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Meet Chris Sanderson, the lettings manager at Hamways. With an impressive 11 years in the industry Chris has focused on providing value to all of his clients through the simple art of listening. Now joining an asset management firm, Chris aims to inspire his team to create meaningful relationships with their customers in order to provide a valuable service. The goal being to constantly helping people through their journey of buying or renting a home.
Here’s his story.
How and why did you get into real estate?
I got into real estate through my mother. She’s an entrepreneur and has her own lettings business. I was 18 at the time and I tried being a tradesman because most of my dad’s side are tradesmen in the property side, but that didn’t work out for me. At which point, my mom said, come and sit in the office with me. She knew I was good with people, confident and sociable and it really just took off from there. So I started working for her company and then I really wanted to push on.
I wanted to not work for my mother anymore, at that age you know how it is. My friends would make fun of me and say you only got a job because your mom’s there. So I had to prove the haters wrong.
I then went for a corporate company called Sequence. A national company and got most of my training there, I was 19 and I worked there for a couple of years and really got a taste for the market. I got used to the targets but more than that the need to help people. Even at a young age at 19, I realize the more people I help, the better I am at my job. I would get a lot of referrals and I developed a name at a young age because I used to listen and help.
11 – 12 years on I’m still in property but a bit different at the moment for Hamways. It’s still the same though, helping applicants and being able to match their requirements continues to be the biggest motivator. And it’s just addictive.
The current company that you’re in is a private property management?
I’m working for a company called Hamways Limited now, and we work closely with a property portfolio firm at the moment to manage their portfolio. We look after their property from start to finish, we would market the properties, get the tenants in and set up and all the way to when they check-out.
We work with high street agents to help us find the tenants, but we would really like to find our own tenants to be able to provide an end-to-end service. I’ve been here five months now and before that I was working for Felicity J. Lord and I was there for a good amount of time. I really enjoyed working there. Purely because of common ground I had with the clients, tenants and the landlords. I got along with people, was able to advise them and help them.
So I’ve been fortunate every company I work for, I’ve never had had a bad experience, really. At Hamways, it’s different because we aren’t an estate agency and my team and I manage a much larger area with a lot of property.
We’re trying to stand out from the high street by again, listening more, asking more questions and helping tenants from start to finish. We’re doing pretty well at that as well.
How do you think that things have changed during the pandemic?
During first lockdown, I wasn’t put on furlough, I was asked to stay in the office and look after area and it was a massive area. This allowed me to get a quick understanding of the psychology of what people wanted. It was two things 1) Either something cheaper than what they were living so value in the move there or 2) if it was better than what they’re currently in and they didn’t have a chance to get a foot in the door because before March, everything was going by open house and it was so competitive to find something decent. So the virus slowed down the appetite of people coming into London, giving a tenant more of an opportunity to find the right thing because there wasn’t so much of a crowd to compete against.
The good stuff still got the same price, if not more. I’ve seen in the papers it kept saying and rents are down by 10 percent. But it was only on the properties, I feel, that no one really wanted anyways. Those properties were only let previously because of how supply and demand is that way. I think that probably because out of desperation rather than value or something they like.
If something hadn’t let within two weeks then a significant price drop was required and that was between a 5 to 10 percent range. But the thing about London market is that it is such a big market and each area has a different market climate. So I’m purely speaking about my area.
During this pandemic, did you find that you had to change the way you did business to accommodate to the changes? And if so, what were those changes that you had to make?
Yeah, definitely. I think if an agent didn’t adapt or change and they would have no work. The way I had to change was about asking the right questions to find out what the tenant. You couldn’t do viewings between between March and June, so you had to give a lot of time to an applicant.
You needed the floorplans, the virtual tours and everything. You needed to have the right content and credible content. Having good online reviews also helped because people had to trust you and trust that the property was good without actually seeing it beforehand. I had clients coming for overseas and they had to come so they had to just trust us and trust that the property was up to their expectations.
The trust was developed by spending more time on the phone and being genuine, by just talking to them and building that relationship. So it took a bit longer, but it helped our clients.
It narrowed the audience in a way where you’re dealing with people that were serious. It was good and you feel good when you nailed the requirements and the tenant moves in, they happen to send you an email and it all feels worth it. You’ve done something, and that always feels good.
What is the one thing that you believe agents need to change in order to be successful?
It might be an old cliche, but they need to listen more. Just listen more to the applicants. They don’t listen. And it’s a shame. But that’s been going for years. To be honest with you, I’ve been training my team now and it’s just about applicant management, applicant registration, and just helping more people. The more people you try to help, the more you learn and the more you win.
In terms of marketing, we are very good at marketing. I’m passionate about that. It was always really important how a property looked, it needs to be up to a specific standard.
Personally, I wanted to try and help my team learn more because the more they develop, the easier it will be for me. It seems simple. Listen more Care More. This job could be the most difficult job or the easiest job, it’s all about how you go about it.
What do you think is going to change in the market this year? Do you have any predictions for England?
The amount of people looking online has increased by a lot during this pandemic and that is only going to increase even further. I think there are so many people at the moment that are on the side lines. Do I buy now, do I sell now? I think Internet traffic is going to get busier and busier. So I think the importance of marketing is stronger than ever, because the customer is on it all day. They’re addicted.
So I think from an agent point of view, online presence is essential. But even more important, is your brand. A strong brand is just as important as closing more deals. The more people that are online, the more time you need to put online. If you build a good digital brand, people will remember you and use your services.
Will rents go up? I think, again, certain areas rents will go up. I think when the vaccine rolled out properly and people have more confidence then mobility to London will return. I’ve seen a few people now look to move now into London because they’re predicting rents will go up in six months. So there’s been an increase of people looking to move in the last week or so.
I don’t think many people are investing. I think people are moving and people are moving for family reasons to be living in that place that they will live in for the next 5 to 10 years. So is a good time to invest now? Probably not. But if you’re looking to move for a school or for long-term, then yes.
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