One of them was Tim
Hyatt, who was preparing to take over as head of the firm’s UK residential
business at the very moment the country’s housing market was brought to a
standstill by the lockdown.
three floors where we normally have a thousand people, we were down to five,
with this dark cloud heading our way,” he recalls. “We had a huge wave of new
optimism, three months of fantastic trading and then whoomph – I start my new
job and [we] close 61 offices.”
months into his new job and the situation looks a little less bleak for Hyatt.
The housing market has reopened, the lockdown is being eased and transactions
are taking place.
half of Knight Frank’s residential team have been furloughed, but Hyatt says
that since the reopening of the market, at least 10% of those not working have
been brought back and more will return as the weeks go on.
London and country market were really beginning to come back and all
indications now are that we are set for a relatively good year as long as
there’s not a rebound [in the pandemic], but bear in mind we’ve lost eight
weeks of trading.”
putting a brave face on things, but residential sales for the year are forecast
to drop 38%, although he says the fall in prices is likely to be modest.
the readjustment has taken place already,” he says. “We’re now predicting
property prices to drop 5% across London and the rest of the country, although
it might be slightly less than that in London.”
We’ve done some very big deals in recent days with
ability to accurately assess the health of the London property market comes
from nearly 30 years of working in the capital. In 1992, he was given his first
job by Jon Hunt, founder of Foxtons.
rose up the ranks to head the group’s lettings arm, then left in 2003 to join
Knight Frank as its new partner in charge of UK lettings and property
years running lettings, Hyatt took over as head of London residential in 2019
and was promoted this year to run the entire residential business.
who has spent most of his career doing high-end London residential deals – says
the weak pound and popularity of London has kept Knight Frank’s prime
residential business ticking over during the Covid-19 crisis.
done some very big deals in recent days and they’ve all gone to international
buyers,” he notes.
of the London lettings market, to get a feel for how business will hold up in
the longer term, Hyatt is closely monitoring what is going on in the City of
London jobs market.
is our barometer for lettings. If we see a big hit in terms of employment in
the City – and there are talks of it – then that could have an impact on the
lettings market,” he says.
meantime, as government restrictions ease, Hyatt is preparing a road trip
across the country to see pockets of up to 100 members of staff to communicate
his plans for the business. In the short-term, the aim is to protect cashflow
and make sure deals go through.
longer-term, Hyatt intends to execute a “cradle to grave” strategy – building
and maintaining relationships with customers, from finding student digs through
to their first property purchase and into old age.
also covers Knight Frank’s 30 country high-street offices and he admits that
the initial signs are that its residential offices outside Greater London have
had “a tough run of it”.
he adds: “People living in condensed masses in city centres are saying: ‘If
another case of Covid came around, do I want to be living in this constrained
space or might I move out?’ There will be a natural flow of some people moving
from London and city centres further out.”
could have consequences for the number of high-street estate agencies in
densely populated urban locations and dovetail with another trend accelerated
by the pandemic: homeworking. “My view is that the world of high-street agency
will look very different in the next three to five years,” he says.
think we will have as many estate agencies on the high street as we see now.
Why would we not be looking at hubs? You could have a condensed group of agents
operating out of commercial premises in a region or city centre that have the
ability to start their day at home or to start their day at the office, but
have a much wider catchment area than just the Canary Wharf office that just
deals with Canary Wharf.”
estate agencies is just one part of Hyatt’s vast new role: his remit also
includes the student sector, residential land business, consultancy practice,
retirement living and new homes. Work begins at 7am and finishes at 7pm. Does
he have time for lunch? “I did give myself time for a lunch break when I
started but now I don’t… I’m the new guy on the block and I have an immense
amount of responsibility.”
one of the top jobs in residential property during a housing crisis is an
unenviable task, but Hyatt seems keen to get stuck in. Whether or not his new
role will be made any easier by a recovery in the market, however, remains to