Introducing Rhian Howells

10 June 2020

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In the next of our articles introducing members of the Cooke & Arkwright team, we introduce Rhian Howells. Rhian is a Senior Surveyor working in the Cooke & Arkwright land agency team and talks us through her journey from solicitor to surveyor, the fascinating work she is involved in managing the Crown Estate coastal portfolio in South Wales and the joys of rounding up fly grazing horses.

What was your route into property as a career?

I originally qualified as a commercial real estate lawyer and worked for some years in a London law firm. After taking some time out to enjoy a very belated gap year, I wanted to continue with a career in property but become more hands-on. Surveying seemed just the thing, giving me the opportunity to meet a wide range of people and inspect a weird and wonderful array of properties. So I completed a very enjoyable one-year MSc in Rural Land and Business Management at Reading University and then accepted a job at Cooke & Arkwright, and the rest is history!

 

Tell us about your work at Cooke & Arkwright

Normally based in our Bridgend office, we provide estate management for many of the rural estates in South Wales. I act as land agent for one of the traditional country estates near Bridgend and assist my colleagues on other portfolios as needed. I also manage the Crown Estate’s coastal portfolio in South Wales, which has its own unique assets and challenges. For example it has been fascinating to deal with the emerging Welsh aquaculture sector involving mussels, oysters and native seaweed on the South Wales coastline.

In addition to estate management, I provide agency services for sales and lettings, professional services advice such as advising on compensation claims, plus as an RICS Registered Valuer I undertake land valuations.

 

Give us an overview of what an average day for you could entail?

Many would say that every day is different in their line of work, but this job takes that idea to the extreme! It can be anything from marketing a vacant house or office space, to wading through swampy scrubland to inspect a foreshore outfall, to running through a draft lease with lawyers. I once spent a fairly energetic morning rounding up fly grazing horses on a client’s farm! You literally never know what’s coming next.

 

What’s your favourite part of the job?

Getting out and about to inspect properties and meet people is a real perk of the job. These site visits are important, as they enable clients and tenants to identify a familiar face, and it helps you gain intimate knowledge of the land you are managing or valuing. On a sunny day, walking through a field, beachline or woodland it feels like a real privilege. But if you asked me after a site visit in a mid-winter storm you may get a different answer!

 

What advice would you give someone starting out in property now

The friends and connections you make within your industry will give you support and opportunities for years to come, and will make your working life significantly more enjoyable! So attend networking events and make the most of them.

 

Tell us a bit about your experience working from home

Despite the sad circumstances of Covid19 and the losses of friends and family many of us have suffered, working from home itself has been a mostly positive experience. There were all the usual niggles initially, trying to sort out video conferencing etc. With only one small shared ‘office space’ when my partner and I are each on conference calls at the same time, chaos ensues! But as a department we have stayed in contact to support one another via calls and Whatsapp groups which has been great, and I’ve enjoyed skipping the commuting traffic!

I have worked with Jeremy Symons over the past three years successfully leasing and buying property in support of my business. I continue to be very pleased with his knowledge of the market and expertise. Our relationship over this time has resulted in acquiring 20,000 sq ft at Capital Business Park in Cardiff, leasing 11,000 sq ft at Southpoint, and subsequently leasing an initial 42,000 sq ft at Parc Bedwas, followed by a succession of expansions of a further 11,000 and then 47,000 sq ft, enabling us to centralise all of our operations at Parc Bedwas in a single 100,000 sq ft facility. The acquisitions were completed at the perfect time for tenant purposes and the rent fixed throughout the term at very economical rates. A job well done.

Bob James, Aerfin