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Daily bite-sized proptech and property news in partnership with Estate Agent Networking.
Connells Group in the money
The enlarged Connells Group, which swallowed up the ailing Countrywide, has just returned an exemplary six-month financial result with pre-tax profits of £80.2 million, up by £63 million against the same period last year.
The bold strategy of the company was to make itself the biggest agent in the UK, at around 9% market share, through the acquisition of Countrywide, which was rudderless and saddled with huge debt.
Given that the group has done all of this mostly in a pandemic landscape and now has 1,300 agencies across the country puts it in a very strong position to ride the most positive market since 2007.
Group CEO David Livesey said: “We have delivered another strong financial performance and increased the scale of the Group and our capabilities significantly with the acquisition of Countrywide … ringing together these two great businesses will enable us to provide a more integrated and enhanced suite of services to customers and clients.”
Having worked both for Countrywide in its glory days in the 1980s and later for the Connells Group, it is clear that a small, experienced management team that has worked together for years, who focus on the core nature of estate agency, can win big.
As long as they do not become distracted by profit and loss analytics, and can execute big changes in a coordinated and professional way, just shows what can be done if the right team is in place. Sadly, the old Countrywide brand lost the plot when they tried to utilise a Purplebricks model, employing non-agents in high positions. What was the boardroom thinking?
The only thing I wonder is if an IPO is on the cards for the Connells Group in the future? If it is, surely those shares would be hot property. Whatever the case might be, this group has a solid strategy.
The Dispute Service releases its annual review
The Dispute Service, established in 2003 to operate tenancy deposit schemes across the UK and provide alternative dispute resolution services, has released its annual review, revealing how the deposit protection provider adapted and performed in a challenging year.
The TDS is an important body as it runs the Tenancy Deposit Scheme which provides both custodial and insurance-backed deposit protection and currently protects £1.47 million worth of deposits.
As a result of the pandemic, the organisation introduced rapid changes to make positive differences to staff and customers alike.
Thanks to the measures put in place, staff company-wide were able to work remotely without disruption, and existing technological solutions were rapidly enhanced. This meant that customers of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) have suffered no downtime in service since the first lockdown in March 2020.
In response to the challenges of the Black Lives Matters protests last year, The Dispute Service also set up a staff-led Diversity Working Group to review its approach to diversity and inclusion. As a result of the Group’s work, the company’s values were amended.
Since then, the organisation continues to be nationally recognised for its efforts in the Best 100 Company awards. It also passed its triennial review of the Customer Service Excellence Award with eight areas of its customer service receiving high praise. This is a UK Government Cabinet Office backed standard and a tribute to the hard work at TDS.
“After the catastrophic fire that destroyed our head office in January 2019, we are certainly no strangers to maintaining business continuity in the face of adversity. As a not-for-profit organisation, we are well placed to move quickly and introduce new solutions and innovations that allow us to keep supporting our employees and customers,” commented Steve Harriott, Chief Executive at the Dispute Service.
Those who work in the private rented sector will find insights in the report on tenancy deposits, disputes, and adjudications. As in previous years, cleaning tops the list of most common reasons for disputes at the end of a tenancy. The report expands on other reasons for disputes and shows how these disputes are resolved.
Harriott added: “We are immensely proud of our colleagues at TDS and also the equally tireless work of our industry partners with whom we have worked closely to support agents, landlords and tenants through a difficult year.”
Boomin gathers momentum, passing 6,800 agency branches
Rightmove, the heavyweight in the property portal space and also the oldest portal trading for two decades, has just announced that it is back on track regarding profitability. Though it would seem that the insurgent portal Boomin is doing just that…booming.
As a Proptech analyst whose job it is to grow proptechs, expanding your user-base is not a simple task, sometimes taking up to nine months. It’s not as simple as “build it and they will come”.
So, to have a strategic mass of estate agents in less than four months, during the pandemic, lockdown, a busy market, agents on furlough, etc., is quite some feat. Especially as face-to-face cold selling of the platform to agents has been significantly impacted.
Founder Michael Bruce says that the company is well on track to gain the market share it wishes to grow to.
Since its launch in early April of this year, it has as Bruce puts it: “…achieved more agents than any other portal has ever achieved in that period. Rightmove took over six years to get to the number of agents we’ve got, and OnTheMarket took over five and a half years, while Zoopla took a number of acquisitions to get there.”
The real test ahead for the site is the adoption by the consumer, to see if the Boomin brand is a hit with the general public. Two decades of solid advertising and brand awareness campaigning by Rightmove means there is a big hill to climb, but Boomin’s USP is that it does property differently. We’re certainly in need of something a little different right now.
Andrew Stanton is the founder of Proptech-PR, a consultancy for Founders of Proptechs looking to grow and exit, using his influence from decades of industry experience. Separately he is a consultant to some of the biggest names in global real estate, advising on sales and acquisitions, market positioning, and operations. He is also the founder of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.