Aucoot is the company you need on your radar. Whether you're looking for a house or simply love looking at great architecture, Aucoot has got it. In an industry that seems to have an accepted formula of what works and how it should look, John McDavid has shone some light. With a creative outlook, and a real care for great design, McDavid has brought something new to the table. We sat down with him to discuss the future of estate agents, and why he has such a refreshing outlook. There's a few nice houses in there, too.
Tell us a little about John McDavid. Where did you grow up, what were you like in school and, maybe, what are some of your passions of yours outside of the one you’ve devoted your life to now?
My main focus, when growing up, was always in art, design or creative learning in some way. I studied photography at university – and it continues to be a strong passion of mine. I think it’s given me quite a unique perspective, especially within our industry, on the value of good photography. Not just how to take it, but what it can do.
In my spare time I enjoy exhibitions and talks, whether that’s design, architecture, photography, museums or gardens. I am really interested in people and buildings – the history of them, how they work together, and I find that a lot of my time is spent learning more about this – when my two small children allow.
So, how and why did you start Aucoot?
I gained over ten years of experience in the industry before starting Aucoot. During that time, I got a really strong picture of the things that were not being done, or things that I thought I could do differently or improve on. Whether that was about the way properties were being presented or the level of service that was being offered. I realised there was a need for people to have more choice.
I’ve personally built Aucoot from the ground up. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted it to be, not just how I wanted it to look and feel, but also a strong understanding of what I wanted the brand – and the company – to be. When you’re working for someone else, it can be difficult to feel that your work is meaningful. Sometimes interactions can feel transactional. For me it was really important to create a business based on meaningful interactions.
I have done every single part of the job. I know how to carry out every role, but I also recognise there are better ways to do things. I’m not afraid to call myself an estate agent, I take pride in the job that I do. And I think it’s important when choosing someone to work with, who’s potentially selling your most valuable asset, that it’s somebody who knows the industry inside out. Aucoot strikes that balance and is a professional business organisation, with the creative merits of an online editorial magazine. This is the agency that I wanted to create, one that isn’t afraid of its roots but strives to set the bar higher, and make the industry better.
You were previously an Art School Graduate and a record label manager, how did you make that jump to being an Estate Agent?
Whatever you’re doing in life, no matter how big you think that jump is, or how sideways the move, there are always transferrable skills. The world of estate agency actually straddles a lot of my skills. My work has always had a creative thread to it, to varying degrees. The business acumen I have built up over time – from the very beginnings of running my own record label. I believe the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive, and even when working for a big organisation there are opportunities to bring creativity into the work that you do. There are many ways to be “creative”.
Who are the typical Aucoot clients and why do they want to work with you?
Our clients are people who have created remarkable homes and want to feel that they have an equally remarkable estate agent who shares their values and truly understands how to communicate what they have created. It might be someone with a home that has been architecturally or interior designed, or someone who has personally crafted their beautiful space over time.
What excites you about homes? What do you think a home says about the person that lives there?
The interior design of a home, and the objects that people choose to surround themselves with, say a lot about who they want to be and how they want to feel. I like seeing how people use different space, how they put objects together. What’s really exciting is when all of those things come together seemingly effortlessly. I love gaining an insight into people’s lives, and how their houses work for them.
It’s an old adage that buyers walk into a property and instantly know that its ‘the one’ – do you have that same feeling when it comes to acquiring properties for Aucoot?
Absolutely, yes. Quite often I can tell before I’ve walked in. If the property has the potential to be seen in the pages of an interior or design magazine, then the chances are it’s an Aucoot property.
What have been the biggest problems that you’ve encountered along the way?
The referendum, sadly. It happened a few months before we launched and it meant that we’ve started off in a market that everyone is finding challenging. However, in some ways, it has helped us too. In a difficult market, people need agents who are very good at what they do and who may have a more creative approach to the process.
On the other hand, what has been the biggest breakthrough in that time?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a breakthrough, but I am very proud of the Abode project we created with Cereal magazine at Greenwich Peninsula.
What has been your favourite property you have worked on and why?
I would say probably Varden Street has been one of the most interesting. It’s a beautiful Whitechapel home created by Pedro da Costa Felgueiras. He has painstakingly renovated the house using traditional techniques. Every detail has been carefully considered. Pedro is a fascinating man, so it was really enjoyable working with him.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have a flat that is part of the Span development, designed by Eric Lyons in the mid-50s. It’s fascinating because of its pioneering modernist principals that are still referenced today. The current owners have done an excellent job renovating it, looking at original colours, retaining original features where possible, but balancing that with a contemporary refurbishment.
But to be honest I have been lucky to work with some incredible people and some beautiful properties, it’s hard, really, to narrow it down. I like all of them in some way.
What are the most important things that you’ve learned along the way?
To have a clear understanding of what you want to be and where you want to go – because that enables you to make decisions more clearly and quickly. You can become paralysed without knowing a clear direction. Also, you don’t necessarily need to be in an office from 9 – 6 every day.
On a personal level, what drives you?
Meaningful interactions. Freedom and creativity.
What do you hope to do next year that you’ve never done before?
We have lots of exciting things in the pipeline but really I’m constantly looking forward to meeting new people and exploring new opportunities. It’s going to be a good year.