Appledore - Credit: Graham Hobbs

COLUMN: London's importance to the North Devon property market - Simon Smith

Joseph Bulmer

Many years ago, an area like North Devon would have had an agriculturally based economy, and at the centre of that local economy would have been the weekly market, so for the local farmers, producers and growers, the way to obtain the best price for their produce was to take it to market.

Times have moved on, and these days in farming, the buyers (i.e. the dominant supermarket chains) seem to tell the sellers (the farmers, producers and growers) what an acceptable price would be, rather than the other way around. When it comes to property however, do we still need to take a property to a central market to obtain the best price? And by a central market, I do of course mean London.

There was a time in the not too distant past when regional property markets such as North Devon, or at least the more rarefied strata’s of those markets, were obsessed with taking their properties to Central London in order to showcase them to the most affluent buyers in the country, the sort of buyers who, it was hoped, might be looking for a West Country weekend bolthole for a million or two to add to a portfolio that probably included a Chateau in France and a villa in Mustique and in order to facilitate this exposure, agents in regional markets would team up with companies based in Mayfair and other prime Central London hotspots who would give the regional agents a metaphorical, and sometimes a literal, shop window in the London market.

But is that still relevant today? With the advent of the internet, it is a much-debated question. Like almost everything else in our lives, the internet fundamentally changed the way properties were marketed in that the marketing reach of an agency was suddenly catapulted beyond the physical range of the branch network and the reach of the local newspapers which, pre Rightmove, were THE shop windows for property.

The new concept of property portal websites meant that buyers sitting in Central London, or for that matter Frankfurt, Dubai or Hong Kong, could simply type ‘North Devon’ into a Rightmove or Zoopla search and before their very eyes would unfold the majesty of the region's property crème-de-la-crème, with no need to schlep through Mayfair thoroughfares in order to amass an armful of brochures.

So, does London still matter, and for a regional agent, does a London presence still matter? I would argue that in the current post Covid environment, London matters more than ever before as the flood of urban escapees leaving the Metropolis have been a major factor in the frenzied property market North Devon has experienced in the last couple of years, and continues to do so. Put simply, it’s still where most of our buyers for our more expensive properties come from, so yes, London does still matter for properties in North Devon.

And what about the London connections. So, prized by regional agents a decade or two ago? Are they still relevant?

I would again argue Yes, I think they are, and at John Smale & Co we are proud to retain our long-held link with Mayfair Office who help us showcase our stunning country and coastal properties to London buyers.

We also market jointly through our Surrey based sister company, S J Smith Estate Agents, who similarly showcase our properties to buyers from the wealthiest County in the UK. And why, in this pushbutton, click-of-a-mouse world do we still think these avenues of marketing are relevant?

Simply because when it comes to selling properties, there is still more required than a drone video and a floorplan, there is still a need for one human being, ideally one who knows a little about property and the buying and selling process of it, to talk to another human being, and long may it be that way!