Messila's venture into estate agency pays off

Messila Residential is part of a successful family business, operating in central London since 1975. Ross Kennedy explains its current success.

How did you get into estate agency?
I started almost 10 years ago in 2002, when I was 24. I grew up in Northern Ireland, but went to university in Glasgow to do a business degree. My family are local property developers, so after I finished my degree, I went back home and worked for them for a year. Then I decided to fly the nest and reckoned the only place to go was London, where there was the biggest property market buzz. I took a job at Foxtons and was there for nine years, working in several different offices. I ended up as sales manager for the Wimbledon office, where I stayed for five years. It was a huge learning curve – long hours and lots of volume in both sales and lettings.

So what prompted you to move to Messila?
I decided it was the right time to step out and do something for myself. I wanted to go into central London and took the job with Messila as head of sales in February of this year. I work in the Mayfair office alongside the head of lettings, Ayad Kazanji.

What is Messila’s USP?
Messila is run by a Middle Eastern-based family, who have been in property since 1975. They have always had an office in South Audley Street and they have a large portfolio of properties in central London, but last year decided to venture into estate agency. The father – who started the company – has now passed away and his two sons have taken the helm. Property has always been their life, and moving into estate agency seemed a natural progression. They were one of the first Middle Eastern families to be involved in property in London, and both sons were schooled here, and know London well and love it.

We deal with the prime and super-prime markets and are not just a local agent, but a truly international agent with a huge Middle Eastern client base, which is definitely an added benefit. The family also have businesses in France, Spain and Germany, so they have excellent European contacts as well. So, although we are a new business, we are also very experienced.

How has business been?
Very successful and growing fast. Messila currently have two offices – in Mayfair and Regent’s Park. The latter came about when the family took over Normandie Estates in November 2010. And we have just agreed the completion of two new offices, in Montpelier Street in Knightsbridge and Weymouth Street in Marylebone, both of which will launch in early spring of 2012. We are looking to recruit staff for both offices who are dynamic, driven and really interested in property.

How important is the internet to you?
I’ve just come out of a meeting about search engine optimisation (SEO): it is vital to keep your name at the top of every search engine, so we are investing a lot of time and money into this. But social media is also very important these days. We are starting to tweet once or twice a day. We’ll tweet as soon as we are instructed on a new property, it is much the quickest way of getting information out – anyone following us will know about a new instruction immediately. We’ll also be tweeting when we sell a property. As important as our website is, social media is where it’s going. You can also follow us and access our website through Facebook. It’s all about making it quick and easy to explain who and what you are, and getting across a sense of your brand identity.

How was the market for you in 2011 and what do you think 2012 holds in store?
The market this year has been very exciting. Stock levels have been lower than we would have wanted and there’s been a lot of competition. Buying in prime central areas is becoming more and more popular. Investors are rolling in from Russia and the Middle East, and with house prices expected to increase by 25 per cent over the next five years, I believe Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster are definitely the best boroughs to be working in. There is a huge demand for two/three bedroom portered blocks in prime streets in these areas.

In 2012, I expect there to be much greater interest in super prime homes worth £10 million plus. It’s a very niche market with a lot of properties sold off-market, and I can see this market increasing. I think stock levels will continue to be challenging and people will need to sharpen their game, increase their number of foreign clients and employ multi-lingual staff.  Messila has Arabic, Russian, Turkish, Lebanese and French speakers, so we are well set up to expand in this area. To succeed, agencies will have to offer clients much more, have more information on their website and be more engaged with social media.

Ross Kennedy is head of sales in Mayfair
(020 7499 9904;