Don’t let his unassuming attitude fool you: Turnbull is among the best-performing buying agents in London. He’s ‘a real expert with a loyal client base’, a competitor told us, with another expert saying he’s ‘too modest to brag but is a serious player’, adding: ‘He is trusted by the biggest names, for good reason.’
But what is Turnbull’s secret? Successful buying agents need a good address book and great market knowledge, he says. He probably has both from 27 years in the London property market. He started on the selling side in a number of estate agencies, including Savills and Hamptons, before moving to the buying side to set up Prime Purchase’s London branch.
In 2006, he left to establish his own firm, Turnbull Property Acquisitions who closed eight deals last year, which may not seem a high volume, but the properties were worth £13 million on average (and the highest was well above the £40 million mark).
At any time, each of the three partners at Turnbull’s looks after no more than five clients – mainly HNWs working in the financial sector and entrepreneurs, but also sports stars and celebrities. Winning clients is the difficult part of his job, he reckons: ‘Finding a property is relatively easy, given the relationships we have with all the agents.’
Turnbull thinks future growth will come through family offices in particular, because they are much closer to the people making the money and taking the decisions than wealth managers are. ‘Wealth managers don’t really have a grasp of the money… They aren’t really close to their clients,’ he says. ‘And because there are so many buying agents in the city and they are all trailing the same clients through the same wealth managers and private bankers, it’s a saturated market.’ He reckons HNWs are concerned about tax increases but doesn’t think this will affect the prime property sector, as London continues to be one of the most attractive cities in the world when it comes to buying. Since predicting market values can be tricky, his motto is: ‘Always buy the best that your money can afford.’
He thinks the rise in stamp duty rates may make life more difficult for certain buying agents as it significantly increases the cost of buying a property, meaning they’ll make sacrifices: ‘Buyers may see that the cost of a buying agent is something they can do without,’ he says. But that doesn’t mean he’s worried about the future: ‘There will always be a need for people, particularly for those who have never lived in London before, to get professional advice when they are spending these sums of money. However, the buying agency market has become saturated and some of the younger and newer guys will possibly fall by the wayside.’