The property guru on learning from her dad, making groundbreaking deals and having the right values
CAMILLA DELL is managing partner and founder of Black Brick Property Solutions. Having worked for two of London’s largest and most successful estate agencies, Foxtons and Knight Frank, Camilla set up Black Brick in January 2007. Since then, the firm has grown from a two-person start-up to become London’s largest independent buying consultancy.
Camilla lives in north-west London with her husband and two daughters, and in her spare time sits on the committee for Norwood, a leading charity supporting vulnerable children, families and people with learning disabilities.
What was your first job and first pay?
Working as a sales and marketing executive for a hotel company. My salary was £16,000 per annum.
How did you get into the property world?
My late father was a successful London property developer. He worked on some iconic developments such as The Colonnades in Bayswater. Sadly he passed away when I was nine years old, but they say the apple never falls far from the tree, and so I like to think in some spiritual way that my career path is linked to him.
Even at a young age, did his interest in property rub off?
Sadly, I was only nine years old, so no. He did used to film me showing the house we lived in — home video recording was all the rage then — so I guess you could say I learned the art of how to show a house from a very young age.
Were you motivated by making money?
Absolutely — I was extremely driven and motivated by making money in the early days of my career. You don’t survive five years at Foxtons if you are not highly sales-driven. However, as time went by, I decided that I didn’t want to sell to people any more. I knew there was a market out there to be a trusted adviser and provide independent advice, and help to people that are looking to buy. Buyers traditionally have no one helping them or fighting their corner.
Is property the easiest way to make money?
Not necessarily. I think property professionals often get a bad reputation for this, but nothing is ever easy — particularly in today’s market. There is increased competition from online agents charging little or no fees, high taxes have shrunk developer margins, and the market generally in London is depressed right now, with fewer transactions happening, so I think most estate agents today will tell you it’s far from easy.
How do you stay positive?
I am a firm believer that markets are cyclical. We had a bull run up to 2014, and now we are in a downturn. With that comes opportunities.
What was the first big property you sold?
An apartment in One Hyde Park for almost £16million back in 2007. At the time the development was a hole in the ground but we saw the potential to own something unique. At the time, One Hyde Park was truly groundbreaking — it was the first super-prime new-build development in central London.
What was your first financial indulgence?
Stupidly, a car. The ironic thing is that I don’t actually like driving — but I did treat myself to an Audi R8, which my husband loves more than I do.
Are you a spender or saver?
A bit of both.
Is money vital for happiness?
I think a certain amount of money is essential — enough to have a roof over your head, pay for schooling, the odd holiday and to eat out in nice places. However, I think other factors have to be right also — having the right values in life is just as important, if not more so. I meet many people with millions and I wouldn’t say they are any happier.
What would you love to buy?
I think my children would love for me to buy them a dog. But my husband says no until we have a proper care plan in place, which is sensible.
What has been your biggest waste of money?
The Audi R8.