2 Ways to Run Your Estate and Lettings Agency

Honestly, I do feel sorry for some of you estate agents .. especially those of you who work for independent chains and corporates, because there you are, busting a gut, trying to get more people to use your agency be it home owners for free valuations or landlords with rental properties …. You look to your bosses for help and inspiration, and if I am being honest, most are there for, cracking the whip, inspiring you, leading you to greater glory … they tell you of the new marketing campaign that is coming down from head office that will get you your listings and new property targets this Quarter … so next day, the courier arrives with big brown box (Amazon styleee) and huge 3ft long tube cardboard tube (that’s 1 metre to all you millennials) with the posters nicely rolled up inside.

Its Christmas!!!

As you open the box, you transport yourself back to when you were ten years old, bursting with anticipation … opening that big pressie from your parents on that crisp morning of 25th of December, with beating heart .. you remove the packaging, eager to see what’s in inside …to find….

… a cheap microscope and sh*ty science kit

The hurt as a child not getting the fancy Space Lego set, not receiving from the big guy with the beard and red coat the Sega MegaDrive, not even the PlayStation game you wanted … how you longed for Megatron from Transformers … and all you got was a bloody cheap microscope and a boring science kit… your heart drops …  – as the leaflet says ..

Invitation for a Free Valuation, Properties Wanted

Interestingly, I was having a chat with an agent the other day, ‘Yeah, Chris – but I drop 10,000 of these leaflets every month and often get a couple of free valuations’, to which I replied, ‘Well of course you are, because if you throw enough brown smelly stuff at the wall, some of it will stick’

Kebab leaflets

There is a good chance by delivering 10,000, a couple of those a month will land on the mat in a property that needs a free valuation that day. Yes, you might get one or even two free valuations, but I wonder how many of the 9,998 people who received the Invitation thought, ‘Ooo, I will keep that leaflet, just in case we decide to move in five years’ … or just going into the recycling with the kebab and pizza leaflets … Answers on a Postcard to …

It’s really appealing to believe that the answer to an estate agents (and if you think about letting agents) marketing problem (what to call it, how to describe it, what to write about it…) is to be easily understandable, to the point, direct and uber-clear.

And that can definitely work for certain types of things, like fire extinguishers and smoke alarms … buy this and it will save your life … do-able, direct and convincing marketing but is that true of estate and lettings agency?

Every agent I meet tells me they offer a personal service, they go the extra mile, they are unique, special, sophisticated, smart .. it’s finesse and class that gets them the listing (and the sale/let).

Classy or Lady of the Night

Surely then, the rest of the time, what does your estate agency and letting brand stand for, what marketing you give out is also about that ….. showing finesse and class …. because correct me if I am wrong but the opposite of finesse and class is cheap and cheerful and no agent would want that (apart from some callcentre online agents maybe??).

So, if we can agree it’s finesse and class that lasts in estate and lettings agency, as in all aspects of life? .. then because finesse and class allows the potential client (landlord or property seller) to make the connection between you and them (in a positive light) and it gives them the power to build a ‘good’ story in their head, that this agent is top draw, and this agent isn’t top draw … surely that is not a bad thing?

.. some of you think you have finesse and class but you ruin it with marketing material that is cheap and cheerful .. barrowboy .. market stall shouting ‘pound of plums’ style .. how? … with your landlords wanted / get your free vals here that quite frankly are only one step up from those  naughty postcards in phoneboxes ..

I Love Savills

Let us think of the agents you admire, the KnightFranks, the Savills, the Strutt and Parkers, the Hamptons of this world. How can they  have such a high standing in the industry and the world as a whole and get away charging 1.5% /1.75% – even in some cases into 2.5% ‘joint sole’ sales commissions + disbursements or for our lettings colleagues ..12%/14% managed + disbursements .. because they are finesse and class personified. 

Quite simply .. Savills and Knight Franks and the others are are the Waitrose and Selfridges of agency .. they are simply the best.

Waitrose and Selfridges has finesse and class as well … but could the same be said of Asda? Audi has finesse and class … but is Seat in the same league?  (and don’t forget the A3 is the same car as the Seat Ibiza!).

Are you an Waitrose agent or a Asda/Farmfoods Agent?

Are you the M’n’S of estate and letting agency …. Or an Aldi or Farmfoods agent?

Estate and Letting agents, start holding your Marketing Department to account. A 24 year old marketing graduate, who has never owned, sold or let a house will go searching for a word or phrase tends to push toward obvious… landlords wanted .. get your free vals here.

Start earning your money my fellow Area Managers and Directors

You senior people in the business of estate and letting agency need to take a look at what your marketing departments are doing … How many marketing departments actually spend quality time with the guys on the front line, going out to free valuations and market appraisals with the valuers and listers, asking homeowners at the free val – what made you ring us? How many speak to real life landlords – especially landlords with competitors, to get to understand why they don’t like swapping agents?

How can you market your estate agency firm if you don’t understand it from the point of view of the person you are trying to market to? We aren’t selling a commodity here .. property, home ownership, being a landlord is something you can not learn in a text book at Uni … you have to feel it, immerse yourself in it to know about it.

What have the Savs/Knight Franks and Strutts of this world have that others like Countrywide, Dexters, YourMove’s and Foxton’s don’t?

I wonder what the admired estate agency brands of this country, the likes Savills, Strutts, Knight Frank and Hamptons have in common .. something that they all do, for which I searched high and low on the internet, but couldn’t find the likes of Foxton’s, Dexters, Your Moves and Bairstow Eves having?

All of them are estate agents, All of them let property. So all sell and let property – no difference there… the first group have Surveying arms .. YourMove(LSL) own eSurv and Countrywide have a very impressive surveying arm .. so no difference there. However, there is something ALL the first group all have one of these . that second list doesn’t appear to have …

They have ACTIVE Research Departments  … pumping out Property market research on the London, UK, and Regions by the tankerful ……. Just have a look

(If you guys at Foxton’s, Dexters or Bairstow’s do have such departments who produce such reports as the others – do let me know and I will be more than happy to change my article – but I spent ages and couldn’t find anything)

These Savs and Strutts have Research Departments to make them look like property gurus – they write these reports and newspapers suck them up like a sponge – making them appear knowledgeable and wise – thus creating a story and in the eye of the future landlord / homeowner – building interest and trust … thus they are creating finesse and class.


Even banks get in on the act … Every 3rd Thursday of the month, I can guarantee the headline on the Daily Mail ..it will be about the Halifax House price Index report .. even the the RICS and Government, as the Daily Mail Telegraph/Times/ FT will always run a particular article every month without fail on the 29th or 30th of every month .. guarantee it – because the Land Registry figures are always released on those days and it makes an interesting article.

Waitrose or Farmfoods?

The Savs and KnightFranks of this world are the Waitrose agents, and do so well in agency, in humbliest of humble opinion, because of these Research departments.

To run these departments must be costing them millions a year – they don’t do research for fun. In fact Savills employs, according to its website, 31 people in it’s research department across the UK .. even if the average salary was £35k (which in London won’t even get you a  decent Neg), the wage bill is over £1m – so lets say it’s nearer £2m with rent/rates etc .. that is a huge amount of cash .. but Sav’s must think it is worth it ..as I am sure K-Frank/ Hampos and Strutts do?

Would their marketing leaflets ever look like this?


or this?

SWEP Advert

You see, I bet no one at Savs or Knigh Frank has ever said, “I don’t get why we do these Research Reports, let’s do instead some A5 leaflets with a list of bullet points on what makes us brilliant estate agents, the number of offices we have, the awards we have won and at the bottom of the leaflet, be uncouth and direct by asking for a free val .. and for the boys in lettings ..landlords wanted leaflets”    .. That is not elegant, that is not finesse nor classy. You see the obvious is a trap, the last resort of an estate agent or their marketing department who can not think clearly about what to do next.

Because this thing beauty is what Savills does … ooo its good

Screenshot 2016-01-29 08.32.19

Screenshot 2016-01-29 08.32.48

(the Pdf can be downloaded by clicking on this http://pdf.euro.savills.co.uk/uk/residential—other/market-in-minutes-prime-london-residential-markets-january-2016.pdf   ..

.. but what if you have not got £50,000, let alone £200,000 or even £2,000,000 to spend on a  Research department?

Well, these agents aren’t spending that sort of money and they have a Outsourced Research Department  producing a monthly newsletter like this …

Screenshot 2016-01-29 08.42.17

Screenshot 2016-01-29 08.42.02

These agents who produce these newsletters, are outsourcing their research to a freelance research department who charge them £300 + VAT a month to produce a report like this –  making this your new tool to get listings and free valuations ..  dropping these they won’t go in the bin but kept on the coffee table to be read, people will look forward to receiving them, you can also send an electronic copy to your database of  landlords and home sellers.

Sometimes, they even picked up by newspaper editors, used on TV, newsletters that all the local solicitors and accountants eagerly forward to their clients and for general awareness of the local property market.

Look at these agents .. editors love putting their articles in the newspaper .. (so the articles in the newspapers below have been cut and paste from previous months newsletters) …

Screenshot 2016-01-22 17.25.10

Screenshot 2016-01-20 10.34.56

… and does it work?  Why don’t you pick up the phone to them and ask them yourself?

Or watch these videos?

  • 91 sec video – 5 agents tell you how they have grown their lettings agency https://youtu.be/Wyz1QYOTn4o
  • 6 min video of an estate agent which has increased his sales pipeline by 113% in a under a year (and he was an established agent, No.3 in the town – so was starting from a pretty decent place before he started) https://youtu.be/WoN9Qgg0ZP4
  • 2min 30 sec video  – 6 agents tell you what has happened to them   https://youtu.be/TyYmOmOy4g4

Drop the Dead Donkey

You could easily drop one of your portals, you could drop newspaper advertising (because you know a grid of properties doesn’t get you one piece of business – it’s just there to keep the vendors of your overvalued stock happy), you could easily drop the mass leaflet drops that don’t work, the bloated portal package you are on with Valuation Alerts (that costs hundreds a month but FV’s are quite frankly of poor quality) or Local Home Pages which nobody ever visits ..

.. this is something that costs hundreds a month .. not thousands.

It will make you the Property Guru of your town .. the Waitrose agent, the M’n’S agent .. it will make you look like you know what you are talking about. .. you will be finesse and class personified. 

.. if that is of course what you want?   ..Two choices ..carry on as you are or change? Because I know what type of agent I would want to be?  .. but what about you? .. the Waitrose/ Audi type of agent, able to charge decent fees with decent people happy to pay them … or cheap as chips ‘bargain basement’ Farmfoods agents?

.. the choice is yours? You decide. (any if you are Neg or Valuer – your Boss might not have time to read articles like this – send him or her the link – mucho kudos points for you)

Thank you for reading


Christopher Watkin Freelance Property Market Research and Ghostwriter  of these reports for over 70 agents around the UK  – talk to me if you like these reports 

Linkedin Profile – https://uk.linkedin.com/in/christopherwatkin






Christopher Watkin

I teach, guide, support, mentor, consult, counsel, partner many hundreds of UK Estate and Letting Agents in their quest to grow their estate and lettings agencies business. Old school techniques of touting, landlords wanted leaflets, ring us for a free valuation, we have sold this in your street leaflets don't work anymore. There are too many competitor agents .. meaning cheap fees are epidemic, overvaluing is almost a norm to get the stock and don’t even mention about the online/hybrid threat. So a few years ago, I set about looking around the UK and spotted that certain agents (not many mind you) in certain towns were still seen as the ‘go to person on property’, the person the newspaper editor rang up every week for a comment and I looked at what they did and they were doing some thing quite remarkable…. Only one thing but they were doing it so well .. and reaping the reward in terms of decent listings and decent fees, happy staff, decent sales pipeline and exchange income, managed lettings portfolios in the many hundreds .. but more importantly, they really enjoyed the job… they enjoyed getting up in the morning and people looked up to them Over 400 agents around the UK are on a mission to change the way our Estate and Lettings agency profession is perceived and looked upon, doing it town by town, city by city. I guide these 400 agents, teach them, mentor them and support them to be seen in a different light, to be seen as the ‘go to person for property’, actually be the ‘local property expert’ and prove it. Christopher Watkin 07950 147 572 christopher@christopherwatkin.co.uk

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