The phrase ‘death of the high street’ can be found in nearly any publication in any given week. And for fair reason: the shops with which we share our high streets are facing difficult times.
Anyone working in housing should be saddened by this.
These shops, cafes, restaurants and bars are our neighbours: we support and attend school fairs together.
We open up in the morning, close down in the evening and wave goodnight at the end of the day.
We become their greatest advocates to prospective tenants, championing the communities and areas we serve.
Lettings agents aren’t immune to the troubles facing the high street, but I believe there will always be a place for the letting agency within the community.
It was perhaps a surprise to read the recent news that online agency Upad was closing its doors.
On the face of it, Upad had a compelling offer: easy-to-access services for the time-sensitive landlord at a price brought down by the reduced need to pay for bricks and boots on the ground.
The lesson for letting agencies maintaining a physical presence in the communities they serve isn’t to shut up shop and buy a new IT system: it’s to double-down in their communities.
Agencies like ours, Home Makers, aim to do just that. We’re a new people-focused organisation and our first priority is the people we work with: landlords and tenants and the communities in which they both live.
That’s how we’re able to offer brilliant service without costing the earth. We can put a compelling offer in front of landlords, showing them how their investment in us will not only guarantee a good management service but that we will invest in the economy around their home, driving up value.
The letting agency that maintains a physical presence doesn’t have a natural right to live in a digital age, but it has opportunities waiting to be grasped.
Letting agencies in their communities can ‘sell’ their communities
By maintaining a physical presence, we automatically have the upperhand over our online competitors.
By doing things as simple as commuting to work, popping out of the office for lunch, heading out for drinks or dinner after the office shuts, we can get to know the areas in which we work like the backs of our hands.
And when landlords – many of whom also live in the area and care about it – come calling, we can demonstrate the value our experience and knowledge adds.
We can not only better promote the area our landlords’ properties are in during the lettings process, but through the management process we can be a reliable and trusted advisor to the tenant, helping sustain longer (and more economically attractive) tenancies.
By having people available, we can put people first
At Home Makers, we get to know our landlords and tenants. We’re available to catch-up with them at our headquarters in south London or at their homes.
This enables us to better understand how we can support both sides so that long and happy tenancies can be maintained. At Home Makers, we offer exclusive services to both landlords and tenants that are hard to compete with.
For landlords, we offer access to our parent company Phoenix Community Housing – which manages more than 6,000 homes in south London – and its services.
That’s an in-house repairs service that provides trained plumbers, electricians, plasterers and gas engineers that carry out thousands of jobs a year. That’s an income recovery service that has been shortlisted for national awards.
We offer tenants access to Phoenix’s community events, helping them to settle in their homes and communities and make them want to stay.
We also facilitate access to Phoenix’s employment and training programmes that are nationally recognised, supporting tenants to stay in their jobs or find new ones and keep on top of their bills.
When you’re in your community, you’re part of and invested in it
With agencies like ours, landlords know we aren’t about milking them for every penny’s worth. They know we are here to add value to them, to ensure their tenants are living in safe, comfortable homes where they’ll want to stay, and to make a difference in their community.
We invest all of our profits back into our community, helping to make it a better place for the people who live here. For example, we’ve recently supported a local women’s football team, the South East Parakeets, that welcomes women of all ages and abilities to enjoy the beautiful game.
We’re passionate about our community – and we know our area and our residents better than anyone – and that brings benefits to landlords, tenants, and the spaces they share. That’s something that a website, however great it is, simply can’t offer.
When lettings agents recognise they are surrounded by more than bricks and mortar and potential new homes – they’re within a network of people, a community – they can make a real difference, thrive and get back to doing what we all love doing: finding people homes in places they want to live.
*Rachel Jackson is Lettings Manager of Home Makers, a new people-focused letting agency for London and the South-East.