Insider view: Maitland Walker of Glasgow estate agent Rettie West End
How did you get started? I took a year out after school and worked in the building industry and fell in love with property, so I decided to study surveying at college.
After qualifying, I spent three years with a surveying company and then moved over to the agency side as a trainee valuer in 1986.
Shortly afterwards a boom happened in Glasgow when companies like Brit Oil became BP in the late-’80s and attracted a lot of people to the city for work.
I set up Rettie West End in 2009 with one member of staff and we are now the most successful agent in the area.
What is your favourite type of property? I don’t like to be pigeonholed – I actually genuinely enjoy marketing everything from a single flat to a West End mansion.
I like seeing people at the start of their property life and watch them progress – the successful entrepreneurs, investors, families moving from small flats to larger homes.
It is so linked to people, this job, not just property, and you meet so many. I have sold some properties five times in my career – and in terms of the numbers of homes I have been in, it is probably 35,000 properties around the area.
I get calls from people who I sold for last time around, and ten years later they are on the move again. It is an absolute advantage of staying in the same area for the whole of my career – I feel like I know the place and the people very well.
How has the market in Glasgow changed over your career?The city’s tenement market, in areas such as Hyndland, Dowanhill, Kelvinbridge and Hillhead, are all very important to Glasgow – with strong prices.
In the 1980s and ’90s there were very few new developments, but now there is not just a change from office blocks to residential, where you see lovely old buildings dating from the mid-1800s back in use as homes, but new-build blocks filling in spaces.
That is very evident in the Park area, with a great deal of development, but also places like Yorkhill and Finnieston, where the appetite for new-builds has increased a great deal over the last 30 years.
These places were industrial before, but if you look at the locations – near events places, the city centre, the river – they are desirable. There is a line of development going all the way along the river from the West End to the city centre. Years ago it was an odd development here and there, but the last ten years has seen a real boom.
The demand is coming from an influx of population, not just because of the large institutions that have relocated there, but foreign students, many of whom are not in student accommodation. So there is plenty of demand in the letting market too. For a decent rental property, there can be between50 and 100 viewers at the moment.
What is your typical day like? Pre-Covid it was incredibly structured, with early mornings in the office, researching and comparing prices before each appointment and then going out to several properties each day, sometimes up to 7pm, before going back to the office to analyse the data and prepare reports and schedules.
Alongside that, you are always fielding calls from clients and potential clients, instructing photographers and preparing homes for the market.
The last 18 months have been much more difficult. We try to keep all the staff separate, working from home and not being in the office together, thinking that we are a small team and if one goes down we all will. So, while the business has been fantastic, the logistics of working from home, with the workload we have, has sometimes seemed like pure hell.
Where do you live? My wife and I live in a traditional house in Kelvinside in the West End.
We lived for a long time in Jordanhill but decided after 14 years we would prefer to be more central. We wanted to be closer to Byres Road and, more importantly, walks in the Botanic Gardens.
What advice would you give someone wanting to work in the industry? There are a lot of different routes in, and it is possible to join straight from school and work your way up.
We’ve now got a trainee who started asking for a job at 16, who is doing very well, but realistically, it is usually better to have some life experience.
A background in sales or a qualification in a business-related subject from university or college is going to be a real boon.
Property is so expensive that clients who are selling their most valuable asset will always prefer to deal with someone knowledgeable, confident and with a bit of maturity.
It has taken me 13 years to find the right people for the team. That is the biggest challenge in property –to find passionate people – and I now feel that I have, I am very proud of the team that we have built. We have 12 people in the office, between valuers, negotiators, viewing staff and consultants. The most important aspect of a successful estate agency is the right people.
How is business in 2021? It has honestly felt like an absolute blur since the 29th of June 2020, when the industry opened back up again.
There just seems to be an unprecedented demand for property, and things are selling very quickly with rising prices.
I think we might be starting to see a slight seasonal slowdown, which is normal for this time of year but didn’t seem to happen in 2020. In most cases, properties are selling quickly and there are more buyers than properties available still.
In these kinds of circumstances, it remains a challenge to maximise the price for each individual seller in a very fast-paced environment.
I think it would be very beneficial to return to semi-normality, if that is what we are heading for.
It would allow buyers time to think more about their purchase, and it would be easier for everyone if the market were calmer. It is always good for sellers to have demand, but I do think everything would be improved if there were a slightly better balance.
If nothing else, it feels like those working in the property industry need a break from the pace. Our team adapted incredibly quickly and coped brilliantly with really a really challenging working environment, but a slightly more relaxed pace would be very welcome.
Born and raised Born in South Africa, as my dad was lecturing there, but we came back to Glasgow when I was five months old, and I have stayed ever since.
Education I went to Jordanhill School, and then studied chartered surveying at Paisley College.
Family Married to Gaynor, who works as the chief people officer for Rathbones.
CV I spent a year after I left school working in the building industry where I fell in love with property and decided to study surveying.
Hobbies I had to give up rugby after a knee injury so I now play golf, and I have been a lifelong cricketer.
First home I bought aone-bedroom tenement flat in Hyndland in 1987.
Plans for retirement I don’t think I ever will retire. Seeing people move around the property chess board is both addictive and very rewarding.