Property People

Issue 72

This month we chat to RACHEL JOHNSON Director of Ashdan Estates, who reflects on her career so far and working with her father John in the family business.

Did you always envisage a career in property?

Separately, John and I had goals to get into property. Neither one of us were aware that we both had a joint dream of getting into property in the future, but after a conversation on our future goals and what we wanted to achieve, this discovery was made and a few months later we embarked on our journey.

What attracted you to property?

Property allows for an individual to walk down multiple paths. For example, rental properties allow for someone to gain an extra income, whilst refurbishing a property for sales purpose puts your money to work for you. Additionally, as property is an asset which increases in value every year, it will always be a great avenue for making smart financial decisions, if you do your research!

What changes have you seen in the market since you started?

The property market is a never-ending movement. Some months may see a decline in the amount of properties coming to the market, but being sold quickly, whilst some months show a vast amount of properties for sale/let but don’t move as quickly. It all falls on the demand at that time. Through-out the beginning of the pandemic, property slowed down and became the slowest we had witnessed since starting our property journey. However, once the announcement of the stamp duty holiday, and it’s extension, property became a fast-moving environment, whereby properties were coming to the market and almost immediately being sold/let. For us, this came at a good time as we were moving onto our next property, and took advantage of this fast paced market. With the stamp duty now coming to an end, the market is reacting, and multiple vendors are accepting offers on properties but not reaching a completion date. Whether this is because of the back-log from the 2020 pandemic or because of the amount of vendors trying to make the most of the extended stamp duty holiday is anyone’s guess.

How did you adapt your business to working through the pandemic?

As we are a family business, and most of our team reside in the same household, we were able to keep our team busy for the most part. When it came to outside members of our team, we were very strict on keeping social distancing rules, and we were lucky that at that time, we were working on two refurbishment properties, which enabled us to separate the team and keep the households separate. With our tradesmen, we opted for the same routine, and scheduled for our tradesmen to work in our properties at certain times, away from each other.

How would you advise people looking to buy property?

Do your research! Buying property, whether it’s your personal residence, or for investment purposes, always do your research. Look at other properties which have sold in that street or area, find out what estate agents are saying about the property, look at what you would want and need to do to the property and how this may impact on whether this property is the right one for you. Also, set yourself a criteria, and stick to it. Problems arise when you veer away from your criteria and you only have yourself to blame. If a property you are looking at doesn’t fit your criteria, don’t be afraid to say no and walk away.

Tell us the most exciting thing you’re currently working on?

Having recently agreed the purchase price with the vendor, we are about to execute an Option Agreement to purchase a piece of land in Co. Durham. This will be the first of our planned larger projects, where we will design and construct a residential development of several properties for open-market sale. In keeping with our ethos of delivering projects to the highest standards of quality, the properties will have exciting designs and will provide exemplary standards of finish using high quality materials. This project will be a Joint Venture with one of our preferred investors, so will hopefully be the pilot scheme for exciting things to come. Our sister company Ashdan Consulting will also be involved in providing quantity surveying and project management services on the scheme, and this combined approach is a key part of our vision for the Ashdan Group businesses going forward.

What’s your fondest memory of working together in the property industry?

With a relatively young business, our journey working together is creating lasting memories on each project every day, and we are seeing how we are growing during the property journey on every project we undertake. Pinning one fondest memory down is difficult, but it would probably be our first project that started our property journey together – the refurbishment and sale of an inherited property in Burnopfiled, Co. Durham, following the death of my Grandfather at the grand age of 96. Whilst the emotional ties to that property certainly influenced the process, seeing it transformed into the catalyst to kick-start the new business was fantastic and a very fitting legacy.

What are your career aspirations?

Now there’s a question! Given our age difference, our career aspirations will no doubt also be very different. The purpose of setting up the business was to create something which delivered our aspirations across that spectrum; to provide an opportunity for security and a fantastic career path of personal and wealth development for me through business ownership and growth, and financial freedom for John after working for many years making money for other people, as well as being able to build a legacy which will benefit all of the family. More time on the golf course is also something which is in his future plans!

Where’s the best place to live in the North East, and why?

In my opinion, it would be the small village of Lanchester, County Durham. With its picturesque views, village environment and welcoming feel, it is definitely the best place to live! For myself, it holds fond memories of my childhood, spending time with friends and fun times with family, so it’s an obvious choice! When not working, how do you like to relax? I like to relax by spending time at the gym and pool, visiting new restaurants with friends, and cooking new recipes, but as we all live in the same household we spend a lot of our down-time with each other and the rest of our family.

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