LETTING & ESTATE AGENT

We were right to go into sales, declares lettings chain boss

We were right to go into sales, declares lettings chain boss

The boss of franchise chain Martin & Co said he would have been “very worried” had he stuck with lettings only.

Ian Wilson, the CEO, said the launch into sales in 2012 was paying off.
A total of 97 of its offices were offering a sales service in 2013, with the number expected to be 130 by the end of this year.

Wilson said: “I’d be a very worried letting agent this year if I could see house prices rising and sales volumes picking up.

“Landlords particularly in the midlands and the north where prices fell furthest in the crash might be thinking it’s time to sell if prices get back to 2007 levels.

“We are defending our portfolio and income by offering these landlords an estate agency service, and hopefully their buyer will be another investor.

“But we are also opportunistically taking advantage of a fast-recovering sales market and offering the professional Martin & Co approach to regular sellers and buyers.”

Wilson also said that Martin & Co is “actively” seeking to partner with existing independent agents, who would bring their businesses under the Martin & Co brand.

Two independent agents have joined the brand and will launch in the next few weeks, he said.

Wilson was speaking after Martin & Co posted its first years results as a Plc. They show that the group, which floated on AIM in December, increased revenue by 16% in 2013. Total group revenue was £38m, with £1m of that coming from estate agency – expected to double to £2m this year. Total plc income was £5m of which profits before tax and flotation costs were £1.8m.

The group said it expects to open its 190th office in the next few months. Wilson said: “Market data says the number of lettings instructions available to agents shrank by 9% last year.

“Despite this, we grew our managed portfolio by 2,400 tenanted properties, of which fewer than 500 were added through acquisition. Almost all the growth was the result of our offices winning market share at the expense of other agents.”

One of the reasons why the group listed on the stock market was to raise funds to help its franchisees expand their businesses at a faster rate, he said.

He added: “As a group, we are no longer dependent on the support of high street banks for our expansion. We now have access to the capital markets.

“Franchisees have tried to buy businesses and been told by their local bank that funding was available, only to be turned down at the last moment. That is now all behind us.”

Pictured are founding chairman Richard Martin and CEO Ian Wilson