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64 | WORDS | Geoff Hadwick



Built for testing times

In his 2011 review, Weston Homes chairman and CEO Bob Weston acknowledges the power of overseas property buyers. “Our overseas marketing strategy has resulted in sales with an order value that far exceeded our expectations, and we shall be continuing this strategy by the marketing of existing and new prestigious developments to the Far East market in the coming year.” How does he go about approaching and converting these international buyers, and why is he feeling so confi dent about the future? Top people talk to OPP.

gloom and doom. There are no major obstacles to success, he says, and it pays to think as positively as possible. “We’ve been successful,” he says. “My cup is half-full, not half- empty.” Look for buyer markets that want to spend, and work hard at customer care, that’s the Weston way. Be consistent. Play the long game and build up a sense of trust and reassurance in the brand. He fi nds this is particularly important when working in China.


“In business, there are always pluses and there are always minuses, but the real key is to make sure that you get more right than you get wrong, then you go forward,” he tells OPP. Not that he is blind to the difficult

ver the optimist, Bob Weston refuses to use the global fi nancial crisis as an excuse for

times all around. “I would say that we are in tougher times for the house-building industry now than we were in 2008, 2009 and 2010 combined,” he admits, and there are plenty of things like banks, red tape and planning delays to frustrate his firm’s progress. “I think the

most difficult thing about running a company in the current climate

homes.” he says. “We don’t make the rules, we just have to look at them and decide how best to play the game with the rules that somebody else has set.”

“I would says that the situation in mainland Europe is a lot worse than in Asia and China”

has been banking criteria and finance rules, as well as employment law and red tape legislation.” Just when you thought that it was

safe to go back in the water, “some increased burden always comes along, such as planning, codes for sustainable homes or lifetime

Like virtually every house-builder in the market, Weston finds the funding and lending markets a real drag. “The mortgage situation is the biggest hold-back in the market at

the moment,” he says. “For me, the most difficult thing about running a company in the current climate is the banking criteria and the problems involved in getting finance.” Wht’s the solution? Well ... “We certainly don’t need 95% mortgages from Government-backed schemes,”

he says. “A straightforward 90% mortgage based on a multiple of three to four times the borrower’s earnings that is proven, not self- certified, would be stable, do-able and that’s what’s happened for the last 20-30 years in reality. If we could have that, life would be a lot better for everybody.”

Does the outlook vary depending

on where you are? “I wouldn’t say that the situation in the UK is worse than Asia and China,” he replies, “but the situation in mainland Europe is a lot worse than in Asia and China.” “The UK is one of the most stable

countries in the world, with a stable economy. The UK is somewhere that people aspire to be, it has excellent educational institutions, and it’s where people want to buy.” So, how does he position his UK

offering to buyers from abroad? How does he present the company and its products to the market? In the simplest and most

straightforward way possible, he replies. “Weston Homes is primarily a residential house-builder, with other businesses attached to the group. We are there as retailers, not wholesalers. We aim to be a manufacturer of people’s homes.” Its key assets are “the product, the

price and the presentation,” he says. And it is all about selling properly and professionally. Weston Homes is not really out to find speculative investors. He wants the company to have a long and well-established face in key buyer markets. And Asia is one of its most

Blue skies | Weston wants straightforward 90% mortgages based on a multiple of three to four times the borrower’s earnings

important markets … one that Bob Weston knows well. “We see Macau, Hong Kong and Singapore as the three primary locations in Asia to

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