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Alana Simpson: Osborne King

(Young Property Agent of the Year, Belfast Telegraph Northern Ireland Property Awards 2008)

Facing up to the challenge of the future

How's business?

Challenging — it’s no secret that property is one of the main sectors finding it tough in the current economic climate, but I think that it is fair to say that we are starting to see signs of recovery, albeit slowly.

Osborne King has a diverse property business, which covers management, professional, agency and consultancy services so it’s our view that property advice will always be required on some level no matter what the condition of the market.

We are working hard with clients at the moment on asset management strategies to ensure they get the maximum returns.

Any exciting projects in the pipeline?

We have a number of new projects in the pipeline across the business, particularly on the consultancy side.

On a personal level, I am continuing to acquire new stores in Northern Ireland for supermarket giant Sainsbury’s.

I am also working to secure new retailers at Westfield Castle Court and we are currently in negotiation with a number of exciting retailers seeking representation in the scheme.

What are the long term prospects for your company?

Long term prospects are good. We will continue to be one of the leading independent practices in Belfast maintaining our base in Northern Ireland, but also advising on a range of property matters throughout Ireland, Britain and Europe.

Our longevity in this business and strong track record leaves us well placed to weather the current downturn by supporting our clients, continuing to learn from our experiences and, in the process, becoming a stronger team.

What are the biggest challenges facing your organisation?

Top of the list has to be the current stagnation within the market, which has had a significant impact on the sales and lettings side of our business.

Lack of fluidity in terms of funding and the amount of funding being made available to both investors and developers have restricted development and investment.

We’re having to work harder and smarter in order to rise to these challenges and ensure that we continue to deliver the property solutions that best fit our clients’ needs.

Could the government help you to do business better?

Planning is one of the most challenging and frustrating issues in our market.

Streamlining of the planning process would be a definite benefit.

We have already seen the beginning of this with the creation of the Strategic Projects Team, which aims to give a planning decision within 6 months for projects of significant economic importance, however my experience of this to date would suggest that further improvement is needed.

Why would someone work for (you) — Osborne King?

We are leaders in our field, working across a diverse range of sectors and property.

It is a very exciting industry to work in, no two days are the same and it is hard to beat the buzz of getting a deal across the line, but I would say that the main reason someone would like to work here is the people.

We have a strong team of people who work hard, but also like to play hard.

The atmosphere in the office is great, and while we all have bad days on the whole the office is a fun place to be.

Your views on the economy please.

Clearly, at the moment I have to say not good, but I agree with the widely held belief that this recession is going to be short and sharp and we will start to witness recovery as quickly as we saw the fall.

Property is for those who are in it for the long term, a 10-15 year investment play and it was always a danger when property was being viewed as a tradable asset.

The business climate — good or bad?

At the moment, I would have to say more bad than good, but there are definite signs of recovery.

Even a recession brings opportunities and I believe we are at or close to the bottom of the market.

This should present attractive opportunities for astute commercial investor/ developers to secure property offering attractive returns.

For retailers whose business remains strong, especially those at the value end of the market, there are excellent opportunities for expansion with attractive incentive packages on offer.

What ambitions do you have on a personal level?

The obvious answer is career progression and while I am ambitious, my main goal is to continue to enjoy my work, be adaptable in an ever-changing environment, and most importantly always to be learning.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

I like to keep active and enjoy running and swimming.

We recently completed a large extension to our house so after a brief spell as a project manager I am now turning my hand to a spot of interior design and landscape gardening. I also got engaged recently so I have a wedding to plan. That should keep me busy!

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