The new owner of Humberts is to ultimately close many of the traditional branches and move to what he is calling ‘Humberts Hubs’ - the first of which will open in the early autumn.
All existing staff will be retained but some previous job titles will radically change as the company shifts from what its owner calls ‘old fashioned’ agency to a much more customer-focused, service-oriented, forward-looking operation.
In May it was revealed vacation property firm Natural Retreats had purchased Humberts, which was on the verge of collapse and then managed by restructuring consultancy Begbies Traynor.
Natural Retreats was founded by Matt Spence in 2006 after he developed his first holiday let location on his family’s farm; the firm currently has 1,000 properties for holiday lettings on its books, across the UK and the US.
Now in an interview with Estate Agent Today Spence has revealed that his wide-ranging plan for the agency includes moving away from traditional branches
The first hub will be in Poundbury on the edge of Dorchester in Dorset - chosen because Spence has been inspired by Prince Charles’ design of the town, against some criticism by the architectural and planning establishment.
That hub will serve Dorset and Hampshire; four more hubs will follow shortly in Tunbridge Wells, Cirencester, Exeter and Bath.
Spence’s plans for the company are all-embracing.
He wants it to retain a rural focus, possibly operating in some locations outside its current concentration in the southern half of England, but most significantly he wants it to be a revolutionary, pioneering company that does nothing less than change the face of estate agency.
“Humberts is full of highly skilled, hugely experienced staff whose knowledge and expertise we want to use. They’re incredibly keen to be galvanised and motivated into presenting something new to the public” says Spence.
However, Spence wants to move away from the “over-institutionalised” self-imposed rules of estate agency.
“Why have someone experienced doing listings of properties and then someone less experienced showing people around houses? Why work yourself to death for eight or 12 weeks trying to sell a home when there’s no deal at the end and you walk away not being paid anything?” he asks.
So in future the Humberts Hubs will, he says, offer far more than previous agency branches.
There will be something like two kinds of agency positions - property consultants and senior property consultants - and these will offer to help sellers not only market their existing homes but look for their next home too.
The staff will also offer, or help to find suppliers offering, services ranging from cleaning, gardening and property maintenance to advising on schools, mortgages, legal advisers, pets - “anything at all” Spence promises.
“Why do people who buy a home go to a check-a-trade comparison website when they’ve been speaking to property consultants selling their home? Why doesn’t the property consultant do that too?” he asks.
“Why do people have to arrange their own removal company when we could do it? Why do people go to another estate agent to buy a property in a different area when they’re dealing with Humberts to sell their first place - couldn't we do that?” he continues.
“We will be able to handle anything - anything - for a customer, and the sale of the property will be the least profitable and smallest part of that relationship. We’ll be like Phil and Kirstie to find their next home, and we’ll be their closest adviser on all aspects of everything they do” says Spence.
He says more details of his revolution will emerge in the months to come, but he suggests in his interview with Estate Agent Today that there will be a substantial emphasis on more technology being used to help Humberts’ current and future staff offer much wider number of services than now - with fees likely to be higher than existing more narrowly-focussed traditional agents, and possible long-term customers to pay a monthly fee for the company's services.