Estate Agent Matt Boatwright’s name is now splashed across his Bell Street offices. Matt shared his opinion with ThisIsAlfred.com about the new housing estates planned for Shaftesbury, why the town remains popular and why he’s decided to re-brand his business.
As I sat down with Matt Boatwright in his Shaftesbury office, one of his staff answered a ringing phone with her boss’ surname – ‘Hello Boatwright’s’. Matt said he is still getting used to the rebranding and it feels strange.
“Seeing the boards going up gave me an immense amount of pride. I took my son out for a walk the other day and we saw three or four of them with my surname on them. It’s an odd feeling but a nice one.”
Matt has worked in estate agency for thirteen years, starting his career in a large corporate company. In 2012 he joined Bassett’s and became a director three years later. Now Basset’s has become Boatwright’s. What happened?
“Bassett’s was kind of split in half,” Matt explained. “I set up as a franchise in 2015 in Tisbury and then came to Shaftesbury in 2017. The other director is retiring so it’s been rebranded.” With the new name there’s some new territory. “We were in Shaftesbury and Tisbury and we have rebranded both of those offices. We have also expanded into Salisbury and Amesbury as well, so we are now a four office operation.”
There are eight estate agents in Shaftesbury, a town of under 9,000 people. Is there really room for so many people selling property? “The simple and short answer is yes,” said Matt. “There will be more building on every single road into Shaftesbury. It is going to happen. The market in Shaftesbury is growing. There is a definite overlap between Shaftesbury and Tisbury, Shaftesbury and Gillingham and even Shaftesbury to Warminster. There’s a market, although I don’t want more estate agents in the town for obvious reasons,” Matt laughed.
There are indeed plans to build 170 homes at Littledown on the A350. Over 300 more homes are proposed for the fields to the north of Wincombe Business Park. Further developments are being touted on land bordered by Salisbury Road and the Blandford Road and over 50 homes are being considered in Enmore Green.
Matt says people want to move to Shaftesbury because it’s attractive. “Shaftesbury is a lovely town. It has so much character. There are so many different varieties of building, even on the High Street. It’s important to remember that the town is not going to change overnight but it is about adapting to change,” he said.
The reputation of the town’s education providers helps maintains Shaftesbury’s popularity. “All of the local schools, from primary right up to secondary and private schools, are so well thought of,” said Matt. And although he believes that some homebuyers will look for local jobs when they are settled in the area, many people balance the lower cost of Shaftesbury homes with the cost of commuting, and decide to drive out to work.
“There have been a few instances this year where people have sought employment before exchanging on their properties. In one transaction a job offer was rescinded. Traditionally people sought employment at the same time as buying a house. If there are going to be further larger developments then there has to be some kind of infrastructure behind then. Given the affordability of Shaftesbury, people are more inclined to commute,” he said.
Shaftesbury property prices have risen noticeably in the last two years but Matt believes they have ‘plateaued’. He adds that he is not short of buyers for Shaftesbury homes. This year, he’s noticed a lot of first-time buyer activity.
“They have had the stamp duty holidays, so the government are really pushing that market. It is also important to remember that the government is hammering the buy-to-let market,” he added. But Matt says the retirement property market in Shaftesbury is now ‘swamped’. “There is so much of it. Shaftesbury is very sought after for that type of buyer but there is so much choice for them at the moment, they can’t see the wood for the trees.”
The most sought after areas remain St James, Abbey Walk, The Knapp and Enmore Green. And Matt says some of the newer housing also offers great value. “What you get for your money is incredible. We’re just about to put a five-bedroom property on the new estate on for over £300,000. It’s amazing to get such an amount of property for that amount of money.”
Matt says Shaftesbury is more popular than Gillingham, partly because the hilltop town offers a more varied housing market. “One of the nice things about Shaftesbury is that it has a nice balance. You have your quirky properties – St James for example. There are modern estates such as The Maltings and you have the larger properties around Sweetman’s Road, built in the 1960s and 1970s. There’s a nice kind of mix. There are bungalows and flats too. It’s not a ‘one trick town’,” said Matt. “Gillingham is more affordable and has a railway station but it’s important to remember that not every buyer wants a station within five minutes.”
The biggest house price hikes in our area have been seen across the Wiltshire border in Tisbury. “In the Tisbury office, we’ve noticed growth of 7.5% year-on-year. At the start of the year we saw a big jump and then it has levelled off. You need sustainable growth. You can’t have massive jumps like they have had in Central London over the last five years because you end up with a severe drop. You can only decipher a market based on what property is selling for compared to what properties are on the market for. They are two very different things. It’s the old cliché – the property is only worth what somebody is prepared to pay for it,” said Matt.
Estate agents have come in for some abuse over the years. Matt jokes that he is uncertain about the current popularity of his profession. “I’m not sure how we’re getting on in the hated hierarchy. We were out there with parking attendants and politicians but I think we’re getting a bit better now. I’ve always enjoyed my job and the variety excites me. Not one day is the same. There’s a lot of problem solving, which is what I like getting involved with as long as you get the result at the end of it. There’s a lot more awareness of what the industry is, in comparison to what it was. I think the people that generated the industry bad name have been whittled out.”
So what about Matt’s own business? Has got plans to expand? “Not right now. We need to bed in and become established, particularly in Shaftesbury. I think there are other markets that are of interest to me but I want to walk before I can run,” he said.