Property boss Lewis Allsopp says there is no such thing as a bad real-estate market
Allsopp & Allsopp founder: 'I went from being sacked in the UK to driving a Rolls-Royce in Dubai'
Lewis Allsopp is chief executive of the Dubai real-estate agency Allsopp & Allsopp. Set-up 10 years ago and run alongside his older brother Carl, it now employs more than 200 people, with branches in Dubai and England.
British animal lover Mr Allsopp, 32, lives in Victory Heights with two dogs, a rescued cat and his wife Georgia, who is expecting their first child next year.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I was brought up in Coventry in the UK. We were a normal family, with Ford Mondeos. Mum is a cook for a school and my father a successful businessperson. Later on in my upbringing, around 13/14 in 1990, he floated a telecoms business on the stock exchange; from a £1,000 (Dh4,819) start-up to £90m market cap. He’s been involved in oil and gas, and had a business where he took people down to the Titanic with a subsea explorer. All these entrepreneurial things I was surrounded by… it ended up in my DNA. I was never "gifted" anything, though. For Allsopp & Allsopp, there was no money from Dad. We’ve never been a handout family – you work for your earnings. If I took pocket money, I had to clean the car or wash dishes.
What were you paid in your first job?
As a child, I was told to knock on doors and say "do you want your car cleaning", for £2 a car. My first official job, at 16, was working for a heating sales company earning £8,000 a year. My first "real" job, at 17, was at an estate agency in Coventry. My basic was £10,000, plus commission; my first year I made about £20,000. I was their number one agent, but got sacked for being "cheeky", not turning in [on time].
What brought you to Dubai?
I left that company and remember watching a programme on Dubai, how it was built. My dad knew the guy on the TV. I phoned him, said I was an estate agent, booked a flight and came over a few days after getting sacked on January 4, 2006. I was 18, accepted a job on commission-only, and got stitched up [over commission]. So I joined Sherwoods for a year-and-a-half. I did really well there and from that point moving forward got headhunted.
How did your agency come about?
Before Allsopp & Allsopp, I worked with a developer with a real-estate-agency arm; Dh50,000 basic, 33 per cent commission. Dubai was coming out of the boom. My brother, Carl, had just moved to Dubai and I said "we can do this", so started Allsopp & Allsopp. We did the branding, the launch, fitted the office out. The day we got the keys, we opened the newspaper and it said "2008 world recession". It was actually the best thing that could have happened [for us] because the estate agents of the day, their overheads were so high and we were at rock bottom. For me, there’s no such thing as a bad market; there’s either a buyers' market or a sellers' market. Dubai doesn’t just grind to a halt.
Do you have a philosophy about money?
Money is about two things: making sure your family is secure; after that, enjoy life. You can be happy without money, but money is a facilitator to your happiness. If you’re unhappy with money, you’re going to be unhappy without it, and vice versa. It’s done amazing things for me. I was driving a Seat Leon in Italy on holiday this year and I was probably happier than I am in my Rolls-Royce because of where I was driving – with my wife and just enjoying life.
Are you wise with money?
I wasn’t. I used to be the guy in the clubs, but now when I get my funds [salary/rental income], a certain portion I will invest to make more money and a portion I put into whatever I want. I’ve got houses – I’m doing something OK. If the world, the stock market, fell apart, I can still live in my house. People talk about the market going up and down – it’s still four walls, somewhere to live.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I’m both. When money comes in, I allocate an amount to savings and do what I want with the rest. If the new iPhone comes out, I get it. I also like driving nice cars, but I don’t really buy designer clothes any more. I’ll go on to Asos or River Island; I used to raid Gucci. I’m a saver, but I also enjoy life.
Where do you save?
I’ve got bullion. I buy watches – Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Hublot – I class as an investment. My money is in different places, but in general goes into property; it’s another bank account. I’ve learnt to stick to what I know.
What do you enjoy spending money on?
Other people. I fly my mum and other family members out, put them up in a hotel. I get happiness out of my dogs, Bella and Charlie, and a cat we took in. We go around feeding animals in Victory Heights and Sports City; I’ve always got biscuits in my car. I’m a massive believer in karma. This lady who had done me a favour put on Facebook: ‘I’m going to have to put my cat down if I don’t get Dh3,000 to sort its kidney out.’ I sent her the money. I love animals.
Is there anything you regret spending money on?
I bought a terrible watch about 12 years ago, for Dh15,000 – a Gio Monaco. It’s diamond-encrusted and looks like 50 Cent should have worn it. That was definitely a bad purchase. I’ve got a trade off now; I don’t want to show off, but at the same time I like nice things. I go for a more classy approach.
What’s your key financial milestone?
Sponsoring Coventry City Football Club – for four years, we were on the shirts. It’s such a feeling when you walk through the high street and there’s 30,000 people going to a stadium, all wearing your logo. We did that to launch the offices, but it was an amazing feeling, sponsoring your football team in your home town – and seeing them lift a trophy at Wembley.
What are your financial plans for the future?
To keep buying enough property so that I never need to work again. I’m nowhere near where I want to be yet. Property for me is my retirement. Becoming a dad will not change my outlook. Outside of Allsopp & Allsopp, I’ve set myself up – I own a few properties. I’m not worried about school fees. I will take paternity leave – it’s about time allocation rather than monetary allocation, making sure I’m there at the right times. Georgia is going to be a full-time mum. We’re very fortunate we can do that.