickly. People will want to come back to cities. Some people are already heading back from places like Devon.
I wouldn’t bet against London, but I think it’ll become a younger city.
We’re also seeing a lot of Americans coming to London, which is why we wanted to start Nest Seekers here. There’s an uplift. Not just from New York, but from places like Chicago—Ken Griffin bought a £100 million house. Now, Americans are the eighth most common foreign buyers, and they used to not rank.
We’re getting referrals from American branches, people are going back and forth from New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
The dollar was so good against the pound. So it’s made a big difference. Brexit was the worst thing for the market because it caused uncertainty, but it created opportunity for Americans and the French.
MG: Are you seeing foreign buyers making purchases in the U.K. at the moment or is it much more local?
DM: It depends where you want to go. There are certain pockets with the French or Italians in South London. I’m seeing a lot of tenants becoming homeowners in their buildings. The rental market took a bit of a dip, and a lot of overseas landlords are selling them rather than holding on to rentals.
MG: How would you describe your dream home?
DM: My dream home is an amazing penthouse in the city, with a wraparound terrace you can jog around, with lots of stuff in the building—restaurants and bars. I’ve gotta have the views and vibrance of a city. I need to see people and be inspired by them. That’s what I want to see.
Has it changed from Covid? Kind of. I’d also love to have a traditional English cottage in a town where I can walk to a pub. There’s more spatial awareness now, and we’ve come to embrace the joy of slowing down.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
DM: You don’t have to think, because everything’s been thought out for you. As you arrive at the property, it starts with the sound of the gravel driving in. Everything is “wow,” but you can’t put your finger on what that “wow” is.
MG: What's your favorite part of your home?
DM: Before lockdown it was walking up to my house. I live on a nature preserve, and we have wild stags that walk by. I saw a white stag last week. I used to like coming home and seeing my front doors.
But now, for me, it’s my bedroom. I love to read, so I have a lot of books there. It’s my sanctuary. It can be a 10-by-8 room or a massive room.
MG: Is there anything going on in the real estate market at the moment that surprises you?
DM: I’m surprised the market has gone up during all this time. In six months, I expect the roaring ’20s again. People are going to buy a lot.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Managing Director - Europe