“Kindest (keep on closing),” is how estate agent Daniel McPeake signs off his emails. He’s East End born and bred – his granddad was the bare-knuckle fighter Basher Harris. But as the London-based managing director of Nest Seekers International, the property brokerage behind Netflix’s latest US real estate reality series, Million Dollar Beach House, McPeake is helping to bring about what he calls the “Americanisation” of the luxury London property market.
The TV show, which follows five camera-loving brokers in the multi-millionaires’ playground of The Hamptons, may look a world away from the stiff upper lip of classic prime London estate agency. But a London series is imminent. “People will already have the brand awareness through Million Dollar Beach House, and viewers love to poke their noses in big houses and see the back stories of the agents,” says McPeake.
Nest Seekers’ agents are no strangers to TV reality shows. New York broker Ryan Serhant has become a one-man mega-brand since starring in Million Dollar Listing New York, and another of its brokers, Marisa Zanuck, can be seen in Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Selling LA and Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles.
The company’s new cohort of central London agents look the part. Being a Nest Seekers broker is as much about selling yourself as the property, and these agents come with some smouldering profile photos and bombastic biographies.
Jordan Wright tells us he started his first business aged nine. Young and chisel-cheeked public school boy Christian Horner is “from a family of entrepreneurs”, and his older brother Zac is a mountaineer, ski instructor and adventurer who likes nothing more than “to build a cabin in the woods, cook over an open fire and dive into the waters of a misty lake on a crisp autumn morning”. McPeake may be the grandson of an East End bruiser, but he mentions his colleague Solly Strickland “used to get chauffeur-driven to Eton”.
Nest Seekers encourage their agents to develop their own brand within the umbrella brand, building up their own Instagram followings and joining half a dozen gyms to schmooze with the right kind of clients. “That’s how they do it in the US. You don’t meet anyone sitting at your desk,” says McPeake.
American-style commissions are on offer too. Where a typical UK agent will take a basic salary and make 10% of the agency’s fee (so £2,000 on a £1m sale), their US equivalent works on a commission-only basis and can take home up to 70% (£14,000 on a £1m sale). “Who is going to work harder?” asks McPeake.
Naturally, there are some eye-popping properties to tempt buyers. Current listings include a £7m penthouse in London Bridge with a speedboat mooring, a £7.95m, four-bed loft in a converted Victorian warehouse near the new American Embassy in Nine Elms and, for the traditionalists, a stucco-fronted, Grade II listed mansion on Knightsbridge’s Exhibition Road for £27m.
The American-style approach to selling homes isn’t just about putting a property out there and seeing who shows interest. It’s “individualised” and “laser-driven marketing”, says McPeake, with password-protected videos for a particular buyer’s eyes only, and marketing tailored to suit their tastes, “particularly for properties over £20m,” he adds.
“If that person is into electric Brompton bikes, then we’ll put a folded up Brompton in the hallway. We’ll get a production company to shoot a video, call in a Ferrari for a day and hire actors to play mum and dad arriving home. It’s about getting the right people through the door who will think ‘That’s what I’m like, I can see myself there’, and pay the price that people deserve.”
Property showings come with an element of performance about them too. Coldplay’s Chris Martin and the American rapper Snoop Dogg have sung in some of the US homes on sale. In another, there was the chance to win a Lamborghini Huracan. And while Snoop Dogg may not be suitable, or available, to market a Mayfair mansion, Nest Seekers will call in a famous local artist to display their works or partner up with a high-profile interior designer to 'stage' the house.
It’s certainly a new approach for central London property, and one likely to ruffle a few feathers among traditional agents. It remains to be seen how well-heeled home-owners in London’s prime postcodes take to this showbiz way of selling homes. “It’s about getting it right for the UK market,” says McPeake, “without losing the American glitz.”
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