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Army of purchasers heads for Mill Hill

26th Apr 2013

…as seen in The Jewish Chronicle

April’s launch of Linden Homes’ Millbrook Park, in Mill Hill was expected to go well. Available through Preston Bennett, the Officers’ Mess contains 10 one and two-bedroom apartments, priced from £315,000.

The launch didn’t just go well. A delighted Sue Fisher, Managing Director of agent Preston Bennett called on Monday morning to say that, over a single weekend, her firm had sold 9 of the 10 apartments. Ms Fisher started working for her father Ronnie Preston, at Preston Bennett 22 years ago. Now Managing Director of the whole company, in those days she has the ne-homes brief. “I was walking into quite considerable shoes, to say the least”, she says. Ms Fisher has been working in London for Legal & General and London agency Stickley & Kent. “I saw an opening that would take Preston Bennett in a new direction: new homes. I wanted to create my own name and value.”

The firm benefited, then and now, from the peace dividend, as property no longer required by the Ministry of Defence was snapped up by developers attracted by its semi-greenfield look. The Linden scheme today is the former home of the Middlesex Regiment. Within about 19 months of Ms Fisher joining, Preston Bennett was acting for the biggest developers in the area, Barratt and Laing, at the MoD’s Brockley Manor in Stanmore.

Ms Fisher loves the buzz of a strongly selling development like the Officer’s Mess. But her and her father’s vision for the company was to produce a many-faceted service company, that can work for clients across the property industry, from land acquisitions to planning and legal matters, all in an eight-mile radius of the company’s based in Stanmore. “We act for all major corporations,” she says. “We have a specialised skills set”.

Lettings and management is  a thriving area. “The reason they have not suffered in the property market down-turn is the influx of new properties that investors buy in our new schemes,” says Ms Fisher. “Because of the huge amount of stock we have and their success rate, they are maintain a high rate of rental and management, from long-term clients who use Preston Bennett’s whole package.”

The firm is building its fine homes department, recruiting four new staff members; its planning deparmte3nt has taken on another planner its lettings department is seeing good growth.  New homes remain a prime focus. “In the next three years we have 2,000 new units coming on through the business, maybe more, depending on planning, “ says Ms Fisher. Among them area 170 units for Taylor Wimpey in Borehamwood. “We’re already 20 per cent up on last year in terms of achieved sales across the board. Every sign in the market is encouraging.”

Preston Bennett remains a family firm. “We are close family” says Ms Fisher. “I have two married daughters and a beautiful grandson. My partner of 18 years also runs a successful agency, but there is no talk of business when I go home. I always believed Preston Bennett was a wonderful established business, based on property professional values. I always believed it could expand and do different things in property. But I couldn’t envisage that it would go the way it has gone.”

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