Hunters looking big and strong onits25th birthday
Hunters is 25 years old. Chief executive Glynis Frew reveals the secrets of its success. Sharon Dale reports
THERE IS much to rejoice about at Hunters Property plc. The York-based company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month and with more than 200 branches across the UK, it is well on the way to achieving its goal of becoming the nation’s favourite estate agency.
The success is all the more sweet for chief executive Glynis Frew, who fought to keep the firm afloat through the long and bloody recession, which decimated the property industry.
One of her coping strategies was playing Whitney Houston’s One Moment in Time on her car stereo during the drive into the office and on the way home. “It helped me to keep thinking, ‘we will get through’ but we had to lay people off who had been with us for years and that was very hard,” she says.
During the five-year slump, she and fellow directors got out from behind their desks and did everything from staffing the phones to conducting viewings and cleaning the offices. “It was a depressing, horrible time but it taught us that we have to be prepared and it brought us closer to our staff.”
When the dawn on this darkest of periods came in 2013, Hunters bounced back and is now one of the fastest-growing estate agencies in Britain. Its services cover residential sales, lettings, investment, residential block management, auctions, land and new homes, and is made up of a combination of its own branches and franchises.
The firm was launched by Glynis’s brother, Hunters chairman Kevin Hollinrake, and John Waterhouse in 1992. The two men are still involved, although Kevin is busy as MP for Thirsk and Malton, while John is in charge of auctions.
“Kevin keeps a very close eye on us and lets us know if he thinks anything is wrong,” says Glynis, whose background is in sales management, training and marketing. A high flyer and a frequent flyer, she travelled the world advising top brands, such as Pepsi, before joining Hunters in 1999.
Friendly and refreshingly down to earth, she has an opendoor policy so staff at Hunters HQ in York can drop into her office and ask for help and advice “whether it’s about the pot rota or changing a form.”
The building is also the base for national staff training, which is at the top of the firm’s agenda.
OPEN DOOR POLICY: “We understand the importance of helpful, well-trained staff and our customer satisfaction ratings are outstanding.
“We invested the equivalent of £500,000 in training last year and all courses are free to franchise partners. We also have our own qualifications,” says Glynis, who has just signed off a big-budget spend on advertising including a marketing campaign on Channel 4.
The company is also investing heavily in a system that will enable clients to track the progress of their sale online.
The strategies have paid off. Last year, Hunters Property Group opened 30 new offices and continues to expand. It has just acquired Besley Hill, an estate agency network in the South West, and its aim is to have 500 branches.
While there is much to be positive about, Brexit lurks in the background threatening to spoil the 25th birthday party. Many agents are short of stock and the buy-to-let market has also slowed thanks to increased taxation and an extra three per cent stamp duty.
“The housing market is driven by how people feel about the economy but things are starting to move and we are seeing more people put their properties on the market. Buy-to-let is still popular because it is something people can see and understand and long term it performs well,” says Glynis, who is concerned about the government’s proposed ban on administration fees for tenants. She would prefer to see a cap.
“The problem with the ban is that some of those administration costs will be passed to landlords who will increase rents to compensate so tenants won’t be any better off,” she says.
For those tenants desperate to get on the property ladder, she has this advice: “It’s not where you start it’s where you finish, so buy in a low value area and then trade up.” As for up-and-coming Yorkshire hotspots, she cites Ripon and Skipton.
Glynis Frew is the chief executive of Hunters, and saw the Yorkshire firm through the dark years of the recession.