In this week’s Women in Property Investment, we speak with Gemma Thomas, buying adviser for the northern Home Counties at Middleton Advisors – a property search specialist acting on behalf of private clients who wish to purchase or rent prime property in London and the country.
When Gemma Thomas first moved to London at the age of 21, she would walk around when it was dark so that she could see into the windows of houses.
“You need that inquisitiveness to work in residential property – particularly on the buying side,” says Gemma. “You really have to understand and have an interest in the widest possible range of homes inside and out.”
Working for interior design company Alison Henry was a natural step for Gemma before she had the idea of a property advisory service.
“I was still young enough to believe that I was the only one in the world who had the idea of a property advisory service! But it suited my passion for beautiful homes, and so I had found my path.”
Next, she headed up a London search and acquisition business before later founding her own property advisory service, Thomas Rose, in 2011, covering search and acquisition as well as interior design.
For Gemma, some of the best – and most fun – transactions were the investment properties that needed renovation or required a complex planning application. While at Thomas Rose, she and her team acquired some attractive properties that other agents might have discounted as not being viable, but really just required ‘a bit of lateral thinking or a calculated risk’.
She says: “The key was knowing when to take that risk and when to walk away. The best advice was, and still very often is, the advice that steers a client away from a deal.”
From city to countryside
Gemma’s love of rural property was rekindled when she moved from London to Bray in Berkshire to start a family. She decided that bringing her skills and contacts to Middleton Advisors, which specialises in finding off-market prime property, would make a powerful combination. She joined Middleton in 2019.
“One of the sentiments I heard a lot was, ‘I know what I want but it just doesn’t seem to exist’. In fact, there is almost invariably a property out there, but many of those transactions take place behind closed doors. Middleton is one of the best at being the buying adviser who manages to get behind those doors.”
She adds: “One of the things I love most is when a client calls me up having moved into their home and they want to tell me again just how much they love it. That’s the greatest satisfaction in the search side of the industry – when you help someone realise a dream.”
Gemma’s current focus is on the northern Home Counties – primarily East Berkshire, South Buckinghamshire, South Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire – and makes it her mission to bring beautiful homes to Middleton clients looking in this area. Interestingly, Gemma is beginning to see an uptick in women investing in these locations.
“Women are becoming increasingly savvy and are getting on the property ladder as soon they can,” she says. “Typically, they will enter the market in their early thirties as women are staying single for longer.”
“In the country market, we don’t often get instructions to act for women in their forties and above, unless it is as a result of the breakup of a marriage. However, in London we have retained female clients who are buying/investing for a variety of reasons.”
She concludes: “It has always been tricky to buy as a single person where a mortgage is needed, and in addition there are still gender pay gaps in the workplace. Until these pay gaps are addressed, women will always encounter financial hurdles. Where parents can help it makes things a little easier and of course inheritance can play a part.”
This is part of an ongoing series focusing on women in property investment, with the next article appearing on February 14th.