Here we speak to Ben Plows and James Carrier, directors at Home James Lets, to see how they have bridged the gap between High Street and online property services to provide a unique, simplified agency in Brighton’s booming property market
How did Home James Lets start?
James had worked in the property industry for over a decade, managing residential sales and lettings departments across Sussex, before founding Home James Lets in 2012. Ben joined the company as a private landlord with a keen interest in the property market, following a career with Sussex Police. The company aims to bridge the gap between the traditional High Street agency’s high charges and the faceless online agencies’ budget listing service. Where many agencies occupy expensive high street retail premises, passing the cost on to landlords and tenants, we have an office above Moss Bros in central Hove, allowing us to offer our services at a fair price.
What is happening in the Brighton property market?
Brighton is a great place to live. Working here as letting agents, we see the good, the bad, and the ugly accommodation the city has to offer. Brighton’s transport links make the area attractive for commuters escaping the capital to live on the coast, while the two universities and many language schools give the rental market an additional annual boost.
The best properties let quickly at the right price. While demand can exceed supply, tenants have plenty of choice in the city – we regularly see over 1,000 properties available to let on Rightmove. Today’s tenant has quick, convenient access to numerous listings on a variety of devices, challenging the landlord to provide high quality accommodation, and the letting agent to showcase each property in its best possible light. We offer detailed listings with professional photographs and measurements as standard, with the potential to add floor plans and videos. Listings that fall below par generate far fewer enquiries.
The way in which some landlords find tenants has changed with the advent of the remote online letting agency, denting the business of the more expensive high street agent. Private landlords who are willing to do their own viewings can now access the major web portals at a fraction of the cost. The danger is that inexperienced landlords can easily fall foul of changing legislation, which can prove extremely costly. We aim to bridge this gap to give landlords a professional service at a reasonable price.
One of the biggest changes we have seen in recent years is the introduction of small HMO licenses by local councils. Multi-occupancy properties in five wards of Brighton are currently subject to licensing conditions – the council is currently considering extending the HMO areas to span most of Brighton and Hove. We manage a number of HMO properties under the national and local licensing schemes – any current or prospective landlord of two or more sharers in Brighton and Hove is welcome to call us for advice.
With so many estate agents to compete with in Brighton, what do you offer that is unique/appealing to clients?
With over 100 letting agents in Brighton, competition is certainly fierce. Every agent promises a ‘free valuation’ – we go several steps further, offering our full ‘find tenant’ service absolutely free to all landlords the first time they use our services. The service includes everything from market appraisal and accompanied viewings to executing the tenancy agreement and registering the deposit. We often hear that this offer is too good to be true – we prefer to think of it as an investment in what we hope will become a long-term relationship with each landlord.
We are open until 7pm most days, facilitating viewings and valuations outside our office hours where necessary. The office line diverts to our mobile phones for those out-of-hours emergencies at our managed properties that just cannot wait. In the event of a maintenance issue at one of our managed properties, we will attend the property before calling out a contractor. We resolve most issues ourselves, but where necessary we have trustworthy, qualified tradespeople on speed-dial.
What have the main challenges been in setting up your business?
We are David in a market of Goliaths. As with any small business, we work long hours – it has taken time to establish our name and earn the trust of our customers. We are proud that the majority of our business comprises returning landlords and personal recommendations.
www.homejameslets.co.uk | T: 01273 468 590 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org