An estate agency in Hertfordshire is the latest to withdraw from the high street and set up a central office in an industrial estate, saying customers and staff no longer see the point in traditional branches.
Little Hadham estate agency David Lee used to have high street branches in Bishop’s Stortford, Stansted and Great Dunmow but has now moved its operations to a cedar-cladded converted barn on a farm after two years of planning.
The 16-year-old company has ten employees and two founding directors, 39-year-old David Kirby (pictured) and 35-year-old Lee O’Brien. The company won a Silver award at the 2015 Negotiator Awards for East of England Agency of the Year.
Kirby says the closure of his estate agency branches was not about cost – the new premises are more expensive to run than its high street addresses – but rather that customers do not like the expense and hassle of parking in a town like Bishop’s Stortford.
But he says there is one bonus – because Rightmove charges by branch, the business only pays for one subscription now, not three.
“High street branches aren’t practical or private places to conduct business any longer,” he says. “I think the industry believes branches are important, but customers don’t care.”
Kirby also suggests that the problems facing the high street including shuttered businesses don’t make them that attractive as a location for an estate agent as they used to be.
“It’s nicer for customers to come to our new office which is also a more rewarding place for our staff to work in – including a nice kitchen with a posh coffee machine,” he says.
“It’s also much better to have all the teams near each other – so lettings, property management, land and new homes and sales are together rather than being in different locations.”
David Lee is also beginning to build a team of ‘associate’ self-employed agents to help it extend the business’s geographic reach without the need for new branches.