Ben Madden of Thorgills on the Future for Brentford Property

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Ben Madden with his Movember tache

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When the worst of the pandemic hit and many estate agents chose to shut up shop, Thorgills in Brentford went down a different route.

Its office on the High Street became a collection point for the Hounslow Community Foodbox and received hundreds of bags of donations which were then brought along to the charity with its base nearby.

Recently figures were published which showed exactly what was going on in the local property market at that time. They show Thorgills was right to focus on the community rather than purely on business as turnover in the local market dived to historically low levels. Another local agent described it as the worst ever few months he had experienced for the property in the area in terms of sales.

We recently chatted to Ben Madden, the founder and managing director of Thorgills. Ben grew up a short walk away from where the office is situated. As things slowly start to get back to normality it is literally back to business for the firm. Fundraising and community activities aren’t being abandoned and Ben recently grew a tache to raise funds during Movember but with two young children, getting revenues back to where they were is the priority.

He believes that the local market is now moving after being in the doldrums during the middle of the year and has growing momentum.

He said, “The first national lockdown prompted us all to think long and hard about our homes and whether they suited what was being touted by many as a new post-COVID way of living. After three months locked at home, outside space, preferably a garden, edged its way up the list of wants for would be home buyers. Also, space to work from home and an attractive view have become important factors when assessing a properties suitability, as the fear of long periods based at home looked set to become a reality, especially when talk of a second national lockdown began. When you consider these new priorities for buyers, it’s easy to understand how Brentford’s housing stock, which is approximately 80% apartments, may have lost some of its appeal, with areas further afield presenting more space both inside and outside.”

Thorgill's staff sift through donations
Thorgill's staff sift through donations

One issue he highlights is the often under-reported issue of how matter of cladding which rages on more than three years after the Grenfell disaster. He points out that apartment owners in many blocks across Brentford are still waiting for their EWS1 sign off, and as such are not able to sell or even re-mortgage. Ben says that it appears that not all agents are educated on the subject, incorrectly advising several properties to enter the market that would be almost impossible to sell at the moment.

Despite this constraint and the generally uncertain economic background, Thorgills just had its second busiest month ever.

When asked why this is Ben is clear in his answer saying, “Firstly, the stamp duty holiday is perfectly designed to positively impact the Brentford sales market; with so many properties in the area valued close to £500,000, it allows many buyers to take full advantage of the maximum saving. This, in itself, is creating a great deal of natural urgency, with those who have decided now is the time to move, making their decision and getting the ball rolling before the stamp duty relief comes to an end.

“Secondly, our ties to the community in 2020 through the masses of charity and support work we completed whilst in lockdown, partnered with publications like ‘The Brentfordian’ which we sponsor, and of course our years as Brentford’s most successful agent, mean we are able to introduce more properties to the market, and in turn, agree more sales.”

He says that since the first national lockdown earlier this year, Thorgills have placed 283 properties under offer across both sales and lettings in Brentford and neighbouring areas which makes it clear to them that the market is still very much moving.

Ben believes the stamp duty holiday will probably not be extended as the government’s data driven view will mean that it sees the initiative as a short term success in stimulating the market. However, the issue of Brexit is currently obfuscating what is really happening at the moment and he warns that this government is fond of last minute decisions so doesn’t rule out an extension being introduced at short notice.

We asked Ben what he thought about the prospects for all the newly built blocks of flats that are springing up across Brentford.

His view was that both local and national factors will come into play adding, “In Brentford we have a unique set of circumstances, with so many new developments sprouting up over the last ten years, and finally the Brentford Project is moving forward. Short term, there is a risk of supply outstripping demand and the market moving towards a buyer led position, which we are already seeing signs of, but long term we all know bricks and mortar are a sure bet.”

His firm does make projections of just how much supply is coming to the market year by year but Ben was reluctant to be specific on the numbers because the vaccine roll-out and the Brexit situation will be critical factors in determining local housing supply.

Brentford Property for sale and to rent

Either way he does believe there will be demand for the units that are marketed saying, “Looking forward to 2021 however, we see the current, buoyant market conditions continuing in to the new year, in what is traditionally the quieter winter period, as consumers scramble to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.”

While he is delighted about the arrival of the new stadium, he is non-committal on how popular the apartments associated with the scheme will be. He said, “Great to get The Bees in to a new, modern ground, that fits with the quality of their football, and at the risk losing friends, even better to be getting a professional rugby team, in the form of London Irish. Difficult to talk about how popular the residential units will be, however there are lots of very relevant case studies that point to well-priced apartments proving attractive to local buyers in similar developments.”

Ben remains overall optimistic about the next few years and the future of Brentford specifically and he concluded by saying, “Having been a part of the Brentford community for almost 40 years, attending Green Dragon primary school, joining Cubs at St Pauls Church, playing football for Brentford New Inn (many moons ago) and having lived or worked in Brentford all my life, like many other Brentfordians, I have got used to the term ‘up and coming’. For as long as I can remember, Brentford has been ‘up and coming’. Well now, in my view, it looks like we have finally arrived. We’re getting a new High Street, we offer a fantastic selection of housing, be it a riverside apartment, a three bedroom terrace, or a grand home in The Butts, and we provide a sense of community that most towns would envy.”

Regular updates on the local property market are published in the weekly newsletter.

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December 9, 2020

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