I got a chance to speak with Sai a property consultant with Harding Green. Originally with a background in fashion, Sai found his calling in Real Estate 10 years ago. We spoke about the changing industry, how the self-employed model is different and how now more than ever we must make all of our customers a top priority (not just the sellers). Here is his story:
How did you get into real estate and why?
It happened by chance. I technically have a mechanical engineering degree but I was working in fashion. This was all back home in India. Due to various personal circumstances my family moved to London 10 years ago. Fashion industry was struggling as the high street was dying with hundreds of store closures. My in-laws were in property business and they said, why don’t you come and try it? And so that’s how I started. I was a junior letting negotiator trainee and I think one of my first deals was 90 pounds a week in West London.
Through that journey, I’ve now evolved. From that I moved into lettings and then into sales. Now I’ve become a Self employed property consultant. And I am a consultant for Harding Green.
How has your experience with that been? Going from working at a corporate agency to a self-employed model, how has that been?
So initially, everything has its challenges. Working in a corporate environment you are running on a predetermined track. All you have to do is run on that track as fast as you can, and try put together as many transactions along the way from January to December, right? You have your targets, get your day-to-day targets, weekly targets, so coming from that and moving into a self-employed model was hard because you need to direct your path. Once you’re set up all by yourself, what you want to do it’s on you, your back is against the wall. And all you have to do is figure it out how you want to make this work, because you don’t have that safety net of a basic salary – it is now purely commission-based. Giving you that automatic drive to perform.
So Harding Green, in primarily is an estate agency with a fantastic shopfront. But it works with a broker model, which gives people like me with experience in London and country an opportunity to work for ourselves. The platform gives you extensive support to be able to take the risks and to be successful not as high street agent but a property consultant.
The experience has been great. It’s a journey started three years ago and I joined them about two years ago. I am proud be part of the flagship office and we’ve seen some phenomenal transactions. We’ve got some amazing people working together. Encouraging each other to succeed. The support system is, I think, what is going to differentiate between all of the other broker models. At Harding Green it is a partnership.
How many brokers are there with Harding Green?
We are about 10-12 brokers. We have grown quite substantially in the last year and a half.
I like that you refer to yourselves as broker or property consultants. It goes beyond the current relationship we have with estate agents.
Because the market has changed so much the competition levels changed as well. I think the bottom line is the consumer. People are realizing that when you get plugged into a corporate system, you have 10 people from different departments trying to sell you something. So the agency is back to how it originally started as a small, independent way where you go to someone’s office, meet them, and they are your one point of contact. That is what the consumers want. That bespoke service, unfortunately, no matter how hard a corporate entity would try, can’t deliver. And I think the market is moving for more and more service driven products. That is what we offer.
If you were to give one piece of advice to other self-employed agents, what would that be?
It’s important to identify the support they’re going to get from whichever model they chose to collaborate with. I think you need to really evaluate how you’re going to sustain yourself, not only for the first six months, but for the year without having a basic pay. Anyone looking to do this, must have their family’s support and their partner’s support. You know tensions can flare up on the personal side, because right now, sometimes I work seven days a week. I’m even available to my client even on a Sunday if they need me. And that’s what makes us unique.
Unfortunately under the corporate structure there’ve been so many times over the past, I’ve missed my kids school plays, Christmas carols etc or family get-togethers, often disappointing my family. I was expected clock in the hours at my desk Whereas now with the consultant broker model, I control my time and my availability, but at the same time I’m available for my kids. I’m able to take them to their clubs and most importantly be there for them.
You need to be very regimented in your time and keep that focus and discipline. Main thing for me is a support system both personally, and in terms of professionally. And then of course having that discipline to be able to say that this is my target and stick to it.
Going back to the support element of the model that comes with Harding Green, having that on-ground staff really does help. We have a coordinator and we have weekly catch ups. We discuss everyone’s weeks and share any information that may be useful, which can help our service level. We only take on people who are driven and who have the same kind of synchronicity with that of the business. At the end of the day, we all are ambassadors of the brand and that’s what people buy into.
What is the one thing that you yourself are looking forward to?
Winning and managing instructions. With this model I get to choose who I work with. So, for example, when I was working as a team at a corporate, we were managing between 80 to 85 different clients or properties, there is no way that you can provide them with the same level of service across the board. Whereas right now, I tend to work with a handful. So literally about five or more. They get my time every day available to these five people. So for them, it’s a no brainer because the service level that I offer is unparalleled to any corporate agency. Of course, there is no doubt that the brand name always helps them win instructions.
As soon as a customer signs up with me, they get all of the network that I’ve built up over the last 10 years at their disposal. So they send me a WhatsApp after 7:00 PM in the evening saying, well, I need something done and I’m able to immediately respond to them and tell them what I can do for them. Or what’s the best way to do it.
Compare that to a high street agent who shuts at 7pm and usually don’t get a response until next day as most of the see it as a day job. Service levels need grow even more and we have the power to do so.
Everyone is realizing that we have to do things differently to provide better service for the customer, because at the end of the day, the customer is not just the seller, they are a buyer, a tenant or most importantly going to refer me to their friends and family.
What is the one thing do you think is going to change for agencies in 2021?
Well, it’s going to be quite hard, we are coming out of the pandemic. hopefully the vaccinations process will improve and borders will open again for our overseas clients to visit and transact. We are ready for them!
I think the market will stabilise as we come out of the EU. At the moment when you put a transaction together, you might have sleepy solicitors, you might have other factors that slow you down. So, I think the industry is not going to change dramatically over the next year, but I think we personally have to be super proactive.
We need to be on our toes. We need to make sure the channel of communication between all the parties involved is absolutely open. Making sure we only work with people that are qualified, to have verified solicitors on your books, having a good mortgage broker on your books. You need people who are as driven as you are.
So what I would tell the agents or brokers entering or in the industry right now is to have your confidence level high. This reflects on how the client sees you. At the end of the day, people remember you for who you are and not who you work for. So take pride in everything that you do.
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