Chris Nathan, the former managing director of 14-branch South of England estate agency Cubitt & West, has taken the plunge and started up his own business in the commuter town of Reigate.
That’s not unusual – dozens of independents start up across the UK every year – but Hound & Porter is unique in the area because Nathan has embraced a hybrid model and eschewed a high street branch for a hub.
In an exclusive interview, Nathan has told The Negotiator why he left Cubitt & West and why he thinks the high street has a limited future for estate agents.
“I loved my time at Cubitt & West but during the final three years the vision of estate agency was different in my head to everybody else’s within the Arun Group,” he says.
“The culture had become more corporate and all the brand colour schemes were brought into line rather than being different for the five brands within its portfolio, but it stripped the identity out of the business I was running.
“I had told them several years ago that estate agency was changing and that it was all about online presence and tech, but they weren’t listening.
“I decided to go it alone and launched Hound & Porter two weeks ago – I’m 52 but still feel 22 so retiring wasn’t on the cards. I enjoy the work of estate agency and missed working on the coal face.”
Nathan says research he did while working at 14-branch Cubitt & West revealed that 91% of its sales leads came through the internet or via telephone, so chose to adopt a hybrid model for his new business.
“I’m offering all the services of a traditional agency such as accompanied viewings but no shop front,” he says.
“Instead I’ve got an office right in the centre of Reigate town centre where customers can visit us; and we also operate business hours that are useful to our customers not us, so we do valuations on Sundays, for example.
“I have a three-and-a-half year plan for Hound & Porter to grow the business in Reigate and then franchise it.
“I’ve seen what some estate agents get up to so the business is built on honesty, integrity and transparency. It’s going well and we’ve got our first instructions, but we’ve got a long way to go yet.”
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