A former chief executive of Countrywide has issued a string of extravagant claims about the lockdown success of the online agency which he now leads.
Grenville Turner - who was appointed chairman of Yopa last summer - says “without High Street offices to worry about, we were able to quickly ensure that all our agents were set up to offer full support to customers when they needed us most.”
Yopa is heavily backed by the investment arm of Savills, by Your Move and Reeds rain parent company LSL, and by the venture capital division of the Daily Mail and General Trust, as well as individual investors. Last summer it revealed another £16m of investment from a range of sources.
Now it claims that has all paid off with success while other agencies were still coming to terms with the Coronavirus crisis.
A statement from Yopa this morning says it moved from being the UK’s seventh largest agency for new listings on Rightmove in January to number two during April and May.
It says it listed more properties during lockdown “than all other hybrid agents combined, excluding Purplebricks” and enjoyed a 67 per cent rise in instructions in the first week of this month (June) compared with the same week in June 2019.
Turner, in a long statement issued alongside the figures, says much of the success is down to the business model and preparation in the weeks leading to the lockdown.
“As a priority, we ensured our teams - from the central office and contact centre staff to local agents - were fully briefed and equipped to work from home by March 17. By March 24, when the UK lockdown was implemented, all staff were working from home and our contact centre staff were only booking virtual valuations and viewings” he says.
“We developed a programme of advice for agents and customers - existing and prospective - to help keep home sales moving whilst ensuring we played our part in keeping the UK as safe as possible. This included more advice on virtual valuations and viewings, customer-led photography, the offer of a Yopa Open House weekend at a safe point in the future, and a content series for vendors to get their homes ready for future sale” he adds.
“We also widened diary slots so that both buyers and vendors could book secondary physical appointments once the government began to ease lockdown and customers felt it was safe to meet with their local Yopa agent in person. This enabled us to sprint out of the stocks once the restrictions were lifted in England on May 13.
"Recognising that, as franchisees, our local Yopa agents income would be severely impacted by the market shrinkage and the uncertainty around government support for the self-employed, we took the decision to support our business partners financially beyond the realms of their licence agreements.
“We think this attitude, alongside our general approach in developing a cohort of entrepreneurial estate agents, is in part why we’re generating so much job interest from experienced high street agents. Further, our agent tenure has increased over 85 per cent year on year.”
Turner claims that the online agency’s fee structure helped boost instuctions, with one option - a Pay Later choice - extended from 10 months to 12 months, although he says the swing towards deferred payment options have now subsided.
He also says the increased use of virtual valuations and viewings, customers’ own pictures and Open House weekends when safe have been extended now into the post-lockdown period.
“We continue to offer this extended service in part because our customers have been so receptive to it and as a ‘just in case’ in the event of a second lockdown. Perhaps this will be our industry’s future, and we welcome and embrace that innovation” concludes Turner.
In February this year - six months after Turner’s arrival at Yopa and before the pandemic struck - the agency claimed its revenue had been increased by 38 per cent while its costs were slashed by 40 per cent annually. Its fee structure had also been simplified.