DEBS McFADYENLOCAL ESTATE AGENT ON HOW NOT TO BUY AND SELL
Interviewed by Jo Reynolds
When did you move to the area?
March 2014. I love this area – everyone is so lovely and friendly.
Where are your favourite local haunts?
The Eagle, The Oak, The Princess Vic on Uxbridge Road and the new garden at The Duchess – I’m really not a lush!
Where did you grow up?
Beautiful Pembrokeshire, West Wales.
Do you come from a large family?
Hmm, I don’t think so. I have 3 siblings, including a twin sister. Is that large? My adorable father is probably the friendliest man I know. He came up for a weekend a few years ago and knew everybody on Askew Road within a day.
I was that country girl who said good morning to people on the tube
Are you the chattiest?
Possibly yes. Embarrassingly, I was that country girl who said good morning to people on the tube. We always said good morning at home – but then everybody knew each other.
Where did you work before becoming an estate agent?
I worked for Teresa’s (Brewer) husband, Bill, for 7 years as a credit controller for his recycling company. Prior to that, I worked for Coopers and Lybrand (now PWC) in the City as a Senior PA. Those were the halcyon party days. I used to organise the divisional Christmas parties, 500-plus people. The Dorchester was a favourite venue and obviously I had to sample the menu and the drinks' options before making a selection. It usually lasted an entire afternoon. I wouldn’t have the stamina now. And prior to that, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall. What an absolutely stunning building. I loved that we could access our office by cutting through Downing Street as we had security passes. I must be in heaps of tourists’ photos.
The Welsh are known to be musical. Are you?
Definitely. Music lifts your soul. My mother ensured we all had piano lessons from age 8. My grandmother played at concert pianist level and my music teacher insisted I learn cello too because the school orchestra needed cellists. That was fun – not.
Do you have a large family?
I have 3 children, 27, 26 and 20, two sons and a daughter.
How did they react to you becoming an estate agent?
My son Andrew always said I should work in an estate agency because I love houses and interiors. In the early days, Caity my daughter asked whether I’m embarrassed to say I’m an estate agent because we have such bad press but actually I’m proud to work for Finlay Brewer because we really are honest and principled in our work.
What's the best part of your job?
Meeting lovely people and getting to know them.
And the worst?
Sadly, we see the best and worst in behaviours when money is involved but you have to realise that it’s an emotionally-charged situation when you’re either selling or buying a home. Some people need a gentle reminder that they need to stay focused on the end result and not get hung up on whether an 8-year-old fridge is included in the sale or not. And of course keys and alarms can be a whole other story.
Have you shown anyone famous around a house?
Absolutely, but we don’t kiss and tell.
What's your best advice for anyone buying a house?
Always be open-minded. There is almost always going to have to be a compromise. And always go and see a property. Don’t rely on pictures online. I’m reminded of a couple who insisted they only wanted a period property. Multiple viewings ensued, then Teresa threw in a wild card, a stunning contemporary studio space and they fell in love immediately and bought it.
Best advice for a seller?
Declutter – everywhere. Clean windows and freshen paintwork. Kerb appeal is important. That first impression is lasting. We’re always happy to help if a seller is caught ‘on the hop’ with an unexpected viewing. I’ve made beds and taken out bin bags. But it’s best to have clear surfaces and clean ovens and bathrooms. Fresh air and flowers are a bonus.
You're a host and helper for Alpha. What is it?
The Alpha course is a series of informal, friendly sessions – weekly for 10–11 weeks. They explore the basics of the Christian faith. It’s held at Holy Trinity Brompton and everyone has carte blanche to ask whatever question or voice whatever opinion with absolutely no judgement. It’s completely fascinating and, interestingly, the largest demographic of those attending is probably the 18–24-year-olds. They have so many questions about faith and ‘what is life really all about?’. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet people from all walks of life who are on a spiritual journey.
What inspired you to get involved?
Gillie who works with us invited me to a course some years ago and I became a Christian. My faith has completely changed my life and I’ve helped on the courses ever since. It’s an absolute privilege. The most important aspect of faith is love: it’s that simple. If everyone was kind to each, other what a wonderful world this would be – as Louis Armstrong sang so beautifully.
What would be your dream job?
I love my current job of course but it would be great to have a property in the country where I could take in rescue dogs. We have a lovely, gentle German shepherd and a rather yappy Maltese at home. They’re great company, but I’d love them to have a huge garden to run in and friends to play with.
How and with whom do you relax?
With my children watching rugby – it’s the Welsh heritage – at the pub when it’s on. When my boys were young, my pipe dream was they’d play for Wales – but they don’t know that. My daughter is in her second year of university reading English Literature in the motherland (Cardiff) and I miss her dreadfully. On a positive note, my house is a lot tidier when she’s not here and my clothes are in my wardrobe. Every cloud and all that.
Thank you, Debs. It's been a real pleasure to meet you.
Interviewed November 2019