You launched Hewitt Adams a few years ago - how did that come about? And what is your background in property and before?
Yes, Dan (the Hewitt to HA) and I had worked together at Countrywide years ago before I moved out to work in property in Dubai. He reached out in 2016 to ask if I fancied setting up together and by that point I'd had enough of all that sunshine and boozy brunches! From there - Hewitt Adams was born! All in all I've been an Agent for 10 years and I absolutely love it!
Tell us a bit more about your ESTAS wins - were they unexpected?
We knew we've got an amazing team and that they'd helped even more customers move than ever before this past year - So we thought we'd have a chance at the odd regional award. But to walk away with the Best In UK with the grand prix prize was a huge shock! There were definitely a few sore heads the next day, and I really regretted agreeing to the 9am valuation I had booked in!
(The Hewitt Adams team celebrating their award wins at the ESTAS)
Does it mean more that the reviews came from customers, the lifeblood of most agencies?
100%! That's the great thing about the ESTAS - your success or chances of winning an ESTAS trophy live or die with your customers journey with you. Our team regularly goes above and beyond for our customers and it was amazing that so many of them took the time to review their experiences.
How did Covid affect your operations?
It was a crazy period but our team worked harder than ever before. From working in a manner that ensured customer safety, to dealing with the added pressures of the various stamp duty holidays and managing customer expectations around this - it was probably the most difficult year to win an ESTAS, which makes it all the more rewarding to have seen the guys do so well!
In terms of the market and how the business performed - like so many agents, we've enjoyed a great year on the sales side of the business, and we were really fortunate to launch our second office during this time.
(Ben enjoying the moment of victory!)
You won best agency office at the ESTAS, so we assume you are in favour of the high street model? Or will hybrid/hub models take over soon?
There's room for all the various models in my opinion. But for sure - there will always be a place for agents on the High Street who want to be a more tangible part of the fabric of their communities - but there's no doubt that there's plenty of top class online or hybrid agents who can do a great job too. One thing is for sure - with all these options available to vendors, agents (whatever model they are) need to continue to innovate and be at the top of their game.
What does the future hold for Hewitt Adams?
Well, let's start with trying to defend our ESTAS success next year!
And now Simon.
You recently won the award for the best regional agency in the whole of the UK at the ESTAS - tell us more...
As a local independent estate agency, it’s a fantastic and very proud achievement for us to have won this award. The ESTAS are all about delivering outstanding customer service and are a real testament not just to the hard work our team put in, but also to the trust our customer have in us.
Did it mean more because the ESTAS are based on customer reviews?
Absolutely. As a company, we pride ourselves on delivering the best customer experience, it’s at the heart of everything we do and all our offices go above and beyond for their clients. Any agent can go out there and say they’re the best, but to have our service recognised as being the best by the public and the property industry speaks for itself.
(The Property Centre team celebrating their award win with Mr Phil Spencer himself)
How does The Property Centre model work?
We’re a full-service agency with nine offices across Gloucester, Worcester, Cheltenham and Stroud. Each of our branches offers sales and lettings and we have an independent mortgage adviser in every office, too – so we really do offer everything under one roof.
We appreciate how stressful the buying and selling process can be and we’re unique locally for having dedicated teams of sales progressors, based both in Worcester and in our Head Office in Gloucester, whose sole purpose is to liaise with all parties involved to ensure a sale/purchase completes as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Similarly, on the lettings side, we have a dedicated property management team to support our landlords and tenants and a large team of mortgage administrators to simplify and speed up the mortgage application process. It’s these extra services that we offer that ensures we can offer out clients the best possible service.
How were operations affected by Covid?
When the market locked down, we initially furloughed the majority of our staff but our nine branch managers, along with our senior management team, continued to work from home and did everything possible to support our vendors and purchasers of sales still going through. Three members of our property management team also worked throughout lockdown to support tenants and landlords. As soon as lockdown was lifted, with the market picking up like it did, we were able to get the majority of our staff back very quickly (obviously working safely and within government guidelines)
One of the main changes, though, has been our investment in virtual tour technology. Our Giraffe360 system not only takes stunning photos and creates accurate floor plans, but it produces an interactive virtual tour of a vendor’s home, enabling potential buyers to “walk around” and get a real feel for that home’s dimensions.
From a Covid-safety perspective, that gives the vendor the reassurance that any physical viewings are from serious and qualified buyers, and because properties with a virtual tour attract more attention on the portals, it helps to achieve the best possible price. This has become a key part of the service we now provide to all our vendors going forward.
(Some of The Property Centre team taking on the Cotswold Way Challenge)
Where do you see the future of agency? On the high street or more of a hybrid offering?
Whilst we know that having a great online presence is essential and we invest a lot in our website, digital marketing and social media, we’re also firm believers in having a strong local presence and we are really proud of our branch network; all our offices are strategically placed at the heart of the areas we cover. Estate agency is still a people business and our clients appreciate having the option to meet with our teams face-to-face – this is essential from a customer service perspective, too.
What are the plans for the future?
We’re keen to keep growing, nine offices is too close to 10 not to! We are also continually growing our lettings business and are already expanding our property management team in line with this. Pre-Covid, we were really proud to be involved with fundraising for local charities, organising company events such as The 3 Peaks Challenge, The Cotswold Way walk and four of our staff running the London Marathon. This is an area we are really keen to get back to next year and any suggestions on a big challenge are welcome!
Great answers, chaps! And congratulations again on the wins for you and your teams.
That's that from me this week...until next time.
*Nat Daniels is CEO of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.