Chris Cooper, associate director at Hampstead estate agents Benham & Reeves, shares his insights on the current state of the property market and tells us how he’s helped shape an ethos that keeps his clients constantly informed and in the loop.
A 35-year property industry veteran, Chris has worked with some of the best in the business. After cutting his teeth as a sales negotiator in Mill Hill, his first stint with Benham & Reeves was at a time when the sales and letting operations were entirely separate. He has since returned to take the helm of a north London sales operation that is now an integrated part of the main business and he is full of enthusiasm about how Anita Mehra’s ownership has revitalised the brand.
Chris is pretty bullish about the current state of the London property market and its global reputation as a safe haven: “Many people expected there to be a large downturn in the London market following the Covid lockdowns, especially when the work from home paradigm kicked in. Demand for home office and garden space was expected to make a dent in apartment sales. Yet with many companies calling their staff back to the office, at least for a few days a week, the London market has remained resilient, maintaining its place as a world-class investment destination.”
As head of north London sales, Chris is well placed to comment on how Hampstead is shaping up compared to central London. He sees them both as wealthy and aspirational areas with limited supplies of quality property and a healthy number of buyers who wish to live there: “Hampstead is not totally immune to market forces, but if the property market drops, the prices drop less in Hampstead and the prices recover quicker than other areas following a dip. Around here, if sellers don’t get their price, they simply won’t sell!”
Of course, Hampstead’s unique blend of village vibe, boutique shops and proximity to zone 1 is widely coveted, but Chris is keen to point out that there are places that stand out, even within this already exclusive enclave. He cites the “golden triangle” of streets that are located between the High Street and the Heath as a particularly sought-after sweet spot, complete with pristine family houses and charming period conversions. “They are all within a short stroll of eclectic shops, restaurants, trains and buses, and within a few minutes, you are in the middle of a Heath so vast that you might as well be in the countryside. It’s hard to put a value on this combination of lifestyle benefits.”
When it comes to defining estate agent best practices, Chris is in no doubt about what constitutes the essentials: “The biggest misconception in estate agency is that it is a property business as opposed to being a people business that deals with property. To be successful you need to treat people professionally and build relationships over many years. You need to be the person people ask advice from, not just when they are selling their home. Understanding people’s needs and being a good listener is very important, especially as moving home can be a very stressful situation. We also pride ourselves on getting the best possible price for our sellers by making sure that we have exhausted every potential bit of interest before recommending that the owner considers an offer. This approach often attracts multiple offers that may exceed our clients’ expectations. Communication is key to maintaining a positive relationship with buyers and sellers.”
Benham & Reeves have had an established presence in Heath Street, Hampstead since 1958 and Chris is convinced that there is a significant number of people who, having dealt with the company in the past, return for the buying, selling and lettings services over and over again. This translates well not only to local homeowners but to overseas investors, who put as much value on stability as they do on income and growth.
“The willingness of our London and international teams to stay the course with their clients, no matter how complex the deal, is another plus point,” he says. From first enquiry, through the lifecycle of a property, whether it be bought, sold or let, professionals like Chris Cooper embody the Benham & Reeves client-first mindset with dedication to excellence that has been at the heart of the brand since its inception.