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Haart chief ‘horrified’ by competitors opening without safety measures in place

Paul Smith says Haart's phased approach is giving his company time to train staff and install plastic screens and other equipment in branches.

Nigel Lewis

haart office

Paul Smith, CEO of Haart parent company Spicerhaart has told The Negotiator that he’s ‘horrified’ by how many of his competitors have opened branches with a complete disregard for the safety and well being of staff.

Smith says that, instead, his business is adopting a phased approach to re-opening its physical branches as it sources and fits plastic screens and trains staff in social distancing procedures. It is now more than four weeks since the housing market re-opened and at least ten days since many of its competitors at least partially opened up their branches.

The estate agency chains’ branches are conspicuous on many high streets because they remain closed while next door competitors are bustling, with window signs explaining how to contact staff, who are working from home.

But some branches are being utilised – the Streatham office (pictured) that we visited had a bunch of keys in a plastic bag that a landlord or contractor had posted through its letterbox.

Link to news of our new Prime Minister“What’s the hurry? People seem to think that because the nice weather is here, and everyone is allowed out and about that coronavirus has gone away. It hasn’t,” he says.

“We moved very quickly to get people out of branches and into the safety of their home environment during lockdown when the pandemic struck.

“They all have access to the latest technology and are working brilliantly and have been 18% more efficient in terms of making calls.

“We have also been working with our staff, many of whom have childcare issues, and we are supporting them with their work-life balance. They will return when I am satisfied that it is safe to do so.”

Closed branches

Nevertheless, several senior industry figures have been in contact with The Negotiator to wonder why such a large chain is so reluctant to re-open its branches.

“Haart is not a small one-man band, we are part of the largest independent estate agency group in the UK – Spicerhaart – and that means that we have a large logistics operation under way, bringing people back from furlough and looking at how we will work during the coming months while we are all still at risk of the virus,” he says.

“Our branches dealt with over 14,000 new applicants last week, which is an all-time record for Spicerhaart, and gives an indication of the pace at which we are working.”

June 16, 2020


  1. Like many of the smaller agencies we put in place all the necessary precautions during the lockdown, you would have thought the amount of time in which premises were empty gave plenty of time to put in screens, make sure PPE, social distancing measure etc etc were in place. To say they have staff with childcare issues and hiding behind every other excuse they can find is remarkable when in reality no matter how large or small your business is we all face the same issues. The difference is the smaller more pro-active businesses have been faster and more efficient in preparation and action. SH are offering a poor service indeed, as we are being told by countless customers and clients of theirs in Plymouth where they have closed and told customers they will not be re-opening.
    One client has told us all their keys have been taken to an office in Exeter and all the paperwork for their property including gas safe certificates etc have all been destroyed. They were told the keys will be returned to them if they can find them! Unbelievable service!

  2. I am surprised it has taken an industry figure, such as Paul Smith, so long to realise. I’ve been banging on about the corporates and the large independents in Aylesbury since May 13th.
    No social distancing whatsoever, particularly on their fag breaks! Also, I have asked the question on local radio “What happens when they go home because I have seen the same neg wearing the same suit 3 days running. Now all my staff wash their daily clothes overnight and wipe their shoes with an antibacterial wipe every day.
    One rule for the big boys, one rule for everyone else.

  3. Safety and precautions I get that, we did it four weeks ago when we opened the branch. But pointing fingers at others when you haven’t got your house in order is a standard response from some agents…. maybe if staff were looked after you would have people to work in your offices!!!

  4. I guess the corporate wheels turn slowly for the multi-branch agencies, while the smaller agencies are nimbler and can implement new ways of working quickly. Maybe a sign of the times?

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