Opportunity Knocks, Residents Journal, November 2014

7th of November 2014

If Rymer Irens had a ‘how to found a successful estate agency’ manual it would go like so: wait for the right deal to come along and grab it with both hands – then invest in the best staff possible. This is the refreshing approach that has kept the Wandsworth-based agency, which now boasts two local offices, moving forward for the last four years.

‘The history starts with my brother Duncan and his business partner Ben Rymer who worked together for a number of years before the opportunity to start out on their own arose. I arrived about 18 months later,’ Angus explains. ‘My background is in corporate finance, I was based in the City for years. I’d helped a number of entrepreneurs and watched them enjoy the fruits of their labour and, after a while, I wanted to do the same,’ he says.

‘After a placement in China, I returned home and joined the team. It wasn’t long before we gelled and a partnership was formed. Duncan is my brother but Ben might as well be the third sibling.’ Angus admits. ‘We all bring such different skills to the table and there is no way the business could work without the three of us.’

Longevity is the watchword at Rymer Irens and since day one the team has always wanted to retain its position as a small agency tailored to operate at the higher end of the market. ‘We started out as an ant and have grown without losing our identity,’ Angus says proudly. He puts the success of the Bellevue Road office down to the team’s pragmatism in responding to the needs of clients, rather than sticking to a rigid blueprint. ‘In the same way that Bellevue Road was opportunistic, the perfect chance came along to open a second office at Nightingale Lane. We do have aspirations to grow, but only if the right opportunity comes along,’ Angus assures.

The ambition is clear: to be the local, independent agent of choice. ‘We see ourselves as being embedded in Wandsworth and want to know what more we can provide for our clients.’ Angus believes that this autumn is a good time to buy. Rymer Irens has registered a healthy chunk of new stock and property prices have cooked somewhat. ‘Estate agency is very market-driven and the one thing that you can’t do is change the market forces. The market soared to a peak earlier this year, but it couldn’t continue that way,’ Angus explains. ‘There has been a period of reconsideration when buyers and vendors are taking into account the huge property rises of the last few years; many might have been waiting several months for circumstances to change.’

There is a misconception that a situation involving multiple buyers and competing bids – ‘the last of the Madding Crowd’ – as Angus refers to it, causes estate agents to rub their hands together with glee. ‘We don’t want high volatility,’ he insists. ‘There’s absolutely no point in having hundreds of applicants. I’d much rather have one good house, one good applicant and then that’s it, deal done.’ Although Angus admits that things might remain a little unsettled in the run-up to next year’s General Election, he is hopeful that conditions will stabilise post-May.

‘Prices remain competitive across the Wandsworth postcode. There has been a lot for buyers and vendors to digest,’ Angus continues. ‘If you had a house worth £1million three years ago, effectively you would have been earning up to £10,000 per month just for holding onto the property. This means that three years on it could achieve £1.36million. Thirty per cent of our business is now property valued at more than £2million.’

The office is also seeing a lot of enquiries from applicants who sold earlier in the year and then moved into rented accommodation to bide their time. Angus acknowledges that today’s so-called ‘generation rent’ means many people don’t look to buy until they are into their thirties, but he disagrees with the suggestion that this is a cultural shift or that more people are looking to rent rather than buy, like our European counterparts.

‘If you go back more than a century to the early 1900s when the majority of homes around here were built, 95 per cent were rented,’ he reveals. ‘I don’t think we’ll return to that. We are a nation of shopkeepers, after all. We like to own our properties; it is in our nature.’

Back to the 21st century and Rymer Irens is hoping to build on its success thanks to its tight-knit team. Angus believes the agency’s single biggest investment should be the staff. ‘Invest in the right person and you invest in the business as a whole,’ he reasons. ‘There is a trend now for estate agents to rely and invest too heavily on their corporate brand image, marketing themselves as all things to all people, often at the expense of attracting and retaining better talent within the industry. I believe that what our clients want is an agency with intelligence about the local market. At our Nightingale Lane office we have a negotiator, Tim, who is fantastic – in fact, he’s probably brighter than the three of us put together,’ Angus jokes. ‘If we could just clone more Tims.’