Here are the top letting agents in Britain who go above and beyond to help their customers, as voted for by landlords and tenants.
Complaints against letting agents often make the headlines, but the reality is that most tenants and landlords are extremely happy with the service they get from their letting agent.
With an estimated 1.6 million private landlords in this country and a high number of people seeking private tenancies, the role of letting agents in providing quality customer service is more important now than ever before.
The ESTAS, which are widely recognised as one of the most prestigious and longest established accolades in our sector, award outstanding agents that provide an exceptional level of customer service.
The awards, celebrating their 13th year, determine the best estate and letting agents in the UK through research carried out amongst clients who are asked a series of questions about the service they have received from their agent, over 30,000 questionnaires were completed by customers during the competition.
“Agents, brokers, conveyancers and developers are all judged in exactly the same way, purely on customer feedback,” said Phil Spencer, who has hosted the ESTAS every year since their inception in 2003.
Estate and letting agents were shortlisted in 15 regions around the UK with the winners announced at the awards event at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on Friday 14th April, which was attended by 900 of the UK’s leading residential agents and service industry suppliers.
National Grand Prix Awards were also announced for the Best Single Agent Office in sales and lettings, with Base property specialists named Best Letting Agent in the UK as voted for by landlords, while Caridon Property were elected Best Letting Agent by tenants.
Jon Notley, chief commercial officer of headline sponsor Zoopla said: “This was our sixth year sponsoring The ESTAS and we are delighted to be once again supporting this key industry event. Customer feedback is essential to any organisation and it is fantastic to see the best in the industry being recognised for their efforts. Many congratulations to all of this year’s winners.”
Winning an award is always nice, as it helps to confirm to everyone in the company, from the newest recruit to the founding partners, that you are on the right track, according to Kristjan Byfield at Base property specialists, which aside from being named Best Letting Agent in the UK as voted for by landlords, also won Gold in the London East category (voted for by landlords).
But he insists that while it is “always nice” to get awards decided by industry experts, regulators and figureheads, the truth is: “these aren’t your clients”.
He commented: “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if every other agent in the land thinks you’re the best thing since sliced bread - if your clients and consumers [tenants & buyers] don’t feel the same way.”
Kristjan insists that the ESTAS “is a truly unique and incredibly valuable tool” as it offers agents an opportunity to “understand exactly what people think of every aspect of your business”.
He continued: “The ESTAS give your clients and consumers a true voice to tell you what they really think. How many agents out there have lost a client with little or no clue as to why? How many agents want to improve their offerings but have no idea where to start?
“If you’re thinking of entering The ESTAS next year - do it. Don’t worry about winning but, if you do enter, do commit to collating as many reviews as possible. The reports you get a couple of weeks after the event can give you valuable insight to help you grow, develop and improve as a company. And, who knows, you might just win the biggest award on offer!?”
Caridon Property Services
Akeel Alidina, managing director at Caridon Property Services, which also won the award for best letting agent in the South East, was delighted to win Gold this year after scooping the Silver Award last year.
He said: “Last year we got the Silver Award and it had been bugging me the whole year that we just missed out on Gold! I’ve been waiting for a chance to go one better and it was a real honour to get the top award.
“The company has worked hard all year to provide excellence and great service and hopefully this shows by the positive feedback from our tenants. We pride ourselves on providing great services and quality housing for people at all levels. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to find good quality affordable housing in the south east and these awards show that we are doing something positive to change that. There is no better testimonial that a vote from the tenants we service.”
Best Local Letting Agency Group (2-5 offices)
Thorgills was recognised for its outstanding customer service to its clients by the largest and longest running award scheme in the UK residential property industry, winning Gold for Best Local Letting Agency Group (2-5 offices), while the firm’s Ealing office won Gold in the South West category (voted for by landlords).
“We are immensely proud to have picked up two Golds at this year’s ESTAS. To be voted best lettings agent in the entire UK for our size is something special and I’m very thankful to the team for their exceptional work over the past 12 months and of course to our clients for both their votes and continued support,” said Ben Madden, managing director, Thorgills.
University’s SAS Lettings
It is official, University’s SAS Lettings is the number one letting agent in Wales, according to tenants; the company won Gold in the Letting Agents of the Year: Wales category, as voted for by Tenants).
SAS Lettings is a joint venture between the University’s Residential Services and the Students’ Union set up to help students find good quality and suitable housing in the private sector.
The firm’s manager, Steve Daniels, commented: “We were honoured to attend the ESTAS awards to accept this industry award, Letting Agents of the Year: Wales, on behalf of our dedicated and committed SAS Lettings team. This award is especially significant for us as it is voted for by tenants – our students.
“It is extremely rewarding to know that the hard work and dedication of the staff here is being well received by our students. Winning an ESTAS award demonstrates our commitment to the highest standards of customer service.”
It has been a successful year for Belvoir!, which won a number of gongs at this year’s ESTAS, including Gold in the South West category (voted by tenants) which went to Belvoir Christchurch.
“From our point of view we work hard and often this is overlooked and people tend to concentrate on what goes wrong rather than what goes right! The beauty of the ESTAS is that we get the chance to hear from our own customers what they think of what we do and how we perform,” said Jeremy Clarke at Belvoir.
“We always promote our reviews to prospective customers, our Belvoir web page has a selection of reviews from the past five to six years, we were all chuffed to read some of the reviews on the ESTAS voting page!”
Belvoir Liverpool West Derby won a Gold Award as voted by tenants in the North West of England, much to the delight of office manager, Jennifer Folan, and her team.
She said: “We at Belvoir Liverpool West Derby pride ourselves on delivering exceptional services across the board for our landlords, and their tenants as excellent tenant relationships results in longer tenancies which in turn makes happy satisfied landlords! Winning the Gold award for the North West is recognition of the outstanding client experience our team deliver everyday and proves that our services are second to none with the fantastic reviews speaking for themselves!”
Nicole Chamberland, managing director, Chamberland Residential, said: “This particular awards ceremony means so much more than the other ones in the industry now as its voted for by our harshest critics...our clients! This is our third Gold award now in the London category and with competition being the fiercest it's ever been we couldn't be happier with this achievement.”
Platinum Properties Ely
Gold in the East of England (voted by tenants) went to Platinum Properties.
Maria Morgan, managing director, Platinum Properties, commented: “We are absolutely thrilled to be recognised at this year’s ESTAS. We were delighted to have been shortlisted in both the landlord and tenant categories initially, which was a huge honour alone given we are a relatively young company, but to win the award voted for by our Tenants means so much to us as we know it’s our customers who have judged our performance.
“We take our levels of customer service very seriously, which is part of the reason why both myself and Tanya Pearson, despite our many years in the business, are so committed to Platinum Properties becoming a trail blazing company in our approach, because we know clients have a choice.
"We have always been very proud of the personal service and the personal recommendations we receive for that, but this also proves we are delivering on our promises and we look forward to coming back again next year to fight for a title in both the Landlord and Tenant categories again.”
Bill Free Homes
Durham property firm voted Bill Free Homes scooped four industry accolades, which included retaining the two Gold ESTAS they won in 2015 for Best North East Lettings Agency: as voted for by landlords, and Best North East Lettings Agency: as voted for by tenants.
The agency’s new sister company Elvet Estates, which launched last year, is following in its sibling’s successful footsteps by being crowned the Best Estate Agency in County Durham and scooping Silver in the Best North East Estate Agent category.
Director of Bill Free Homes, Sean Lawless, said: “We are delighted to have won two ESTAS in what was such a strong category. It is a credit to our staff for such a wonderful achievement. The ESTAS provide a great benchmarking tool for us to see what we are doing well and what can be improved on, so we are delighted that both our landlords and tenants believe we are doing a great job for them.
“This is the only ceremony which puts our customers directly in the judge’s chair and asks them to deliver detailed opinions about us, so it means a great deal to know that they appreciate what we offer.”
Jane Earley, director, Robinson Reade, was “thrilled” that her firm was voted best letting agent Southern, as voted by tenants.
“So many of our tenants have told us how badly they are treated by some agents and with all the press about ‘rip off’ letting agent fees etc. it is very rewarding to know that ours have experienced good customer service and received value for money too. After all today’s tenants are future buyers, vendors and landlords,” she said.
Bristol Property Centre
The Gold award in the South West category, as voted for by landlords, went to Bristol Property Centre.
“We are delighted to have won another ESTAS gold award and think it is one of the best ways to prove to potential customers that your service standards are as high as you say they are,” said Ashley Day, director of Bristol Property Centre.
“As this award is based on customer votes it’s a really great way to get feedback and see how you can improve on certain areas for the following year as the key to success is to constantly evolve and analyse your own business and not just your competitors,” he added.
Maxine Lester have won the Gold award for best letting agent in the East of England as voted for by landlords, we well as a silver award for the same region (voted for by tenants).
Company director, Maxine Lester, said: “We gain a huge insight into our customers’ needs from the feedback we receive from the ESTAs. Three years ago we found out that our service between finding a tenant and checking was below the national average. The review of the customer journey showed at points through this process a landlord may have up to three people talking to him or her at a time. This was changed and the next year we won Gold – happily we have retained the mantle winning Gold this year.”
First Union, an established agent covering Battersea SW11 and Wandsworth SW18, specialising in sales, lettings and property management, pride themselves on their high levels of customer service and professionalism and for good reason.
The company picked up three awards at the ESTAS this year, including Gold in the London South West division.
Company director, Johns Chase, said: “It was First Union’s first time entering the awards and we found it to be a very enjoyable experience. We were extremely pleased to be recognised by our clients for the excellent customer service that we strive to provide. Thank you to everyone who voted for us and to the organisers and sponsors for such a great day!”
Winning Gold in the Southern (Hampshire & Wiltshire) came as a huge shock to Matthew Brown, letting manager at Morris Dibben in the Chandler's Ford area, who also won a personal accolade in the form of a People Award.
“We really didn’t expect to win, and so when we did it was a welcome shock,” said Brown. “There is fierce competition among agents in our local area, but to win gold provides us with a wonderful marketing tool to demonstrate that we are better than our competitors.”
Winning awards is not anything new at Anthony Pepe, yet the directors and team continue to appreciate each award presented to us with immense gratitude just as we did for our first award back in 2011.
“With the recent ESTAS win, it means we have been recognised as the best in our region at every major award ceremony in the last few years, beating the likes of Foxtons, Felicity J Lloyd and Martyn Gerrard etc, and now Gold and Silver for our Region at The ESTAS,” said company director, Charlie Perdios.
“We are extremely proud of all the staff and we hope the public recognise as we do that our staff are amongst the best in the business,” he added.
The Northern Ireland estate agent is celebrating after its Donaghadee office was voted by landlords as the best letting agency in Northern Ireland.
The company’s Belfast office was also given recognition as it won Silver in the same category.
John Minnis, director at John Minnis, said: “It was a special event, and one of which we are thrilled to have been a part of and delighted to have been recognised at. We are passionate about the level of service we deliver to our clients and to be recognised not only on a regional level, but at national level is fantastic.”
“A special congratulations and thanks has to go to our excellent team who have made this possible,” he added. “I also want to particularly thank our customers for taking the time to vote for us and provide such positive feedback.”
SageWard Residential Lettings
Lisa Ward, managing director, SageWard Residential Lettings, was “so ecstatic” to win the Gold Award for Best Letting Agent in South East (Hertfordshire & Middlesex) as voted by landlords.
“We were fortunate enough to win the gold award when we last entered in 2014. We have only been open five years and only specialise in lettings and we were under no illusions that we would win an award this year due to big competitors that entered and were shortlisted so when Phil Spencer announced us as the Gold Winners is was the best surprise to us all,” she said.
Ward added: “We feel very proud of our achievement and it reconfirms our abilities and the work we do, the award makes us want to continue to do even better. The ceremony day is such a brilliant day, especially if you win. The award helps with our marketing and to display another ESTAS logo is great. The ESTAS makes it all worthwhile.”