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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Bizarre: Humberts website displays false number for customers

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. 

  • Velgram Quaid

    Looking at the web page's source code, it's clear that the 'Contact Us' button was hard coded to produce an error. Pathetic.

  • icon

    I saw this coming when they split with Chestertons. Dumb move.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    Interestingly, the business that acquired them has since rebranded/name change (always a curious move for a successful business) and the latest accounts aren't fabulous. Things do fail and nothing wrong with that- but should be handled fairly for both staff and clients. All this after some quite bold statements about showing the rest of us how it's done.

  • Michael Riley

    Hubba Bubba.

  • Matthew Payne

    It would appear that running a profitable estate agency/lettings agency is maybe not as easy peasy as people from outside the industry believe, as they all seem to gravitate towards it claiming to be able transform the businesses they get involved in or purchase with revolutionary ideas that worked for them in retail, hospitality, leisure, dot.com or some other completely different industry. The common thread, very few of them know anything about property and everything that goes with it, but then strangely they surround themselves with people who know even less. All of these businesses have seen their profits plummet, the businesses much smaller than 2-3 years ago as well, and the agencies that seem to be prospering in the stormy weather like Connells, Savills and a host of smaller agencies are actually run by career property people.

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