Hotel concierges were once the first port of call for any visitor to London, someone able at the drop of their satin-lined topper to please your every whim from the best tickets at the opera to the most sought-after restaurant tables.
Over the past decade this informal service has transformed into an industry and while old-fashioned concierges were happy with a crisp note, today’s versions charge between £700 a year and £5,000 a month.
Such growth has been driven by the world’s wealthy becoming more mobile and, while working in property for over 15 years I have watched the concierge business in London grow from a handful of black-book clutching ‘sole petitioners’ to some 50 companies.
These range from large firms specialising in lifestyle management to small, specialist outfits but all offer the ‘get me the impossible’ service that the wealthy demand. This includes finding lost keys, sourcing a £5 million pound engagement ring overnight for a love-struck billionaire or organising a weekend shopping trip in New York at an hour’s notice.
As well as the larger firms there’s also the little-known but well connected ‘offline’ specialists who thrive on personal recommendations alone and often serve specific nationalities.
For example Helena Ding specialises in offering inbound Chinese clients a lifestyle management service and there are similar people for the Russians, Saudis and other nationalities.
But the one request that many concierge firms struggle with is to ‘find me a London home’, one which buying agents are being asked to help with more and more both in partnership with concierge companies and directly.
And, as a lifestyle concierge can gain clients access into the most exclusive nightclubs, Garrington can source and negotiate properties in London’s select neighbourhoods before they come onto the market.
For example, some of my Saudi clients will ring up and ask for a five-bedroom house in Knightsbridge for ‘the season’ (i.e. May to August) which given the limited supply means my intimate knowledge of the local market is essential.
I also recently worked for a young Asian client who had between £12 million and £15 million to spend on a three-bedroom property in the capital, who also wanted introductions into the motor industry.
On a more complicated brief I recently helped a Middle Eastern client find a Holland Park non-residential property with ‘change of use’ potential for up to £20 million and also helped source architects, planning consultants, interior designers and landscape artists to complete the project.
The influx of such people to London is not slowing down – yet – and some 60% of property sales in Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Westminster go to foreign buyers at the moment. So it’s clear, demand for concierge services will continue growing, as will the number of companies and individuals entering the market.