Humberts has signed off in bizarre style leaving only false contact details on its website.
The historic agency - which closed several branches in 2018 and set up a small hub structure of ‘one stop property shops’ - was reported over the weekend to have told its staff it was entering administration.
The agency has not responded to enquiries from Estate Agent Today about its status but yesterday afternoon the website changed; no property details for sale or rent are now visible, nor details about its office locations.
Instead the Humberts website now displays a telephone number and a 'Contact Us' email link.
Every page on the website carries an ‘Under Maintenance’ message and customers are advised to call 0044 01234 56789 which triggers a message from telephone companies saying it is an incorrect number. The email link also doesn't work when a user clicks on it.
It’s been reported that over 40 jobs may be at risk if the company enters administration, but this has not been confirmed by the company; there are also no details of what is happening to its vendors’ and landlords’ properties.
You can try the website for yourself here.
It was 18 months ago that the troubled agency was acquired by Natural Retreats, a firm previously specialising in holiday home lets; ironically, Humberts was at that point bought out of a previous spell in administration.
Natural Retreats’ chief executive Matt Spence and the management team he put in place immediately expressed criticism of the traditional and online estate agency models. In summer 2018 it pledged to “become the first choice for rural landowners and homeowners. Each client will find a service-orientated, high-end ‘one-stop-shop’ for all things land, property and rural.”
At the same time, in a flurry of broad brush press releases lacking specifics, the newly-acquired Humberts company stated that it was “focusing its strategy on the highly coveted chocolate box towns and locations in rural Britain, that people flock to both live and holiday in.”
It closed traditional offices and in July last year opened a so-called hub at Poundbury in Dorset: others promised to be opened shortly afterwards did not materialise.
The 5,000 square foot Poundbury hub was described as “high tech, high touch” but those who visited reported low footfall.
This year it pledged to introduce a concierge-style service for customers who required their properties to be looked after while away, and it adopted the controversial Modern Method of Auction option for customers.