The trade bodies of the property industry have done their best in recent years to encourage more women to take up senior positions within the sector.
This has included electing several high-profile female big hitters to be presidents or vice presidents of both ARLA and the NAEA, to much fanfare.
But despite this, the property industry remains a doggedly man’s world. It’s something that 28-year-old estate agent Jade Boyles-White from Exeter is aware of.
“On my patch several people have said I won’t get anywhere until I’ve gone grey,” she says.
As far as Dealmakerz is aware, she is the UK’s youngest multi-branch estate agency managing director, and without a doubt the youngest female one.
“But it’s not about me; it’s about the team and I want to lead it whether I’m 28 or 58 years old – my success will be based on the success of our business and the people in it,” she says.
Jade works at SW agency Complete Estate Agents, which has four branches including its head office in Exeter plus addresses in Teignmouth, Newton Abbott and Bovey Tracey.
The company was set up in 2013 by local businessman Will Smith. Jade arrived in 2015 after a three-year spell at Connells and was immediately made a director at Complete at just 25 years old, heading up its Land and New Homes operation despite having previously excelled in lettings.
“Will’s background is in land, so he had those relationships with developer clients and my passion in reality is marketing,” she says.
“What I realised quite quickly is that while other estate agents were good sales people they generally only focussed on that, and not a development’s marketing.
“To excel at new homes, I believe you need to do both the sales and marketing well. That’s our USP and how we’ve managed to grow because we offer something to our clients that other people do not.
Jade says most agents just take a developer’s site brochure and then ‘run with it’, but she insists that Complete is fully involved “from the time we look at the site, through the whole of the appraisal, choosing the spec and the site mix all the way through to completion,” she adds.
Complete’s new homes patch is a busy and diverse one. Exeter and Teignmouth are popular with first time buyers, while its upper-crust rural areas and coastal patches are regularly featured in national newspaper ‘holiday home’ and ‘escape to the country’ hotspot lists.
“Devon is always going to draw in those relocators, and we see a lot of them from Easter to August/September,” she says.
“Often, they have been coming down to Teignmouth for years with their families on holiday and have decided to come here in their 50s to either retire or buy a second home.
“We have always seen that. It’s semi-rural but still close to Exeter and its airport and the M5.”
Jade says her biggest challenge is persuading local builders and developers to adjust their business models to the shifting housing market.
The most surprising of these is Help to Buy education. Complete holds a week-long promotional campaign each year to help developers understand Help to Buy better.
She says some view the government scheme as an extension of social housing and something to be avoided, a perception she’s keen to change.
“Depending on where a development is and the mix of housing within it, Help to Buy can drive up to 80% of purchases by first time buyers at developments within our area of Devon,” she says.
“Such a massive market can’t be ignored, particularly when they are chain free and usually ready to buy with a deposit saved up.”
Complete also wants to help developers look further ahead and ‘future proof’ their developments.
“We know that our buyers no longer rely on a couple of viewings at a handful of developments,” says Jade.
“These days they have so much information at their fingertips from portals, review websites, bloggers and social media, and they use it to research the local market and the developments too, so developers have to realise that.”
No one can accuse Complete of hiding its business stats from prying eyes. The company publishes its four key performance metrics live on the firm’s website. These claim that it lets properties at 99.6% of their asking rent, sells 89% of all the new homes it markets, and takes 19 days on average from instruction to sale. All punchy figures by industry standards.
Jade says the hardest part is trying to bake-in or ‘future proof’ sites months and maybe years before construction starts.
“I was looking at some ZPG research recently into new homes buyers, which they do every year, and it shows how things that we don’t think are important to purchasers do really matter to them – such as home working and distance to amenities – which developers are going to have to consider more and more,” she says.
A different sort of crystal ball gazing is also under way at Complete. Jade says she can see a time soon when someone launches a new homes comparison site, which she believes would be particularly effective in areas thick with new homes sites.
“I think it would make some developers really think about what each site’s unique selling point is,” she says.
“It’s also a matter of time before Airbnb begins to make an impact on the rental market sector in the South West, in the same way it has done in the big cities. The extra regulation and taxes bearing down on traditional rented properties mean short-term rental sites like Airbnb are looking more and more attractive to investors.
“We’ve looked at moving into this market, but to be successful you need scale for Airbnb management to work and it’s not got to that point here yet.”
Jade’s more pressing task is to keep Complete growing. The company has seen year-on-year growth during her tenure, something that no doubt persuaded Will Smith to make her Managing Director earlier this month, despite her lack of grey hair.