By Lucy Cohen Blatter for Mansion Global
Caroline Takla is a London-based buying agent, and the founder and managing partner of London boutique property consultancy The Collection LLP, based in the upscale central London neighborhood of Mayfair.
She’s also co-founder and director of One Point Six, a luxury London development company.
Ms. Takla has worked in the London property market since 2002 and founded The Collection in 2009. We caught up with her to discuss the something-for-everyone nature of London real estate, the charm—and financial appeal—of a prime resale property and more.
Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.
Caroline Takla: I don’t think it actually exists. It would be in the middle of London, with beachfront views.
But my ideal home would be somewhere really comfortable, where I don’t feel like I’m scared to touch anything, somewhere where I can come home and unwind.
My favorite homes have always been the ones that are comfy and cozy.
MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away?
CT: There have been two—a very large apartment in West London that was dirt cheap because it was probate. At the time we couldn’t afford to do it and do the renovations. I still think about that apartment, actually. To get from my house to my mum’s place, I have to pass that apartment building every day. So there’s extra salt rubbed in the wounds.
The other one was a townhouse with a self-contained flat on the first floor, and that was handy because I could have a live-in nanny live there. The sellers chose not to sell, but I think in retrospect, the house we got was better.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
CT: If it’s not comfortable, it’s not luxurious. Spaces in London are smaller than other places in the world, so comfort is very important here.
It’s about a balance between comfort, functionality and great materials that are used. People sometimes mistakenly correlate it with having to spend lots and lots of money.
MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?
CT: Mayfair, actually. For a long time, Mayfair was really overlooked as the poorer cousin of Belgravia or Knightsbridge, and it’s not as lively as Marylebone. Because of office blocks, it had a cold and transient feel, but in the last few years it’s seen regeneration. There are three high-end developments happening there.
You can buy for £2,000 to £3,000 (US$2,779 to US$4,168) per square foot in Mayfair, and in new developments, it’s more like £5,000 to £6,000 (US$6,947 to US$8,336) per square foot.
MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
CT: The biggest surprise is that buyers of multi-million-pound properties still go without a buying agent and without advice. In no other scenario when you’re looking to make a substantial purchase would you try and do it without an agent.
In the states, they’ve nailed it. Here, there’s too much reliance on an estate agent who’s working on behalf of the seller.
It’s changing, but it’s slow, and because they’re not represented by someone, the buyer ends up paying a lot more.
The London property market is quite opaque … There are nuances you may not understand as the buyer.
MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?
CT: London. Miami gives us a run for our money, though. And Miami’s interiors have come a long way.
The reason London is so great, in my humble opinion, is because we have some of the world’s best designers here. “Made in Britain” has cachet. There’s also a variety of different types of property—it’s not a homogeneous landscape at all. If you want to go ultra modern you can, if you want to go traditional you can too. The only thing we can’t offer is great weather. But we can cater to anything else. You’re also buying into heritage, schooling—all the amenities that London has to offer.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
CT: My daughter’s nursery. We used a beautiful chinoiserie wallpaper. It’s a good marriage between being a fun space but also a calming space.
The rest of it is, unfortunately, a work in progress.
MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?
CT: Work in progress. The thing I loved about it when we bought it is it’s an old house, built in 1888, and it still retains original period features. Fireplaces were in place, the servant’s calling bell was even intact. I love those surprises that the house has.
And our front door is a beautiful blue, with some stained glass. It has survived over 130 years. We want to enhance those features.
MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home?
CT: At the moment, the most value is the kitchen. It’s a handmade, wooden kitchen that was handmade in England. I imagine it cost the then-owners a lot of money.
MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?
CT: Flexibility and how you utilize the space. To be future-proof is super important. Having foresight to understand how the space needs to adapt when you live and grow into it—that’s the most important thing.
But more specifically, utility rooms are making a big comeback in the U.K. Traditionally you’d put your washer and dryer in the kitchen. But people are now wanting to migrate away from that.
Office sheds are popular, too. They can be used as an office, playroom, or workout studio.
MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?
CT: People tend to economize where they can, and often that comes to their property lawyers. But you shouldn’t scrimp on those—they’re looking out for you, checking out that titles are right.
And buying a home is not just an emotional decision, it also has to be a robust financial decision. Is there a profit possible there? Is it future-proof? Buy with your head rather than your heart.
MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market?
CT: Undoubtedly the single biggest thing is Brexit. But there are other things going on that counteract Brexit. For example, we’re seeing a lot of Saudi money coming our way. London still has a cachet, and it’s seen as a safe haven, somewhere that you can park your money— and bricks and mortar is the safest asset class.
Since the 2016 Brexit vote, 2017 saw uptick, and that’s because there had been a significant amount of pent-up demand from 2015 (when there was a general election). And then there was the build-up to the referendum, and the referendum. It’s been a good three years of significant pent-up demand. Those buyers who’ve been waiting on the sidelines will transact for the right opportunity.
MG: What is the best area now for investing in luxury properties?
CT: Anything that will experience a significant infrastructural change. The Elizabeth Line, or Crossrail line, is a well-documented story. One needs to examine those points, and pinpoint areas that have other good infrastructure—good schooling, good parks.
Crossrail 2 is under consultation. Those routes have to be examined carefully.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
CT: I personally wouldn’t choose to live in a new build. I know that they’re nice and shiny and they come with lots of great amenities. But the more unique your property, the more likely someone will pay you more money, and maybe buy with their heart not their head.
When you sell, you’re not necessarily going to have a strong pull or stand out from the others in a new property.
Resales are charming, too. Of course they’re not without their pains. But London is about history and heritage, and if you buy something like that, you have a slice of that. The key is to marry the historical elements with something more 2018—that’s the perfect marriage.
MG: What area currently has the best resale value?
CT: Chelsea—Sloane Square, Eaton Square, Cadogan Square. Those are certainly the most desirable. For every one client who doesn’t want to live there, there are five or six buyers who do.
It’s a finite number of homes, and they hold their value.