The other day I met with two agents who have 30 years of property sales experience between them, and yet also provide a completely fresh perspective on how to engage with the competitive world of selling homes in prime central London.
If that sounds like a contradiction in terms...well, you haven’t met Christian Warman (ex-Savills) and Simon Tollit (ex-Sotheby’s and Knight Frank). They have sold a combined £1 billion worth of property in their corporate past, but what makes them sound like fresh-faced insurgents is how they now run their own company, Tedworth Property.
Set up in September, the firm seems one of the few to bring a genuinely innovative approach to the sometimes-crusty (yes - let’s be honest here) prime London world.
Let’s start with what makes them unusual in London:
- the company consists of just the two agents with part-time administrative help and IT support on call, plus an independent PR consultant. There are very few if any sales operations in London with a similarly-slim profile;
- there is a well-located office but it lacks a shop-window in the traditional sense (extremely unusual in central London) and the main ways of contacting the company are by phone, email or through an online form on the Tedworth website;
- unusually strong emphasis is given to securing PR ‘wins’ by commenting on stories in the property press, having its properties featured in articles’ For Sale sections, and pro-actively generating stories (as it did when Trump criticised Nine Elms, for example);
- the two agents themselves undertake all appraisals and valuations, and handle viewings. There’s no Viewber for them, and no one else to carry the can if something goes wrong. “We’ve got to do everything - this business is how we feed our children, and it’s key for clients to know that we’ve got skin in the game,” is how Warman describes this approach;
- the agents also prepare their own property details, using an app instead of a traditional printing house. And, they claim, the quality is as good as that of their competitors;
- like most agents, they are concerned with the welter of regulations bearing down on the industry. But unlike many of their corporate high-end rivals, they were having to cope with it with limited support: next stop, they said, was a course on the joys of GDPR.
Much of this may be common enough these days for traditional agents in much of the rest of the UK, under pressure on fees and in increasingly bitter competition with onliners.
However, it’s rare to see it in prime London where many homes have eight-figure price tags and a mix of corporate agencies and high fees mean the industry still has quite a few luxuries - big admin teams, junior staff (good and bad), and extravagant high-end offices.
Not that Tedworth is anything remotely like a budget online agency.
“Purplebricks might make it here one day but it will be years - many, many years - from now,” says Tollit. No, this pair of agents still offer what prime London demands in the shape of a best-in-class service, bespoke for each customer, at a relatively high fee.
But what is interesting is how the firm operates in a quietly understated way, appreciating that the industry is changing: that’s not a description usually applied to agencies dealing with international High Net Worth Individual clients or with buyers working under pressure in the financial services sector.
We’re not seeing a red-blooded revolution with Tedworth Property but what we are seeing is modern no-nonsense thinking making a rare appearance in prime central London. There are others in the capital thinking the same way, of course - just not many.
The next challenge is to see how the agency grows and whether it still keeps its freshness in the face of corporate competition.
Let’s check back in a few years....
*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn