A New Idea For The International Homes Market

Is Abercrombie & Kent International Estates, a new agency marketing luxury holiday homes priced over £1m, pioneering the post-recession model for top-end estate agency?

Certainly aiming at the top-end of the market is a well-worn post-recession trend: many agents, large and small, have moved up the price scale in recent years, to tap the sector of the residential market least damaged by the global downturn. The creation of Fine & Country, a “wrapper” that mid- to low-end agents can buy to rebrand themselves, is an example of this in the domestic market.

But the A&KIE innovation that has caught my eye is the recognition that there is a synergy (sorry about the jargon) between travel and estate agency.

Abercrombie & Kent has been a major player in top-end travel for half a century. Its founder and CEO, the ebullient Geoffrey Kent (right) began working in travel by installing caviar- and champagne-filled refrigerators in safari Jeeps in Africa in the 1960s.

Now Kent is turning his mind to real estate.

Like his travel business it will be at the top end, and he has recruited the well-known Rob Green (ex-Cluttons Resorts and elsewhere) to spearhead the project. Early properties in A&KIE’s range include an Argentine vineyard, a Montana ranch, lodges in the Grenadines and villas on the Maldives - a clear sign that this company deals in luxury and exotica.

Most unusual, however, is A&K’s model for winning customers early on in its existence. It will use its 250,000-strong customer database of A&K’s travel business, including 400 or so High Net Worth Individuals in Geoffrey Kent’s own “Chairman’s Club” of clients who typically spend an average of at least $120,000 per year on vacations.

It will also use its existing 50-strong travel office network to ‘spot’ homes on the market, and to pro-actively liaise with A&K travellers. “They holiday with us. Why wouldn’t they want to buy a home with us?” asks Geoffrey Kent.

A&KIE will soon have sales offices, too - one in London’s Cheapside opening in October and one in Monaco from November, followed in the next year by China, India, Brazil and the Middle East - but it is pinning much of its hopes on exploiting its travel reputation.

Could this model be explored elsewhere in the housing market, perhaps for lower value holiday homes? Downturns sometimes create unexpected and highly innovative solutions - it looks like A&KIE might be one of those.

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