Mark Meyer, CEO of the award-winning Meyers Estate Agents, explains how the property market has evolved resulting in a new breed of working from home estate agencies
The past 18 months has been tough for many franchised businesses. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on some industries and yet others have profited. For many, it’s been a time of reflection and re-evaluation about what’s important in their lives.
I’ve worked in the property sector for many years and know it is a robust market with constant demand. After all, everyone’s got to live somewhere and life events, both positive and negative keep people moving on, on a regular basis. However, the consequences of recent times have resulted in a surge in demand.
During the restrictions, the government supported the market with a stamp duty holiday for properties under £500,000. This further encouraged home movers looking to save thousands of pounds on the cost of their transaction. Although the stamp duty holiday has ended, we are still seeing a particularly strong market.
According to the government’s most recent UK House Price Index there has been an annual price rise of 10.2 per cent across the market. However, in some areas, we have seen property prices rise by a third in the space of a year.
In part, this is driven by the home working revolution which is set to continue. Many people are looking for properties with home offices and more space, whether that is a bigger garden or just room to enjoy and appreciate home life a little more.
The pandemic has shifted horizons for many but may also reveal new opportunities. The property market itself has adapted and the estate agency is changing. For example, there are new openings for estate agents looking to work from home.
A new breed of agencies
No longer is the traditional high street estate agency location necessary. Interestingly, at Meyers we have followed this home-working model successfully with our franchisees for seven years now and so when the pandemic hit, the processes we already had in place meant it was largely business as usual.
However, working from home as an estate agent requires a very different mindset. Customer care which may not always have seemed a priority with more traditional models of estate agency is paramount. Agents need to be able to build relationships with their customers quickly. By going the extra mile to look after customer needs and their transaction – which can be one of the most stressful times in their lives – recommendations and reputation grow.
This new breed of estate agents should be experienced in customer service and skilled in listening and communicating. They need to put their customers at the heart of everything they do. In short, they need to care.
In return, if home-based franchised estate agents train to become the very best at what they do, they can spend their days helping people build amazing new futures. I genuinely enjoy enabling people to move closer to their families, achieve a better work-life balance by choosing a property with a home office, or helping families gain more space for the kids to play in a much larger garden. It can be a particularly rewarding career.
Property is also easy to understand. There is really no need for previous experience to become a franchised estate agent as the necessary skills can be acquired through training. We have trained an ex-hairdresser and firefighter to become successful franchised home-based estate agents.
Because the overheads of the high street location are removed from the equation, franchise costs for a home-based estate agency are low. Yet, the financial reward for successful agents is significant. Agents charge a commission on house sales and as an example, one of our franchisees agreed on sales on just shy of £9m worth of property in the first six months of 2021, so it is possible to see the financial potential of this approach.
The snowball effect
However, it does take between six and nine months to ramp up an estate agency business and new franchisees need to appreciate how the business grows and have funds to manage initial cash flow. It’s not a ‘coffee shop’ type franchise where you open up and earn income from day one. It may, for example, take a month to get the first property on the books and then that transaction can take several more months to complete and earn a fee. However, unlike a coffee shop type outfit, there are fewer big brand competitors doing it really well, so success is highly likely for those with great communication skills and those prepared to work hard and build a good reputation.
Once up and running, the estate agency franchise model takes on a snowball effect. For example, one of our recent franchisees earned their first fee five months in but by the end of year one, had banked around £100,000 profit. You’d have to sell a lot of coffee to compare with that!
I’ve talked a little about people looking to gain a better work-life balance and how working from home can help achieve this and how it’s driving the property market. However, it’s the same for home-based estate agents. This career choice offers a particularly flexible work-life balance. It is easy to take time out to take children to school, and viewings and appointments can be arranged around other commitments. Unlike the traditional shop-front estate agency, franchisees are not required to sit at the same desk all day. With access to a mobile phone and internet connection, they can work from anywhere.
This is why an estate agency franchise is great for couples who want to imagine a future together. It suits the combined energy of two people with the same drive and ambition. One might start the franchise, then the other join as it grows. As a couple’s relationship evolves, it’s flexible enough to accommodate one member of the team taking time out to have children too. It’s lovely to see one of our long-standing franchised couples picking up their children from school together. They have been the market leaders in their territory for several years now and for them, they are living the flexible family dream.
Making an impact on the community
I think in all, one of the great things about being a home-based estate agent offers the chance to make an impact within a community. Selling a home is a big moment in people’s lives both emotionally and financially. They need to work with someone they trust and who is invested in making a positive difference in their lives.
I’m going to make the bold statement that traditionally, estate agents have set the bar pretty low. There is now a huge opportunity for caring people to join this profession to make a real positive impact within their communities and earn a reputation for helping people buy and sell houses. It’s a long-term commitment, you will end up working with neighbours and friends and their friends and families. There’s no commute and no hiding as you already live in the community right alongside your customers, who in turn become your friends. Earning a great reputation in this space means you belong.
One note of caution though. Not all home-based agencies are the same. Agents working for some of the bigger brands, online agencies have struggled. This is because those brands are not invested in connecting with their community and do not prioritise customer service over profit. At Meyers, we believe and know we can make a healthy return and always ensure our customers are central to what we do. We have run a successful, award-winning, home-based estate agency for almost a decade, and we now train others to do the same.
Mark Meyer is CEO of the award-winning Meyers Estate Agents. With 20-plus years of experience in the property industry, Mark and his team now train people to become successful home-based estate agent franchisees.