The Old Fashioned Way?
I started out in Residential Letting over 20 years ago and I've seen a lot of changes. When I first moved a tenant into a property all we needed was a gas safety certificate.... Legislation has increased and the industry is being regulated and rightly so, these are changes we needed to make to ensure tenants and landlords receive a service which is professional and qualified. I've worked through the buy to let boom and bust, the recession, changes in tenancy law and everything else a career in letting can throw at you. Accordingly I have been interested to see the constant discussion about online agents v's High Street and the debate about which is better.
After many years in employment I made the decision to start my own business in 2014, handed in my notice and started from scratch again with property zero. I started in a one room office with no shop front as I couldn't afford anything else. As a result my landlord and tenant responses came from advertising through a portal and my own website as I had no other presence. Through hard work and patience the portfolio under management began to grow and we started to receive recommendations based on the quality of service we were providing. Whilst we were not online in the manner of having a system where you can book viewings or valuations via a web page we were totally hidden apart from our website. After 3 years and then with two full time staff as well as myself I decided we needed to have our own shop front premises to ensure the business continued to grow. We have now been in our new office for 6 months.
Before the decision was made to move I had to decide what was the best option available to me. I had discussions about investing the money I would use on a physical move to a shop front premise in an online system which would be fully automated and allow bookings to be made remotely, valuations and maintenance queries too. This would keep overheads lower. After weighing up all the options I realised that the reason customers were using us was because of who we are as people and that the warmth, honesty, professionalism and humanity we brought to our daily business was what they liked above all. Our reviews were all 5 star and looking through them it was these areas that shined through and remained a constant throughout.
Since moving our business has accelerated. We have a constant stream of people looking at the property available in our window. We have customers visiting our office because they have seen us when walking or driving past. It has without question given us an audience which we would never had seen us where we were previously, with no shop front or presence. It has been a very successful move so far and worth all the cost, pain and frustration that these moves inevitably bring.
Now, it may be that as a small business an online platform would not have worked for us and it may be that any business would benefit from a move like ours. I believe however that customers still want to speak to someone, they still want to see a person, they still want to get a feel that their business is entrusted with people they can relate to and the best way to do that is to have a conversation face to face. From what I see there is a drive to engage with folk in an "old fashioned" way - the more we move into this technical age the more I see people want to engage directly with people and not a screen. We do of course need to back this up with efficient technology and modern systems to ensure that our business runs smoothly - we're not doing all this with quills and parchment. I am certain however that the future lies in quality service, face to face with human beings.
With hard work and effort my business will continue to grow, but this ethos will be at the heart of everything we do.