An Interview with Antony Antoniou Director of Trellows Estate Agents
Antony, tell us a few words about your early years
I was raised in Northampton to Cypriot parents, who moved here in the early 1960s, for a better future. As with many Cypriots who were born in the UK, my parents always had their own business, restaurants, Take-Aways and they also invested in property, I learned so much from watching them ‘run the gantlet’ of starting a business on several occasions, some of which I was involved in, even as a child. I demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit from a very young age, with my first profitable venture being the renting of my first bicycle to the little boy who lived down the road, but there was a lesson to be learned, because as he got fit riding around on my bike, I got fat spending his pocket money on sweets, which was the fist time it dawned on me that there is a price to pay for everything!
Whilst I always came up with ideas to generate money, my first venture in to property was at the age of 19, when I bought a house in Cambridge. After that, I was continually involved in purchasing, sales, rentals and development. I was constrained for a decade when I raised my daughter alone, from the age of 8 -18, but once she was grown up, I was able to devote more time to business.
Trellows Estate Agents; when was it founded and a few words about your services?
Trellows was actually an evolution of what I had been doing for years, from development, rentals & sales, to sales in and around Northamptonshire, which slowly progressed to the sale of luxury homes. During the lockdown, I began to devote even more time to social media and networking, although I had always taken social media seriously and this began to open doors as people from further afield began to contact me. It was this that inspired me to re-brand to Trellows in the summer of 2020. This immediately propelled us to another level, with clients approaching us not only from around the UK, but also from around the world.
We set out to offer an unparalleled level of service based on an ethos of integrity, transparency and team spirit in every sense of the word. As agents, we are commissioned to market property, and therefore we believe that we have a burden of responsibility to do everything in our power to promote every single property to the best of our ability. As you all know, we do this constantly and relentlessly, despite the fact that there is no rhyme or reason to sales, our clients can all see what we do and with our efforts being combined with ethical, unbiased and unimpeachable professional conduct, we have faith that our efforts will bear fruit in good time.
I would like to congratulate you for the growth of Trellows as regards human assets, growth and your marketing strategy which is second to none. Who is behind this success?
I will allow myself to take credit for the inspiration behind our brand, but we are not a company that is built on employers and employees, we are a genuine ‘team-building’ company, with every member of our team being as valuable, appreciated and rewarded as any other. Everyone at Trellows is entirely performance-based, but in return, they share equally in our success, I fervently believe that that the best team is comprised of individuals who have every opportunity to leave, but every reason to stay.
For me personally, this strategy is a burden that can weigh heavily upon me, because these people have placed their faith in me and this company and therefore, I cannot rest until I am confident that I have helped them all to succeed. As I see it, their success is our success and to have this growing team working day and night, because they are so dedicated, motivated and disciplined is a reward that is almost impossible to articulate accurately and whilst we are in business to make a profit, it is the members of my team who are the real wealth of Trellows.
As agents, we are first and foremost marketers of property. This requires consistent and relentless effort on a daily basis. Whilst we apply ourselves to the usual platforms, such as Facebook and Linkedin, most of the hard work does happen behind the scenes. We have invested in motivated personnel who work tirelessly to bring our brand and our properties to the attention of developers, investors and residential buyers around the world.
How is the pattern in property industry now after the long lockdown?
The UK market has experienced a real ‘roller-coaster’ period in the last year or so. Firstly, the market flatlined during the first lockdown, then the government introduced the stamp duty holiday which was due to end in March 2021. This created a buying frenzy that caused a backlog throughout the conveyancing industry as solicitors struggled to cope with the flood of sales and transactions began to grind to a halt. As the deadline loomed and it appeared that many sales would not complete in time, the stamp duty holiday was extended until June 2021, but even so, I feel that this was not the best approach. When the property market deviates from a smooth line to sharp peaks, there is always the risk of those peaks being followed by troughs which can be catastrophic if they gather too much momentum in either direction.
Any policy that may impact the property market in any way should be phased in very slowly and also phased out very slowly to avoid unsettling a market which is so reliant on confidence. With the stamp duty holiday ending, there is now a distinct absence of new properties coming to market, in part due to many sellers being concerned about selling and missing out on buying another property because of the hysteria created by the short-term buying frenzy. There is also the issue of isolated price bubbles that will invariably settle, with many buyers suffering from ‘post-purchase remorse’ as they now ponder on the fact that they may have paid too much for their property, this could have been avoided if this were implemented with greater caution.
The last time there was a buying frenzy of equal proportion in the UK was in 1988, when 2 million people moved home within 12 months, this was followed by 4 years of very low activity, which was confined to what we call ‘Hatch, Match & Dispatch’ driven market (births, marriages & divorce) I do not see that being repeated on this occasion due to the combination of housing shortages, pent-up demand from first time buyers and low interest rates.
As for the future, I have every confidence in the UK property market and the economy as a whole, with the widening of remote working helping to end the traditional ‘North-South divide’ that has plagued the UK for decades, as more and more families are moving to remote locations that were previously out of bounds, because of their distance from London or from an inter-city railway station.
With interest rates being at a historical low, there are also hidden dangers in mortgage payments that were not so profound in the past. Over the previous two or three decades, interest rates averaged much higher than they do now, this period of unprecedented low rates not only enables buyers to get a lot more for their money, but it can put them at the mercy of any increases in the Bank of England base rate, because when rates are so low, any increase will be magnified significantly more than it would have done previously.
This leads us to the most important factor that could affect the market, inflation:
Despite the moderate increase in underlying inflation figures, most contributing factors are prices recovering from the falls they suffered last year as well as the rise in the property market, which has been included in the Retail Price Index since 2016. Provided that the government remains firm, the underlying rate will level off and begin to fall in Q2 or Q3 of 2022, which should ease pressure on interest rates, let’s not forget that there is also immense pressure on the government to keep interest rates low, as national debt is at its highest since World War 2.
In fact, at the current ratio of interest rates to inflation, the national debt is being eroded rapidly by inflation, a fiscal process that will be extended for as long as possible I expect! This is why I do not have any great concerns for the property market in the short to medium term, with the only other factor being the return to work in London, which has seen a large number of European migrants leave over the last year (over 1 million in London alone) this has had a drastic effect on demand for rentals, but as the void is gradually filled, this will also recover.
One area of the property market that has been stagnant for a few years now is the very top end. When the stamp duty rates were increased dramatically for properties over £1.5Million (up to 12%) in December 2014, the sales of property at the very top slowed significantly. In fact, the revenue collected from the top 1% of properties since the change is lower than the preceding few years, a fact that always applies when taxes are raised, so the benefits of this increase are unclear as they have only served to be little more than a virtue-signalling exercise by the government, keen to pacify the masses that the wealthy are paying more, when the Treasury is actually collecting less, perhaps this is a strategy that should be reconsidered.
Is Cyprus one of the preferred destinations for property investment?
Cyprus has gained more and more attention from investors around the world. There are many opportunities for investors and companies to benefit from the Cypriot tax system. Cyprus not only offers investors significant growth and yield, but it also offers a wealth of easily accessible professionals to assist with every aspect of their investment and I believe that this is still in its infancy, with the potential to grow exponentially over the next decade. I believe the key here is to get this message across as widely and succinctly as possible, with those in a position of influence to do all they can to push for simplicity, clarity and consistency in government policy, this will serve to increase confidence, interest, investment and growth.
Despite the fact that the property market in Cyprus has progressed significantly in recent years, on a global scale, it is still in its infancy and therefore has the potential to experience significant growth in the future. Cyprus ticks all the boxes for investors, offering financial and political stability, steady economic growth, nexus with Europe and most importantly one of the largest concentrations of English-speaking qualified professionals in the world.
What about the UK market? What are the trends right now?
Whilst the buy to let market has suffered from the deregulation act 2015, which has put landlords at a disadvantage, this year is also the first year where the full impact of changes to the tax system has also created more cause for concern for landlords. However, many landlords have already prepared for this and there is now a resurgence of investment in the buy to let market, in a more tax efficient way.
More investors and landlords are now using JVCs to buy, which not only enables them to ringfence their properties, but to also benefit from the tax advantages that this offers as well as the benefit of owning properties that are much easier to dispose of whilst simultaneously being more attractive to other investors, should they decide to do so.
Properties in more rural areas are also attracting more interest than ever before, from buyers looking to get more for their money in locations that were previously overlooked due to poor transport links, which have become less of a priority in a connected world. This trend is not only across the south, but also extends through the midlands to the north and north-west, with only the north-east experiencing a little less interest. Confidence in the market is strong and most importantly the supply of funds is plentiful, ensuring that more people than ever are able to buy, this will not only continue, but it will also increase as the wounds and fears of Brexit continue to fade.
What is Trellows’ future? Any plans for further growth?
We definitely have plans to grow, but we are intent on expanding correctly, rather than quickly. I would personally like to continue to grow the team throughout the UK , which I have covered with a growing number of dedicated sales partners, structured in to regional marketing hubs, which I already have in place. With a combination of regional marketing hubs and motivated self-employed sales partners, who are performance based, but working to a strict code of practice, this will enable me to have a hands-on approach in all aspects of the business to maintain the high standards that I have set.
Any expansion beyond this will be based around licenced offices that will prioritise the right people with a vested interest to champion the spirit of the company. We are also in negotiation to open our first licenced branch in Cyprus, but this is still at an early stage, going forward, licenced offices would be our preferred method of expansion, as each branch would be run by management with a vested interest in maintaining our high standard.
Our online marketing does enable us to promote property remotely, which does work very well for new properties, but resales do still require a local presence. As it stands, our current growth in resales is in line with new sales partners joining the team for local presence. Although we would like to grow without limitations, we intend to put more emphasis on quality, rather than quantity.
We are also in negotiation to partner with a global property portal that will be introducing the MLS (multi listing service) to the UK, with Trellows managing the MLS throughout Europe. The MLS system enables agents to make their properties available to other agents subject to pre-set conditions, maximising exposure and sales. The sales statistics for properties made available through MLS are significantly higher, which is to the benefit of all. This will indeed take the marketing of property to another level.
Your last message to our readers, our members and all our business associates and followers.
I was raised within a culture of two halves, much as I love the UK and everything that I have been so privileged to enjoy growing up here, my heart was, is and always will be in Cyprus.
It is not only exciting to be involved in the Cyprus property market, but also a privilege to be representing stunning properties, from professional and successful developers. For me personally as a Cypriot, to see Trellows flourish by contributing to this success is a dream come true.
I would also like to say that I am also immensely proud to be part of the Great Britain – Cyprus Business Association. Joining this wonderful platform for Cypriot businesses has not only contributed to the ongoing success of Trellows, it has also allowed me to be part of a business community that is motivated, talented and successful.
Although each business is an individual entity with its own challenges and goals, I see an island nation that is taking advantage of global connectivity to stand shoulder to shoulder with every other nation as never before. I feel that the contributions made by the members of the GBCBA must surely be an inspiration to young entrepreneurs throughout Cyprus and beyond, which is most important. If we, as a community work together to inspire, mentor and motivate the young, we will all be party to generating success as individuals, as a community and as a nation.