There are hundreds of property specialists operating and setting up shop in Edinburgh – all competing for a slice of an ever-fluctuating market – but, amidst fierce competition and political uncertainty, there’s one that stands out.
Coulters Property, which launched a little over two years ago, is blazing an envious trail in the sector – thanks, in no small part, to its industry-savvy director, Mark Coulter.
But Mark, whose background has always been in property, admits he didn’t jump into launching the business, he was pushed.
“I had always wanted to set up a property business,” says Mark. “But I always found a reason not to.
“Then, as fate would have it, my hand was forced. Circumstances gave me no other option but to take that chance.
“It’s true what they say, you never make that leap unless you have to.”
And it’s just as well, really, because Mark has never looked back.
He opened his first office in the trendy Stockbridge area of Edinburgh, quickly followed by a second in Marchmont just 18 months later.
Setting the standard for prime property, the latter can be found in the former RBS building on Warrender Park Road – complete with original bank features including the vault and panic button.
Thanks to these two offices in key areas of the city, the firm has steadily grown since it opened in August 2013 – doubling its turnover year on year.
Mark attributes much of this success to the company’s differentiating factors.
The original office in Stockbridge, for example, operates seven days a week at times which suit its clientele.
Mark says the team’s excellent communication and comprehensive service, which guides people every step of the way through sales and letting processes and includes handling the associated legal requirements in-house – also sets the business apart.
Talking about opening the new Marchmont office, which became fully operational in May, Mark said: “This is a major step forward for our growing business and an exciting time for me and the team at Coulters.
“Business has been great across all parts of the company so when the opportunity came up in Marchmont we had to take it.
But his expansion hasn’t been facilitated in Edinburgh alone.
After closing a number of transactions with clients in Asia, the residential and lettings specialist is now operating a website in China.
According to Mark, the importance of the Chinese international market became glaringly obvious – as did the need to provide a bespoke service to potential investors from the far east.
To date, Coulters is the first property, sales and lettings agent in Scotland to launch such a service.
According to Mark, education is extremely important to parents in China and sending their children to a top school or university in Scotland is perceived as a major door-opener to their future.
With its new service, Coulters says it’s able to reach parents and investors even before they arrive.
“The overall average price of properties for Chinese buyers in the UK, is £770,000,” says Mark.
“However ultra-high-net-worth buyers can spend millions, right down to the buyer who starts looking at properties in the £100,000s.
“Statistics show that on average, Chinese high net worth individuals own 2.5 homes in China or abroad.”
Mark has even brought Nancy Zhang, a Chinese co-ordinator, on-board to provide a personal and bespoke service to all Chinese-speaking clients who want to invest in the Scottish property market.
He explained: “Our experience in the residential market is second to none and our legal professionals provide customers with a personalised and efficient service’.
“In 2013 China’s high net worth individuals grew dramatically with a 17% increase in the millionaire bracket.’
“Last year alone approximately 88,000 students came to the UK from China to study, which proves there is a huge market to be tapped into.”
Mark, whose business is entirely self-funded, says he has no plans to look beyond China, however, although a further two Scottish offices could be on the cards.
“We have ambitious yet sensible targets and I believe that by operating a self-financing business, we are more sustainable.”
Coulters also offers private client work and its team of solicitors, among other things, specialise in wills, powers of attorney, and executries.
It manages around 150 lettings in and around Edinburgh and, within the last year, closed 120 sales and 80 purchasing transactions.
One of its challenges, however, was the political uncertainty which came with the referendum and Coulter describes the mooted repeat just 10 months down the line as “nonsense”.
“Proposing a second referendum just 10 months down the line is absolute nonsense. All the political uncertainty isn’t good for business. It certainly doesn’t help, put it that way.”
Otherwise, Mark says the market is “pretty static” although the recent land tax changes which replaced Land Tax Stamp Duty have had a huge impact – making it more difficult for homeowners to sell.
He says the odds are definitely in favour of buy-to-let purchasers but that buyers should still be realistic and make sure they have plenty of equity to allow for fluctuations.
Meanwhile, his focus is on continuous improvement and staying ahead of the game when it comes to trends and understanding the market.
While he’s denied any further developments in Edinburgh, he hasn’t ruled out expanding his stomping ground to Scotland’s other major cities.
Perhaps the Glasgow and Aberdeen property sectors had better look out…