As part of our 15 year celebrations we asked the company director and founder Rob Hill some questions about GLP and the changes over the years.
Why did you become an estate agent?
Honestly I doubt very many young people out of Uni dream about becoming an estate agent! The truth is I, like many, simply fell into it. After completing my MBA I had designs on moving into the investment banking sector however this clashed with September 11th and meant that jobs in that sector were scarce, even more so for people with limited experience. I ended up taking a job at a local estate agent to try and pay back the credit card bills and loans built up from my studies.
I enjoyed the work but not the company so after a few months I decided to leave and set up on my own. The initial idea was to do so on a short term basis and perhaps go travelling but I really enjoyed it and before you know it fifteen years passed!
Being from London myself, Soho always had a draw to it and I loved the vibrancy and diversity of the area however that was not the main reason! It was simple geography. Having worked in the sector for a relatively short amount of time and with a tiny client base with property spread all over London I needed to be as central as possible so that I could get to viewings and back to the office as quickly as possible. Back then most of the properties I dealt with were Zone 3 and outwards so Soho provided a perfect hub to get in and out of town quickly.
How have things changed over the years?
Well property is far more expensive now than it was back then! And ultimately Greater London Properties was just a company of me! This meant I carried out all valuations, viewings, referencing, marketing and accounts, they were very long days! Over the years the team has grown considerably so we have been able to drive the company forward and improve our standing in London property circles.
Agency wise new technologies have had a big influence of working practises. In 2003, most agents marketing budget went on newspaper advertisements and publications like LOOT. Portal wise findaproperty.co.uk was the main one but even then not all agents were using it. Rightmove was big nationally but not so much in London and as such was offering free trials (how all us agents miss those now!). This meant that you had to be very active on the phone and could not rely on databases to notify applicants of new properties or for leads to come in from portals in the way they do today. Having had this grounding personally I make sure everyone who works here while embracing the new technologies, do not become over reliant on them and make sure they speak in person or on the phone to all our clients as regularly as possible.
Future ambitions for the company
We currently have two branches and I would like to open a number more to enhance our visibility and help drive the company even further forward. The market is not great at the moment so now is not the time to take on this challenge but as things improve over the next few years it is something that we will explore further
The Future for the Estate Agent?
We are already seeing more regulations come in which is welcomed by most reputable agencies. The reputation of estate agents is perhaps only better than that of traffic wardens so having a strict enforced code of conduct and recognised qualifications over time will help with that and hopefully reduce the amount of unscrupulous operators. My only concern with all the recent changes that have come into effect is the lack of government consultation on the new procedures and the implication for the market.
The online model will improve their market share due to all the resources they have however there are already a number of horror stories coming out about bad experiences so I am certain there will remain demand for professionally run shop front companies with in-depth local knowledge and a good level of customer service. We will see more technology and virtual reality viewings but this should and for most will only be used as a tool, we’re a big believer in people physically viewing properties before they make their final decision.
Do you regret not getting into banking?
Not for one second. I am lucky enough to enjoy not just my career but also the people that I work with. The job is very varied and we all get to interact with a diverse range of people on a daily basis who make every day enjoyable and all while going in and out of some of the best properties in London. In most cases the lines between clients, staff and friends have become increasingly blurred and meetings we have are both enjoyable and rewarding. I do not know of another industry that is so social and enjoyable.