Home truths: Expert property insights from Hamptons MD Lesley Cairns

Words by
Charlotte McManus
Photography by
Jon Holland

30th September 2021

Part of the luxury estate and letting agent’s all-female leadership team, Cairns is a font of knowledge on everything from current market trends to new areas of growth

A seasoned lettings specialist with over 30 years’ experience, Lesley Cairns certainly knows a thing or two about the housing market. After working her way up the ladder at a prolific property company, Cairns took a career break to bring up her two children before joining Hamptons in 2006. Appointed managing director in 2017, she has taken the luxury estate and letting agent from strength to strength, and has no plans to stop there...

What sets Hamptons apart from other property agents?

First, our people: we have a unique culture that I’m really proud of. Even though we’re a big business, we have created an inclusive, supportive environment and even refer to ourselves internally as the “Hamptons Family”. I believe our customers benefit from this ethos. Moving is emotional and can be stressful, so we work to deliver the very best experience for our customers. Collectively, our people make up what is essentially a one-stop shop, meaning we can cover all property needs. We even have a 24/7 service run through our client service department, who take calls at all hours, from all time zones. Second, our network: we have 90 branches, with our teams working together across all disciplines and regions to ensure we provide our customers with the best advice at every stage of their property journey. Third, our heritage: we recently celebrated our 150th birthday. People choose Hamptons because of that heritage; 15 decades of accumulated experience of helping people move!

And what about its team?

We recruit and retain the best in the industry. Our people are key to our success. I’m passionate about maintaining a culture where people are respected and valued; where ideas can flourish and outstanding results and behaviour can be celebrated. I’m about to take a group of top-achieving people sailing around the Isle of Wight, for instance. Most people who come to Hamptons stay for years. We have an all-female leadership team. I’m a big believer in opportunities for women.

As MD, what does your role involve?

The success of the business is my responsibility, meaning I direct company operations and give strategic guidance to the management board. Communication is key and no two days are ever the same — it’s such a varied role. My biggest challenge is the unpredictable nature of the market.

Your biggest work achievement to date?

The brand refresh we carried out in 2020, which was very exciting. We have an amazing brand — it’s well recognised, it’s well respected — but we wanted to give it a fresh new look. It’s so important to evolve.

Your predictions for the UK property market in 2022?

The market is beginning to unwind following the stamp duty holiday, but we still expect 2022 to be a strong year. The impact of lockdown has meant that people are placing even more importance on their homes, although the lack of choice in the market means that many haven’t yet been able to find their dream property — demand remains strong across sales and lettings.

What kinds of areas will be popular?

The country market is likely to outperform cities again — that trend was already under way before the pandemic accelerated it. Covid-19 created a race for space and people are relocating further out than ever before, to the Cotswolds and further. At the same time, London’s prime market should benefit, as international buyers return. London prices have only risen by 1.2% in the past year, whereas prices outside the city have risen by more than 10%, meaning there is good-value London property out there.

Some of the more memorable properties on your books over the years?

We’ve just sold a £40m home in Chelsea with one of the most beautiful gardens in the area. We were recently instructed on the short let of Kirtlington Park in Oxfordshire, available for £28,000 per week.  We have access to stunning international properties. The list is endless.

When you’re not at work?

I love travel and enjoy wellbeing, such as yoga and reflexology. When socialising, The Chiltern Firehouse is a favourite, or Les 110 de Taillevent in W1.

Tell us... what’s your own home like?

I live in a Victorian terraced house that backs on to Wimbledon Park. My style is quite contemporary, with a few antique pieces thrown in. I love Heal’s for homeware and Jo Malone for candles.

Goals for Hamptons over the next few years?

Our goal is always to improve the quality of people’s lives by helping them make important and life-changing decisions about property and offer a seamless Hamptons experience that is beyond their expectations. I want us to retain our customers throughout their property journey over a lifetime. I also want us to be an employer of choice across our industry. The Hamptons Family and business will continue to grow over the coming years as we expand into new markets and areas.