David Roberts, co-founder and chief executive of ESTAMA UK, on how he got started in property, his film and podcast picks, the celebrity he’d most like to have met and how he would spend a million pounds.

David Roberts headshot

David Roberts

How did you join the property industry?

My first job in the industry was as an apprentice in a small firm of surveyors – that was in 1973. I have had many jobs and have run various companies since then, but that was where I started.

What does your job entail?

As co-founder and CEO, my part of running ESTAMA UK is all about appraising the market and individual purchasing opportunities as they arise. We are always looking to expand, which is why I am always on the lookout for new opportunities, whether for ourselves or our partners.

What do you like most about the property industry?

I like that it is always changing and this is what gets me out of bed in the morning. I have been in the industry through several booms and busts – from the boom in the late 1980s to the crash in 2008. Dealing with various moments in the cycle across different parts of the market is what keeps me hooked.

And what do you dislike most about it?

I dislike that since the crash in 2008, there has been less reliance on building personal relationships. The property world has become more corporate, which I find less enjoyable.

What would you change about the property industry?

Although there have been several attempts to do this, I am yet to witness a change or an improvement to the legal process that comes with buying large properties. It does not matter how far things have come with computers, the large deals that I am involved with take as long as they always have.

What barriers or challenges have you overcome?

Over the last 40 years, there have been considerable changes in the retail market. These changes are dramatic and while this is exciting, it also brings several challenges. Keeping ahead of the curve is something we strive for at ESTAMA, as you can easily get left behind.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the team of people I have built in both the UK and Germany. We have a relatively low turnover of employees and there are individuals in the industry whom we have done business with over exceptionally long periods. This has resulted in a highly specialist team of people with vast amounts of knowledge in the sector.

What do you value in people?

Honesty and integrity. It is always better for people to give me the bad news so that I can take things forward rather than allowing it to fester. If things are not brought to light, then they have the power to become a bigger problem, so being upfront is invaluable.

What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?

To accept that over the next five to 10 years, things will continue to change at as fast a pace as they have already done. You must adapt with the market and realise that things are not constant. Popular trends are usually the flavour of the month – and these will change – so be flexible.