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Agent Tim's top tips for going it alone

Five years ago, Lettings expert, Tim Lawler, wrote an article for Estate Agent Today charting his early experiences of setting up his own business with the support of estate agency service provider, Agent and Homes.

Here, post-Covid, the war in Ukraine and a financial crisis, he reflects on his first five-years building his business.



Around 90% of my business comes from letting and property management - I have 112 live tenancies, which collects 4.8m annually in rent, 49 of those I manage. Since my first deal in November 2018, I have done 205 lettings deals, but I have sold far less than I thought I would have done - eleven properties, one plot of land, and a share of freehold – literally just a share certificate. But anyway, everyone knows it has all been about lettings since about 2015.  The vast bulk of my businesses is in Kensington & Chelsea, but I have a significant number of units spread across Westminster, Fulham, Lambeth, Wandsworth and even a couple out in Northolt! As you can see, the model works anywhere, even places I have never worked, and I am not tied to any boundaries that is set by a boss I don’t have.

Sales have ranged from £700K to £3.85m – although I don’t really go looking for them. I’m asked occasionally and it is generally when my clients are looking to dispose of their rental units and the bond of trust is set – they want looking after by someone who knows them and their property.

My biggest letting deal was £21,666 per month – it came from me knocking on the someone’s door as her flat had leaked into the one I looked after below hers and we got to talking, she owned two very special units and I now look after both of them. You will be astounded at how many referrals you get if you simply just do a good job, and if you keep your eyes and ears open, talk to everyone, then you can find business everywhere. I’m about to launch a property in NW10, which is a chain of five referrals. I knew the first client who referred me to someone, to someone, to someone and so on until the fifth person popped up and, hopefully, they will refer me to their friends. Seemingly everyone loves to tell someone about their specialist private estate agent. Interestingly, 35 of the 108 live tenancies are completely new clients - either word of mouth referrals, or I simply met them because they were neighbours of other flats I looked after.

People do ask if I struggle to manage that number of tenancies, but the simple fact is only a handful of them need dealing with on any given day. Obviously, I would be completely screwed if all 49 managed units had an issue simultaneously. At any time, I might have perhaps only 1 to 7 things on the market to let, which is easily manageable, especially if they are re-lets so all the due diligence/marketing/certification/terms are in place.

Onboarding a new client is a bit more work, but I have the luxury now of being able to pick and choose new clients and properties – I do turn some things away, or refer it to other agents inside Agent & Homes

Work life balance

(Or life-work balance as I like to call it) During the first two years, I worked hard, and a lot of hours, including weekends. But now things are a whole heap easier, the business is a great size, and I would say things are plain sailing. Nowadays, in a normal week, I’ll probably leave the house three or four days a week but condense any stuff I must do to between 0930 and 14:30. That does not mean to say that I’m not available on the phone at any other time and make and receive calls throughout the day, sporadically checking my email and business WhatsApp. My clients all still regularly let me know the service I offer is still far superior to what they used to receive from a typical high-street agent. However, the biggest point I want to make to people here is the life-work balance. I don’t know anyone in any job who sees their children or family more than I do. I never miss pick up or drop off at the 2-3 days my boys go to nursery, I’ll take them to tennis and swimming during the week and I am there at every school trip without fail. Financially, I am substantially better off than when I worked in high street agency enabling my wife to not have to not have to go back into her old job (she does a few bits of admin for our company though) and she can raise our boys with love, rather than going to work, just to pay nursery fees.

I go to the Agent & Homes hub less these days than when I started - although it is great to drop-in and see everyone from time to time. If I wanted, I could run my whole business from wherever I am, with just a laptop and a phone. I live my life with one mantra that death could just be around the corner. I can’t avoid having to work, but I work smart – I have learned to be hyper efficient with my working time. There is no way I would waste my precious time on this earth leaving the house at 7am and returning, perhaps after 6.30 pm as I did in my old job – that is just no life.

The crucial question is this: who can break free and do this self-employed thing successfully?

Make a move.

There is an undeniable truth in high street agency that there are only 10% of people that are any good. However, pretty much every agent thinks that they are in that top 10%. You need to absolutely know for sure that you are in the real 10%.

Then there is another 10% of people who work in agency that have the vital self-belief and entrepreneurial flair that is required to go it alone.

These two groups of 10% are not the same 10%. However, if you were to draw a Venn diagram of the two groups, there would be some overlap – it is those people that need to get out of their seat and make a move now.

I go with Agent & Homes for two reasons: 1. They leave me alone, never breathing down my neck about any kind of figures, but there if I need them. And 2. Because they have the slickest of behind-the-scenes operations, the administration team there are quite literally second to none – and I have worked with a lot – it might also interest people to know, they own shares in Agent & Homes, so they have “skin in the game” meaning they do the very best they can and aren’t going anywhere else!

The Agent & Homes ethos is “The agents are the rockstars and they are the roadies” I genuinely love this, basically it means they work for me, not the other way round.

The true measure of success is not the car you drive, the price of your house, and (no matter how impressive it may sound) it is most certainly not your job title - that last one took me decades to work out. It is how happy you are and how much of your time belongs to you.  I owe a debt of gratitude to Agent & Homes which has enabled me to live the kind of life I used to dream about, where I can work when I want, where I want, and how I want.

To skip back in time and read Tim’s first article for us which was published in 2020, please click here.

  • Rollo Miles

    Tim Lawler is a legend.
    In this article in Estate Agent Today over the weekend, Tim talks about his journey with Agent and Homes over the last 5 years.
    If like Tim you want to work for yourself but not by yourself, then direct message me for a friendly catchup.
    With agentandhomes, you work when you want, how you want, and where you want.


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