Insider view: Cheryl McGeever on the attributes needed in her role as head of sales at Allanwater Homes

Job title Head of sales at Allanwater Homes. We develop new homes in locations across the Central Belt. We currently have six live sites – in Stirling, Cambusbarron, Alva,Alloa, Haddington and Chryston. We build affordable homes as well as those for private sale and the firm is currently delivering about150 properties a year.

Cheryl McGeever
Cheryl McGeever

How did you get started? I was looking for a career change after having my daughter. I was working in the newspaper industry as a graphic designer, and it started with an overheard conversation between colleagues. They were discussing a relative who worked in new home sales and I thought, “that sounds interesting”.

I have always had an interest in design and architecture. My father was an electrical contractor, and I occasionally helped him on jobs in my youth. My mother was a draftswoman at the Albion Engineering Motor Company before computer-aided design was invented, so a bit of a trailblazer. And my sister is an engineer too, so the chat at home was often about building and engineering.

How did you progress to your current position? I started as a sales advisor and learned the ropes as I went along. I’ve taken on roles training others, in management development and running the office. I progressed up with different companies, working with Miller, Barratt and Redrow among others before being approached by Allanwater Homes.

Allanwater Homes development at Alva in Clackmannanshire.

You learn a lot working with different sized companies –some will have a rigid management structure, but at Allanwater I can really make the role my own.

What is your typical day like? My job covers an interestingly wide scope, from land appraisal for prospective new developments, marketing strategies, handling the organisation for new development launches, supporting the sales team in their roles and progressing legal contracts.

I’m the only person in my department, though, so I tend to do everything. The land appraisal part of the job is one of my favourites –I’m an outdoors type of person and so I get my wellies on and look at locations.

Then it is a case of carrying out market research and viability studies – looking at the area and the infrastructure already in place, what the land has been used for previously, how the secondhand market is faring in the area, and what are the existing travel links – to put together a business case and a strategy for the location.

What makes your properties stand out? Allanwater Homes provides the ability to personally customise a home at the relevant build stage, where the design permits, included within the price. For instance, many of our home styles have full driveways to the side, providing larger plot sizes with more scope for building a detached garage or extending a house without compromising the garden size.

Popular adaptions are site-specific – our development in Haddington, for instance, comprises bungalows and attracts downsizers. Because they may have larger budgets and a better understanding of what they want, compared to first-time buyers, then the ability to adapt the house to suit their needs is very popular. Buyers appreciate being able to make a house exactly as they want in terms of layout, storage or adding an extension. Sometimes the larger volume builders just can’t offer that flexibility.

Where do you live? Just outside Glasgow, close to the motorway networks for easy commuting round our spread of developments. I’m settled for the time being.

Does your job affect your social life? I am on call at the weekends, but on the whole it does not affect my social life. I love this industry as it brings us into contact with a broad spectrum of interesting people, which I find very stimulating. I find that women, in particular, love talking about design, architecture and decor – you could say the subject is a bit like football for men, there is usually a common interest there.

What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the industry? I don’t think that many young people understand the scope of different roles available in the the new homes industry.

You can really take responsibility for your own development in areas that interest you – whether that is enrolling on training schemes or just getting the knowledge from other experts in the office. Ask the technical people the right questions and you can learn an awful lot to help in your career.

In my time, I’ve worked for several different companies and I see that as a plus. I’ve worked in the East and the West, and the markets are different, but it is good to have a breadth of experience. I think moving around also gives you a really wide network of helpful contacts and insight into the way different companies are run – all helpful to advance a career.

My advice for an interview would be don’t let anything hold you back, even if you don’t think you currently have the relevant skill set. Do your homework and research the company, and impress them with your knowledge and the effort you have made.

How is the market in 2021? The market is strong and is very likely to remain so as the supply of stock coming through is constrained by the slow planning process and delivery of new developments to fulfil the supply. Allanwater Homes has sold up to summer 2022, with a full order book, and we can’t sell beyond that because of the restrictive conditions.

How best could the property market in Scotland be helped? The property market would be best served in Scotland by having the planning process guidelines consistent throughout the country, simplifying the process across the regions, and a speedier delivery of planning applications coming through to aid new home sales. This would support associated industries, of which there are many, and therefore jobs and the wider economy as a whole. There is a real backlog in planning and it is driving prices up because of the lack of availability.

Life file

Born and raised Born on Great Western Road in Glasgow and raised in Bearsden.

Education Douglas Academy, Milngavie, and then on to art school to complete an HND in commercial art.

Family One daughter, Kirsty, who is 29 and a pharmacist practitioner.

First Job When I was still at school, I worked part-time on the checkout at Fine Fare supermarket in Bearsden.

Plans for retirement Currently none, but when I have more time an ambition is to hold my own art exhibition, and for the Royal Society of Art to accept one of my pieces for their annual show.

Personal motto Strive to be a better person today than I was yesterday. Treat everybody with dignity and respect.