Productivity | Strategy | Profitability
Productivity | Strategy | Profitability
Fleur Howgill - Ravensbourne College
TTR Sotheby's International Realty
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Luxury Realtor, TTR Sotheby's International Realty
An interview with Fleur Howgill, Luxury Realtor, TTR Sotheby's International Realty
In our exclusive interview on multimillion dollar real estate with FLEUR HOWGILL, luxury realtor at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, Executive Global highlights the splendour of luxury real estate within America’s thriving capital, with a special focus on one of the most successful agents within the nation's capital of Washington, D.C. We gain a unique insight into what it takes to represent discerning buyers and sellers of the finest homes in America, on behalf of U.S. government executives, high net worth individuals,
and wealthy residents.
Fleur Howgill CV
1998 Bought first property at 18 years
2000 Handled high end London
2007 Specialised in Southwest England
fine homes, agricultural and equestrian properties
2009 Specialised in Southwest England coastal properties
2011 Joined TTR Sotheby’s International Realty
2015 Named one of Washington's
>Consistent top producer for TTR Sotheby’s International Realty
>Sales Achievement Award 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016
>Named one of Washingtonian Magazine’s Best Real Estate Agent and Top Producer for two years in a row.
Multimillion Dollar Realtor
EG: You have experience in a number of niche sectors of real estate such as equestrian, and coastal homes. Tell us about some of the typical characteristics of Washington D.C. real estate, and how these compare with property you have sold in the UK?
Fleur Howgill: Washington D.C. is a unique property market. Compared to, say, London or Tokyo, it’s pretty small. But within that size, you have incredible diversity. You have beautifully chic loft apartments in the center of the city, and rolling horse farms in the metro area. There is no ‘typical’ Washington real estate. And that’s what makes it such an exciting market to work in.
EG: As a resident of Washington D.C., can you tell us about some of the attractions, as well as any particular advantages of living in the area that you would recommend to people who may wish to relocate?
FH: Everyone knows about the culture and history of D.C. – it’s the White House, the Capitol, the Smithsonian Museums, the Kennedy Center and its unmatched program of music, dance and more. But what many people don’t realise is that D.C. is now internationally recognized as one of America’s great centers for food and drink. When you relocate to D.C., you’re moving to a place where you will always find succor for the soul – and the body! Non-residents don’t always realize the many practical advantages to living in D.C. We have three international airports close to the city. We’re in the middle of the East Coast network of roads and rail. We have world-class hospitals and universities. Washington’s infrastructure – hard and soft – is a great draw for the internationally mobile elite.
EG: It has been stated that failing forward is the key to success. What challenges in your career are some of the most defining moments, that are now your greatest asset?
FH: The fact that I am myself an immigrant gives me a deep understanding of the emotional challenges that moving to a new country brings. I moved from London to Washington six years ago. Now, I won’t try and claim that U.K. to U.S is one of the biggest upheavals you can face…but even within between those very similar countries, it wasn’t easy. Becoming licensed in multiple states, taking dozens of professional exams, setting up my own business from scratch…all while making new friends and feeling homesick. It was hard at times...
Washington D.C.'s Finest
EG: What are some of the prevalent real estate trends within the Washington, Maryland,
and Virginia markets, and how has the experience of selling homes in three states
deepened your insight?
FH: The regional market has been incredibly strong over the last three to four years. There’s a shortage of high-end properties, and there’s been a big influx of buyers. So a good property will move incredibly fast, and we’ve seen the best properties attracting as many as 20 offers in a few days. It’s essential to have an agent who knows the market intimately, who works quickly, and can adapt the way they work according to their client.
EG: Having lived in London and being well travelled across Europe, the U.S., Australia, and Asia, how do you utilize your diverse international experiences and knowledge to benefit clients?
FH: One thing that travel shows you is the wonderful diversity in our world. That means international clients want many different things – a fenced garden for the dog, a bilingual school nearby, a kimchi fridge, an easy commute to work, a huge wall for the Jackson Pollack. Nothing surprises me any more – I’ve been asked to find houses with everything from a wallaby park to a helicopter pad!
EG: Does the strong presence of U.S. government officials in Washington D.C., have a positive impact on the housing market, in ways that other U.S. states do not benefit from?
FH: To be honest, it’s probably the Realtors who benefit most! Every time there’s a new President, there is a huge changeover of personnel in Washington, D.C. In January 2017, there will be up to 32,000 new jobs up for grabs across the executive and legislative branches, creating a possible 2,560 additional home sales in the D.C. metro area – a 5 percent increase over the 50,000 homes sold in the area last year. That’s great news for us!
EG: There is a saying that ‘whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right’. Has goal setting and personal development had a strong impact on your career?
Of course! Success in any career depends on goal setting. But it’s particularly true in real estate. I’m self-employed, so I have to make my own career path. If I don’t set the goal, put in the effort, constantly manage the tension between finding new business and looking after the clients in hand, nobody else will.
EG: Describe some of the unique needs and requirements of ultra high end clients, and what kind of experiences must you adapt to with million dollar real estate, that may not apply to lower-priced homes?
FH: In some ways, an ultra high-end client is often easier to deal with. They’ve nearly always bought property before, often internationally, so they have at least a basic understanding of how the process works – though here in the U.S., it’s always slightly different in every state. They tend to have a clearer idea of what they want, which is very helpful to a Realtor. Sometimes, of course, what a client wants is just not feasible – even with multi-million dollar budgets. And then it’s a question of manging expectations. Explaining to a client that if they want a tennis court and a pool, they may have to look in Virginia or Maryland rather than downtown D.C. That can require a lot of tact.
EG: In your expert opinion with 15 years of experience dealing with luxury real estate, what would you say are the most commonly identifiable traits that you share with other highly successful real estate agents, that ultimately lead to your continued success?
FH: I think all highly successful real estate agents must have two things – empathy and attention to details. We need to be empathetic to work out what our clients really want. That part of the job is a bit like being a matchmaker: you take the individual or family, and you work out what’s on the market that is right for them, within their budget. But don’t forget that realtors are also the people who write the contracts. So we need an incredible eye for detail – something of a legal mindset. You actually have to get your clients into that dream home, not just show it to them.
The Local Markets
EG: What opportunities do you see on the horizon for investors in this market? Are there any notable opportunities within the property markets of Virginia, Maryland,
and Washington D.C. that buyers should be aware of?
FH: There’s a lot of new building going on in the region, and in downtown D.C. in particular, at the luxury end of the market. Other parts of the city that have previously been overlooked are being rejuvenated. At the same time, the regional economy continues to expand, meaning demand is still outpacing supply. So there are fantastic opportunities to invest.
EG: If there are just three fundamental tips you would advise to someone who may wish to sell their property at the full listing price in the states of Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland respectively, what would they be, and why?
FH: Understand the impact of the Internet on real estate: we are all better informed these days. So sellers have to up their game accordingly. Focus on quality, particularly when undertaking any renovations. Definitely get your home professionally staged – i.e. presented – when you list it for sale. Digital photos are merciless! And be realistic about price: everyone has comparison data at their fingertips now.
Focus on what’s important: You need to understand what works for you and what doesn’t. Your time is your most precious commodity. Avoid wasting time by focusing your
efforts on bringing in new clients.
Always keep learning and growing: Don’t jump into any market blind; do your homework. Study the markets – demographics, interest and mortgage rates, as well as the wider economy – and know how you should react to every change before it happens.
Be flexible and creative: The real estate market can change in an instant. In this highly competitive market, you may find that the key
to making sales is thinking outside of the box.
Fleur Howgill's Thoughts
On the real estate market
It’s essential to have an agent who knows the market intimately, who works quickly, and can adapt the way they work according to their client.
On Goal Setting
Success in any career depends on goal setting...if I don’t set the goal, put in the effort, constantly manage the tension between finding new business and looking
after the clients in hand, nobody else will..
On her varied experience
Nothing surprises me any more – I’ve been asked to find houses with everything from a wallaby park to a helicopter pad!
On what makes a successful agent
I think all highly successful real estate agents must have two things – empathy and attention to details.
Working in Real Estate
EG: It is always wise to take advantage of opportunities in real estate. What was it like purchasing your first property at the tender age of 18? Are there any particular words of advice you would give to the millennial generation, who also may wish to follow in your footsteps in acquiring real estate at a relatively young age?
FH: Terrifying! My mother encouraged me. She knew it would help me become independent. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve taken. I’d recommend getting on the property ladder to many young people – historically, it’s been an excellent investment strategy. Of course, it’s hard, but see if you can make it work for you financially. I rented out a room in my first house to make the mortgage payments and it allowed me to live rent free.
EG: As a prolific real estate magnate, developer, and media personality, what are some of the positive ways in which Donald Trump’s historic victory as 45th President of the United States may impact the real estate market in the Washington D.C. metro area?
FH: We won’t know until next year how relations between President Trump and Congress will play out. But with a Republican in the White House and Republican majorities in both House and Senate, it should be at least feasible that he gets some of his agenda through. And a lot of that was pro-business – cutting taxes and unnecessary regulation, investing in infrastructure etc. That would be good for us. And if it doesn’t go according to his plan…Well, the classic investment response to insecurity is a flight to quality. And that’s what Washington real estate
is: a quality investment class.
EG: It takes considerable business acumen to succeed in luxury real estate. Were you always a natural born entrepreneur?
FH: Yes! Or more exactly, I’ve always been competitive. So if I’m going to build my own real estate practice, I’m going to build the best practice possible. Putting together great clients
with just the right property for them…It’s an amazingly satisfying job.
About Fleur Howgill
Fleur has specialized in "Castles in All Shapes and Sizes" for over 15 years; bringing her own vivacious character and strong client focus to Washington DC's hot marketplace.
Priding herself on exceptional customer service, Fleur goes the extra mile to ensure a fast and smooth transaction, taking the pain out of moving.
Originally from the UK, where she handled high end London, then moved south to specialized in coastal and farm/equestrian properties; Fleur is well-traveled which also helps her understand the individual needs of both buyers and sellers in Washington's melting pot culture.
Fleur is a regular volunteer at the Sackler and Freer Galleries for the Smithsonian Institution, enjoys sailing, travel and the best the mid-Atlantic has to offer!
Fleur Howgill is a Top Real Estate Agent in Washington D.C., and was named Washingtonian magazine’s Best Real Estate Agent and Top Producer for two years in a row. She provides the added advantage of being a licensed real estate agent in D.C. metro area, representing the finest homes in Washington D.C, Maryland, and Virginia.
To find out more information about TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, please visit www.fleurhowgill.ttrsir.com/eng