My Real Estate Story: Glenn

Meet Glenn, the Director at Douglas Pryce. We spoke of his experience, journey and his unfortunate redundancy during the pandemic, which ultimately led him to starting his own agency, Douglas Pryce. With a plan to change the narrative around estate agents, by focusing on providing exceptional service to his clients. Here is his story:

Can you start off by telling me about how and why you got into real estate?

 

Like most young people, I came out of school and went straight to college but didn’t really study like I should have. At that time, I hoped that music would be a career, but that didn’t work out too well. I then got into the building trade but again, I wasn’t really suited to it at all.

 

At that time, I had a friend who owned an agency in Canary Wharf, an independent, but a pretty large independent and he approached me and asked me to give it a shot. I gave it a try and to be fair, I really hit the ground running. I did really well and worked my way up. I started in sales and obviously started as a trainee, but then worked my way up to become the sales and lettings manager for the entire branch.

 

Unfortunately, on the first day of lockdown, things changed. I had negotiated myself to a level where I was on a great package, but I was now self-employed and unfortunately being self-employed meant that I was pretty easy to get rid of. Because of the uncertainty of where the market was going and as I couldn’t be furloughed, I like many in the industry at that time, lost my job.

 

I was back to that point of not really knowing what to do with myself, I knew I was good at the job and my thought was that I was going to work for another company. I applied for a couple of jobs close to where I live but I was a bit unsure of where to go, to be honest. I have always known that the East London market was where I needed to stay because it’s the market I know best.

 

Ultimately, I had a friend who had a small company which operates in Canary Wharf and so I decided to join him and help out with what he was doing. I worked with him for a while when we did quite well but from a business perspective as we were both on slightly different wavelengths. So after about six weeks or so, we decided that it was probably better for our friendship if we went our separate ways.

 

That time however helped me to realise that doing it by myself wasn’t unachievable. I thought to myself… what do I have to lose? I had a small amount of start-up capital to get myself setup, including branding and portal costs.  This was all around August/September time.

 

Since then, things have been going really well, I’m managing about 15 properties to let and have about sales 3-4 flats that are under offer. I have found the sales market to be fairly challenging at the moment. I’ve had a couple of sales under offer for a while now, but things are just so slow with solicitors and things at the moment, which seems to be slowing the sales process down quite significantly.

 

Sorry to just go back in the story here, from a marketing perspective it was a sort of a standing start. I just knew I had to get a bit more creative, maybe think in different ways for different people to make things all a bit more client focused. I do feel I have done that though and I have come up with a marketing strategy which so far, seems to be really effective for me and my business.

 

Among other things I’ve always tried to remain true to the customer, I’ve seen independents that have grown larger and seen their ethos change. They go from having the best of intentions for the client to being another cog in the system. And it isn’t necessarily their fault either, they’re overworked and at that point and therefore the customer service struggles, so I completely get it! That’s why with my company I’ve tried to make sure that every landlord is, on friendly terms, they have a direct line to my personal phone/email. But fundamentally and most importantly, I am trying to change the narrative around estate agents.

 

Unfortunately, it is a bit negative.

 

When someone asks me what I do, there’s an element of shame attached to it when I say I’m an agent, you know, and that should not be the case. It shouldn’t be only the bad ones that have built the reputation that estate agents carry with them. My plan is to sort of break down that that barrier and change the narrative. Especially for my clients.

 

I think what the customer wants is changing as well. Which helps.

 

From a selfish perspective, I want everyone to like me. I’m a very amiable person. You know, I thrive off of good sentiment and good feeling. I also am very enthusiastic, very motivated and fundamentally I feel as if I am very good at job I do. I have every confidence that I can be as friendly as possible to my clients whilst I also I do a really good job for them. I thank that’s a nice balance to strike. I am confident in myself too, I have no problem going up against some of the ‘bigger agents’ in the area and I have a track record speaks for itself. At my last company, I broke every sales record they ever held so I know I can do the job with my eyes closed. I’m trying to learn on some my friends and contacts in the industry for some of the other parts of the job that I don’t quite know so well; like the accounting, the admin in the office and all of that sort of stuff. But the meat and bones of the job I know I’m very good! On top of that I am just trying to deliver a service that I would personally want myself. For many other agencies, you’re almost faceless to your clients but we are dealing with most people’s biggest asset and it is a lot of money that they’re spending with us. In the grand scheme of things, I guess I am just a small fish in a big pond but particularly for those that come on board with Douglas Pryce, I am just trying to change things. I have no doubts that as we grow as business, which I am confident we will, I plan on remaining heavily involved throughout which isn’t always the case with your estate agent. You’ll deal with one negotiator and then the next minute they’re gone and your assigned someone else. I want my clients to know that I am here for them, always!

 

How was it starting a business in the pandemic then?

 

To be fair it was probably less risky for me because I was forced to make a decision because I lost my job. I wasn’t sacrificing a good wage because the moment I left, that ‘good wage’ was no more. The time off was really good though; it gave me time to reflect. Importantly it also allowed me to make the right decision Interestingly when I did re-enter the market, we were sort of right in the middle of the pandemic and I mean, it is difficult to dress it up any other way, but the market (particularly the rental market) has dropped. Certainly in the Docklands at least, it seems as if there has been a shift, and people are thinking, why do I still live here? Canary Wharf still carries that ‘soulless at the weekend sort of vibe’, which I strongly disagree with. The number of bars, restaurants, shopping facilities etc in the area has risen year on year since I have worked here but I with the pandemic, most of that has been forced to shut.

 

Ultimately though longer term I think that in this area there are your bigger, more corporate agencies and then lots of smaller ones, that don’t necessarily have quite carry the impetus that some of those larger agencies have. I’m just trying to sort of be somewhere in the middle with the drive of a corporate but the personability of a smaller independent, I think there is a real gap in the market for that.

 

I think customers tend to go to the larger outfits because they believe they’re going to get better service?

 

I think they do too but honestly that is such a myth and something that the marketing teams of larger corporates have done really well to make the consumer believe. They give you that feeling like, we get the best rent, the best tenants etc so why would you want to market with anyone else? It’s clever but fundamentally it is all a bit of a marketing ploy. For what it is worth, I certainly favour an independent, I may be a bit bias, but I like the personal touch that comes with it. Generally, you can speak to whomever is in charge pretty easily and when you’re a business owner, you can be a lot more autonomous and fairer with how we treat people. It’s not as regimented or rigid and there is room for flexibility and to cater for people’s needs and requirements. It goes both ways too because if I have a landlord that doesn’t fit my ethos and doesn’t value what the agents does for them then I just won’t deal with them, and I have that choice now which is a nice place to be. I am proud to say that pretty much every client I now have on my books I can consider myself on very friendly terms with and that is a great feeling.

 

What is the one thing that you’ve changed for the New Year?

 

I don’t think there’s anything that I’ve actively looked to change in the new year to be honest. If we are talking goals for 2021 then my goal is just to help this grow and blossom into what I know it can and will become. It wasn’t of my choosing but I think that realistically my change probably happened midway through last year as opposed to now. I made a decision to go alone and to also make this a customer focused, friendly business. It almost feels cliche or a bit ‘cheesy’ to be saying this but I genuinely do feel that the customer is the most element of this business. I have around 15 managed flats at the moment. If they turned around and didn’t like me for whatever reason, then of course I have no business, so from that perspective, my change happened when I was forced to change and furthermore when I saw room for change in what looks to be an aging industry. It needs to move with the times!

 

And the last question is about your predictions for 2021.

 

I would certainly hope that once we come out of this is that we will see rents go back to the level that landlords are used to. At the moment there is a lot of having to tell people that their property isn’t worth as much as they’re used to, which is not something that people want to hear, but not something I also do not want to be saying to people I value so highly. So yes, I would hope that they go back up to a level that landlords are going to be happy with as a happy landlord is generally a happy business. I guess that only comes with mass vaccination though, so hopefully that happens sooner rather than later. The pandemic is one of those times that, you are going to look at back on and tell your grandchildren and be like; ”oh we managed to get through that”. If we can get through that, then I’m pretty sure we’ll be fine with the rest of whatever the world can throw at us.

 

From that perspective as well as much I hope that rents go back to normal. I think there’s going to be a shift in how and where people work. Ultimately some areas are going to see increased demand and some, like Canary Wharf and the Docklands, where rents have always historically been always fairly high may find prospective tenants people moving out for now. I am of the firm belief though that the London market is ‘bulletproof’. I can say with every confidence it can and will recover as it always has done in the past. I love London as many of us do and it will always be one of the most desirable places in the World to live so we are very lucky to call London our home!

 

Find us in London

868 Salisbury House

London Wall, London 

EC2M 5SQ 

United Kingdom

020 8064 1431

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My Real Estate Story: Chris

Meet Chris Sanderson, the lettings manager at Hamways. With an impressive 11 years in the industry Chris has focused on providing value to all of his clients through the simple art of listening. Now joining an asset management firm, Chris aims to inspire his team to create meaningful relationships with their customers in order to provide a valuable service. The goal being to constantly helping people through their journey of buying or renting a home.

Here’s his story.

 

How and why did you get into real estate?

I got into real estate through my mother. She’s an entrepreneur and has her own lettings business. I was 18 at the time and I tried being a tradesman because most of my dad’s side are tradesmen in the property side, but that didn’t work out for me. At which point, my mom said, come and sit in the office with me. She knew I was good with people, confident and sociable and it really just took off from there. So I started working for her company and then I really wanted to push on.

I wanted to not work for my mother anymore, at that age you know how it is. My friends would make fun of me and say you only got a job because your mom’s there. So I had to prove the haters wrong.

I then went for a corporate company called Sequence. A national company and got most of my training there, I was 19 and I worked there for a couple of years and really got a taste for the market. I got used to the targets but more than that the need to help people. Even at a young age at 19, I realize the more people I help, the better I am at my job. I would get a lot of referrals and I developed a name at a young age because I used to listen and help.

11 – 12 years on I’m still in property but a bit different at the moment for Hamways. It’s still the same though, helping applicants and being able to match their requirements continues to be the biggest motivator. And it’s just addictive.

 

The current company that you’re in is a private property management?

I’m working for a company called Hamways Limited now, and we work closely with a property portfolio firm at the moment to manage their portfolio. We look after their property from start to finish, we would market the properties, get the tenants in and set up and all the way to when they check-out.

We work with high street agents to help us find the tenants, but we would really like to find our own tenants to be able to provide an end-to-end service. I’ve been here five months now and before that I was working for Felicity J. Lord and I was there for a good amount of time. I really enjoyed working there. Purely because of common ground I had with the clients, tenants and the landlords. I got along with people, was able to advise them and help them.

So I’ve been fortunate every company I work for, I’ve never had had a bad experience, really. At Hamways, it’s different because we aren’t an estate agency and my team and I manage a much larger area with a lot of property.

We’re trying to stand out from the high street by again, listening more, asking more questions and helping tenants from start to finish. We’re doing pretty well at that as well.

 

How do you think that things have changed during the pandemic?

During first lockdown, I wasn’t put on furlough, I was asked to stay in the office and look after area and it was a massive area. This allowed me to get a quick understanding of the psychology of what people wanted. It was two things 1) Either something cheaper than what they were living so value in the move there or 2) if it was better than what they’re currently in and they didn’t have a chance to get a foot in the door because before March, everything was going by open house and it was so competitive to find something decent. So the virus slowed down the appetite of people coming into London, giving a tenant more of an opportunity to find the right thing because there wasn’t so much of a crowd to compete against.

The good stuff still got the same price, if not more. I’ve seen in the papers it kept saying and rents are down by 10 percent. But it was only on the properties, I feel, that no one really wanted anyways. Those properties were only let previously because of how supply and demand is that way. I think that probably because out of desperation rather than value or something they like.

If something hadn’t let within two weeks then a significant price drop was required and that was between a 5 to 10 percent range. But the thing about London market is that it is such a big market and each area has a different market climate. So I’m purely speaking about my area.

 

During this pandemic, did you find that you had to change the way you did business to accommodate to the changes? And if so, what were those changes that you had to make?

Yeah, definitely. I think if an agent didn’t adapt or change and they would have no work. The way I had to change was about asking the right questions to find out what the tenant. You couldn’t do viewings between between March and June, so you had to give  a lot of time to an applicant.

You needed the floorplans, the virtual tours and everything. You needed to have the right content and credible content. Having good online reviews also helped because people had to trust you and trust that the property was good without actually seeing it beforehand. I had clients coming for overseas and they had to come so they had to just trust us and trust that the property was up to their expectations.

The trust was developed by spending more time on the phone and being genuine, by just talking to them and building that relationship. So it took a bit longer, but it helped our clients.

It narrowed the audience in a way where you’re dealing with people that were serious. It was good and you feel good when you nailed the requirements and the tenant moves in, they happen to send you an email and it all feels worth it. You’ve done something, and that always feels good.

 

What is the one thing that you believe agents need to change in order to be successful?

It might be an old cliche, but they need to listen more. Just listen more to the applicants. They don’t listen. And it’s a shame. But that’s been going for years. To be honest with you, I’ve been training my team now and it’s just about applicant management, applicant registration, and just helping more people. The more people you try to help, the more you learn and the more you win.

In terms of marketing, we are very good at marketing. I’m passionate about that. It was always really important how a property looked, it needs to be up to a specific standard.

Personally, I wanted to try and help my team learn more because the more they develop, the easier it will be for me. It seems simple. Listen more Care More. This job could be the most difficult job or the easiest job, it’s all about how you go about it.

 

What do you think is going to change in the market this year? Do you have any predictions for England?

The amount of people looking online has increased by a lot during this pandemic and that is only going to increase even further. I think there are so many people at the moment that are on the side lines. Do I buy now, do I sell now? I think Internet traffic is going to get busier and busier. So I think the importance of marketing is stronger than ever, because the customer is on it all day. They’re addicted.

So I think from an agent point of view, online presence is essential. But even more important, is your brand. A strong brand is just as important as closing more deals. The more people that are online, the more time you need to put online. If you build a good digital brand, people will remember you and use your services.

Will rents go up? I think, again, certain areas rents will go up. I think when the vaccine rolled out properly and people have more confidence then mobility to London will return. I’ve seen a few people now look to move now into London because they’re predicting rents will go up in six months. So there’s been an increase of people looking to move in the last week or so.

I don’t think many people are investing. I think people are moving and people are moving for family reasons to be living in that place that they will live in for the next 5 to 10 years. So is a good time to invest now? Probably not. But if you’re looking to move for a school or for long-term, then yes.

Find us in London

868 Salisbury House

London Wall, London 

EC2M 5SQ 

United Kingdom

020 8064 1431

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My Real Estate Story: Sushel

This week I spoke to Sushel Miah, the Director at JS estate agents. He’s been in the industry for 10 years and started off as a junior negotiator and swiftly moving his way up to managing director of JS estate agents. With a passion for football and real estate, we spoke about his journey in the industry and his successes at JS estate agents. Here is his story:

Can you start by telling me a little bit about why and how you got into real estate?

At a young age I dropped out of college and I tried to get into the banking industry and did that for about a year. That was when I was 17. And I didn’t really like it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and was very confused because I had a lot of ambition and dreams.

I think everyone at that time wanted to be a footballer, I used to love football. I was really good. I wanted to have a breakthrough, but it didn’t quite work out like that.

I then got involved in my family businesses. They used to have restaurants and things like that and I moved around a bit, just to find something that would make me happy. It was when I was about 20 years old that my sister introduced me to the property market. She was working for a service firm with just two properties. My brother had a lot of properties for himself, so property is something that has always been around, I just hadn’t paid enough attention to it.

I started by asking my sister, how the property market was? And she thought I would be really good at it. I spoke to my brother and asked him to introduce me to someone. My brother’s family friend was an owner of an estate agency and he invited me for a chat, this office which was in Hackney. He let me down unfortunately because for him he didn’t have the time to train me.

I don’t take rejection very well. Something moved in me and I was very motivated to go and get a job. But I was twenty years old with no experience. So one day I put on a suit and tie, I printed out my CV and set out.  I dropped my resume and introduced myself to agencies within a 2 mile radius from my house, as many as I could, I dropped by at at least 30 agencies. Fortunately for me, there was this agency who called later in the day and wanted to talk. He was a one-man band and had just started up. He was very upfront and told me, I can’t afford to pay but I can teach you. And I went with it because I wanted to prove that I could do it, and at this point I just needed to learn.

That’s where I learnt the basics and after a couple of months, I wanted to go further so I started searching again and I had an interview with a company called Home Finders.  

So I went for an interview there, I told them, listen, I’m new but I know the basics and I’m willing to work hard. Fortunately for me, he gave me the job and that is where my career started.

I got much more exposure and reach and that’s where I learnt all the tricks of the trade. I was there for 2 years and I got headhunted at City Quays in the Canada Water area. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. After I joined, I was there for a while, they’re a fantastic agency and in 2018 they rebranded to JS & Co. They were doing really well and due to my performance, they offered me shares in the company in 2018, which was awesome. A few months later, the director sold the company to me.

So for the past 2 years I’ve been running the agency since then. It’s been ten years since I found real estate. This is one of the industry’s that I love and I can’t see myself doing anything else.

Were you primarily in lettings or in sales?

I was doing lettings for 8 years. I was in sales for a while but in the beginning, it felt too long-winded for me. But then I started to get into sales. So now I’m more well-rounded.

How was last year for you, and how did you adapt?

When it first came down, I was worried. But after the lockdown and because we were working from home. But once we came back to the office, our sales went up by three hundred percent. It was easier than it’s ever been and all of last year was actually really, really busy for us.

The difficultly was more because tenants were not paying or being furloughed which affected our management. But then again, our vendors were really, really understanding and we got over that. I think the lettings market took a hit because we weren’t getting the same level of rentals that we were used to.

My team did a fantastic job dealing with everything and professionally and with their health. We all took the necessary precautions, and no one had a COVID scare.

Is there anything that you hope to see permanently change within the industry this year, something that you know should firmly be left behind?

I think most people are trying to develop virtual tools but for us we had started doing this from last year. And this is a great way to qualify your applicants and ensure that those coming actually want to see the property. That they are serious.  

We’ve actually started to make sure that people had a mortgage approved in principle and asking for proof of funds beforehand. This helps us ensure that we are showing the right properties and we’re also minimizing the risk of infection.  Our main goal is to make sure our clients, vendors, landlords, tenants are all safe and sound.

Of course. Have you had a lot of pushback because of that?

To be honest, people were surprised, but it didn’t really stop things for us. And simply if they can’t and don’t want to that’s fine, we’re looking for very serious buyers and keeping the safety of my team and my clients at the top of the list.

And how do you see this year progressing?

With the rental market, I think there will definitely be high. I think it is going to improve because of the flood of people coming back to the UK.

In terms of the sales, I would say it would take about 10 to 20 per cent hit. I think mortgage is going to be impossible to get. With anyone that’s been furloughed, I believe mortgage companies would find a reason not to give them a mortgage.

If there was one thing that you could change within the real estate industry, what would that be?

The one thing I think would be is that I would want the government to help the real estate agencies more. They’ve kind of cut down a lot of avenues for us. The government has been making it harder and harder for our vendors which disincentives them to join the market. Agents are restricting their fees because of the loss of income and that will come from the vendor.

Find us in London

868 Salisbury House

London Wall, London 

EC2M 5SQ 

United Kingdom

020 8064 1431

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My Real Estate Story: Murray

Meet Murray Lee, a man with an impressive 48 years’ of experience in the industry he has truly seen it all. We spoke about his journey in the industry and how much it has evolved over the years. From joining the first portal, to joining Rightmove when it was once free (yes, there was a time this was true) Murray began his career as a junior negotiator and though the industry has changed, there’s one thing he has maintained which is his love for the customer and making sure that they get the best service possible. Here’s his story:  

 

Can you tell me about why how and why you got into real estate? How long has it been now?

Nearly 50 years. I was working in a supermarket in between sixth form and university, and the exam results didn’t quite go the way I wanted. So my mother said, you got to get a job. I happened to walk past an estate agency In Edgware in 1973 with a job offer for a junior negotiator pasted on the door. So I went in and asked about the position, got the job on the 1st interview and I have never looked back.

I was 17 and I had passed my driving test. They gave me a company car, which was unheard of in those days. And I’ve never looked back.

I’ve stayed as an estate agent all my career with various agencies, all in North-West London, which is something many can say. From 1976. I moved around between three or four different agencies in Hendon until 1989 when I did a little bit of property development also in Hendon, using my skills as an estate agent, working with somebody who was a client of mine who was starting in property development.

Unfortunately, the property market was struggling in 1986, and he decided to stop development, concentrating on renting his portfolio. So I had to return to being an estate agent, which I did back in Hendon for another company that offered me the position to manage their branch and revitalise their ageing business. They had been trading since 1932 so there were a little old fashioned. I brought them up to date for that time.

I was then offered a position in Golders Green and I joined a company called Kingsbury’s Estates, which was it was actually dormant at the time. Another agent, mainly with only letting experience, had taken it over and invited me to join as the Sales Director and overall office manager, which I did.

We grew that business for 18 years from 1994. In 2012, the opportunity came up to take over a new company just formed called Dreamview Estates. The owner had started the business in January with limited agency experience and reached out to me to join him as a partner and run the business myself. Kinsgleys was very successful under my guidance and it’s still going.

I have been building and running Dreamview Estates since 2012 and we have grown into one of the most well respected and successful agencies in the area looking to celebrate 10 years in 2022. I’m not sure where the time has gone

 

So you’ve really seen it all?

I’d like to think that I probably have!

Every day something tends to surprise you I mean at the moment, economically and socially, we should be sitting here doing nothing, but we’re actually quite busy.

The property market is quite strong and that, in itself, is amazing.

 

How was last year for your agency?

Well, I think you have to break it down a little bit. Initially it was a bit of a shock, to try and do nothing and go “cold turkey” from March to May. But as soon as we were allowed to open the doors, things took off like a rocket and we were very busy.

I think it’s been quoted often in the media just how busy the property market has been?

And how prices have increased year on year Which doesn’t seem to make sense economically to me.

With so many people out of work, and businesses closing and all the major high street shops making people redundant it doesn’t seem to be logical. But even with 48 years in the business, who am I to say?

We are in a little bit of a “bubble” here in North West London.

However, as I have become well connected through Facebook and other media, fighting the “Say No To Rightmove” campaign  I am finding a lot of estate agents all saying the same thing. So I believe it’s the same across the country.

So there doesn’t seem to be a logic to the economics of buying or selling houses when the country is in a pandemic.

 

With your 48 years in the industry can you talk a little bit about how much has changed?

When I first started a property detail was a sheet of paper with feet and inches for sizes of rooms, no pictures and no one had heard of a floorplan. We only had typewriters a Gestetner printing machine, which is a machine where you turned a typewritten stencil which spread black ink through the gaps into the details.

So it’s grown leaps and bounds and it’s come on dramatically, probably since about 1994 when the internet first came into play. Prior to that, you’re printing your own details sticking your own single mini photographs and so on.

You know, it’s a real different world to what it was, sadly, and I say this an awful lot, I think, down the line, it’s lost some of the customer services, due to everything being done through text message email, or through the internet. You often don’t get to meet the people maybe more than once or twice. If they don’t buy, then you lose the relationship. Agents don’t build a long-lasting network as I have over the years.

Here, we pride ourselves on doing things in a hands-on way.

We don’t simply type an email rather than pick up the phone, we pick up that phone because we’ve gone on to ensure the customer relationship is still very much present.

I remember the very first time I saw properties listed on the internet I thought, who’s going to want to do that?

You had a dial up modem, green screen downloaded pictures, very green and black, and you couldn’t really see much. As I said, I wish I had never said that.!!!!

Well, of course, it’s changed dramatically. Then the portals started coming around, the very first portal was swallowed up very quickly by Rightmove, who then did it all for free. That’s all changed as well. They now charge a kings ransom for marketing your portfolio I’ve been very vocal on the Say No To Rightmove campagin

I think we’re to dependent on portal advertising and you could probably do away with an office.

I don’t intend to because I think that’s our presence and part of our branding and give us local awareness. That’s who we are. That’s the brand. Even though the amount of people coming into the office last year was dwindling. In the old days, we used to advertise in newspapers and waited for Thursday for the newspaper to come out.

Now course, it is more instant. As soon as a property gets listed the phones start ringing. So you couldn’t be more different.

But I think we’ve lost some of our customer service or that relationship with our customers. Estate Agent’s reputation generally has been a little tarnished and we’re seen only as email pushers in my view. It’s very remote.

The problem is that we’ve all got software that we all use doesn’t seem to be able to drill down far enough to the person’s details thoroughly, making it harder to send our customers more targeted properties. And people’s minds change all the time, it’s important more than ever to speak to your customers.

 

And how do you see 2021 progressing?

Well, we are hanging over from last year, we’re still quite busy, but we are noticing fewer new instructions coming on the market.

The shortage of properties on the market is creating a lot of activity. We’re getting viewings of what we have available and I’ve got to say it’s been positive so far. That dynamic may change and that therefore makes it too early to say what’s going to happen.

 

Have you noticed a change in the tenant demographics of who’s moving into or out of your area?

No, I don’t think so. OK, a very unusual area. It is predominantly a Jewish area, and people stay within the confines of this local area because they’ve got synagogues and temples. Remember Jewish people don’t drive on Saturday. So they need to be in a very local area. So for me I haven’t noticed a major difference just based on the existing demographic of the area.

 

What advice would you give to agents that suffered this year?

Keep your costs down to make sure you can financially weather the storm.

And just don’t forget to provide a service, that is what is important. You give your clients value and good service and they will come back to you.

 

What is something that you are looking forward to in the new year?

Easy, more instructions. Always more instructions.

Find us in London

868 Salisbury House

London Wall, London 

EC2M 5SQ 

United Kingdom

020 8064 1431

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My Real Estate Story: Adam

Meet Adam Dockley, the director and founder of Dockleys. From the age of 14, he knew that he wanted to get into real estate and jumped at the opportunity when it came after his GCSEs. He’s been in the industry ever since. We spoke about the industry, the importance of a strong network and how the industry is in major need of a shakeup. Here’s his story:

 

Can you start with how you got into real estate and why?

At the age of 14, I was told by my dad that I need to get a job. We had a work experience week at school and I decided to work with my next-door neighbour who was an estate agent at the time. I spent a week there and I was in love, I knew this was something that I wanted to do. As soon as I wrapped up by GCSE’s, I told my parents that this is what I wanted to get into. They of course wanted me to finish my education, but college wasn’t for me. I just wasn’t engaged in the classes, except for History and Geography, which proved to be quite useful in my line of work now.

 

At 17 I left school and got a job at the local agency. After I had worked with them for a while I got an offer from Countryhouse Agency and they asked me to come and work with them and that’s where I really learnt what I know today. The director there was probably my favourite mentor and still is a mentor to me.

 

We still have brainstorm sessions and stuff, which is amazing. We still do deals together. Countryhouse agency was wonderful. It really got me to understand how to look after people because at that high end of the market so much is expected of you. At that end of the market, you have to know your audience. And you have to listen. That’s the one thing that’s stuck with me. And then you work from there and that’s when I started putting deals together especially off-market deals. I’ve taken all the way through my career, wherever I am. I listen to what the client wants and that really takes you far.

 

So though working at Countryhouse was great, it was also very slow. Great for a 50-year-old but for me, a 19-year-old, I knew I wanted to be in the City. I managed to secure 2 interviews and one of them was at an agency called Stirling Ackroyd in Clerkenwell and one at Alex Neil in the Docklands. I fell in love with the Docklands. We actually have family ties to the area as well. There’s a Dockley road, where my great-great-grandfather used to have a shipbuilding yard there.

 

I don’t know whether it was the water or something else, but something took me to Canary Wharf. I knew the area was developing and knew I needed to be there, and this was back in 2003-2004. So I have literally watched Canary Wharf boom.

 

I used to take coffee and croissants to my clients on a Saturday morning view and my colleagues would make fun of me and call me the “croissant boy” but this is how I built relationships. And this is what the industry is all about, building relationships is the core of the business. Work hard and be nice to people. And that’s my mantra. That’s how you get on in life.

 

That’s how I started my career and worked up the ranks. I started to learn about new homes and land and development, which is something that I excel at. I didn’t want to be in the corporate world. That wasn’t me. So I set up a company with a client of mine who bought on flats for a company called Henry Wilshere. I worked there for five years. I set up offices for them in London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. And then I came back and said, I’d like some shares, please. Unfortunately for me, it was all in a family trust. So that wasn’t going to work. But that network is priceless. And knowing what works with Middle Eastern buyers or with Asian buyers, you know WHAT investors look for and what their driver is. That got me to think I could do this. And that was that.

 

Out of that, I looked at all the way the industry was run. I hate the way it’s done now, the mentality and the practices, it really needs a proper shakeup. I think we should be like America and that’s how I’ve set up Dockleys. Everybody is self-employed under my umbrella, but they have their own autonomy. So we put the marketing, advertising, and lead generation behind and then they do their business. Because I think everybody in this industry needs to be accountable. Working solely on commission means you are not able to hide if you aren’t selling you aren’t earning, and you really put yourself out there.

 

That’s what I’ve seen, many agents are comfortable just working in their area and not really expanding further than that.

 

It’s important to learn about the industry, about what’s going on in your bubble and understand that if trends are focused for a specific area or do they apply to the larger masses. I wanted to know more. I wanted to learn more and I can now use my experience. We have agents all over Greater London, Hertfordshire and Essex. 

 

This year we’ve seen a lot of people moving out of London, this is no secret and I have had several clients, who’s property in London were bought through me, they’ve instructed us to sell their home, then the client retains us to help them find a property outside of London. I have very strong relationships with agents and developers in the home counties and dealing agent to agent make our lives and the clients so much less stressful and allows us to transact so much faster, I really believe this is the future of agency.

 

Everybody’s so scared of losing out. if it was like America, where it was 3%, we’d be doing this every day. Collaboration is key.  

 

My passion is land and development, I love being involved in the land deals from the very start as I can really add value with my experience of New Homes, regeneration and commercial property for my clients. Currently, I’m involved in a very large land assembly deal which lends up over about 1500 units and 1m sq ft of leisure and retail space.

 

Do you have any family in property, because your passion extends just the love for the job?

For me, property is in blood.  My mum was in property and she’s working for a developer. My stepmom also was in property. My father was a policeman, we have a joke in my family that if my sister had been a traffic warden we would be the most hated family in the area!

 

So my dream is this. I find a piece of land. I am retained by the developer, acting as a consultant on their preplanning and pre-marketing, selling the project off-plan to investors, who we will act in letting and managing their property and sell to home owners who will sell back through us when they move on. In the last year we did a deal where we sold the whole scheme to one investor. They then gave it back to me to manage the rentals. I follow the journey from when it was a big hole in the ground to people living and calling it a home. 

 

How have you guys had to adapt during the pandemic?

Not really to be honest. We have always used videos and I’m a big believer in property videos, So I’ve been doing them for years. When we couldn’t do walk-throughs, we actually did zoom walkthroughs. We would share our screen and walk through the video with them and tell them about the property, which was successful.

 

So could you tell me what is one thing that you’re looking forward to in the new year?

The one thing I’m looking forward to coming back to some sense of normality, I’m a people person. I’m a very social human being. I need to be stimulated by people. The first lockdown was just so stressful.

 

What is one thing that you believe agencies or agents need to change in the new year?

I think the licensing is going to make a huge difference and I am a big fan of that. Regulation will really help bring accountability to the industry. There are so many dodgy agents and they really need to be regulated.

Many people come into it for the money, but without the love of it they really destroy the reputation. Agents are seen as a hindrance for the industry, when really, we should be seen as the oracle when it comes to moving home.

Find us in London

868 Salisbury House

London Wall, London 

EC2M 5SQ 

United Kingdom

020 8064 1431

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My Real Estate Story: Alicia

­I spoke with Alicia, a property enthusiast who started as a property manager and moved into lettings. She is a self-employed agent under Agent & Homes. Her extensive knowledge and passion for providing a personalised service for all her clients. Here is her story:

How and why did you get into real estate?

 

It started in Poland for me, I worked at a big block management firm. It all changed when I got to London however and I moved into sales. I started working at a luxury furniture store where I sold high-end furniture. I realised I wanted to get back into the property sector and I found an opportunity to work as a letting administrator for an Italian businessman that was investing properties across eastern Europe. He also needed management of properties in London.

I liked working with him, and I realised I wanted to work for an estate agency to get a more challenging experience. I worked for one of the larger outfits and it was tough. A very challenging role but one that I came to really enjoy. I worked there for about 13 months. I was managing about 250 properties, so you can imagine, it was busy.

I decided to get my ARLA certification as well, because I really wanted to make sure I was credible in the industry. You reach a point where you need to be able to give legal advice, and without certification, you cannot do that. And that was what I was after.

The change of moving from a corporate agency to one that I self-employed is different. I’m currently self-employed with Agent & Homes. The great part is that my network is still active, and I can take full accountability for it. I’m not just stuck with one company; I can work with multiple different suppliers that suit my clients. The best part is that I can provide a full complete service for my customers.

You’ve been in property management for a couple of years now?

 

Yes 5 years, and I got into lettings about just over a year ago. I started working with the private client and then I met agents from Agent & Homes which was exciting. I realised that lettings is more interesting and the ARLA certificate helped with that.

I loved the Agent & Homes model and realised that this was something that I wanted to do and get started in. I had a well-established network already, so it was possible to get started.

How did you hold up during the pandemic?

 

Beginning was very difficult. The lack of government guidance made it harder to understand as well. We realised we needed technology to help us adapt. One of the main things for us was making sure we got proper video / 3D tours of all properties. This helped us create an automatic pre-screen as well and I found that to be quite successful. Virtual viewings allowed us to keep pushing our properties and to generate interest in them.

I’ve had to adapt the way we work because I have an apartment in Brighton that I am managing, and I have a great relationship with the tenant next door and she’s actually taken over the viewings there. This helps ensure that we’re reducing the chance of spreading the infection and/or me being a carrier. That’s the great thing about this time, as difficult and horrible as it has been, we’ve been forced to learn to do things differently and adapt.

Even though the property market is open, I think things will change now. The rental market will remain stagnant because people will not want to move now because due to the uncertainty or furlough status they won’t be able to pass referencing. Which is why a majority of people moved out of London.

Areas like Central London and busy areas are suddenly seeing a fall in rental prices and fall in demand because people realise why would they need to stay there. This will remain till we’re back to normal.

Depending on the size of the portfolio there is a lot that will change in the sector. Smaller Landlords will probably decide to sell and larger one will change the structure of ownership as if the properties are under their personal name they are losing thousands of pounds a year. 

In the property market what are some of the biggest changes that you expect?

The regulations are going to make it harder to be a BTL landlord. With all the certifications and safety reports, this will create a barrier to entry. They will require a property management firm to help you manage these investments.

From the lettings point of view, I’m quite sceptical. I think prices will fall and will remain lower. The screening of tenants needs to be more comprehensive; it isn’t just about affordability anymore. It’s about personality and individuals. Landlords need to understand that the process needs to be more personal. The quality of the potential tenant is really important.

What is one thing that agencies have to change to survive.?

 

They need to focus on the quality and knowledge of their employees. The personal approach is important now more than ever. The landlords need support and constant reminder that we are in a new property market. This is a different and difficult time for everyone.

They need to be more honest with their landlords to help them get the most value out of this entire process. There are many properties that need a lot of work before they are ready to be let, tenants are a lot more picky and if they want to get higher rentals they need to upgrade the property to meet that. Getting landlords out of that mentality is difficult.

High street brands have an established company and reputation so they will survive, but their employees are not ready to personalise and landlords will require more. Number of viewings is not good enough anymore. A personal more tailored approach is present.

Find us in London

868 Salisbury House

London Wall, London 

EC2M 5SQ 

United Kingdom

020 8064 1431

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My Real Estate Story: Toby

To finish off our 2020 interviews, I spoke to Toby Albert-Corban. An innovator looking to bring some change to the industry. With an eye for design and a knack for digital marketing, Toby has made a distinct name for himself in the industry and on TikTok. Here is Toby’s story:

 

Could you tell me a little bit about how and why got into real estate?

I guess it started right after graduation from university in New York. I actually attended university in the States and spent almost a decade there, I just wasn’t too sure about what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be in an office all day and that I didn’t want to become some corporate guy.

 

A few friends were in real estate and just kind of put the idea in my head, “hey look, you probably might actually be good at this”. So when I returned to London, I applied to a few agencies. I dipped my toes into the industry and realized, oh, actually I kind of have a passion for this. Then I realised that I could create the life I wanted in real estate.

 

I’ve always had a strong interest in architecture and design and I realized, oh, it’s not just solely about the property. There’s different aesthetics to it, too, you know. The design and how you communicate the concepts is very important. I’m client focused, and I saw my client niche in the industry. I like to deal with people. And I guess that was when my passion started to build for the industry.

 

Well, what do you think is lacking?

Innovation and Quality service. I started focusing on my passion, and to provide the best service possible through value and innovation. The innovation came through marketing and providing a bespoke service.

 

 

How long have you been working in the real estate industry? And Corban Group is your company, correct?

 

Exactly. I started just about just over two years ago. I started in corporate High Street and then I worked for a quite well-known, well-established boutique firm. I just realized, look, this model was great, but how can I be a bit more personable in my appearance and become an independent agent when the opportunity arose.

 

I knew there was a different way to provide the service. It doesn’t have to be solely underneath a high street company or brand. There is the potential opportunity for you to be your own agent and have the opportunity to grow. When I realized that was possible, I knew that I could brand myself and could provide a good, if not better service than a lot of the companies that are out there. I was happy that the opportunity arose, and I was happy that I was able to take it then.

 

 

Can you tell me a little bit about Corban Group?

We are a full-service agency that helps people buy or sell property. We provide a bespoke service by ensuring that we’re able to adhere to our client’s needs. We’re not a one model fits all kind of agency. We make sure that we’re providing the customer with exactly what they need, no matter what the requirements.  

 

 

With this tailored approach, have you faced any difficulties getting customers onboard? I would think a lot of landlords go after either cheaper fees or they go after the bigger names. How has that experience been for you?

 

You know, it’s been good, to say the least, and of people would think, oh, it’s probably challenging to go about it the way I’m going about it. But the thing is I lead with value. So when I’m going to appointments, I make it clear that I’m here to provide a service and the best service possible. It’s all about providing value and getting the best results.

 

If my client doesn’t see that or understand that, then they’re not the right fit. We work hard and we have successfully been finding the clients that understand my value.

 

How did your agency have to adapt or how did you guys have to adapt to meet those changes and to kind of survive during these changes?

 

The one thing that we decided to do once the first lockdown was initiated was to really innovate. And what was a successful for me was innovation within marketing. So video was huge for us. We created a YouTube account. We created a Tik Tok, which was extremely successful. We managed to build up to almost one hundred thousand followers. With multiple videos which reached millions of views and actually went viral.

 

And that was a big eye-opener for us because we actually got business from the success of our social model. An exclusive campaign to market the remaining units in their development. We realised that we had to innovate and social media was the spearhead for us. And due to social media, we’ve been able to reach millions of people.

 

 

And then where are you looking to take Corban group in the New Year?

 

So in a new year, I think our goal is really growth. It’s to really expand our reach, whether that’s online or with a physical presence.

 

 

What is the one thing that you think agents or agencies need to change to be able to adapt to the New Year?

 

I think now that we’re in the digital age, especially due to COVID we’ve been forced to change the way we’ve been working. But then we’ve realized that we can actually work in different ways now. We no longer need a physical office.

 

I would say that people need to build themselves digitally online as well, and they need to build their brands. I think that things have really changed. You have to be open minded and build more an authentic presence online.

 

Find us in London

868 Salisbury House

London Wall, London 

EC2M 5SQ 

United Kingdom

020 8064 1431

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My Real Estate Story: Sai

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.

 

Find us in London

868 Salisbury House

London Wall, London 

EC2M 5SQ 

United Kingdom

020 8064 1431

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My Real Estate Story: Lonee

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.

Find us in London

868 Salisbury House

London Wall, London 

EC2M 5SQ 

United Kingdom

020 8064 1431

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My Real Estate Story: David

Meet David, the founder of Love Your Home. Previously a manger in retail, David found himself intrigued by the property industry and started off as a negotiator at LudlowThompson and moved up the ranks. With 14 years in the industry and David decided to venture out on his own. The focus of the agency being to put the customers first, across all aspects of the customer journey. Here’s his story:

 

How did you get into real estate and how has your journey been so far? 

 

It was more by accident. Let’s see it was about 14 years ago. So, just before the credit crunch started really kicking off, I was a manager in retail, actually, fashion retail. I worked for a couple of larger and smaller companies. It’s one of those industries where there’s always a glass ceiling that you get to fairly quickly. This limits your pay and any expansion opportunities.

 

I had recently moved to London, and was looking to buy a house, that was when my interest in property started. Shortly after that process, I started working for an agency called LudlowThompson, a London-based agency. Very quickly, within the two or three months, I realized that it was something I really enjoyed doing and was very good at it. I continued climbing up the ranks and went on to manage 4 of their offices.  

 

I then went into the corporate world where I joined Savills and was a director there for about 6 and half years. From there, I’ve taken the step into starting my own business, Love Your Home. I wanted to change things that were broken across the industry by changing it within my own company. 

 

What do you think is broken and what needs to change?

Looking at some of the bigger companies, they obviously still look at costs, cost stripping, so they outsource or move their property management out of London.

 

You’ve got people that don’t know the properties, never been to the properties, trying to manage a process for something and for someone they’ve never met. There’s always a disparity between the letting service at the front-end and then the management service at the back-end.

 

A lot of the clients I’ve spoken to over the years just don’t appreciate that disjointed approach. Its always very cost and profit driven and all for the benefit of the company. It’s more about how much money they can make rather than the level of service they can provide or the money that they could be making for the client. 

 

Another is the higher turnover of staff. Especially in property management. When you speak to someone in a tenancy process, you speak to the negotiator, the office manager in the front office, a property manager or a client accounts, you speak to all these different people and you lose sight of who’s dealing with the property or you lose the personal approach. Which is the underlying reason that there’s less of a personal service. When you take into account that you’re looking after someone’s biggest asset or assets, they want to make sure that it’s looked after properly. That has been a big driver for me.

 

The changes over the years in legislation and taxes have chipped away the benefits for the landlords and it doesn’t make commercial sense for some landlords to keep renting these properties out. Agencies have shifted a lot of extra fees onto the landlord when the tenant fee ban came in. My approach has been to streamline the service, to make it as easy as possible for everybody to operate within this process. While having complete oversight over everything that happens across all of the properties. I give my mobile number to every client and make sure that they can call me with any issues at any time of the day.

 

Giving a more personal service is what it’s all about. Making it more cost efficient for them and increasing the profitability of their properties. Regardless of whether it’s the rental side or whether it’s to try and maximize the capital value if they want to exit in the market, we ensure that we get the most for them. That’s something that a lot of people over the last year or so have really appreciated. 

I’ve moved three houses since I’ve been in London for the past year and a half, two rentals and we were in the market to buy and it has been difficult.

 

People say that, and that’s the thing. I think over the last year and a half, we’ve seen a rise in self-employed agents and independent agencies. Because people have become really disjointed with the industry, and the corporate world has lost track of who their clients are. Throughout the whole pandemic, you saw high street agencies shut for two or three months and the landlords on their books just sitting there and waiting without any kind of support.

 

I think there’s always a preference towards the landlords though, would you agree. 

 

I think agencies would openly agree with that. At the end of the day, they would say they would that they’re getting paid by the landlord. The landlord is their client, but at the end of the day, you need both. 

 

It’s good to have a full customer journey with a proper service all throughout the process. But, you know, that’s the hope. I’ve spoken to quite a few people and that seems to be a common theme that keeps coming up.

 

And that’s the thing. There’s been the emergence of some really good players out there that have tried to press reset and strip it back to where it needed to be. Step away from it just being, about the share price and how to save money and make more money rather than looking after the actual people that were in the process. I think you’ll see some changes, especially out of this. As I said, with the rise of some of these other companies, you’re starting to see them get a lot more traction within the market. Ultimately it will hit a point where the other guys need to look at themselves and see where they need to change because they’re losing business. 

 

Where do you see yourself taking Love Your Home over the next couple of years? 

 

Oh expand to more areas. I mean, there’s some loose plans over the years, to expand into some of the other bigger cities across the UK. Then roll out extra services with property sourcing, possibly auctions, things like that. But that’s further down the line. What we want to do is make sure that we look after the service that we’re offering. Because again, it goes back to you, if you’re trying to do too much too quickly, you lose sight of why you got into this industry. We’ve spent the last year and we’ll probably spend the next year looking at the systems, making sure that they get better. We do more for the clients. At no cost extra costs to them while maintaining good rates.

 

We’ve got demand from our existing clients to cover different areas. Especially when they have other properties that they own in different areas. There is demand there and we’ve seen that the referral business has been big for us. We’ve had a landlord come on board, who’s then referred a family member. Who’s then referred a friend who’s then giving us another two more on their properties when they bought them. 

 

Did you guys find yourself having to change the way you do things to meet the issues with not being able to go to viewings and everyone being stuck at home? 

 

We were going through the motions of getting everything uploaded and ready to do that anyway. What we found was that we used to do this anyway just not on a larger scale across every single property. That was what changed. Also tenant perceptions, for years or decades, people have gone to buy a new build property off plan by looking at a floor plan and spending half a million pounds to buy a one or two bed flat in London, without blinking an eyelid. When it came to renting, it was very alien to people if you had a new built development, even that nobody had even lived in before, people would still want to see the physical flat. And what changed was when people couldn’t then they had to switch their mentality slowly. 

 

What is the one thing that you’re looking forward to for the new year?

 

I think it’s just more about consistency in the markets. People have been buying, selling and renting and there are still reasonably good rent levels. Obviously, a lot of people are driven by what’s in the media, especially if you’re coming from overseas or you’re an overseas investor. Until very recently over the last few days or so it’s all been quite negative and drawn out. We’re uncertain of what will happen next year. I mean, we’ve gone through 4 years, I’d say with the bank of England saying that the market was going to collapse because of Brexit. 

 

And then, we’ve had all the issues and with the pandemic and the market still hasn’t collapsed. Places where there has been a dip would be prime central London, you’ll see some of the prices and the rents there go backwards slightly but not a million miles off. Just a little bit, which was expected. But you’ve actually seen positive increases in some of these outlying areas. You’ve actually seen small increases year on year, which is driven by people’s change of circumstances and changing demands, they will go further out now for a bigger property or for a cheaper rent. This is because they can, they’re not anchored by where they work anymore. 

 

Based on the pandemic and how things have changed and how tenant demand for now at least has changed. How do you think agencies need to change for 2021? 

 

As I said, the reason why I’ve started my own business was because I wanted to put the client first. That includes the tenants and buyers. It’s about giving that level of service that all customers should get during this process, rather than being overly KPI or just profit driven. Taking it back to the personal service. With the regulations that are going to be coming through, this will also bring everybody onto a level playing field and weed out anybody that should probably not be operating in the industry.

 

I also want to make things easier for everybody. To make the processes quicker and easier and pain-free. I think that’s where you’re going to see things go in. A lot of agencies are going to have to streamline and offer better processes for people whether it’s in buying or renting, not just for selling.

Find us in London

868 Salisbury House

London Wall, London 

EC2M 5SQ 

United Kingdom

020 8064 1431

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