The recent rise in consumer complaints against sales and letting agents suggests that there is a general lack of trust and respect between letting agents, landlords and tenants, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
With more agents than ever before now signed up to redress schemes, partly because it has been a mandatory requirement for all letting agents to do so since October 2014, there has inevitably been an increase in the number of complaints against residential agents, but in reality more agents than ever before are now committed to raising their standards.
The ESTAS, a kite mark of excellent service for property professionals operating in our industry, focus on identifying and recognising the best agents in the UK based on over 30,000 customer service ratings, with letting agents uniquely judged on their level of customer service by both landlords and tenants.
This year’s winners were announced on Friday 12th May at The Grosvenor House Hotel in central London, with Countrywide voted by landlords as the best large agency group, while the best local agency award was given to Thorgills, Kings Group’s Harlow branch was awarded the best letting agent office in the UK, Balgores Property Group was named the best regional agency group, while Upad collected the gong for best online letting agent.
Meanwhile Lynks Estate Agents in the North West was voted the best letting agency office in the UK by tenants.
Here is what some of the winners had to say about their success, starting with many of those that were awarded gold:
Base property specialists
After an impressive 2016 which saw the company win two UK awards at The ESTAS, Base Property Specialists’ co-founder Kristjan Byfield was delighted to see his firm retain leadership for letting agents in East London and to, once again, place in the top three for best letting agents in the UK as voted by landlords.
“There simply is no event in the industry that places so much emphasis on those that truly matter to you and your business - your clients and consumers,” said Byfield.
“I continue to be inspired by the spirit of all agents at the event who, whilst gutted if they don’t achieve the accolade they hoped for, rally around those that do,” he added. “Every year the standards get raised and this can mean there is really only one winner in the end- the customer/consumer.”
Bristol Property Centre
“Winning the ESTAS for us as a business is the ultimate recognition as it’s our own customers that vote for us,” said Ashley Day, director of Bristol Property Centre, which won gold for best letting agency as voted for by landlords in the South West (Avon, Dorset, Somerset) and silver in the national category for best letting agent office.
It was an extremely successful day for John Minnis, with its Donaghadee branch picking up gold for best estate agent in Northern Ireland and silver for their Holywood branch, while the company was also awarded bronze for best local estate agent (2-5 offices) in the UK.
The Holywood office also collected gold for best letting agent in Northern Ireland.
“We are passionate about the level of service we deliver to our clients and to be awarded not only at regional level but at national level is just fantastic,” said Gemma McClay of John Minnis. “To come home with four awards is amazing.”
“A special congratulations and thanks have to go to our excellent team who have made this possible.”
Upad, founded a decade ago by James Davis, was crowned best online letting agent in the UK.
Davis said: “The fact that these awards were voted for by the people who matter most, our customers, means so much. I’m exceptionally proud of the whole team behind Upad who have always put the customer at the heart of what they do.
“As a company, we are driven by empowering landlords to self-serve and run their businesses more efficiently. It’s an exciting time for Upad and PropTech generally in the UK, and this award clearly recognises that.”
Plymouth Homes Lettings
Landlords and tenants voted Plymouth Homes Lettings the best letting agent in the South West (Cornwall and Devon).
“Our Motto is ‘this business is about people, property is secondary’,” said company director, Jacqui Courtier.
Gold for best letting agent – landlords – in the West Midlands (Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire) went to Belvoir Telford, which is the branch’s fifth award in four years.
“We believe that the recognition of this award sets us apart from others and provides a benchmark of expectation,” said Simon Bell, managing director. “Gold in the West Midlands area for the second year running is an achievement that the Belvoir Telford team is extremely proud of.”
This was the first year that Belvoir Leicester entered the ESTAS, which perhaps makes their gold accolade for best letting agent – rated by tenant – in the East Midlands category even more remarkable.
Yasmin Amujee, lettings manager, said: “We were very excited to just be shortlisted and winning gold elevated our spirits and made us feel proud of what we have achieved. The awards function was fantastic and gave us the opportunity to converse with other agents. We will definitely be entering again next year.”
After winning gold for best letting agent in the North West (Greater Manchester and Merseyside), company director, Ged McPartlin, commented: “We’re thrilled to have won such a prestigious award. It particularly meant a lot to us to win as it was based on the reviews from our existing landlords – without them we wouldn’t have won and we couldn’t be prouder to have brought home the gold.”
Being awarded gold for best letting agent in the East of England (Norfolk and Suffolk) in both the landlord and tenant categories was no mean feat, and so it comes as no surprise that the letting advisor to the family business, Emily Giles, was simply overjoyed.
“It means so much to us to win such a prestigious industry award, especially as the votes were specifically from our very own landlords and tenants,” she said. “We couldn’t have asked for any better than two gold awards, and so we are grateful to our customers that voted for us and got us here.”
As a first time entrant, the firm’s letting manager, Alex Phillippou, was “delighted” to see Castles win gold for best letting agent – tenants – in north London, place third in north London’s estate agent category, while also being shortlisted for a personal people award.
“The hard work and service levels we think we give has now been confirmed and endorsed by our clients,” he said.
Home Finders at Richard James
The company was voted the best letting agent in the Southern (Hampshire and Wiltshire) region by both landlords and tenants, with the company’s MD acknowledging that these awards are “a fabulous endorsement” from customers.
“As anyone at the front end of a lettings business will attest to it is at times and extremely difficult job – particularly trying to please both landlords and tenants,” said Sue Gidney.
“Winning an ESTA is a great message to be able to put out there as part of our marketing and social media strategy, and we have had feedback from many new clients that they have seen that we are ESTAS award winning agents, and that this was instrumental in getting us ‘through the door’ for that all important initial valuation,” she added.
The Kings Group in Harlow was named the best letting agent office in the UK, while the branch also won gold in both the landlord and tenant categories in the South East (Essex and Kent) region, in addition to a bronze for best regional medium chain.
“I wasn’t expecting to collect as many awards as I did but as you can imagine I was over the moon as winning even one ESTA award just shows a sense of appreciation and recognition to all the hard work you and your team put in all year round,” said Brodie Clark, letting manager at the Kings Group.
“This is the second year in a row we have won gold for landlords in Essex and Kent and so we are definitely looking to win again next year,” she added.
Arden Property Management
Catriona Waugh, a partner at Arden Property Management, acknowledged the various benefits of success at the ESTAS, after her company won gold – landlords – for best letting agent in Scotland, as well as silver in the same category as voted for by tenants.
“The ESTA award is a great marketing tool for us because it allows us to show that we are better than our competitors, not just that we say we are,” she said. “Having a national award gives us a great advantage in a very busy market place.”
Waugh added: “I run a small team of 12 people who work really hard doing their best for landlords and tenants and so being recognised at such a high level gives them a great moral boost.”
Here is what the best of the rest had to say about their silver and/or bronze award winning success at the ESTAS 2017:
The Stubbington based agency received the silver award for best letting agent and bronze for best estate agent in the southern area of Hampshire and Wiltshire.
Nigel Painter, manager of Morris Dibben, said: “It means so much to us as we know it’s our customers who have judged our performance. We take our levels of customer service very seriously because we know clients have a choice. We have always been very proud of the personal service and this proves we are delivering what we promise.”
In an ever changing, and sometimes difficult market, winning silver for best letting agent in the West Midlands (Staffordshire, Warwickshire and West Midlands) reaffirms the brand’s goal of “providing the highest of customer service to our clients”, according to Kylie Turu, branch manager for letting in Cannock.
“We take our levels of customer service very seriously because we know clients have a choice and we want to separate ourselves from the our competition by basing our reputation on providing first class treatment,” she said.
Hunters Burgess Hill
“For us, the whole reason we entered the ESTAS was to showcase the level of service we work to as a minimum. The fact that this is the only industry award that I am aware of that is voted for by our clients is the key,” said Jon Clayson, managing director at Hunters in Burgess Hill, which won silver for both best letting agent – voted by landlords – and best estate agents in the South East (Surrey and Sussex).
Awarded silver for best letting agent - landlords – in the South West (Cornwall and Devon), a delighted Jacob Alexander, senior branch manager at Fulfords Exeter, commented: “It means so much to us to be recognised at this year’s ESTAS Awards as we know it’s our customers who have judged our performance.
“We take our levels of customer service very seriously because we know clients have a choice. We have always been very proud of the personal service we provide and this is a great way to demonstrate how good we really are.”
Winning silver in the best letting agent - landlords - category for the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire region was described by managing director, Richard De Souza, as a “huge milestone” in the company’s 15-year history”.
“We are progressive and always looking to provide clients with a high level of service. We will strengthen our business from here with a view to winning gold next year,” he said.
Beatrice Carter Property
This small family run business won silver in the East of England (Norfolk & Suffolk) - voted by landlords - for the second year running.
“It means so much to us as we know it’s our customers who have judged our performance, we have always been very proud of the personal service and this proves we are delivering what we promise,” said Beatrice Carter.
Miller & Son
It’s official. Miller & Son is the best letting agency in Cornwall, according to the company’s business development manager, Katie Law, after its Perranporth branch was named the third best letting agent - as voted for by landlords - in the South West (Devon and Cornwall) region.
“Given that no other Cornish agent was with us in the top three, we are now able to say that we are best in Cornwall as endorsed by the ESTAS, which is a great achievement,” said Law.
She continued: “To win at the ESTAS shows that all 17 of my letting staff have been recognised and we can now shout to all potential landlords that we are not just saying we give a great service, we can actually prove it!
“This is particularly important in such a competitive market where landlords have a large choice of which agent they want to use.”
Student Accommodation Services
Having won gold last year, Student Accommodation Services had to settle for silver for best letting agent – voted for by tenants - in Wales, while also picking up a bronze award in the landlord category.
“It is extremely rewarding to know that the hard work and dedication of the staff here is being well received by our tenants and landlords alike,” said Steve Daniels, manager at Student Accommodation Services.
Silver in the Yorkshire region - voted for by landlords – went to Belvoir York, an office run by a mother and daughter, which is fast approaching its second anniversary.
“I am utterly delighted to see that our landlords really do recognise that we go the extra mile,” said managing director Claire Leathley. “The award is so clearly aimed at customer service that it means the world to us to have achieved so much in such a short time.”
“We look forward to winning a gold award next year!”
John D Wood
Like so many of the agents that entered the ESTAS, Rollo Miles, associate director at John D Wood & Co, which was awarded silver for its south Kensington office in the South London category, believes that the awards are “so special” because they are voted for by the general public.
He commented: “We had to approach all the people who bought and sold via us in 2016 and ask them to rate every aspect of our business and to get back from them a square of 98% is a real honour.
“It is a real testament to the people who work for John D Wood & Co who put customer service and the heart of everything we do.”
Glenham Property won silver for best letting agent - landlords – in Scotland for the second time in three years.
“The ESTAS are the only awards that we enter as they are the only ones voted for purely by our landlord clients,” said Miles Gilham, managing director. “As a small independent agent we live and die by our reputation and rely on our clients referring us on.”
“As the MD it is imperative to know whether our clients think we are providing a good service and the ESTAS provides that platform,” he added.
Property Hub proved popular with both landlords and tenants, winning silver awards for best letting agents in the South East (Hertfordshire and Middlesex) - landlord and tenants categories.
“It is a proud moment for Property Hub to be get recognised and being the winner as best letting agents in Middlesex and Hertfordshire region,” said company founder Sachin Gupta.
“It is truly an amazing experience to be a part of such a high level professional event; it is kind of dream come true for us.”
“The ESTAS award has given us a new boost to work more efficient and wins clients trust and faith,” Gupta added.
Barbers, based in Shropshire, won two silver awards for the West Midlands (Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire) region, one for their Whitchurch sales office and the other for the Newport letting office.
Reflecting on the company’s success, Sean O’Brien, sales negotiator and marketing coordinator, said: “Barbers firmly believe that ESTAS awards are the best way to demonstrate that an agent maintains the highest levels of customer service.”
“We were delighted to receive two awards as a result of the feedback from our own clients and to be recognised alongside other outstanding agents across the country.”
*Marc Da Silva is Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today Features Editor. You can follow him on Twitter @propertyjourno