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The 2013 Judges’ Report


Contents SPONSORED BY

Message from the Chairman of the Judging Panel

1

Best Lettings Agency 2013 Overall Winner

2

Best Northern Ireland Lettings Agency

3

Best Scotland Lettings Agency

4

Best Wales Lettings Agency

5

Best UK Large Letting Agency

8

Best UK Medium, Small and Single Office Agency

10

Best London Lettings Agency

12

Best East of England Lettings Agency

14

Best Midlands Lettings Agency

16

Best Northern Lettings Agency

18

Best South East Lettings Agency

20

Best South West Lettings Agency

22

Best Property Management Agency

24

Best Prestige Lettings Agency

32

Best Customer Service

34

Best Lettings Agency Franchise

36

Best Innovation

38

Best Marketing

40

Outstanding Contribution to the Lettings Industry

42

Best Block Management

44

Best Newcomer

46

Best Student Lettings Agency

48

Lettings Supplier of the Year

50

Best Website

52

Best Training & Development

54

Best Lettings Negotiator and Best Lettings Manager

56

Best Property Manager

58


Message from the Chairman of the Judging panel Once again the judging panel was made up of individuals with in-depth experience and knowledge of the different aspects of the lettings industry. I thank them all for the comprehensive, robust and challenging discussions. I also congratulate all the winners.

It was pleasing to see an increasing number of firms entering the awards this year but I still question why there are not more agents willing to expose their standards of operation to external scrutiny. Perhaps it means that they are less comfortable in opening themselves to examination or perhaps they are not as committed to customer service as those who submitted detailed documentation for the judges consideration. All the agents who entered this year impressed the judges but inevitably there will be those who, on this occasion, did not achieve an award. As Chairman of the judges I play no part in deciding which agents win but I recognise that the judging panel did not always find it easy to separate out award winners from the rest of the field. In that context, one thing became obvious to me during the intense day of the panel’s deliberations, that although technology and organisation all assist in improving an agent’s approach to business, at the end of the day lettings is a people business and for a firm to prove itself better than the rest, a focus on customer service and precise, transparent and supportive treatment of tenants and landlords is what marks out a good agent. Christopher J Hamer The Property Ombudsman

1


LL WINN ERA ER V O

lettings agency

Best Lettings Agency 2013 OVERALL WINNER Sewell & Gardner

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It was hard to ignore a letting agent that had scooped three of the most highly prized awards during the judging process. With top marks in the Best Lettings Negotiator, Best Property Manager and Best Property Management (0-200) categories, Sewell & Gardner looked on paper to be sound winners of the Best Lettings Agency Overall award. The overall winner needed to be a well rounded agency, with well-trained and qualified staff; a sparkling financial performance; a strong brand utilised in marketing campaigns; consistency across its operations; a keen eye for detail; an awareness of current and new legislation; fresh customer incentives; and a like-ability factor. That is a lot of areas for an agent to cover but Sewell & Gardner has realised that each and every one of those facets is essential to the success of its business. Sewell & Gardner has successfully brought personality to lettings without losing an inch of its professionalism. A browse of the website reveals a compelling online presence incorporating several social media channels, video content, well populated blogs and a 'why choose us?' brochure that is one of the most convincing reads the judges had ever come across. Devoted both to its tenants and landlords, Sewell & Gardner knows that there is more to lettings than 24-hour emergency lines, rent collection and inventories. While it executes the core of its lettings business with consummate ease, it is always thinking of ways to add value. The 'magical mystery' investment tour, which takes landlords contemplating expanding their property portfolio on a tour of potential properties for sale, is a great example of thinking outside the box. It is an idea full of fun that has a serious business undercurrent. And the reward card for clients, suggested and implemented by a member of its own staff, would win plaudits at the biggest of London marketing agencies. The card, granting clients local business discounts, has given Sewell & Gardner a valid reason to build relationships with local businesses. Sewell & Gardner has also found the right balance between its exemplary work ethic and giving back to the communities in which it works. Fundraising for good causes, supporting local events, and digging deep for locals schools and organisations is an integral part of the Sewell & Gardner set-up.

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However, behind the smiling faces that undertake pancake races and parachute jumps is a crack team of professionals. The Sewell & Gardner lettings teams are fully trained and qualified members of ARLA. The company as a whole is governed by The Property Ombudsmen and it belongs to a client money protection scheme. Sewell & Gardner has also agreed to follow the TPO Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents. The judges could use a million catchphrases to sum up Sewell & Gardner - ticking all the right boxes, at the top of their game, full of blue-sky thinking - but the overriding sentiment was 'simply the best'.


GOLD

Best Northern Ireland Lettings Agency

northern ireland lettings agency

Pinkerton Murray

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Pinkerton Murray's award submission was deceptively simple but packed full of the right information that made the business a hands-down winner. Every single area of lettings has seen growth: profit, income, managed lets, new lets and re-lets, which is an impressive foundation on which to build. The judges found an overriding desire to treat landlords and tenants as equals - for instance, all tenant viewings are accompanied rather then being left to landlords to self-manage. Attention to detail is in evidence throughout the business: direct debits payments so there is notification should a regular payment be cancelled; late payment fees to head off 'it's on its way' scenarios; a strict adherence to a dress code in the office; tight monitoring of workplace conditions, and close monitoring of industry standards and developments. Always looking for ways to improve, the Pinkerton Murray team identified that most flashpoints occur at the end of a tenancy, so strict inventories executed by an external clerk has minimised issues. Timely intervention is also in practice when it comes to staff - being a one-office business the senior management listen and watch the team in action to identify any training needs. Pinkerton Murray is a very positive and proactive company which appears to be set on consistently improving its service and standards.

gold

3


GOLD

scotland lettings agency

Best Scotland Lettings Agency Rettie & Co

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Once again, Rettie & Co claim the top spot in the Best Scotland Lettings Agency category and this year they have again pulled ahead of their rivals, being the only winning entry from North of the border. Rettie & Co is a well-established agent with traditional values. It has roots in every section of the property market, including sales, lettings and development. The judges commented 'it is good at what it is doing, it has great market share and it doesn't make many mistakes'. The judges felt there was clear evidence that Rettie & Co continues to offer an unwavering level of service, which is respected by tenants and landlords alike. An agent that doesn't try to impress with flashy technology and dazzling offers - it quietly goes about its business, cultivating long-standing relationships with its clients and reporting healthy figures.

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GOLD

Best Wales Lettings Agency

wales lettings agency

Peter Alan Some outstanding figures from Peter Alan made the judges sit up and take notice: profit up 30%, income up 36%, managed clients up 37%, re-lets up 47% and new lets up 21%. Saying this agent has had a very good year is something of an understatement. A comprehensive submission followed by an excellent telephone interview quickly revealed just why Peter Alan is performing so well. There is no shortage of unique initiatives setting it apart. Its PayDay rental guarantee scheme provides over and above cover compared to anything else on the market, and an internal scheme called '212 degrees' instils the ethos that customer service is a priority that should always run at 212 degrees - not hot but boiling. Peter Alan is also investing in its offices, as well as business-winning initiatives. The Cardiff office is the trailblazer, ditching window cards in favour of screens and installing an oversized iPad-style touch screen built into a coffee table. This adoption of technology is wowing clients and will be rolled out to its other offices. Peter Alan is not frightened to try something new and this put it in the 'streets ahead' category.

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The Living Room You would be forgiven for popping into a branch of The Living Room Letting Agency and thinking you'd stepped into a boutique interior design shop. The distinct lack of corporate sterility has struck a chord with clients in Wales and Manchester - its inviting decor and supply of sweet treats generates an enticing atmosphere. Rather than just a display of creative posturing, the design-led look is capitalising on the notion that renting is now a credible alternative to home ownership, that lets are a place to live long-term - a place to call home. The contemporary but comfortable look is carried over seamlessly to The Living Room's website and marketing, forming a cohesive offering to clients. Behind the designs is a well-run business working with professional and student tenants. All applicants are chauffeur driven to appointments, and a dedicated maintenance and student liaison manager ensures the work-heavy student let side of the business runs smoothly. For landlords there is a new piece of accountancy software which has quickened payment time. Staff keep on top of new legislation via daily morning meetings and external training, while individuals are given the opportunity to train for ARLA qualifications. The judges felt that The Living Room was giving lettings the same status and importance as the sales market, which shows respect for tenants whose long-term accommodation plan is renting.

gold

silver

Dawsons Dawsons has been making significant inroads in the Wales letting market and with five offices in and around Swansea it has secured a pleasing amount of business. The figures are looking very healthy: profit up 10 %, income up 10%, managed clients up by 150 new properties, re-lets up 10% and new lets up 13%. The judges liked the fact that Dawsons is tailoring its lettings service according to its clients. There is an approach that suits the student and bedsit population, and another more prestige operation designed for long-term settled tenants aged over 30. Reporting to landlords is one of Dawsons' strengths, with in-depth written and illustrated reports plus an annual sales evaluation and market appraisal. On a more day-to-day basis, landlords are notified by text or email if there are any abnormalities with rent payments. Clients benefit from an in-house maintenance team, who have access to a number of 24-hour emergency tradesmen, and tenants receive a welcome pack upon arrival. It is good to see a regional letting agent maintaining its high standards.

bronze

5


GOLD

uk lettings agency

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Chesterton Humberts Chesterton Humberts are no strangers to winning industry awards and perhaps it is because their winning ways have been laid bare that competitors have been closing the gap. However, the business identified that its niche market had been challenged so it has adapted to work in a broader market to prevent over exposure to one key area. Rather than get too swept up with internal affairs and how the directors think the business should be run, it has consulted with clients to help shape the business. In fact, the level of customer awareness is staggeringly acute. If a customer gives negative feedback they are called by a very senior member of staff to talk through issues and to resolve outstanding matters. This dialogue is joined by the results of mystery shopping initiatives, and together the findings are used to train staff and improve how the business is run. It all sounds rather back-to-basics but when

Countrywide

gold

The judges described Countrywide as 'a sleeping giant that has woken up and got itself fit ahead of a stock market flotation.' This sums up a transformation in fortunes that has seen the group once again become a force to be reckoned with. Key to its overhaul has been a management restructure, which has helped the business reclaim lost ground - proving that no-one is too big or too established to shake things up. There has been a seachange towards strong acquisition and growth, which is ambitious considering there are already approximately 1,300 estate agency and lettings offices operating under 46 local high street brands. Training and retaining staff is a high priority so they have invested heavily in a wave of new initiatives rolled out to ensure customer service is king. Countrywide has developed a new learning platform and has run over 10,000 pieces of training

silver

Andrews

bronze

8

There has been something of a SWAT analysis going on at Andrews and this established exercise has been extremely effective. The agent really knows its marketplace and objectives but is also acutely aware of its threats too. The judges note that awards are not purely reserved for those who are flourishing but also for those who look inwards and set off on a path of self improvement such as Andrews. They found social media activity, a loyalty scheme, newsletters plus internal and ARLA training to equip staff. There is also a growing focus on customer service, with a contact team speaking with all landlords once a property is let a reaction to the fact that 80% of landlords don't engage with them after the transaction is complete. The 'I' factor attitude at Andrews is impressive: identify issues, improve performance and implement change.


Best UK Large Lettings Agency you have an agent of this size the personal touch and ability to listen so often gets lost. The judges applaud Chesterton Humberts for its continued commitment to delivering an exemplary service year after year - resting on its laurels doesn't enter the equation.

on it, embracing technology that allows its vast bank of staff to be kept up-to-speed online. There is a new sense of vibrancy at Countrywide with a clear objective of staff training, individual branch performance and future growth.

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GOLD

uk lettings agency

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Edmund Cude Edmund Cude has succeeded at something so many others hope for - to achieve success and then sustain it. At last year's awards Edmund Cude was crowned the Best Property Management Agency and won Bronze in the Best Training & Development category. In the 12 months since those accolades the agency has improved immensely because it wants to deliver an even better service to its clients. This year's coveted gold award in the Best UK Medium category is a happy by-product of its efforts and dedication to lettings. The Edmund Cude approach to business and progression was described by the judges as 'mind blowing'. Every facet of its operation is considered, well-delivered and meticulously monitored. Through its keen eye it has brought a number of services in-house, employing an inventory clerk, a gas

Sewell & Gardner gold

The judges were unanimous in their verdict that Sewell & Gardner be crowned the gold award-winner in the Best Small Lettings Agency of the Year. There was a level of excellence and attention to detail running through every element of its business, from the award submission itself and the subsequent telephone interview through to its marketing materials and website. Its internal ethos to treat landlords and tenants as VIPs is spot on but there is also equal emphasis on looking after its staff, with a pervading 'extended family' at mosphere that leads to productivity and pride in employment.

gold

Paramount Properties

gold

10

This agency is absolutely red hot on customer service, keeps up with technology and constantly strives to move forwards with a bigger operational mentality. Paramount Properties never shy away from internal examination, always looking for ways to improve the business. The judges noted that Paramount was quick to embrace external professionals who may be able to bring a fresh approach to the organisation, realising that some objective lateral thinking can lead to immense improvements.


Best UK Medium Lettings Agency safety engineer and a property maintenance team. This agent is one of only a handful where 100% of the property management team is ARLA qualified - a statistic that shows Edmund Cude means business.

Best UK Small Lettings Agency

Best UK Single Office Lettings Agency

11


GOLD

london lettings agency

Edmund Cude medium agency Edmund Cude has been on an upward trajectory for seven years and it is still rising. Rather than lose sight and implode internally, the business has handled its success really well and harnessed what has worked to propel itself further forward in 2013. Edmund Cude is a lettings-only operation and its sole focus shines through. To illustrate this, users of the website are immediately prompted to identify themselves as either a landlord or tenant in order to 'optimise' their journey through the website. Having been established in 1818 the judges were glad to see Edmund Cude moving with the technological times. The panel noted the immense pride attached to the bespoke software system developed inhouse. On further questing the agent had been approached to licence the product for use by other agents but the response of 'it's far too good to give it to anyone else' spoke volumes. A My Portfolio online login for landlords, a culture of making clients feel they're part of an exclusive Edmund Cude property club, and a clear property marketing campaign that uses professional photography are just a few of the markers that distinguish this agent.

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Marsh & Parsons medium agency

gold

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The judges couldn't fault the quality of the submission from Marsh & Parsons, with every word meticulously planned so no column inch was wasted. This measured approach is reflective of the agent as a whole. Everything is well considered and thought through, and the company is no stranger to award success. The Marsh & Parsons staff have a blend of lettings experience and industry-specific training allowing them to deal with the fast paced and often complex London lettings market, and Property Managers are typically ARLA qualified. Operating in the capital city is not for the faint hearted but the Marsh & Parsons teams are tough and well directed to deal with demanding tenants and landlords from across the globe. Weekly team meetings take place with up to 40 members of staff to ensure nothing slips through the net, and solid relationships with reliable tradesmen have been forged. Marsh & Parsons is keen to improve the image of the industry and stresses that its local knowledge sets it apart from other agents. The judges agreed the Marsh & Parsons website was a great example, with blogs, a full suite of social media channels (including YouTube), a well-populated and relevant news feed, and a currency converter against every property.

Benham & Reeves medium agency – shortlisted 12

James Pendleton medium agency – shortlisted


Best London Lettings Agency Northfields

Paramount Properties

small agency

single office

Northfields supplied the judges with some award-winning figures: there has been a 22% uplift in profits; the average length of a customer relationship with Northfields is ten years; 98.3% of its clients would recommend the agency; and fees over a 12-month tenancy agreement have increased by £498. In order to achieve these impressive figures, at Northfields there is no shortage of business ideas that keeps the company fresh and dynamic. There is an eyecatching website with easy-to-use searches, a news section brimming with genuinely helpful articles and fantastic links to social media. There is also an online facility to donate to Northfield's nominated charity. Realising that landlords are short on time or may be residing oversees, the agent has brought in Docusign, paving the way for fast, secure signatures from any internet-enabled device. Technology is also helping when it comes to property inspections, with video footage creating an accurate record of property conditions and additionally the use of iPads in day-to-day operations. Staff are drilled to deliver excellent customer service, with 99.3% of clients willing to recommend Northfields to family and friends. Staff are expected to return calls within 15 minutes (the response was ten minutes when mystery shopped) and they perform daily rent reconciliations to keep on top of payments. The judges felt that Northfields had made good progression to clinch this year's gold award.

Paramount Properties believe everyone should be treated as equal - whether they are a landlord or a tenant, using a fully managed or let-only service. To that effect its maintenance company runs a 24hour operation guaranteeing any client on any service package a response day or night. Tenants are looked after by a highly skilled team who go out of their way to make them feel safe and secure, while the Paramount motto is to 'make landlords aware that they have our full attention at all times'. Not a business to shy away from improvement, Paramount instructed business coach Shirlaws, resulting in a complete internal restructure. Such was its success they now retain a Shirlaws business coach, and employ a life coach and two compliance officers, and despite this heavy expenditure, profits are up by a healthy percentage. Staff perks include monthly massages, two social 'thank you' events and funding for ARLA exams. It is clear that staff welfare and development is taken seriously. The high standard is upheld away from the office too. The website is well optimised and includes delightful features such as 'The best places for afternoon tea in North London' and 'How to make moving house stress free and enjoyable', giving Paramount’s online presence a human and localised element.

W A Ellis Orchards of London small agency Orchards of London is a relatively new company, founded in 2009, but it has come on leaps and bounds in a short space of time. Now with two offices and a third planned for 2013, the agency is growing at a rapid rate whilst maintaining its business integrity. As an illustration just 12 months ago the offices were running from Excel spreadsheets. A year on they have a bespoke Microsoft Dynamics package helping them surge ahead and become an accountable operation. The judges were impressed that all of Orchards’ growth has come from internal funds, with no reliance on bank lending. The overall proposition from this agent is honest and hardworking - it has the confidence to say 'we're worth it' when it comes to fees, with no gimmicky offers that might cheapen the business. Staff training is planned to meet individual needs and detailed appraisals help focus the workforce there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach. It is great to see a small company flying in a crowded marketplace, which speaks volumes about Orchards of London as an agent.

Ellisons small agency – shortlisted

single office It appears that loyalty works two ways at W A Ellis, with some agent-landlord relationships lasting more than 20 years, and the lettings team go to great lengths to stay in touch with clients. Operating in prime London territory, W A Ellis has successfully carved itself a niche as a high-end letting agent. New and existing landlords, and tenants, know they are dealing with a highly professional and experienced organisation. The agent has a deserved reputation for excellence and its wide reaching marketing campaigns have substantially developed its profile as one of London's leading letting agencies in the prime residential sector. In the last year it has gone to extra lengths to develop its offering and has significantly grown its business. The introduction of Moneypenny, a better company structure, and a refreshed management team have paved the way for smoother transactions and better client satisfaction. The judges were impressed that 13 of W A Ellis's staff are ARLA licensed and with a legal director onboard, clients can rest easy knowing that every law and benchmark is being met.

Gibbs Property single office – shortlisted

Base Property single office – shortlisted

13


GOLD

Bes

east of england lettings agency

Intercounty medium agency The brilliant thing about Intercounty is that it has maintained its identity, despite its LSL buy-out. As a business it gets to pick and choose the LSL facets it feels can be of benefit, and this level of autonomy offered by its parent company is an indicator of how well it is performing in its own right. Each team member receives six full days of training every year and there is an overwhelming feeling that the staff live and breathe the business. When you combine these factors you get an exemplary level of customer service. It was hugely refreshing to hear of an agency which, whilst understanding that financials are vital, has realised that underlying customer service is what separates one business from another. An in-depth key performance analysis pertaining just to customer service has led to improvements such as the 'open door policy' for tenants and landlords, with no appointment needed; a sign that Intercounty has nothing to hide and is always open for customerfacing business. The judges were impressed by an amazing telephone system put in place to ensure that no call or lead is missed - a huge screen shows all the incoming calls and how they are being responded to. The panel also noted Intercounty's 'a client is for life' mentality, shifting the business emphasis towards longterm relationships instead of short-term wins.

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gold

silver

gold

silver

Balgores single office

gold

14

silver

Balgores has excelled at maintaining its traditional roots while embracing new technology - a potent mix which gives them a trustworthy yet modern appearance. The judges were taken aback by the bold statement of 'nothing works for long', which alludes to the agency's quest to be innovative and constantly challenging the status quo. Along with investment in a new website and mobile app, one of the biggest initiatives over the last year has been the Aspasia 24/7 landlord login. This has made a huge difference in terms of staff efficiency, negating the need to hire extra staff to deal with administrative requests. Another highlight for the agency has been its '14 day challenge', where if Balgores didn’t let a property in two weeks then they didn't charge a fee: instructions increased by 20% in the couple of months surrounding the campaign. Balgores is also keen on giving three months free management to landlords who want to try its service. The interviewing judge commented "I wanted to do business with him after ten minutes of the conversation" - high praise indeed.


st East of England Lettings Agency Sewell & Gardner

CXG Property Services

small agency

single office

This agency didn't have to 'sell ' the business to the judges - the quality of the submission, the staff and the supporting marketing materials spoke for themselves. The level of enthusiasm was impressive but completely natural, and if this is the proposition put in front of clients it is easy to see why Sewell & Gardner lets over 800 properties. The company may be in the 'small' category but it is big on original ideas, well executed. Of particular note was the 'magical mystery' investment tour, which takes landlords, thinking of expanding their property portfolio, on a tour of potential properties for sale - a quirky idea that translates well into an effective marketing campaign. Personality is injected into Sewell & Gardner's offering with the use of a Facebook page, a blog and a bank of videos that are ready to watch on its website. This 'outside the box' interaction breaks the stuffy cloud that can sometimes hang over lettings and property management. One of the brightest ideas at the agency is a reward card for clients, which allows them to get discounts at a wide range of local businesses. The initiative isn't just a throw-away token gesture - it has been given real gravitas with its own microsite, smart marketing and an investment of time to get local retailers on board. It is a canny move given that the exercise allows the agent to open up favourable relationships with local businesses. This gold award was an easy decision for the judges.

With a co-owner/chairman who has his own flourishing property portfolio it is no wonder that landlords in Haverhill, Suffolk, make CXG Property Services their first port of call. The company has the insight and understanding of what makes a property investment work. Day-to-day lettings are handled by Lettings Manager, Tom Archer, who is an ARLA member holding the Technical Award in Residential Letting and Property Management. Tom also offers extensive knowledge in client accounting and is a qualified Professional Inventory Provider. The management team are supported by other consummately professional team members and an active channel of promotion across four social media platforms. CXG Property Services understand the lettings imperatives: minimise void periods, maximise yields, collect payments promptly and allow easy access to files. Welcome touches like online tax returns, colour inventories, an 'armchair' service for investors where CXG will find suitable properties and carry out any improvements, and an online landlords' area that is accessible 24/7 from anywhere in the world, are reassuring for both landlords and tenants who want a no-fuss approach to letting.

Mather Marshall single office There is something reassuringly comforting about the lettings services offered by Mather Marshall. There are no gimmicks, no flashy graphics and no unbelievable offers that are too good to be true. Instead there is a grounded offering that has earned the company fully managed rights of approximately 400 properties. Weekly meetings are designed to inform the Mather Marshall staff of industry developments and legislative changes, while ARLA courses are part of the external package of training. The company's tenant incentive, which offers ÂŁ150 cash back if they recommend Mather Marshall to their landlord, has been one of the most successful activities in boosting the number of new landlords.

Pennington single office

Putterills small agency – shortlisted

The Pennington lettings offering is straightforward and honest, which appeals to landlords and tenants who want a stress-free let, but in this single-branch operation we also found bags of passion and ambition. The staff offer out-of-hours viewings and operate on Bank Holidays, realising that tenants are not always available Monday to Friday during office hours. Extended opening hours are something that might be de rigueur for large agencies in big towns but it is a level of flexibility sadly lacking in more provincial areas so the judges were pleased to see a small one-office agency putting itself out. A brand new website clearly sets out what is on offer for both landlords and tenants, while investment in new management software as well as iPads ensures that tenancies are managed accountably. Pennington provides both a fully managed service and a rent-only offering, with repeat business becoming a cornerstone of the company. The judges felt that an internal programme of close monitoring and early intervention helps keep Pennington in pole position with its clients.

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GOLD

midlands lettings agency

Jayman small agency A superb written submission combined with a flawless telephone interview left a lasting impression with the judging panel. Jayman is run as a very tight ship with inspired leadership and well prepared staff. Underpinning the business is an unshakable dedication to customer service. Jayman understands that landlords appreciate the human touch, so while technology is deployed to help business efficiencies, the preferred route of contact is always by telephone first. This is taken to a extreme as the Director aims to speak to every new client personally as a way of introduction. Then there are the monthly spot checks, where a number of landlords are picked at random and called to ensure they are happy with the Jayman service. As well as this exceptional level of client communication, Jayman has set about attracting more instructions by upping the anti on presentation. Lettings particulars are made more eye catching with multiple photographs and floor plans, and there is a strong indication that virtual tours are just around the corner. Combine the above with a three-point resolution system of 'call, meet and resolve', which puts face-to-face meetings above forceful letters; staff who come through a three-month induction and exam path before they are exposed to clients; and a dedicated new business manager; and it is clear why both income and profits are up.

SPONSORED BY

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Howland Jones single office – shortlisted

16


Best Midlands Lettings Agency Eastside Properties single office The Eastside submission was precise, indexed and easy to navigate, which left a great first impression with the judges. The agent has a good focus on presenting a totally bespoke service and therefore clients can choose from a let only, a part managed or a fully managed menu of services. Technology plays its part in making Eastside a very rounded agency, with software allowing landlords to log in online and view their full file; online payment for tenants; a competent use of social media; and online newsletters to inform existing clients and also to attract new ones. Although the uptake of technology has been prevalent in this year's judging process, it appears the return on investment is rarely measured. Eastside is actively monitoring the click-though rates from its e-newsletter and is measuring the amount of new business this canvassing material brings in. The training programme at the agency is robust, aligning with The Tenancy Deposit Scheme and The Property Ombudsman, but it is the little touches that set Eastside apart - a free home move box of goodies; a lifestyle membership card for tenants giving them discounts with local shops and businesses, and regular networking events.

Acquire Properties

Cavendish Lettings

small agency

single office

This family-run company has achieved a huge amount in the relatively short time it has been open. Since its inception in 2007, Acquire Properties has already become a firm favourite among staff, landlords, tenants and the community; a substantial achievement. Acquire’s creativity and hard work pays dividends, with a high percentage of re-lets and healthy growth in new lets. There are financial incentives for landlords who place multiple properties with Acquire (the seventh let is even free), free meals for tenants on their third let, and a pleasing amount of sponsorship support for local good causes. The Acquire attitude is to deal with disputes quickly and avoid prolonged negotiations - it is an ethos that works as the company has had only two disputes since 2009. The judges commented that this was a very polished submission from a first-time entrant.

The judges found Cavendish Lettings to be a dedicated, forwardthinking and progressive agency prepared to try new strategies and offer enhanced service levels to landlords and tenants. Bundles of enthusiasm and commitment to quality enables them to offer a ÂŁ500 money-back guarantee for dissatisfied clients. Marketing can often be the poor relative when it comes to the lettings industry but interesting initiatives aimed at attracting a bigger market share are keeping Cavendish's new business pipeline flowing and their re-lets department busy. Social media is another string to the agency's marketing bow, with Facebook and Twitter accounts , as well as a regularly-populated and fun YouTube channel. Additional touches that sat well with the judges included an in-house maintenance team (driving round in colourfully branded vans); a website with real personality; the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors to all properties as standard; key replacement insurance; mandatory cleaning on shared tenancies; and fast-track broadband/satellite TV package installations.

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GOLD

northern lettings agency

Castledene medium agency The judges commented that you would be hard pressed to find anyone else that interviewed better than John Paul, the Managing Director at Castledene. He was enthusiastic about his business and his passion is contagious, motivating his team and enthusing the judges too. Castledene is working in a challenging marketplace across the North East. A lot of its work is with local housing authorities and housing associations - it is not a glamorous circle in which to move but it is where Castledene excels. Despite the fact that most of its tenants are 'no frills', the business is as embellished and rigorous as any glossy letting agent. All staff are fully trained both internally and through NFOPP, gaining the technical diploma in residential lettings, and the agency is also accredited by NALS. Castldene's outstanding strength is its compassion for the community, many of whom have fallen on hard times and receive benefits. John and his team run workshops for local tenants on how to manage their finances. This initiative is motivated purely out of concern but, of course, it is also astute as it helps tenants budget for their rental payments. The business model at Castledene is solid and it is well positioned for when housing associations expand further into residential lettings.

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Linley & Simpson medium agency

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In terms of client base, a polar opposite to Castledene is the silver award winner Linley & Simpson. The figures paint a good financial picture for the agent, with profit up and a perky re-investment programme taking the business to new levels. This year has seen the agent complete its 30,000th let and pass the ÂŁ150million mark in terms of rent collection. The judges described Linley & Simpson as 'totally polished across the lettings board', with a crisp, friendly identity that appeals to the top end of the market in Yorkshire. As you would expect from a market-leading brand, Linley & Simpson has a sound internal structure. As well as motivated and highly trained staff, a centralised accounts office in Leeds provides a steadying presence. A dedicated operations manager also measures internal standards and makes sure the business is complying with lettings regulations. Having been an award winner before, it is always a task to maintain high standards and in the case of Linley & Simpson it re-assessed its key performance indicators to improve performance and raise the bar. Chauffeured viewings, flexible hours and a 'My Linley & Simpson' online account facility tick all the right boxes and show it is still striving for excellence.


Best Northern Lettings Agency Karl Tatler

Let-Leeds

small agency

single office

Real care and attention was given to the Karl Tatler submission, so much so that it received top marks for presentation before the next stages of the judging process. It was apparent when evaluating the entry that the whole team care about the businesses - it is a passion for lettings that filters down from Karl himself who plays a crucial role in driving the business forward: inspiring staff and keeping a watchful eye on new developments within the industry. The judges were impressed with the business set-up which includes: Docusign for efficiency; a really strong training framework with in-house compliance exams; staff who respond promptly and personally to enquiries; and long opening hours seven days a week. It is obviously a winning formula as a second office has opened, contributing to good growth, and a compelling proposition which left the judges in no doubt that Karl Tatler should win the gold award.

The judges felt that Let-Leeds would do well competing against any other letting agent of any size and in any area, such was the calibre of the offering. The company is a brilliant example of a young entrepreneurial business start up, using technology where appropriate but not losing sight of the human touch. Since its silver award in the same category last year Let-Leeds has taken huge strides forward. It has made a heavy investment in area guides and has gone 100% paperless - with the award submission the only thing the agent has completed on paper this year. It was clear that Let-Leeds is still in touch with its roots, working with the Leeds student population as well as professional tenants. The LetLeeds website is clear and easy to use, divided up into professional, student and room areas, while a Facebook presence no doubt helps communicate with the more social, media-savvy part of its tenant base. Let-Leeds make great use of Brief Your Market and Echosign, and a 100% happy record with no complaints as of yet with either Unipol, The Deposit Protection Service or The Property Ombudsman.

Homes4U small agency

Sterling Properties

The judges have witnessed real progression from Homes4U, which illustrates a commitment and passion for improvement. The general flavour at Homes4U is informal yet direct, enhanced by its in-house coffee shops with free high-speed internet access. And these spaces are not just drinks cabinets but fully operating coffee shops serving hot drinks, cakes, soups, sandwiches, and student deals designed to pull in the right crowd. The set-up encourages people into its four offices across Manchester, and the agent believes the face-to-face connection helps forge longstanding relationships with landlords and tenants. New business is also drummed up via seminars at local businesses and the judges liked this interaction with the wider community in order to promote lettings growth. Clever marketing initiatives are being employed to conquer new sectors, with a big push in recent months in securing more student business. Homes4U has found the right balance between enthusiastic staff and a friendly business environment, and adherence to industry legislation and accountability.

single office The notion that you've got to speculate to accumulate hasn't been lost at Sterling Properties and an ambitious 'six months free' management offer for landlords, while initially expensive, has seen spectacular results, with over 90% of landlords staying with them post offer. It was a massive investment and risk that has seen Sterling storm the market. The Sterling office is truly 'super', with a staff of 45 managing over 2,000 properties. The staffing is a job in itself but there's an extensive internal training programme and external training where appropriate - for instance guidance on the introduction of universal credit. The judges were impressed with Sterling's tenant reward scheme offering benefits based around a client’s requirements, such as renewable long-term tenancies with no administration fees. In-house referencing for quality control, use of a Microsoft Dynamics CRM system to stay in touch with clients, flexible payment dates and methods, and a strict no upfront fee policy, were other factors which set Sterling apart.

Heaton Property single office – shortlisted 19


GOLD

south east lettings agency

Romans medium agency If there was ever an agent drilled for success, it is Romans. Romans has a grand plan and sticks to it, with growth and customer service at the top of its list. Whilst on the surface their offering is smooth and professional, underneath they are busy pushing boundaries and implementing changes to make operations even slicker than they are already. Romans has invested in a new system that can pay in excess of 5,000 rents every 24 hours, and its credit control system includes text message prompts. However, the biggest change at Romans is the new online account facility for landlords giving them 24/7 online access to all their essential documents. There has been a stealthy marketing campaign to publicise this new feature and an online video taking the user through the account functions. For all Romans' dedication to technology, it hasn't forgotten the importance of human interaction. Each property manager is expected to call tenants within 48 hours of moving in and not to make this contact by email. There was also a fantastic response to the mystery shop, with a telephone call in addition to an automated email and a personally-written email - all within a 24 hour period. The judges were unanimous in agreeing that Romans is a dynamic forward-thinking company with a 'can do' attitude.

SPONSORED BY

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Prospect Estate Agency medium office The judges found Prospect Estate Agency's submission interesting and engaging, packed full of information and well presented. It certainly set a positive tone and reflected the crisp, clean offices and company website that gives the agency a youthful feel. This company is brimming with good ideas to keep both tenants and landlords happy. The biggest 'carrot' dangled in front of landlords is six months of rent protection insurance at no cost. Although this is an initial financial loss for Prospect it does not detrimentally affect their figures, with a 19% profit increase in the last year. Landlords with high value properties also benefit from the 'Premium by Prospect' marketing package - reserved exclusively for lets commanding more than ÂŁ2,000 rent per month. Also in operation is a ÂŁ100 voucher incentive for tenants who introduce a landlord to the agency. The judges particularly liked the innovative approach to searches on the Prospect website, with tenants able to filter by 'lifestyle' - e.g. apartment living and terrace living - all presented in an eye-catching and aspirational way. The judges felt that Prospect's use of technology was 'well ahead of the game', with iPads, YouTube clips, Prospect TV, digital tenancy agreements, a cloud-based system and a new app being developed in California.


Best South East Lettings Agency Streets Ahead

Claire Lloyd Properties

small agency

single office

No stranger to awards, Streets Ahead scoops gold again. This business just 'gets' what is going on in the lettings market, realising that the sector is changing on a regular basis. In its own words, Streets Ahead is moving up from 'economy class' and finessing its services and presentation. A growing corporate lets division is helping strengthen its portfolio, working the blue chip companies in both London and Croydon. Just like the lettings industry itself , Streets Ahead knows that its business is also changing and it is not frightened to shape its business for the better, even refreshing the staff line-up if it thinks it will improve customer service. Its honest and open stance is a firm favourite with landlords and tenants, and a marketing campaign directing prospective clients to a review website is an example of how this transparency is carried out practically. Such is the attention to customer service that any bad reviews are met head on, with a member of the Streets Ahead team personally visiting the reviewer to address the issue. Also met with nods of approval from the judges was the Streets Ahead declaration that it is more focused on delivering a tailored, personal service rather than matching tenants with property just for the sake of it. The judges concluded that Streets Ahead is 'one of the best' - the prophetic name strikes again for this multi award-winning agency.

Claire Lloyd Properties has real personality as an organisation. There is very strong leadership at this all-female team, and the vibrant personalities are allowed to shine. It was clear a huge amount of effort goes into the business but also into the community too. When your testimonials declare 'nothing but a totally positive experience' you know that you're on the right business track and the figures agree, with income and profit up year-on-year. It seems the Claire Lloyd team possess a skill for making landlords feel totally at ease, from a welcoming coffee on arrival at the office and a comforting level of communication, to meticulous paperwork that covers legislation and inspections, and a free buy-to-let advisory service that helps landlords choose suitable property to purchase. The judging panel agreed that Claire Lloyd's attitude to money handling was exemplary, with an outsourced chartered accountant undertaking the rent collection to keep the money totally separate and accurately accounted for. Claire Lloyd herself lives and breathes the business, and when a tenant found herself with no hot water, Claire stepped in and offered her own bathroom for use. It is this 'over and above' attitude that has led to a blemish-free ten-year record of no complaints to The Property Ombudsman. Claire Lloyd Property is a company which other agencies should aspire to be like.

Tobin Jones single office

Jones Robinson small agency – shortlisted

Aston Mead medium agency – shortlisted

A very solid business with good ideas professionally executed. As you would expect from a family-run company with over 25 years of trading history, the lettings and management offering is slick and well practised. However, there is a danger among businesses that have been in operation for any length of time for them to become stale but the Tobin Jones brand is looking fresh and they have adopted social media with gusto, featuring on Facebook and Twitter. The judges found the award entry and the telephone interviewer full of confidence. What came across was a devotion to the client and a willingness to engage with the community - the local 'surgery' service is proving to be a hit. Tobin Jones has a 'firm but fair' property inspection programme and is willing to throw its weight behind landlords who need assistance. No doubt the confidence gained from its long history in lettings allows Tobin Jones to exude credibility. It is lovely to see an established firm still looking out for its business health and clients' interests.

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GOLD

south west lettings agency

Ocean medium agency It was obvious to the judges that there was a passion for the business at Ocean and its proposition was in a 'different class'. There is a thriving lettings industry in Bristol and competition among the local agents is strong but it is the agent which responds to its clients' needs in the most innovative ways that comes out on top. In that respect Ocean has got it covered, always keen to move the business on and try new customer-service ideas - a trend that has been sustained in the lettings side of its business for almost 20 years. Ocean makes it clear how it will help a landlord rent his property but, crucially, goes on to deliver what's promised. Outside the core business, Ocean is active across social media, keeps its blog up-todate, makes an app available to clients, and produces an in-house magazine. This agent’s armoury is full of clever ideas which have shifted it into first place, and the video hosted on the agent’s website gives a clear idea of why Ocean keeps winning awards.

SPONSORED BY

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CJ Hole gold

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medium agency When our judge interviewed Chris Hill at CJ Hole he was left in no doubt that Chris cares deeply about his business and his team. What followed was a honest and well-presented award entry produced with the same sense of care. CJ Hole falls under the Xperience family of agencies and it uses the group's resources to excellent effect - to provide the very latest in training for its team and to help keep the lettings offering as consistent as possible. A lot of the award submissions seen by the judges referred to 'going the extra mile' but at CJ Hole that really happens. The agent will even clean rental properties themselves, if required, leaving the judges wondering just how many agents would don rubber gloves to clean a grimy fridge. The judges also liked the CJ Hole practice of staff spending days in different offices, to get a different perspective and to pick up new ideas. The pooled commission strategy was also noted as an interesting concept.


Best South West Lettings Agency Intire

Sarah Kenny

small agency

single office

Intire is a young company driven by a youthful team who really seem to know what they are doing. It is a clever balance of business assurance and dynamism that attracts clients and has subsequently made the business highly profitable. Not a team to rest on their laurels, Intire are working to a steep target for 2013 and are well on track to achieve this. It is a simple notion but Intire has put transparency at the heart of its offering and this is in evidence in everything it does. The judges liked the fact a personal training budget is in place for each team member, as the company believes personal development and competent members of staff lead to a better business. The continuity of Intire's marketing is brilliant - a seamless execution linking the website, the printed marketing collateral and the award submission itself. An all-inclusive transparent fee structure, selfinsured rent guarantee, 100% satisfaction guarantee, no tenancy renewal fee, internal tenant referencing, free transfers for tenants, and a cloud-based networked office structure make Intire a very rounded agency for such a fledgling company. A great business with a very energetic owner, with vision and fresh ideas.

Sarah Kenny’s straightforward and succinct entry got the judging off on the right foot. The organisation has been around since 1990 yet hasn't rested on its laurels; it is always looking for something new. The word 'adaptable' kept cropping up, with the business willing to flex and change to meet the needs of its clients. It is constantly adapting methods of communication and has engaged with social media to open up additional lines of communication. There is even a blog that is updated regularly such a surprise when so many are started then left to stagnate. Staff at Sarah Kenny obviously enjoy working there as turnover is low. The team are well-equipped to do their job, which may play its part in staff longevity, with comprehensive and wide-ranging training from a variety of sources, including ARLA, private training companies, Painsmith blog alerts and the industry trade press. Evidence of tenants actually writing to Sarah Kenny to apologise for their behaviour suggests Sarah Kenny is an agent that is well respected by all its clients.

Sawdye & Harris

Stoberry Lettings

small agency

single office

Working in a rural location brings its own challenges (dealing with horse sales in the same breath as house sales!) but Sawdye & Harris knows its business and its market inside out. The agency is extremely professionally run and the attention to detail is amazing - this combination has led to local-area domination. Sawdye & Harris is passionate about its rural surroundings and has immersed itself in the local communities it serves, with open evenings for prospective landlords, involvement in the local Chamber of Commerce, charity affiliations and a relationship with a local school. There are also good area guides on its website. Well-trained staff run a tight ship and this is reflected in the fact that the dispute procedure is rarely called upon. Perhaps it is the flattering personal touches that keep its clients happy - birthday cards to tenants were such a success that it was rolled out to landlords, and it is not unusual for prospective clients to ask 'will I get a birthday card?' - a simple idea but something Sawdye & Harris believes helps win new business. This agency is a previous award winner who is working hard to maintain standards.

Since its change of hands almost four years ago (from original owner to daughter), the business has built on its solid foundations yet managed to revitalise and shape up for trading in the 21st century. It has achieved the fine balancing act of retaining the brand's history while keeping up with current trends and legislation. The judges noted that Stoberry was brilliant at working with tenants and its words 'we believe that it is essential to look after our tenants, as they in turn will look after the property' should be music to every landlord's ears. There is a loyalty discount if tenants take another property with them and an ethos of working with tenants in advance to avoid any issues. Stoberry's efforts must be working as there is a file of favourable testimonials and not one incidence of a complaint reaching the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. Landlords are taken in hand by the Stoberry team, especially if their portfolio needs attention. The team doesn't shy away from suggesting improvements and will de-instruct a landlord if the property falls short of their high standards. Although this sounds harsh it is for the greater good of the business, which looks set to soar.

Lovett small agency – shortlisted

Accredited Lettings single office – shortlisted

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GOLD

property management agency

Best Property Management Agency 2013 James Pendleton The judges felt that James Pendleton had just edged ahead of the other gold winners in the property management category. The agent has clearly defined the geographical area in which it operates, and has opened offices and employed staff accordingly. This means they are always just a few minutes away from a landlord or tenant, paving the way for a rapid response and personal level of service.

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The judges also admired the James Pendleton 'Angel' department whose service now extends to tenants and requires a full-time member of staff. Tenants are made to feel welcomed and cared for by their 'angel', and the commission kick-back from maintenance contractors recommended to tenants is enough to cover the 'angel' staffing costs. As well as a useful service, the 'angel' set up is breeding loyalty, with a good rate of tenant renewals and a number of tenants using James Pendleton to buy a property in the future.


GOLD

property management agency

SPONSORED BY

Edmund Cude 1001+ properties When an Edmund Cude property inspection document lands on your doormat, you know that no stone has been left unturned. The report, in the shape of a full colour illustrated brochure, makes recommendations and details any improvements that need to be actioned. It is this attention to detail that marks out Edmund Cude as winners in this category. Of particular note to the judges was the agent’s in-house property management system which prioritises and allocates issues to the property management team based on their current workload, with a minimum 14-day resolution target for low priority issues and 48 hours for high priority issues. Another area where Edmund Cude excels is in adding value to properties. Refurbishment programmes are skilfully presented to landlords and on implementation they result

Castledene 1001+ properties

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silver

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Where many lettings agents might eschew recipients of benefits there are some areas of the country where a big proportion of tenants survive on state financial assistance. Castledene works with landlords who are open to any type of tenant so it has a robust and unique approach to ensure tenancies run smoothly, no matter who the inhabitant is. The property management aspect that shone through in this submission was the willingness to prepare for the universal credit benefit change. Castledene is working with Tasca Payment Services on a solution that tackles the fact that some tenants will get the credit paid directly to them. Castledene has pre-empted this issue and it has sole exclusive rights in the North East to set up bank accounts that tenants have no access to. Money is paid first to the agent to cover the rent and to TPS, before the balance is sent to the tenant. Castledene

Reeds Rains 1001+ properties With 1,000 staff managing 6,000 properties, at Reeds Rains it is apparent that staff training is the key to keeping standards high, with the business realising that the standard of property management is a direct reflection of the knowledge and skills of the team. Reeds Rains decided key performance indicators were a good way to improve the business but rather than simply measure income streams it focused on measuring customer service, deposit dispute ratios, re-let retention and penetration. The results have helped shape the business and the training it gives to its staff. Landlords on the fully managed package are assigned their own personal point of contact and there are weekly 'welcome calls' to allow initial queries and requests to be answered. The judges liked the fact that Reeds Rains encourages staff to monitor

Romans 1001+ properties – shortlisted 26


Best Property Management Agency in higher yields and rentability. As well as a superior level of property management, landlords also benefit from a educational seminar programme, which attracts high profile speakers and typically 200 landlords. And if there ever was a blueprint for a tenant screening process, it is the one followed by Edmund Cude. A dedicated paralegal team go into minute detail and prepare a 'forensic file' that advises the negotiator whether to proceed with proposing a tenant to a landlord. We are rationing our use of 'going the extra mile' this year but Edmund Cude really deserve that tag.

believes this will stop landlords going bust and if a tenant isn't willing to work with the scheme it is a good indication they're not a valid tenant. The judges also wanted to highlight Castledene's outstanding not-for-profit work in the local community.

local trends so they can become lettings experts, and team incentives based on standards helps the agency deliver an impeccable service. An excellent rent collection set-up and a low default rate only serves to add credibility to Reed Rains submission.

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GOLD

property management agency

Pinnacle 501-1000 properties

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Pinnacle hangs its hat on treating landlords and tenants as equal customers. It knows that one can't survive without the other. When Pinnacle stated 'we will tell a landlord they are being unreasonable, even if it comes at the expense of losing a managed property' the judges were blown away. This frank approach to property management is what is needed when you're dealing with over 800 properties, and the team of 18 staff are deft at ticking off the relentless list of tasks. As there is a proliferation of managed student lets on Pinnacle's books, maintenance is high on the list of priorities. There is a rigorous approach to third-party contractors and a firm has to be recommended to them to even be considered. Such is the good working relationship with contractors that they sometimes drop in with cakes and donuts! Nothing at Pinnacle is prescriptive everything is tailored to a landlord's (and tenant‘s) individual needs.

FleetMilne Property 501-1000 properties

gold

The FleetMilne Property submission was brilliantly evidenced with examples of customer service and staff improvements solely pertaining to property management. It was felt that clients were often being 'passed from pillar to post' so a member of staff suggested a new account management structure where a single point of contact would get to know one landlord, his properties and his tenants. The change has since transformed the business. Ever the proactive agent, FleetMilne even gives its staff training on how to talk through boiler issues on the telephone with a tenant, sometimes fixing the problem before a contractor is called. Quality of customer service is measured by quarterly surveys to tenants and landlords where the results determine the account manager's bonus and training needs - probably one of the best staff motivators the

silver

Acquire 501-1000 properties

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Acquire is operating in a depressed area in the East Midlands and counts the issue of section 8 and full possession notices as an area of speciality. Acquire realises that difficulties will inevitably arise so it has equipped itself with the very best staff. With more than 30 years’ combined experience in private and social sector housing, and with a proprietor who has two years experience as an anti-social behaviour officer, Acquire is ready to diffuse potentially thorny situations. It may not be glamorous work but Acquire has approached its niche with enthusiasm and with respect for all, whatever their background or situation. One of the biggest aspects of property management for Acquire is managing rent arrears and it has succeeded in bring these arrears down on some properties from £27,000 to £6,500; significant progress. Acquire also arms itself with


Best Property Management Agency Personalised valuation reports are handed over to landlords at face-to-face meetings, and the rapport between the two parties dictates which property manager is assigned to the landlord so the relationships flourishes in the short and long-term. There are a host of extra services offered by Pinnacle - too many to list - but the annual account review showed evidence of proactive property management, which is not always evident in other awards submissions.

judges have seen this year. Multilingual and cultural training for its staff so they understand its diverse client base; flexible property inspections from once a month to once a year; loyal contractors who have been on board for many years; and social and networking events allowing fellow tenants and the property management team to mix; mean that FleetMilne can easily justify its higher management fee, which clients are happy to pay.

multilingual staff (with the website featuring Punjabi and Polska translations), which wins it a lot of business, and it has responded to the number of after-hours valuation requests with extended operating times.

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GOLD

property management agency

James Pendleton 201-500 properties The mantra of the James Pendleton property management team is' take care of each property as if it were our own' - a lovely ethos that sits with the company's friendly, intimate feel. The property management division works out of the company's Clapham Old Town office, which offers a 24-hour emergency telephone service. As a pivotal part of the London communities it serves, it is no surprise that James Pendleton has strong links with local maintenance contractors. Before adding anyone to its preferred supplier list there is a double interview stage and the requirement of more than two customer testimonials. The judges especially liked the training programme at James Pendleton (including NLP), which dovetails nicely with the staff's exceptional local area knowledge. It is a powerful combination and the property management team has become somewhat of an 'oracle' for landlords and property investors. James Pendleton uses its local office network and community presence to carry out frequent property inspections and its due diligence wasn't lost on the judging panel.

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Sewell & Gardner 0-200 properties silver

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Once again Sewell & Gardner take a gold award, with the judges commenting on the many 'wow' moments in the submission. This agent has a knack of really making you feel comfortable and confident with its services in property management, and it reinforces this feeling by speaking to landlords and tenants on a monthly basis. The property management division is headed up by Reagan Bradley - who has secured the title of Best Property Manager at this year’s awards - and is staffed by highly trained and disciplined professionals (all ARLA trained), including Rochelle Latham, who has won the Best Lettings Negotiator award this year. The diversity of property management services on offer is market leading, from rent collection and let-only through to fully managed, check out and void period management. Property inspections are carried out by trained Sewell & Gardner staff on a regular basis and maintenance is managed in-house using a team of preferred contractors. A landlords VIP club, reduced fees for loyalty and regular client discounts keep clients interested and the renewal rate at the agent is high.


Best Property Management Agency W A Ellis

Pinkerton Murray

201-500 properties

201-500 properties

A very comprehensive submission marked W A Ellis out as a property management specialist which knows what it is doing. The set up is impressive - one central office and 50 staff on the same floor covering South West London. There is a feeling that they pull together and work as one big team, - with a low level of staff turnover and a family atmosphere. The property management services that W A Ellis offers ticks all the boxes: sound links with local contractors; detailed inspections for managed properties; in-house and external training for staff; and a handy online PDF guide to property management. The judges would like to comment that this was a close run category with a very marginal difference between the gold and silver awards.

This agent is working in a very competitive market within a small geographic area, which means it has had to work very hard to secure business. Through sheer grit and determination Pinkerton Murray has claimed the title of market leader in its area with an impressive market share - often new business won from other underperforming agents. Pinkerton Murray's number of managed lets is almost at this category's limit of 500, so the judges felt that if their success continues it will be competing in property management's next level up in 2014. They were the first agent in the area to offer weekend opening hours and a property refurbishment service - two benefits almost unheard of in Bangor but now copied by other agents trying to emulate Pinkerton Murray's success. The judges have therefore awarded Bronze to the agent that sets the trends in its area.

Cambridge Property Lettings 0-200 properties

Aston Mead

The judges were delighted to see examples of lateral thinking at Cambridge Property Lettings. As well as a sound property management division - three-monthly periodic property inspections; all staff ARLA trained, 24-hour maintenance call out and monthly financial statements for landlords, for instance Cambridge Property Lettings takes a lot of techniques from other business sectors. The interviewee recounted a trip to Paris where he had been served a cup of coffee. The waitress placed the cup down and turned the handle to face him. This finishing touch really struck a chord with a company boss who already had a keen eye for detail. This level of service, now known as 'The Louvre Coffee Cup Test', is applied to the whole of Cambridge Property Lettings. Taking the idea to the nth degree, the team takes a day out of the office on a regular basis to strip back the business and ask how they can improve and how they can take it forward. The other style of thinking that stood out was the notion that the business was a bank, where it was looking after its landlords’ investments. Rather than just manage a property, it is set on improving its performance, with a clear passion for controlling the asset and maximising its rental value. The judges were also pleased to hear that a lot of Cambridge Property Lettings' business comes via word of mouth.

The judging of Aston Mead got off to an excellent start with the panel deciding that the entry was one of the best they had seen this year. Aston Mead's property management offering covers valuations and rent reviews; rent collection and accounts; tenant negotiation on renewals; empty property management; insurance and tax guidance; and advice on compliance with regulations. At the heart of the business is its team. The Aston Mead Academy - which was set up in 2010 to ensure all staff were trained and forward-thinking - continues to work effectively. Clients seem to appreciate the investment in manpower, with many of the testimonials recognising the expertise of the property management team. In awarding bronze the judges wanted to acknowledge that Aston Mead is delivering a property management service unique to the area it covers, with everyone from accidental landlords with a sole property to institutional property investors with large portfolios using its services.

201-500 properties

Heaton Property 0-200 properties It was clear from the award entry that Heaton Property know that the best result comes from putting the best possible tenant into a property. With this core value at its heart it delivers a wellrespected and popular property management service. Heaton's ProShare+ scheme - an ultra all-inclusive package for house shares including rent, Council Tax, all utility bills, TV license, broadband and even a cleaner - is pleasing landlords as much as tenants. Heaton is rightly proud of its blemish-free disputes record, citing its honest, transparent and proactive attitude as a big factor in avoiding negative situations. The judges particularly liked the paperless approach to office administration; the big emphasis on marketing and PR; and the practice of introducing landlords to one another, especially those who are new to the letting industry.

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GOLD

prestige lettings agency

Best Prestige Lettings Agency W A Ellis

SPONSORED BY

This is a boutique offering led by a team full of market knowledge. It is boutique in that W A Ellis is a single office operation, which is actually its strength rather than a weakness. By being a solo office it has a sound knowledge base of all its clients, handling each one with kid gloves and avoiding the 'passed from pillar to post' scenario. The submission itself was hand-written, which made the entry stand out and it spoke volumes about attention to detail and commitment. The knowledge of its business and the understanding of its marketplace is second to none. The staff are adept at handling some tricky and demanding customers, from Middle Eastern princesses through to some of London's most prestigious land estates. Whether the team are holding meetings in their Brompton Road office or flying off to the Far East to personally meet overseas landlords, the feeling is that you always get a consummate and discreet level of service. This year W A Ellis has come away with awards in the customer service, single London and property management (201-500) categories, and it is the success of these individual facets that pull together to create a truly breathtaking prestige agent.

gold

Chesterton Humberts

silver

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Chesterton Humberts presents a completely tailored lettings offering delivered by a calibre of staff that clients trust. It is very much a prestige agent, not just an agent trying to let expensive properties. This is an important distinction and the judges were looking for a prestige level of service as well as evidence of top-end homes. The submission was a bound book backed-up by some impressive supporting information, which is important if you're entering a category that focuses on the prime end of the property market. The judges agreed that Chesterton Humberts has probably the best example of a tenant's terms of business they had ever seen. They present a different class of offering, with an internal research department working in the background; a slick marketing operation and an air of class that is a magnet for upscale business.


GOLD

customer service lettings agency

Best Customer Service Streets Ahead While you're putting on your pyjamas and slipping under the duvet, a member of the Streets Ahead team might be showing a tenant around a property. The agent really does respond to its clients' needs, so late viewings up to 11 o' clock at night are just part of its customer service package. Customer service comes naturally to Streets Ahead and the 'roll up your sleeves and get stuck in' approach is shared by everyone. Even with one particular non-managed property, the Streets Ahead staff went out four times to try to fix the boiler. Streets Ahead is number one on Allagents.co.uk, with a five-star rating and almost 800 reviews. In fact the client sentiment is so positive that the review site has formed the backbone of its marketing campaigns. However, customer service is nothing without good staff and the agency's partners, Bob Hay and Gary O'Hare, have a talent for employing the right people. Once in place, they're nurtured and trained with care, with almost ÂŁ100,000 designated for training this year.

SPONSORED BY

W A Ellis

gold

W A Ellis isn't content to win business and then take its foot off the gas. A proactive approach sees the team even flying out to the Far East and the Channel Islands to its landlords, as well as ringing all landlords and meeting portfolio landlords on a weekly basis. The W A Ellis commitment to care has led to loyalty from both landlords and team members, with some landlords having used the agent for 30 years and a very low staff turnover. Landlord-to-landlord referrals are high, with clients who have had their fingers burned with non-ARLA registered agents turning to W A Ellis. The judges liked the programme of social events and corporate entertaining for clients, which enables them to build relationships and gauge feedback in a relaxed setting. There is also a ÂŁ10 donation to charity for every completed customer survey.

James Pendleton

silver

silver

bronze

34

The James Pendleton way is to create unique roles for staff to accommodate their strengths and this, in part, is what led to the creation of the 'angel' customer service concept. The agent has a dedicated member of staff whose sole role it is to settle tenants into their new home - from recommending them an excellent plumber to giving them the lowdown on the best restaurants in South West London. Winning a silver award in the innovation category of our sister awards Estate Agency of the Year - in 2012 - the 'angel' idea has successfully been incorporated into lettings as well, with the employment of a second angel sealing its success. With the tenants feeling cared for, James Pendleton's main lettings team can continue looking after its landlords. Post-viewing feedback is sent to landlords within 24 hours; there is a round-the-clock account login facility via the website; and a programme of reduced fees and payment holidays.

Ocean Despite an exceptional level of growth that has seen Ocean go from zero to 1,000 managed properties in just six years, the agent hasn't lost sight of good customer service. In fact its customer satisfaction rate sits at 95%. Ocean's all-round approach to customer care is outstanding but the judges picked up on a brand new initiative to give them award-winning status. A dedicated customer care department was introduced in January 2013 so standards could be maintained and improved. The new department has started to generate business as it helps to cement relationships with existing landlords and tenants, while making a good impression with new business leads. There are in-house quarterly awards for customer service excellence where peers are encouraged to nominate colleagues. Monitoring is by way of electronic questionnaires and positive feedback is shared with the whole Ocean team at the bi-weekly managers' meetings, highlighting the customer service practices that get results.


GOLD

lettings franchise

Best Lettings Agency Franchise Belvoir

SPONSORED BY

gold

Belvoir didn't need a flashy, expensive submission to scoop the coveted gold award for Best Franchise. The content alone was enough to convince the judges that it was a deserved winner but an excellent telephone interview only served to seal the deal. Belvoir's stock market flotation required lots of work and changes to ensure there was no negative impact for franchisees. The company gained real focus, addressed previous issues and pulled together a great proposition that should propel them forward in years to come. Although Belvoir admits that at times it was painful and expensive, it has achieved its AIM status and come out the other side a stronger business. At the heart of Belvoir's offering is a brilliant support network for the franchisees. The business assists franchisees to make acquisitions and also provides an excellent support network via conferences, newsletters and meetings. The ambition at Belvoir is palpable, with plans to become a 200-strong network of offices by 2016. The company wants to offer the best customer service and the best technical support for its franchisees and at the same time realises it needs to balance business growth with business compliance.

Martin & Co

silver

Martin & Co's over-arching knowledge of its business is excellent - a point clearly demonstrated during a telephone interview where every question was answered with consummate ease. It sounds quite obvious but it's amazing how many letting agents have lost sight of what their operation is about. The support offered to franchisees is impressive, with financial and strategic assistance to help individual branches grow. Research is also an area of strength at Martin & Co. Recent internal investigations revealed that landlords often use the same agent they buy from to let their property so the company adapted its whole business model to allow franchisees to take advantage of this. Research is also underpinning the vision for Martin & Co's future, with clever analysis of census data to take the business into areas previously not thought to have a sufficient market.

Goodchilds shortlisted

HomeXperts shortlisted

Xperience shortlisted 36


GOLD

Best Innovation innovation lettings agency

SPONSORED BY

gold

silver

FleetMilne Property The FleetMilne Property entry blew the judges away - it wasn't a recycled idea or something that had been around for years. The judges were looking for unique innovation rather than a series of good ideas and found the most unique example within FleetMilne. The agent redesigned its Birmingham office in 2012 to become a multifunctional space with the community at its heart. By day the office is very much owned by FleetMilne, a well-designed space that is convivial and conducive to coffee meetings. However, all the office furniture rolls away to create one big open space when the FleetMilne day is over. It is a great set-up for seminars, training and functions within the FleetMilne business but it also plays host to tenants' Wii computer games nights and landlord/tenant social evenings. However, FleetMilne has extended its hospitality one step further, allowing community groups to also use the space and it is regularly taken over by third parties up to three times a week. The use of its office space in such a novel way does have business benefits too it has been used by local entrepreneur groups through to big blue chip companies, providing the FleetMilne team with priceless networking opportunities. It is an idea that is bound to be copied.

Carter Jonas Technology is at the heart of the Carter Jonas entry and this innovation prompted the interviewing judge to proclaim that the idea had actually changed his perception of the agent. Carter Jonas' idea is focused on generating more enquiries and business from landlords and tenants. It has monitored the trend for QR codes and decided they're not for the business as they can be clunky and need specific software to read. Instead it is pinning its efforts on quick links - shortened urn addresses - which have made the transition from social media in to mainstream marketing. Every single property now has a unique quick link attached to it which appears in all Carter Jonas' advertising and marketing. The quick links are set-up to work on any device, from desktop PCs through to the latest smartphones and tablets. The quick links have three times the response rate of QR codes, deliver 40% more property viewings and can be constantly measured for success rates. The judges were sure that the use of quick links would soon be adopted by other agents but as far as lettings agents entered into the innovation category, Carter Jonas appear to be the pioneers.

Letfirst bronze While many of us might think of innovation as a new piece of software or a groundbreaking piece of equipment, the judges have recognised an innovative attitude. Letfirst has taken on the challenge of working with tenants on benefits. It has gone to benefits offices and landlords to de-stigmatise the whole area of renting to people who rely on state finance. How has it tempted landlords into the equation? Letfirst guarantee the tenant's monthly rent, taking away any risk from the landlord. There is also encouragement for tenants in the shape of a move-in-free arrangement where no upfront deposit is required. The judges felt that Letfirst genuinely wanted to change attitudes towards tenants receiving benefits and its figures have proved that it can be a profitable line of work. It has successfully communicated the message to landlords that tenants on benefits are no less likely to default on their rent than any other group in society.

38


GOLD

Best Marketing marketing lettings agency

SPONSORED BY

Foxtons Foxtons submitted a clear and concise entry which was well evidenced and easy to navigate. A marketing campaign and brand awareness are not the same thing, and Foxtons was one of the only entrants to 'get' what a proper campaign really is. From start to finish the execution was crisp and professional. There was a clear set of objectives working along the 'www' principle - what do we want to say, who do we want to talk to and where are we going to place our message - allowing creative yet accurate artwork to be produced. The new material, unmistakably Foxtons in colour and deploying the use of illustrations with double entendre text, was posted across a range of media channels, including ambient, print and online. In another handsdown win for Foxtons, the campaign was one of only a handful submitted that was measured properly (before, during and after campaign) so a clear return on investment could be judged. The impact of the artwork in the award submission was stunning enough - with some messages purely aimed at landlords while others appeal to a cross section of home movers - but most importantly, it delivered. The figures speak for themselves; website traffic up 20%, landlord valuation requests up 59% and new tenant applications up 31% after the campaign run.

Hudsons

gold

silver

From the giant of Foxtons to the single office of Hudsons where, despite its small stature, creativity knows no bounds. A strong marketing campaign is essential to Hudsons as its office lies within a conservation area and its office has no real frontage to speak of, making publicity a challenge. So it has thought outside the box and hired a vacant shop front in the West End where it runs a variety of strong marketing campaigns. Each campaign is themed: the Olympic example was visually arresting; but the Christmas advent calendar was the judges' favourite. Hudsons, ever keen to reinforce its links with other respected and independent local businesses in its geographical area, worked with local companies to offer incentives and give-aways. Each day a member of the Hudsons team opened the door corresponding to the date to reveal another local offer. The clever bit? To qualify for the offer and to find out more details the public had to scan a QR code or input a quick-link url on their smartphone. They were then directed to the Hudsons website, where traffic could be precisely monitored. From the advent calendar campaign alone there was 40% more traffic to the Hudsons website. All of Hudson's marketing activity is underpinned by its distinctive red, white and blue illustrations which forgo any property images. Its consistent use strings together printed marketing collateral, a beautiful website and the shop front campaigns.

James Pendleton

bronze

40

What marked James Pendleton out from a crowded list of submissions in this category was its micro-campaign solely targeting landlords and tenants. The 'We let, you relax' narrative is a brilliant stand-alone creative that communicates a message quite simply - personifying the 'less is more' idea. James Pendleton was clear that it wanted landlords and tenants to know that using them for lettings would be a stress-free exercise. The friendly font and use of lifestyle images reflect the young, vibrant mood within James Pendleton, and also serve to set the mindset for tenants and landlords consuming the artwork. More importantly, the micro-campaign featured an exclusive 15% off fees offer, allowing the agent to accurately measure its success. Broadly, applicants were up, market proposals were up and proposals converted to instructions rose 3%. More accurately, 37 potential landlords called James Pendleton as a result of a direct mailer featuring the campaign and of those, 31 converted to instruction. The 'We let, you relax' microcampaign is part of a wider 'We' prefixed over-arching campaign that is totally 'owned' by James Pendleton, giving its marketing consistency and coherence.

Pinnacle shortlisted


GOLD

outstanding contribution lettings agency

Outstanding Contribution to the Lettings Industry Ian Potter

SPONSORED BY

42

FARLA (Hon) FRICS

Ian Potter has been involved with the private rented sector for over 20 years; formerly as an agent before becoming a full time employee of ARLA. Previously he worked for twenty years in the banking sector, and brought his negotiating, management and financial skills and qualifications to the property industry in a career which has seen him move from managing a typically varied portfolio of private and corporate clients to becoming a director of ARLA, then Business and Compliance Manager, Operations Manager, and finally his recent appointment to Managing Director. This wealth of experience puts him in a unique position to drive ARLA forward for the benefit of its members and also lettings clients across the country, and his work involves regular meetings with stakeholders, MPs and other interested parties as well as meeting as many members as he can to hear all sides of the PRS debate. He has been very involved in the recent drive to require letting and managing agents to provide their clients with consumer redress through amendments to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. He is passionate about raising the professionalism of the PRS, with a very firm belief that better consumer experiences will result in the sector growing in a sustainable manner as opposed to growth through extraneous factors.


GOLD

block management agency

SPONSORED BY

Best Block Management Chesterton Humberts The judges felt that Chesterton Humberts was a safe pair of hands in which to entrust a block of flats, and that stems from a sound company structure, attention to training and a willingness to 'muck in' in times of crisis. The agent appreciates that its property managers spend a high proportion of time away from their desks so it employs a desk-bound assistant - who is fully up-to-speed with their manager’s portfolio - so if a client calls when the manager is away there aren't any 'I'm sorry I don't know' moments. There was clear evidence of exemplary money handling, following the RICS code of conduct, complemented by the CML software package for accountability and transparency. Staff are motivated and thoroughly trained, with webinars and external speakers as well as in-house training. Standout features include site visits with an application on an iPad that geo tags the time and place of the inspection (co-developed by a Chesterton Humberts Director); comprehensive PDF guides to block management; on-site surgeries for tenants; an almost paperless communication system, which has helped the agent achieve the ISO 1400 1; and the use of an energy broker to drive down utility bills for tenants.

gold

Premier Estates silver

This block management specialist sets out its stall right from the beginning by sending clients its customer charter. Once there in black and white, Premier Estates starts to deliver a fine service that is propelled forward by its quite astounding staff. Managing Director Ben Jordan's dedication to block management is reflected in his fellowship of IRPM, and ARMA Chairman status. The standards are high within the team - almost all estate managers are qualified members of IRPM and the majority hold the AssocRICS property management qualification. This is more than comforting for both landlords and tenants, who benefit from regular monthly newsletter updates as well site visits at least once a month. It was quite refreshing to hear that, despite a strong website offering, electronic communications and a commitment to developing a tenant’s online portal, Premier Estates still place the greatest emphasis on picking up the telephone and talking to clients.

The Ringley Group shortlisted

44


GOLD

Best Newcomer NEWCOMER lettings agency

SPONSORED BY

gold

46

Leader & Co Newcomer Leader & Co have jumped straight in with technology such as 24-hour online account access for both tenants and landlords, and a system that allows tenants to book a property viewing online. Everything that Leader & Co is doing is what you would expect from an established, experienced agency, so the management has obviously spent time analysing what has been successful for other, bigger agents. There is an emphasis on responding to queries within a quick time frame and dedicated members of staff allocated to specific clients for continuity. There is also evidence of great community work and charitable endeavours, strengthening links with local people. Little touches such as telephone lines open from 9am to 9pm, a three-month probationary period on property management, and individually-created, bespoke letters for clients rather than a 'fill in the blank' system, are ensuring Leader & Co is making the right waves down on the Dorset coast. A great start-up that will continue to experience success if it keeps the momentum going.


GOLD

student lettings agency

Best Student Lettings Agency The Living Room Letting Agency

SPONSORED BY

gold

silver

It is not often that the judges are presented with something completely different but with The Living Room Letting Agency this was definitely the case. This agent has identified its market and has run with a number of creative ideas to attract and maintain business. The Living Room's prominent nightclub-style offices immediately strike a chord with the students in Swansea. But for all its youthful positioning and flyers at student hotspots, The Living Room has also realised that a let with its business is probably the first time a student has had to manage their own accommodation. The agent has built relationships with student advice centres and accommodation officers, as well as implementing a text and email campaign, including advice on how to leave a property safely before a vacant period. Novel ideas such as a 'props' cupboard which can be raided to dress empty properties; pre-booked cleaners; maintenance teams for peak periods; and group viewings with a chauffeur service; give The Living Room an edge over its competitors.

Bill Free Homes Apart from doing what is says on the tin - all bills are included in the letting price Bill Free Homes is running with the technology so favoured by the younger generation. Students are encouraged to use Facebook to report issues and a 24hour reporting system ensures all jobs are sent to the full-time maintenance team via iPads. There is a lease-generating website that kicks in when tenants have filled in the correct information and an online signature system for overseas students. Student perks with a hidden business agenda include 'find-a-room-mate' events, quiz nights, access to a pool car and use of a Bill Free Homes-branded bicycle for a year. However easy it may be to get carried away with its hedonistic tenants, Bill Free Homes hasn't forgotten the needs of its landlords. It produces colour coded maps that illustrate investment hotspots and leases directly from landlords for typically between three and six years (before sub-letting to students) to provide long-term peace of mind. The judges also gave Bill Free Homes credit for employing students during busy periods with some of these temp student staff going on to become permanent employees.

Pinnacle bronze You can forgive students for thinking that Pinnacle is actually a real friend of theirs, such is the business’s determination to ingrain itself in student life in Cardiff. There is a Pinnacle presence at fresher's week and graduation ceremonies, the brand is active on Facebook and Twitter, there is support for student elections, and even the distribution of branded clothing bearing the unmistakable 'I Love Fanny Street' campaign slogan. Elsewhere Pinnacle has responded to the uphill maintenance challenge associated with student lets by deploying a software log where tenants can report an issue, view when contractors are attending or see if a fellow housemate has already registered the issue. There is also weekly pay for maintenance contractors to keep them incentivised. The judges noted that Pinnacle wasn't frightened of driving up the standard of student accommodation, even showing landlords other properties on its books to illustrate the level of let it expects.

48


GOLD

lettings supplier

Lettings Supplier of the Year Duel Services

SPONSORED BY

The judges were very impressed with the submission from Duel Services and these high professional standards extend across the business in general. Duel are leaders in their field, providing a comprehensive range of plumbing, heating, electrical and associated works in their area to a portfolio of prestigious clients. They have recently invested in more engineers, organisational staff, new premises, branding and technology and their resulting service exceeds client expectations. Along with their on-the-road service, they actively go out of their way to educate landlords, offering updates on legal requirements and assessments of their properties; uniformed engineers are solution-focused and able to use iPads to transmit certification information to the office to ensure speedy paperwork submission, and the whole team are encouraged to support the company's many chosen charities. Duel's pricing strategy remains very competitive and due to their vision and growth,client feedback and profits are impressively healthy.

VTUK Ltd

gold

A concise and straightforward submission gave the judges their first insight into the success of this property software solution provider. The company's 'all-in-oneplace' product offering has enabled clients to cut down considerably on administration costs and is tailored to each business, ensuring that the optimum combination of services is implemented and the staff are trained accordingly. VTUK assess every client's business thoroughly before suggesting any solution and regular software updates in response to client requests ensure the products are always as efficient as possible. Finally, VTUK's customer service-led approach and high client retention rate secured this joint silver award from the judges.

Reapit silver

silver

50

Reapit provided a memorable submission including an iPad presentation, and their claims were backed up by their case study client: 'Reapit's culture of constant development and innovation is an essential part of our client acquisition and retention strategy'. Their twin aims are to cut client costs and improve client productivity and with their integrated software and website packages, efficiency savings can be scientifically measured. Reapit are pro-actively in touch with clients, using a variety of methods including road-shows, quarterly reviews and training, and the judges felt that this formula along with their notable industry accreditations and substantial market share make them worthy joint silver winners.


GOLD

Best Website website lettings agency

SPONSORED BY

Foxtons If you were a complete property novice with not one scrap of knowledge about lettings, the first place the judges would direct you to is the Foxtons website. Having viewed numerous online offerings during the judging process, Foxtons was the one all-encompassing product - as informative to the 'accidental' landlord as it is to the portfolio property investor. With 17 million page impressions each month, the website has to deliver. The user journey is made simple with clear navigation, large images, area-focused market insights and innovative ways to search for property (by map, drawing, postcode, tube or school). The 'My Landlord' dashboard is the finest login portal in its field, while the 'landlord resources' are a must-view for anyone starting their journey in lettings or for legislation-rusty old hands. Foxtons has helpfully created a 'view a sample account' area; essential for nervous landlords who are not used to running their investment portfolio online. Tenants haven't been forgotten and they get their own login portal including a fully populated Q&A area and slick search facility where the arresting images draw the user in. As well as operating on a superior client-facing level, the Foxtons website is seamlessly integrated with its CRM programme. The judges also thought it was worth noting that the dynamically-changing set-up of the Foxtons website, which automatically adjusts, depending on the type of device used, is a good blueprint for all property websites.

Your Move gold

silver

With the title of 'most visited agency site in the UK', Your Move can't afford to stand still. The last 12 months has seen the agent re-shape its online offering in line with customer feedback garnered at panel sessions. For instance, the top navigation layout was altered after client research, and an upgrade of the full property details now features a 'carousel' of images. A selection of 'you may also like' properties and the ability to share the details on Facebook and Twitter is also in evidence. Landlords are promised that their property will be online within a day of instruction, which is a great promise considering the size of the Your Move operation. The website is a one-stop shop for landlords, with a yield calculator, an at-a-glance breakdown of services checklist, details of current lettings legislation, and a wealth of other landlord-focused information. And for tenants? The MyMove account facility lets them keep track of their searches, while the guide for tenants, FAQs and glossary form the heart of an informative tenants’ area. Behind the smart design and clear layout is some meaty thought - Your Move has invested money and energy into search engine optimisation, a marketing campaign that drives site traffic and a news section that encompasses breaking news, newsletters, social media and a blog.

Xperience bronze

52

On face value the Xperience websites (which encompass CJ Hole, Ellis & Co, Parkers and Whitegates) are a clutch of well designed and easy-to-use interfaces. However, behind the scenes is some serious programming and building work. For starters, the site is built using html 5, which is designed to create a seamless online product that functions at high capacity on all devices, from PCs down to smartphones. To a large degree Xperience lets its customers shape the online journey, with focus groups and customer surveys reviewed to improve the site. The agent also analyses online customer behaviour, logging how a user interacts with the site and how their online journey could be made better. The judges liked the option of using Facebook and Googlemail to log into the website, while there is interesting content via an online TV channel and YouTube, with many properties being turned into 'videottes'. Xperience knows that the internet plays a huge part in its agents' present and future, and its passion for building business from online enquiries is clear.


GOLD

training & development

Best Training & Development

lettings agency

Edmund Cude

SPONSORED BY

There is staff training then there is Edmund Cude staff training. The directors take the matter so seriously that they employ actors to come in and engage in role play, adding an extra frisson of reality to training scenarios. It was the first time that any of the judges had heard of this approach to keeping its employees at the top of their game. The judges were also taken aback when it was revealed the Edmund Cude staff actually enjoy being mystery shopped. Staff/client telephone calls are recorded every quarter and played back to the team with a professional coach on hand to talk through how the conversation could have been improved. Every single Edmund Cude employee works towards a professional qualification and the teams are kept motivated by a bonus scheme that is more rewarding and rounded than a pure commission structure. The impressive six-month reviews see a number of development objectives set and each member of staff is graded per area. If they reach the pass mark - typically 80-90% - there is a financial bonus. Staff loyalty is earned by offering profit share after three years of service, monthly team events, and even an annual trip overseas for the whole company. A deserved gold award for a company going above and beyond in a category of high standard submissions.

Orchards of London gold

silver

Orchards of London has always taken pride in its development and training, and this year its efforts haven't gone unnoticed. The judges got the feeling the directors were constantly asking "We know it's good but how can we make it even better?" with improvements benefiting its team as much as its clients. Training, which is formally undertaken for three hours every fortnight, to which the business attributes a substantial increase in lettings turnover, while the team's request for flexible working hours was granted, leading to an improved working environment. Orchards' willingness to listen is apparent, with the company managing to reduce staff turnover by 80%. This reduction is, in part, due to the rule of internal promotions only, allowing ample opportunity for employees to move up the career ladder without looking elsewhere. Orchards really believes in its staff and rewards accordingly. An in-house buddy system, anonymous feedback questionnaires to improve staff training and an emphasis on training team members to train other staff strengthens the Orchards’ network from within, and fosters a desire to improve and succeed.

Romans bronze

Romans appreciates that to get the most out of its staff its needs to train them to do more than just answer the telephone. All staff have a week-long induction with on-going training addressing areas of law, best practice, winning instructions, customer service, lettings regulations and more. Whether the training is delivered via group coaching and mentoring, or via technology-driven training programmes, the result is always more confident and informed individuals who are able to deliver a comprehensive service to landlords and tenants. The judges picked up on the notion that the senior management at Romans actively encourage and delight in seeing staff progress their careers within the group, where each employee's individual personality is allowed to shine through. A broad mystery shopper programme is designed to identify areas of weakness and allow Romans to improve on its already impressive track record.

Castledene 54

– shortlisted

Aston Mead

– shortlisted


Best Lettings Negotiator Rochelle Latham at Sewell & Gardner

SPONSORED BY

The winner of the Best Lettings Negotiator award comes from an agency that is breeding winners. Rochelle Latham was nominated in this category by Sewell & Gardner's Lettings Director, Jane Gardner - a personal seal of approval from one of the agency's founders. Even though Rochelle is a part-time worker, she is the organisation's most profitable member of staff - bringing in over ÂŁ20,000 per month in renewal fees. Rochelle was described in the award submission as 'the lettings oracle' and she has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence since she joined the company as a weekend negotiator in 2002. Credit, in part, has to go to Sewell & Gardner for allowing Rochelle a flexible working arrangement so she can juggle raising her young family with continuing her formal training. She passed her ARLA Legal Comprehension exam with flying colours , swiftly followed by her Advanced Legal exams. Now a Fellow of ARLA, the trainee has become a trainer, allowing Rochelle to run the apprenticeship and graduate training courses at Sewell & Gardner. Rochelle's background in marketing has proved to be a big part of her winning formula, as she quickly positioned herself as the area's local industry 'guru' writing newspaper columns and blogs. Now Rochelle is called upon by landlords and tenants for her knowledge, tenacity and compassion - she is often requested by name and has a bulging folder of glowing testimonials. Incentives credited to Rochelle include the Sewell & Gardner VIP Landlord Club and a new property details system. Whether she's dealing with wasp nests at 3am, representing landlords in court, inspecting properties, or drawing up tenancy agreements, Rochelle delivers a consistently exceptional professional service.

Best Lettings Manager Karen Rupprecht at CJ Hole This new award for 2013 is designed to recognise the dedication and hard work of the industry's lettings professionals. Twelve candidates were shortlisted for a round of interviews before the panel voted on a final winner. It was a close call but the overall winner was Karen Rupprecht at letting agent CJ Hole. The judges were looking for a very rounded lettings manager who displays skill not only managing clients but also managing staff. Karen was nominated by her Director Chris Hill, which speaks volumes in a category where entrants could also nominate themselves. On the question of delivering bad news, Karen cited her background in insurance and employment as perfect grounding - equipping her with good grace and the ability to deliver sometimes undesirable information with a smile. Her smile is swiftly followed by a reassurance that she has everything under control and is at all times acting as the 'eyes and ears' of the landlord. It is a genuine response which has earned her respect in the world of lettings. As well as watching the back of her clients, Karen also looks out for her team, displaying a nurturing and supportive side whilst drilling the staff to operate professionally and efficiently. Karen has worked closely with graduate employees, imparting her knowledge and supporting her Assistant Manager during her diploma exam. Not one to neglect her own progression, Karen herself recently achieved the ARLA Technical Award. However, it was Karen's caring side that sealed this award. The judges recognised her notable efforts in the community and for charity, and were taken aback that she spent three hours giving a landlord advice, even though he wasn't one of her clients. Karen shows great professionalism and compassion in all that she does.

56


Best Property Manager Reagan Bradley at Sewell & Gardner

SPONSORED BY

58

Lettings can be a bumpy road with its ups and downs but the outstanding winner in this category is adept at turning a difficult situation into a good one. Reagan Bradley at Sewell & Gardner stood head and shoulders above the other entrants. Ever the proactive worker, Reagan was unhappy with the various thirdparty inventory companies being used at the agency, as poor service was leading to complaints. She decided to take the inventory role in-house and trained with The Association of Property Inventory Providers so she could personally quality control the exercise. Reagan has also brought in key performance indicators, and her innovative thinking is keeping landlords happy - the nub of a Property Manager's role. These factors and her introduction of discounts throughout the year and reduced fees for loyalty has led to something of a cult following, and Reagan even sends landlords birthday cards. As well as steering the management ship in the right direction, Reagan also involves her negotiators so they too can feel 'ownership' and a sense of achievement, with the member of staff who secured the management going along to the property with Reagan for an official handover. Reagan is a breath of fresh air in our industry and the judges are delighted to award her with this prize .


THANK YOU | To the Judges The Estate Agency Events team would like to extend a huge thank you to this year’s judging panel:

Chairman of the Judging Panel: Christopher Hamer, The Property Ombudsman

The Judging Panel: Mark Hayward, Arbiter

Ian Stratford, Home Sale Network

Julie Twist, Julie Twist Properties

David Pollock, Greene & Co

Julie Westby, NAEA

Brian Farrell, Metropix

Simon Whale, Reapit

Lisa Isaacs, Freelance Journalist

Mark Crampton Smith, College & County

Sam Jones, Moneypenny

Sarah Kemp, Ravensworth

Ian Potter, ARLA

Trevor Youens, Aspasia

Russell Manning, Manning Stainton

Jon Hallett, Jon Hallett

Frank Webster, Finders Keepers

Sim Sekhon, Legal 4 Landlords

Jane Ingram, Savills

Stephen Hayter, MyHomeMove

Mal McCallion, Floorplanner UK

We would also like to thank Mark Haywood, Chairman, NFOPP who kindly acted as Arbiter during the judging process.


With thanks to all of our sponsors and supporters:

Organised by: The Chapel, Reigate Road, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8RA 01372 370847 info@estateagencyevents.com www.estateagencyevents.com


2013 laa judges report final