I spoke with Alicia, a property enthusiast who started as...Read More
Meet David, the founder of Love Your Home. Previously a manger in retail, David found himself intrigued by the property industry and started off as a negotiator at LudlowThompson and moved up the ranks. With 14 years in the industry and David decided to venture out on his own. The focus of the agency being to put the customers first, across all aspects of the customer journey. Here’s his story:
How did you get into real estate and how has your journey been so far?
It was more by accident. Let’s see it was about 14 years ago. So, just before the credit crunch started really kicking off, I was a manager in retail, actually, fashion retail. I worked for a couple of larger and smaller companies. It’s one of those industries where there’s always a glass ceiling that you get to fairly quickly. This limits your pay and any expansion opportunities.
I had recently moved to London, and was looking to buy a house, that was when my interest in property started. Shortly after that process, I started working for an agency called LudlowThompson, a London-based agency. Very quickly, within the two or three months, I realized that it was something I really enjoyed doing and was very good at it. I continued climbing up the ranks and went on to manage 4 of their offices.
I then went into the corporate world where I joined Savills and was a director there for about 6 and half years. From there, I’ve taken the step into starting my own business, Love Your Home. I wanted to change things that were broken across the industry by changing it within my own company.
What do you think is broken and what needs to change?
Looking at some of the bigger companies, they obviously still look at costs, cost stripping, so they outsource or move their property management out of London.
You’ve got people that don’t know the properties, never been to the properties, trying to manage a process for something and for someone they’ve never met. There’s always a disparity between the letting service at the front-end and then the management service at the back-end.
A lot of the clients I’ve spoken to over the years just don’t appreciate that disjointed approach. Its always very cost and profit driven and all for the benefit of the company. It’s more about how much money they can make rather than the level of service they can provide or the money that they could be making for the client.
Another is the higher turnover of staff. Especially in property management. When you speak to someone in a tenancy process, you speak to the negotiator, the office manager in the front office, a property manager or a client accounts, you speak to all these different people and you lose sight of who’s dealing with the property or you lose the personal approach. Which is the underlying reason that there’s less of a personal service. When you take into account that you’re looking after someone’s biggest asset or assets, they want to make sure that it’s looked after properly. That has been a big driver for me.
The changes over the years in legislation and taxes have chipped away the benefits for the landlords and it doesn’t make commercial sense for some landlords to keep renting these properties out. Agencies have shifted a lot of extra fees onto the landlord when the tenant fee ban came in. My approach has been to streamline the service, to make it as easy as possible for everybody to operate within this process. While having complete oversight over everything that happens across all of the properties. I give my mobile number to every client and make sure that they can call me with any issues at any time of the day.
Giving a more personal service is what it’s all about. Making it more cost efficient for them and increasing the profitability of their properties. Regardless of whether it’s the rental side or whether it’s to try and maximize the capital value if they want to exit in the market, we ensure that we get the most for them. That’s something that a lot of people over the last year or so have really appreciated.
I’ve moved three houses since I’ve been in London for the past year and a half, two rentals and we were in the market to buy and it has been difficult.
People say that, and that’s the thing. I think over the last year and a half, we’ve seen a rise in self-employed agents and independent agencies. Because people have become really disjointed with the industry, and the corporate world has lost track of who their clients are. Throughout the whole pandemic, you saw high street agencies shut for two or three months and the landlords on their books just sitting there and waiting without any kind of support.
I think there’s always a preference towards the landlords though, would you agree.
I think agencies would openly agree with that. At the end of the day, they would say they would that they’re getting paid by the landlord. The landlord is their client, but at the end of the day, you need both.
It’s good to have a full customer journey with a proper service all throughout the process. But, you know, that’s the hope. I’ve spoken to quite a few people and that seems to be a common theme that keeps coming up.
And that’s the thing. There’s been the emergence of some really good players out there that have tried to press reset and strip it back to where it needed to be. Step away from it just being, about the share price and how to save money and make more money rather than looking after the actual people that were in the process. I think you’ll see some changes, especially out of this. As I said, with the rise of some of these other companies, you’re starting to see them get a lot more traction within the market. Ultimately it will hit a point where the other guys need to look at themselves and see where they need to change because they’re losing business.
Where do you see yourself taking Love Your Home over the next couple of years?
Oh expand to more areas. I mean, there’s some loose plans over the years, to expand into some of the other bigger cities across the UK. Then roll out extra services with property sourcing, possibly auctions, things like that. But that’s further down the line. What we want to do is make sure that we look after the service that we’re offering. Because again, it goes back to you, if you’re trying to do too much too quickly, you lose sight of why you got into this industry. We’ve spent the last year and we’ll probably spend the next year looking at the systems, making sure that they get better. We do more for the clients. At no cost extra costs to them while maintaining good rates.
We’ve got demand from our existing clients to cover different areas. Especially when they have other properties that they own in different areas. There is demand there and we’ve seen that the referral business has been big for us. We’ve had a landlord come on board, who’s then referred a family member. Who’s then referred a friend who’s then giving us another two more on their properties when they bought them.
Did you guys find yourself having to change the way you do things to meet the issues with not being able to go to viewings and everyone being stuck at home?
We were going through the motions of getting everything uploaded and ready to do that anyway. What we found was that we used to do this anyway just not on a larger scale across every single property. That was what changed. Also tenant perceptions, for years or decades, people have gone to buy a new build property off plan by looking at a floor plan and spending half a million pounds to buy a one or two bed flat in London, without blinking an eyelid. When it came to renting, it was very alien to people if you had a new built development, even that nobody had even lived in before, people would still want to see the physical flat. And what changed was when people couldn’t then they had to switch their mentality slowly.
What is the one thing that you’re looking forward to for the new year?
I think it’s just more about consistency in the markets. People have been buying, selling and renting and there are still reasonably good rent levels. Obviously, a lot of people are driven by what’s in the media, especially if you’re coming from overseas or you’re an overseas investor. Until very recently over the last few days or so it’s all been quite negative and drawn out. We’re uncertain of what will happen next year. I mean, we’ve gone through 4 years, I’d say with the bank of England saying that the market was going to collapse because of Brexit.
And then, we’ve had all the issues and with the pandemic and the market still hasn’t collapsed. Places where there has been a dip would be prime central London, you’ll see some of the prices and the rents there go backwards slightly but not a million miles off. Just a little bit, which was expected. But you’ve actually seen positive increases in some of these outlying areas. You’ve actually seen small increases year on year, which is driven by people’s change of circumstances and changing demands, they will go further out now for a bigger property or for a cheaper rent. This is because they can, they’re not anchored by where they work anymore.
Based on the pandemic and how things have changed and how tenant demand for now at least has changed. How do you think agencies need to change for 2021?
As I said, the reason why I’ve started my own business was because I wanted to put the client first. That includes the tenants and buyers. It’s about giving that level of service that all customers should get during this process, rather than being overly KPI or just profit driven. Taking it back to the personal service. With the regulations that are going to be coming through, this will also bring everybody onto a level playing field and weed out anybody that should probably not be operating in the industry.
I also want to make things easier for everybody. To make the processes quicker and easier and pain-free. I think that’s where you’re going to see things go in. A lot of agencies are going to have to streamline and offer better processes for people whether it’s in buying or renting, not just for selling.
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