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City to country: secrets of a Surrey estate agent

There's nothing like a global pandemic to prompt people to make change. And the biggest one in 2020-21 has been moving house. Here, we chat to estate agent (and the Surrey Muddy Awards sponsor) Rufus Williams on the city to country migration.

Rufus Williams, Property Partnership

Much has been written about the mass exodus out of London over the past 12 months, with Surrey high on the list of destinations. (Of course!)

Rufus Williams, the managing director at Property Partnership (and our fab local sponsor in the 2021 Muddy Awards) is an estate agent with a foot in each camp – with offices in Richmond, Barnes and Godalming – and four years ago make the tree-change move himself trading St Margaret’s near Twickenham for Farnham.

So who better to talk to about the all things property urban and country!

Okay Rufus. Like many urbanites, you made the country move – you were just a few years ahead of the Covid exodus. What was the impetus for your move?

I’d love to say there was some great science to our move, harnessing nearly 20 of industry experience and an intricate understanding of the property market. In truth we saw a house near Farnham, we fell in love with it and the area, and with a bit of help from the bank, we bought it.   

Property Partnership started 10 years ago in south-west London but has this year ventured further out into Surrey opening offices in Godalming. Was the Surrey office always on the cards? What made you choose the Godalming area?

I was born in Barnes, where we opened our first office. Our new Richmond branch is just a short stroll along the Thames from where we lived in St. Margaret’s. Godalming was a natural progression once we moved to Surrey, and especially with its connections back into the big smoke.  

Property-wise you’re covering a fairly wide area around Godalming though, aren’t you – including Guildford, Farnham, Cranleigh and Haslemere. What do you think attracts Londoners to this part of the world?

It’s true our London offices have never been in touch with more clients looking to move out for more living space, larger gardens and new adventures. The areas fantastic schools don’t hurt either. The pandemic itself is not solely responsible for this shift, although it has certainly added a covid-scented breeze to the backs of those rippling out of the big smoke. And who can blame them?

And the stamp duty holiday has surely helped things along?

Yes no question it has added some welcome wind to our sails/sales coming out of lockdown. It’s the solicitors I feel sorry for. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for them at the moment. Talking of which I’ve got to chase one up in a minute!  

Tell us about some of your favourite places locally – you’ve been a local lad for the past four years. Any favourite family hotspots you’d like to share?

Oh wow there are just too many to mention. Trimming it down it’s really the simple things that I value most, the enjoyment of which have all been accentuated by lockdown. A family walk in Bourne Woods, a delicious takeaway from Bools Farm, a picnic and a paddle on the River Wey and watching a few overs of cricket whenever I can. Oh and I don’t mind a wander up to our wonderful local, the Holly Bush, when time and family life permits. 😊  

Let’s talk about being an estate agent, and what led you down this career path? Do you love snooping around other people’s homes? (Or is that just me?)

I have a genuine passion for property and architecture of all sizes and styles. I read history at university and the social element of how people live and what their priorities are still fascinates me. As a business we love nothing more than to reengage with old clients, helping them with their next move and more recently introducing so many of them to the delights of Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex.   

In the 10 years since Property Partnership started, has much changed in the industry?

Technological innovations and the pre-eminence of the property portals continue to revolutionise our industry. There is only so far a computer can take you however, which is why we believe wholeheartedly in the value of experienced, good old-fashioned local estate agency. 

If we gave you a magic wand, what would you change about the industry?

I would simplify the conveyancing process by reintroducing elements of the Home Information Packs (HIP’s) that came and went some years ago. I would also like to see more support for those wishing to harness greener energy sources for their homes.  

So what’s next for Rufus Williams and Property Partnership. Do you have plans to open more offices?

Never say never but for the moment we are committed to the Richmond/Barnes/Surrey Hills triangle, and to offering our clients both new and old a paired-back model of estate agency relevant to the 21st century property market.   

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