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Sebastien Nicolleau, Founder of Galleon Property Search

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

How do you add value for your clients?

Galleon Property Search is a leading international buying agency and we specialise in the search and acquisition of prime and super prime real estate in the UK, France, Monaco, Spain and Portugal.

We are addressing a very simple challenge within the real estate industry. As we both know, finding and buying a property can be very time consuming and challenging. In addition, buyers today have to deal with selling agents, who work for, and contractually represent the seller's interests. Selling agents are not there to make sure you and I buy well, but that their client sells well. Our role as buying agents is to address this dynamic and use our expertise to ensure that our buyers are properly advised, and that their interests are fully represented throughout the process.

We represent private and institutional clients who are looking to acquire real estate and we manage the entire buying process on their behalf. We do not sell properties. Our mission instead is to advise our clients, develop the strategy and brief, conduct a complete market search to source the best real estate available on and off market that match our client’s criteria, agree the shortlist and carry out a full appraisal of the properties with our clients, use our expertise to negotiate the best terms and coordinate the conveyancing process, as well as ownership set up, tax advice and estate planning through to completion, saving our clients time, hassle and money.

The Real Estate industry is changing fast, and the role of an astute buying agent has become synonymous with securing your dream property at the best terms.

What was the path you took to get to where you are today?

After completing my Master’s degree at the university of Bath in 2001, I spent 13 years working for large Nasdaq and CAC 40 companies in the UK.

Looking back, this corporate experience shaped who I am today and gave me the right foundation to become a successful

business owner. I learnt during that time how to work and perform in my role. In these environments, queues of candidates are waiting at the door to take your place, so there is no room for second best.

In parallel, I had been actively involved in property investment across Europe since 2003.

During which I developed an extensive knowledge and expertise of the UK, French, Monegasque, Spanish and Portuguese markets. Through my first-hand experience as a property investor, I realised how the current process of finding and acquiring properties was unfit for purpose. A complex, frustrating and time-consuming journey that can be very challenging for most, leaving the buyers quite exposed.

That led me to quit a successful corporate career to set up Galleon in 2014. My vision is simple; to change the real estate industry and make sure the interests of the buyers are fully protected from day one.

What is your favourite destination within the markets you cover?

The list is long... London is probably my favourite capital within our markets, followed by Paris with its architecture, and Lisbon with its chaotic colourful lifestyle and climate. Outside the large cities, I love the South and South West of England; Sussex, Dorset, Devon and the Cotswolds where I spent quite some time as a student. In France, it has to be the small Provençal villages in the south. The quality of life, food, weather, sea, slow pace and the stunning medieval stone houses. Bordeaux region and the Arcachon Bay are also within my favourites, with great investment opportunities and very much under the radar amongst international buyers. In Spain, I grew up going to the Balearics most summers. Ibiza/Mallorca are also close to my heart, and very popular with our clients. Barcelona, Valencia and Seville are fantastic cosmopolitan cities too. As for Portugal, it is hard to beat the quality of life in the Algarve.

Tell us about the most unusual property search you’ve been involved with

A large US company looking to buy a castle with its vineyards within the Aquitaine region, South West of France (Bordeaux), for personal use by the owner but also hospitality purpose.

Not only did their brief take me back to my home country of France, but large historic building acquisitions are often very challenging, complex and require a specific expertise, which I relish.

There aren’t many opportunities to acquire castles in the region so those searches and projects have to be carefully managed and will involve engaging with our private network of castle owners, as most assets are off-market.

We identified 7 potential castles matching our client’s criteria (2 on-market and 5 off-market) and we spent a week viewing those with our clients. With us we had a historic building architect, part of our trusted network of advisors who came along for the viewings. From the 7 castles, the clients shortlisted 2. The next step was for the team to conduct a complete assessment and appraisal. One was subsequently discarded, leaving us with 1 option.

Once the castle has been given the all clear structurally, I began direct negotiations with the owners. After 5 and a half weeks of intense negotiation, the owners accepted an offer at 14% under their initial asking price. We then managed the conveyancing process as well as ownership set up through to completion. Stunning castle, great wine… as well as happy clients and team.

What does the future hold for Galleon International Property Search?

This year has been very challenging for many industries and Real Estate is no exception. After a scary few months during the first lockdown, the market in the UK and Europe started to pick up again, with strong demand and a lot of activity. We experienced a migration flow from large city centres towards countryside and coastal areas. This was a natural outcome of a lockdown period with families looking for more outdoor space, a better quality of life, while being able to work from home.

The main challenge we face as Buying Agents is the lack of awareness about our profession and services amongst most buyers. It is part of the culture in the US and Australia to be fully represented and have a buying agent by your side when acquiring real estate, but not yet in Europe. The benefits are obvious: advice, market access, peace of mind, time and saving money. Our vision is for buying agents to become the first point of contact for anyone embarking on a purchase. It will take time, but we will get there. So, the future is looking good.

Instagram: seb_nicolleau

+44 (0)77 6882 7957


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