Meet Lonnée Hamilton, an American broker who made the move to the UK four years ago and has made a name for herself once here. Starting with Keller Williams UK to learn the ropes to the UK property industry before going Independent, she started London Realty International out of a desire to provide a high level of customer service and integrity to her clients.
Here’s her story:
Could you tell me a little bit about how you got started in real estate? I know that you got started in the US?
That’s correct. So, my mother is an agent in the US. The system in the US is very different. My experience here is that I don’t see a lot of women estate agents. I mean, there are some, but I don’t see a lot here and you know that includes older women as well. My mother had been in the business some 30 years in the States as a real estate agent. She wanted me to join her, but I was busy developing my own career and I really didn’t want to get involved with the business at that point in my life. I really wasn’t that interested. Ultimately, she got me and my sister involved and we had a family estate agency. We worked under Sotheby’s international in Pasadena, California, a suburb Los Angeles. And that’s how I got started.
How long have you been in the industry?
I would say seven years overall, but I’ve been in the UK for four of those seven.
What was your biggest surprise when you moved to the UK with the way that the market ran?
When I first encountered, the estate agency market in the UK, it was as a tenant. I had just moved here because my husband’s job transferred him here. He moved with an expat package, and we had a relocation agency helping us, but being an estate agent myself I decided that I wanted to look on my own. The relocation agency was moving a little bit slowly and I really did not understand why they couldn’t find me a property. It was very confusing to me that there was no MLS (multiple listing service). And then I also had to deal with 10 different agents who were showing me flats. I wasn’t sure why they were showing me things I didn’t ask for.
I didn’t understand the system at all. And after that was over, I thought I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone through this. I’ve come to discover, that most Americans who are new here go through the same thing. I’m very involved with the American community. I’m on the board of the American Women’s Club of London, for example. It’s pretty common that Americans new to London think that they can call an agent and that agent is working on their behalf. They don’t really understand that that is the landlord’s agent or the vendor’s agent.
I would say that was the biggest difference for me when I first came.
You’ve been here for four years, um, how has the market, you know, I guess grown on you, have there been a lot of changes?
The other thing that was different here was just the very idea of being an independent agent. In the States, for example, my mother having had a very long career, she had a circle, a sphere, what do they call it? Your sphere of influence. You had a network of people that knew her through her various community activities, friends, and that kind of thing, who would follow her when she worked with many different brokerages. They would just follow her from brokerage to brokerage because they were interested in her.
Here, it’s more about, or it traditionally has been more about, the corporates, or the name of the agency as opposed to the individual agents. But what I’m seeing though is that is changing. I first started here with Keller Williams. I’m seeing that model is definitely growing.
Why do you feel there is a lack of women in the industry?
You know, I can’t speak knowledgeably about it because I’m not a native, but I just think it’s been traditionally a young man’s game, in a way. I think it’s also the way the job is set up and you’re forced to focus on volumes. They want people to run around, you know? It’s like most corporate jobs, in that overall there are more men than women.
I think there might be more women in the industry with the rise of the independent agent. It’s sometimes challenging for women to rise up in corporate structures. There are glass ceilings, for sure. For me personally, at this age, I don’t want to put myself in the job market, being a woman of colour of a certain age. Plus COVID has changed a lot of things. I’d rather work on my own.
What are you looking forward to in the new year?
I can’t wait to be done with COVID. I think that the effects on the economy are going to be far-reaching. I don’t know how it’s going to affect the property industry, because there are just so many unknowns. I would love to get clarity on what’s going to happen. Hopefully, the government can get the vaccine rolled out and stabilise the situation.
If there is one thing that you think that agencies need to change to, really grow and be better, next year, what would that be?
Grow and be better? That’s an interesting question. There are a lot of agencies that are really great. I think overall we all need to be focused on customer service. That is the number one priority. Communication, I think is really key. I think that people that work with me like that I communicate with them on the regular, and I find that, people are pretty understanding if there are challenges in the market, like the global pandemic. I would think increased communication will help ensure a better customer service.
I think the problem is a lot of the agents are just super busy and maybe the agencies right now are stretched a little bit. But what I’m offering is a kind of a high touch, personalised service. For me, I have to keep my numbers lower. Of course, the right amount of customer service to my clients is the most important thing to maintain.
The challenge is finding that balance between automating and outsourcing certain parts of the process, because you start getting higher revenues per month, reach greater targets per quarter, all of that. But then at what cost? But that’s always the small business owner’s dilemma: how much control to maintain and how much to let go of.
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