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By Nat Daniels

CEO, Angels Media


Property Natter: agency with a new concept and terrific fundraising

As regular readers will know, I like to use this column to shout out about the independent agents who are the bread and butter of our industry, especially those who are doing things with a bit of a difference.

In this Q&A, I speak to Paul Preen, the managing director of Plymouth-based agency Lang Town & Country, for his thoughts on the future of agency, the usefulness of PropTech and the current stock-side crisis.

You recently launched an office with a new concept - what is the new concept and how will it help you stand out from the crowd? 


We feel that offering a more relaxed environment would enhance the experience for the client. It’s daunting for the public to walk into an agent’s office, with banks of desks with people sat behind them, all looking up at you the moment you walk in. They can come in for a chat and discuss their requirements over a cup of coffee whilst sat on the sofa in a relaxed atmosphere.  

What do you see the future of agency being? Will branches need to offer USPs to survive on the high street? 

I think the industry has become much more service focused. I think the agents that will survive in the future are the agents that offer a personal service.

At the same time, online operations have been struggling the most of late, which suggests perhaps the traditional model is still king - what do you think? 

100%, when competing for the business against an online or hybrid estate agent you sell the fact that you aren’t paying for a product, you’re paying for a service. We employ specialists who have specific roles to make the customer’s journey as stress-free as possible.

You will always have that client who is purely driven by the fee who will tend to go for the cheaper option. They may sell the property, but the experience will be more stressful, and the client will be left to their own devices to get through the sale. They won’t have someone experienced on the end of the phone dealing with it for them. That’s what you pay for, the service.  

We’re hearing lots of agents talk about a worrying stock shortage - is that the case in the Plymouth area and the other areas you cover? If so, what can done to solve the issue? 

There is a lack of available property throughout the country. We are trying to engage with clients - not just to sell their property, but to find them one, being proactive on their behalf. We are conducting appointments where clients are signing up to low-key marketing, getting the property sale ready, photos, video tour, brochure, etc, but not advertising it until they see the right property.

Small steps to encourage people to sell and, in this type of market, a good agent will be able to build small chains because they know their market and their clients.

What are your thoughts on PropTech? Is it useful or is there too much of it around, all offering much the same? 

Like everything, some good, some bad. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.

If you could wave your magic wand and change one aspect of the property industry tomorrow, what would it be?  

For the industry to become regulated and agents accountable for giving bad advice, especially with regards to contracts. They need to be the same, with no hidden agenda, and once a sale is agreed, there should be a legal obligation for all parties, with penalties for withdrawing from either side.    

Lastly, where do you see your agency - and the property industry at large - in five years’ time?

We are more proactive in our approach to a hand-held personal service. I see this as the future of the industry. TripAdvisor created a culture that the public are very receptive to. People always look now at reviews. When selling or buying your biggest asset, you want to make sure you’re dealing with a company which has a strong reputation and [one] you can trust.

Thanks for the insight, Paul – very interesting stuff.

I must also give a shout out to the team at David Astburys Estate Agents – an independent agent based in Crouch End, North London – for their terrific fundraising work for Arianna’s Campaign.

The story was covered in our Agents Do Charity column last week, but is well worth repeating again here.

Arianna is a 5-year-old girl who was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma in November last year and her family are raising funds to pay for potentially life-saving treatment abroad, which will cost £250,000.

The agency has set a bold target of £50,000 and is determined to meet it by holding various fundraising events throughout this year.

Aaron Cox, managing director of the firm, said: “I was devastated to hear someone so young was going through a terribly tough time and no child should ever have to experience such suffering.

“I’m a father of three young children, between four and seven years of age so when my wife Sarah made me aware of Arianna's situation, I felt like it was our calling as a company to make a positive difference and support this beautiful little girl to get the treatment she deserves. Her story has touched the hearts and minds of our entire team at David Astburys.’

Arianna’s aunt, Jenna, added: “My niece is the kindest little girl I know, with the biggest heart and even bigger laugh. She loves Disney princesses and playing with her sisters and friends. Arianna has been through an awful few months since her diagnosis, but at every stage of her treatment so far has been surprising her family and doctors with her bravery and resilience. We've nicknamed her the real-life Wonder Woman, because she truly is our superhero.’

David Astburys is kindly asking people to donate to this life-saving cause, with any amount making a difference. You can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/david-astburys.

As the team strive to reach their £50,000 target, you can follow their progress on Instagram.

Thanks to Aaron and the team for getting in touch with this story and for their superb fundraising efforts – truly heartwarming, as are the efforts of many agents to help out with the aid effort in Ukraine.

Before I go, I should mention the Guild conference, which was back in-person for the first time since Covid. As always, a great day out and a great chance to network with the industry.

Held at the QEII Centre in Westminster on Thursday, the event included a number of excellent keynote speakers, followed by the awards (presented by TV personality Kirsty Gallacher) and drinks reception.

That’s all 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.


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