Interview with Geoffrey Kent: Founder of Abercrombie & Kent

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 A&K International Estates is your latest venture (launched in September 2012). What made you decide to expand to become an estate agency as well as a leading tailored and luxury holiday specialist?

There are very close synergies between luxury travel and high end second home ownership. Those interested in owning a second home (or in many cases their third or fourth) tend to be wealthy, well-travelled and business savvy. Exactly the same profile as our existing clientele. Many of our guests have asked for help in finding the perfect holiday home. We work closely with most of the top resorts around the world and regularly send guests to their hotels. If they happen to be selling real estate, then we can actively assist our clients. Ultimately, A&K is all about service and we believe we can offer real estate services with a difference by assisting buyers with all their travel needs and destination experiences, both in terms of viewing properties, but also once they have taken ownership.

 What elements made you focus on the business of Luxury?

 Abercrombie & Kent has been at the forefront of luxury travel for more than 50 years, pioneering tailor made holidays to established and emerging markets around the world in a uniquely stylish manner. Demand from our guests to own luxury property has been growing, and A&K International Estates reflects our commitment to provide completely personalized service.

Having over 50 offices spread across 26 different countries must put you in excellent stead for giving the best advice to your clients. What do you think puts you above other specialist boutique real estate agencies?

What makes us truly unique is our core business – travel, and our network of over 52 offices around the world. This enables us to offer seamless, end-to-end service to our clients from site visits during construction, to travel arrangements whenever they want to use their home. In destinations where we have an office, we can create bespoke travel itineraries that help the buyer fully appreciate the local lifestyle, whether it’s owning a piece of a winery in Mendoza or a spa retreat in Thailand. Our strategy is very much about selling the destination first and the property second.

Why did you decide to launch Abercrombie & Kent’s Estate Agency at the tail end of the recession?

The best time to set up a business is just before the market recovers. We assessed that it wouldn’t be too long before the market picked up and we wanted to be established, which takes time sourcing the right properties and building a reputation, so that when the good times return we were ready and not playing catch-up or missing opportunities. It’s taken about six months longer than we had predicted but the recovery is clearly in full swing now. We think we have timed it pretty well.

Which achievements are you most proud of since launching the estate agency?

We offer a highly tailored service in the top end property market. We have the ability to provide comprehensive services around property sales such as travel, villa rental and concierge services. We only list a manageable number of properties and developments at any time, enabling us to provide personalized, first class service. Buying and selling though us means special treatment.

I’m particularly pleased with how well we are able to work together between our various divisions and across borders. We have built a fantastic portfolio of properties, from unique individual homes to resort retreats and even private vineyards, in a relatively short space of time and we are attracting wealthy buyers from around the world who come to us because they trust the brand and the service we offer.

Which country/ies do you feel most excited about the prospect and growth of the housing market for in the foreseeable future?

In the USA, properties have hit the bottom in many locations but prime properties in Manhattan and Florida are booming once again, largely driven by foreign investors and a lack of stock. Such properties appeal to both investors and those seeking primary residences and they see them as safe locations to put their capital. We see France as a safe and stable market and Switzerland is now performing particularly well with the focus of high net worth individuals (HNWI’s) set on Verbier. Ibiza too is proving popular and we see a return to the market for prime locations in mainland Spain. Later this year we will be marketing a development in Bali which will introduce A&K clients in the Far East and Australia to A&K International Estates.

Do you find that people tend to look abroad for homes more in the summer months as opposed to any other time of the year?

People are looking throughout the year. The British have for many years been a key source of buyers in this market and it is taking them time to have confidence to return to the market. We are instead seeing higher numbers of international buyers from China, Russia, India, Africa, Brazil and Switzerland. This trend is likely to continue for some time with the very prime market appealing to wealthy buyers from emerging markets and buyers from within Europe seeking attractive price deals on properties closer to home.

July and August are typically quiet months with most people in holiday mode; however, we have never been busier and are currently closing major sales in Thailand, France and Switzerland. This bodes well for the September to November period which is a popular buying season.

Do your clients look more for luxury homes to use for holidays or to move to because of a change in lifestyle?

Most of our clients intend using their properties between 4 and 8 weeks a year depending on the type of property and location. They are predominately driven by lifestyle considerations, although most also keen to see their property purchase perform, either through annual rental returns or capital appreciation over the medium to long term. We do have some who are looking to relocate or eventually retire to and therefore look for somewhere they can use for a large portion of the year either now or in 5 – 10 years’ time. Mauritius and Tenerife are good examples.

 If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

I have always been interested in excitement and adventure and enjoy being on the move. I am based in Monaco but also have homes in London and Brazil where my wife is from. My parents and I founded Abercrombie & Kent as a safari company in East Africa, a part of the world that I still love and spend time exploring.

I’m as passionate about my job now as I was when I first started A&K and one of the benefits is the ability to travel and discover new and exciting destinations. I don’t think I could stay put in any one location for long.

How often do you travel and what do you do in your spare time?

I travel for as much as 250 days per year. I particularly like visiting new places. I remember going to the Maldives and the Seychelles years ago and have watched their transformation. I’m always on the lookout for somewhere new to bring A&K clients and to share in their experiences. Now this includes buying a home!