Luke Mason, (centre) aged 23, opened Belvoir, Hitchin, in 2008. Luke is a former Negotiator Rising Star of the Year.
What brought you to here? Prior to launching Belvoir Hitchin I worked with my father in the family car business. I am from Hitchin and recognised that the town provides excellent commuter routes to London and is a sought after area for people wanting to move from the city. I’m a people’s person and enjoy meeting landlords and tenants – property management is definitely for me.
Why an agent franchise? I was ambitious and wanted to open my own business. I came across Belvoir on the internet. I telephoned and met the CEO Dorian Gonsalves and was impressed by the great support structure that Belvoir provide and the friendliness of the company. The way Belvoir does business really appealed – I knew it was the right opportunity. I opened on 1st December 2008 and haven’t looked back. It was quite scary but I was eager to get on with it.
Costs and profits The fee for a Belvoir franchise is £22,500 + VAT. Shop fit and furnishings are estimated at around £25,000 to £30,000 and an additional £5000 for incidentals such as legal fees, accountancy, accommodation, deposit on a car etc. Most franchisees require a budget of £50,000-£75,000 working capital. 70 per cent of the total investment can usually be borrowed from the bank (subject to normal terms and conditions). Typical break even for a Belvoir franchise is between 12 to 18 months although some franchise owners have achieved break even after six months. In its fi rst year we reached our target of £70,000 turnover. In the second year business was booming and we achieved nine record best months with a growth in turnover of 195 per cent. In 2011 we were on target to reach £300,000 turnover – £600,000 income within three years from a standing start. We are now on target for an annual turnover of £420,000.
The way Belvoir does business really appealed – I knew it was right. Luke Mason Belvoir
Where does the branch sit within the local market? Belvoir Hitchin has won Belvoir New Franchise of the Year 2009, Franchise of the Year 2011 and Group Contribution Award 2011. We offer a superior service at a fair price and always deliver on promises. I developed a number of innovations including extended opening hours (8am to 8pm, seven days a week) offering flexible evening and weekend viewings, a telephone answering service 365 days a year, 24/7, cash back schemes and social media campaigns. I have also hosted in-house Buy to Let seminars to attract new landlords and offer potential investors free unbiased information.
What support is given by the franchisor and what has proved most useful? Prior to opening I didn’t know anything about the lettings market so the three-week training course that Belvoir provides for all new franchise owners was invaluable. It taught me everything – from how to open a shop and manage a property to the ins and outs of lettings’ law. There was plenty of help and advice after the launch and throughout the first six months. For the first month Central Office gave me a weekly call to check on progress, making it clear I could call them whenever I needed. Franchise support constantly keeps us informed of what’s going on in the lettings industry and gives instant updates of any legislation changes. There’s plenty of organised networking including a quarterly meeting between offices in each region.
How do you plan to develop your business? I recently commissioned a refurbishment of the Hitchin office. All staff regularly take part in Belvoir’s training courses and are also training for the BTEC Level 4 Diploma in the Guild of Lettings. I plan to build the business up to a managed portfolio of 500 properties, employing more staff and turning over £800,000 per year. I have now stepped out of the day to day running of the business and my strategy for this year is heavily focused on staff development and training to enable growth in our managed portfolio.
What makes you stand out from your competitors? We offer high quality customer service and consistently deliver on promises. We have let properties in days that had been on the market with other agents for several weeks.
What is your branch motto? ‘ Success doesn’t come to you – you go to it.’
Keith Sellers has just signed up to the Waterside Properties franchise for the Chichester Harbour area in West Sussex.
What brought you here? Waterside Properties (as the name suggests) specialises in the sale and rental of marina, coastal, riverside and lakeside properties with, currently, 25 offices. I ran my own group of estate agency offices in Spain for 12 years. With the very sharp downturn in the Spanish market I looked at other options and decided that the UK (although tough) provided the opportunity to have my own business.
Why a franchise? I considered several franchises before opting to ‘come aboard’ with Waterside Properties, mainly down to their market position. I saw a gap in the market for this Chichester Harbour area that none of the ‘High Street’ agents had exploited.
Costs and profits I anticipate the office should be in a profit within 18 months to two years.
Where does your branch sit within the local market? The office fits in very neatly in geographical terms with the two existing Waterside Properties offices in Port Solent, Portsmouth and Brighton Marina, and whilst Waterside Properties has sold homes in this area previously, it’s challenging to successfully service and develop the Chichester Harbour area. This office gives vendors, buyers, landlords and tenants access right on their doorsteps to our services.
Many Waterside clients are both well-heeled and well-keeled. Keith Sellers Waterside Properties
What support is given by the franchisor and what is most useful? The most valuable support has been from the local offices that have a good deal of experience and expertise in my patch. These offices see me as very much part of the Waterside team and give their time and help to assist in getting established – by sharing client databases, local marketing, window displays, advertising the new office, etc.
How do you plan to develop your business? With Waterside’s national marketing platform, I will be able to reach both buyers and tenants from much further afield than local agents typically can.
What makes you stand out from your competitors? My focus will be on making vendors and landlords alike aware of the choice this office offers them – an alternative to the traditional ‘High Street’ agency, with the focus on the lucrative sailing/yachting clientele; many of Waterside’s clients can be described as being both ‘well-heeled and well-keeled.’
What is your branch motto? ‘Waterside Properties Chichester Harbour – the waterside and coastal specialist.’
Jenny Marshall opened in October 2011 covering Nottingham and some of the other East Midlands areas.
What brought you to here? e-stateagent.co.uk is a national company with fees starting at £395.00 plus VAT, with four different options available. I had worked within estate agency for more than 10 years, starting as a sales negotiator, then a Sales Progressor and I then moved to a private company as their valuer/negotiator. These different roles gave me the experience and the confidence to do it for myself.
Why a franchise? As an experienced estate agent I feel that online agency is definitely the way forward and the more personal service is welcomed by all of my vendors, buyers, landlords and tenants.
Costs and profits Initial start-up costs were £2,500. Running costs are minimal, I work on my own from home, so the only real costs are travelling to and from valuations and any advertising that I choose to do. I am aiming to start making a profit this year as my annual fee to the franchisor is only £1,000.
We are available 24/7 to provide a personal service to each vendor. Jenny Marshall E-estateagent.co.uk
Where does the branch sit within the local market? I am seeing that more established agents have less stock now than at the beginning of 2011 whereas I have increased the number of properties that I have for sale. I really do feel the vendors are more open to online agents, saving themselves money and also getting a better, more personal service.
What support is given by the franchisor and what has proved most useful? The franchisors are available 24/7 to give help and advice. They are constantly looking at ways to improve our website, promote our business through the Internet and increase the leads generated.
How do you plan to develop your business? At the moment I am looking to increase the number of properties that I have for sale but to still maintain the customer service on all the properties.
What makes you stand out from your competitors? Unlike other online agents, we arrange the viewings, we get feedback after the viewing, we negotiate the best price possible for the vendor and then liaise with the solicitors to the point of Completion. I will even do accompanied viewings, if required, as it is all about the service we provide. My vendors are happy with my service, as I am available evenings and weekends when high street offices are often closed.
What is your branch motto? ‘Available 24/7, to provide a personal service to each vendor and to save them money.’
NEIL JENKIN, CJ HOLE
Ex Royal Marine Neil built his agency, Annagram, with his wife, and joined forces with CJ Hole in 2012.
What brought to you here? After leaving agricultural college I started working in the sales and customer service industry and gained experience with several national companies. A change of career came with acceptance into the Royal Marines and after seven services I left to enter the world of estate agency. In 2002 I married my partner Sue and we opened the first branch of Annagram Property Services in Axbridge. I gravitated towards the lettings side of the business and now have responsibility for an extremely busy rental department based in our Cheddar office. The Annagram team expanded across six offices and in 2012 we joined forces with CJ Hole.
Why a franchise? We opted for a franchise as CJ Hole historically had a very strong presence in our area, we did not want to compete with that name and having met the management team, felt their ethos for ethical and modern estate agency matched our outlook exactly.
Costs and profits Having already been in business for ten years we had no entry costs. We have around 25 staff in all and our monthly running cost is around £10,000 per office. Our branches are all profi table.
Where does your branch sit within the local market? Our six branches sit in the heart of the villages and towns that they operate in. The offices are very much broad market based catering for starter, family, executive and distinguished homes.
A franchise is not a silver bullet; it gives you the tools to start with. Neil Jenkin CJ Hole
What support is given from the franchisor and what is most useful? There is a lot support given from the franchisor, particularly in regard to the brand and getting the most from it. However, a franchise is not a ‘silver bullet’ to instant success; it can only give you the tools to start with: success will follow with a lot of hard work and investment into the business by the owner.
How do you plan to develop your business? We are investing heavily in promoting the brand of CJ Hole via internet, newspapers and direct mail. We are confi dent in this investment, knowing that the brand is ‘cherished’ by the franchisor. Our mission statement is to become the number one agent of choice in our core market area. Just part of the method of achieving this is through high brand recognition.
What makes you stand out from your competitors? Our brand followed by caring customer service alongside focused and committed salesmanship by all members of staff.
What is your branch motto? ‘The number one agent of choice.’