Estate Agent Today can reveal that US-owned franchise agency Keller Williams has ‘soft-opened’ two new market centres in the south of England.
They are at Bromley in Kent and at Kingston-upon-Thames in south west London, and complement the four existing KW market centres - at London Bridge, London Victoria, Leeds and Glasgow.
Both centres are ‘live’ now but will be formally launched in March.
Keller Williams says its market centres are centralised facilities for freelance agents operating the company model under which they individually retain 63 per cent of their commissions, with the rest going to cover market centre charges. Once individual agents reach a ‘cap’ (£60,000 in London, less in other parts of the UK) the agent then retains 90 per cent of their commission with the remainder going to Keller Williams.
The Bromley centre - hinted at by Keller Williams back in October - is to be run by KW’s new chief operating officer, Andrew Benn, who has 30 years' experience in agency and has just joined the firm from Spicerhaart.
More unusually the Kingston centre is to be led by Pritesh Shah, who has 22 years experience as a management consultant working with global companies including Sony, Kraft and American Express - but no direct estate agency experience.
Shah will also be Keller Williams’ digital officer for the region.
He will be joined in running the Kingston market centre by David Knowles, who has 15 years’ experience - chiefly in lettings - at Foxtons, Dexters and most recently Haart.
In an interview with Estate Agent Today over the Christmas period, Shah said his lack of direct experience with property - other than being a buyer and seller - was not an issue.
“The Keller Williams model gives the confidence and the processes where there can be a leadership role that encourages individual agents to thrive. This is just a different way to get to the end game - that is, a high level of customer service for customers who think that agents must be more than they are, currently” he says.
Shah says the KW model - originated in the US and now operating in 37 countries - emphasises agents dealing with people rather than properties.
This would mean less emphasis on an agent handling ‘only’ sales or lettings, but instead emphasising a continuing relationship with customers - whether that is handling a purchase or sale, or managing a property they want to let, or any combination of these and other property-related activities they may get involved in over a number of years.
“A key is to always add value to the customer” says Knowles, whose 15 years experience in the lettings sector leads him to think this is the way for agents to avoid significant income loss when a fees ban comes in later this year.
“If all you do for a landlord customer is collect rent on a month-to-month basis and that’s all they see, they’ll say ‘please reduce your fee’ anyway. So it’s vital to add value all along the route, to raise customers’ expectations of what you do” adds Knowles.