Highly experienced in both the London and Northern home counties markets, Stephen Fairfax has worked in the property industry for over three decades. Seventeen years in central London including eight as partner at Knight Frank sealed his status as an expert in the residential sales market before a move to Savills developed his passion for the sale and consultancy of land and new homes.
Written by Lisa Proffitt | 1st October 2021
Meet Michael Graham’s Senior Partner for Land and New Homes
Here he tells us about his experience in the industry to date and why he is excited about the new chapter starting here at Michael Graham.
- How long have you worked for Michael Graham?
Four months, although it feels like 2 minutes, but I guess time flies when you are having fun and working with so many fabulous people.
- What first attracted you to a career in estate agency?
The company car. I had just been made redundant and had a date lined up the following weekend and needed a car! True story.
- Do you have a typical day working in Land and New Homes?
No, it’s one of the best things about my role. One minute I’m sitting at my desk researching pricing for a scheme of 150 new homes, the next I’m standing in the middle of a field or an old barn, trying to work out if there is planning potential.
- The word has been widely used this year, but in your experience is it true to say that activity in the property market post-pandemic is unprecedented?
No, I don’t think it is. The property price boom initially started with an exodus from London, with buyers looking to improve their work life balance and a drive for outside space, but it’s now being driven by lack of stock and very low interest rates. Over the last 33 years I’ve worked through several booms and busts. The initial reason for the boom may differ, but that reason fades away fairly quickly, and in the end the continued growth comes down to buyer confidence in the market and fear of missing out. Missing out on owning their own home, missing out on not being able to afford to upgrade as the price gap widens, missing out on the chance of capital growth/equity.
- Has the market changed in general over the last decade?
The market has seen price growth, but the main change is the misconceived perception that the internet makes the job of an estate agent easy. It’s my opinion that now more than ever, the role is about people skills and the ability to understand both your clients and your purchasers needs and fears, and being able to guide and help them through the process. The skill is in taking time to ask the right questions, listening carefully to the answers and demonstrating that you understand what they really want, and providing solutions through professional advice and offering ways to compromise. If you can do this, you arrive at a point where they start to really trust you and value your opinion. That is when in their eyes, you are no longer just an estate agent, but THE estate agent, the only one they recommend to friends and family.
- What has been your biggest challenge in Land?
The cost of gaining planning permission is certainly a challenge. Many developers are being hit with section 106 payments and Community Infrastructure Levy on smaller schemes that never used to attract these payments by local councils not adhering to government guidelines. This, along with rising building costs, may be the start of land values beginning to fall.
- What has been your proudest moment?
When I was at Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward, giving my secretary Samantha an opportunity and training/assisting her in working her way up to becoming a branch manager. I love to see people progress.
- What do you think are the key services that an estate agent can offer to a new developer?
Passion, a desire to go above and beyond, and local knowledge are key. Knowing your market place, war stories and historic sales are invaluable.
- Is there a secret to your success that you’re willing to share?
Questions, always ask lots of questions. Get to know your clients. Build a long term relationship by asking questions - where they work, their interests, their plans - you never know what you will find out and who you could refer them to. Maybe their company is looking for new commercial premises, maybe their daughter is off to university and needs a flat, maybe grannie has a bungalow on a large plot that could have development potential. Become their trusted advisor.
- What does the future look like for Land and New Homes at Michael Graham?
The future looks very bright. We already have a wonderful brand and a great team in each of our offices. I’m very confident that once developers see what we can offer, they will be very keen to work with us.
- Everyone who meets you comments on your passion, energy and enthusiasm. What drives you?
I’m not sure really, I think it just comes down to being a very social person with a glass half full mentality. It also helps that I am very fortunate to do a job that I actually love.
- And finally, as someone who lives the world of property every day of the week, are you a fan of property programmes and do you have a favourite? We’re guessing Grand Designs…
Nope, I find that the property programs always play down the real cost and stress that is involved in building your own home. If only it was as easy and as profitable as they make it look. However, I am a big fan of Killing Eve, I love that dark sense of humour.
If you’d like to get in touch with Stephen Fairfax you can reach him at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 07872 857796. To find out more about the new Land and New Homes department at Michael Graham, click here. To view Michael Graham town and country homes to buy or to rent, including the new build properties listed below, head to the property page on our website.