COLUMN: The importance of London to the North Devon property market

Many years ago an area like North Devon would have had an economy based on agriculture, and at the center of that local economy would have been the weekly market, so for local farmers, growers and growers the means to get the best price for their products were to bring them to market.

Times have changed, and nowadays in agriculture, buyers (i.e. the dominant supermarket chains) seem to be telling sellers (farmers, growers and growers) what an acceptable price would be, rather than the reverse. In terms of real estate, is it still necessary to bring a property to a central market to obtain the best price? And by central market, of course, I 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 of these markets, were obsessed with bringing their properties to central London in order to introduce them to the more affluent shoppers in the country, the kind of shoppers who, it was hoped, might be on the hunt for a weekend asshole in the West Country for a million or two to add to a portfolio that likely included a chateau in France and a villa in Mustique and in order to facilitate this exposure, regional market agents would team up with companies based in Mayfair and other central London hotspots who would give regional agents a metaphorical, and sometimes literal, showcase on the London market.

But is it still relevant today? With the advent of the Internet, this is a very controversial issue. 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 reach of the branch network and the reach local newspapers which, before Rightmove, were THE showcases for real estate.

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 eyes unfold the majesty of the cream of the crop real estate in the region, without needing to cross the arteries of Mayfair to amass an armful of brochures.

So, does London still matter, and for a regional agent, does a presence in London still matter? I would say that in today’s post-Covid environment, London matters more than ever, as the flood of urban escapees leaving the metropolis has been a major factor in the frenzied property market that North Devon has seen for the last two years, and keep doing it. Put simply, it’s still where most of our buyers come from for our most expensive properties, so yes, London still counts for properties in North Devon.

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

I would say again Yes I think they are, and at John Smale & Co we are proud to maintain our long-standing link with the Mayfair Office, which helps us bring our stunning country and coastal properties to London buyers. .

We also jointly market through our Surrey-based sister company, SJ Smith Estate Agents, who also introduce our properties to buyers in the UK’s wealthiest county. And why, in this world of push buttons and mouse clicks, do we still think these marketing avenues are relevant?

Simply because when it comes to selling properties it takes even more than a drone video and a floor plan, there is always a need for a human being, ideally someone who knows a little ownership and the process of buying and selling it, to speak to another human being, and long may it be!