This article outlines how we are working towards and achieving our founding aims as an estate agent social enterprise, which in summary are:
1) To help professionalise and humanise estate agency culture/services, through being an example of excellent practice.
2) To help meet more people’s housing needs through using the majority of profits for homeless housing and support or reinvestment.
In the widespread calls for improvements to the estate agency sector, for providing more housing and addressing the increasing levels of homelessness, we saw an opportunity to try and do all three.
Our impact should be considered in the context of the challenges we’ve faced since launching two years ago: Brexit, Advice Note 14 and now coronavirus and COVID-19. We’ve managed to establish ourselves at a time when many agents have gone out of business or scaled back their operations. We plan to see out 2020 and go on to achieve what we set out to in the years ahead.
Headline impact since launching two years ago (up to 31 March 2020):
In relation to key aim one: To help professionalise and humanise estate agency culture/services, through being an example of excellent practice.
- On the occasions we checked during our second year of operation up to 31 March 2020, estate agency comparison website GetAgent.co.uk found us to be the fastest seller (5 weeks – 6 weeks faster than average) and most accurate valuer in our core patch (achieving 95.8% of asking price) – demonstrating we have experience selling properties in our area; have a track record of selling quickly and are great at providing evidence-based property valuations, marketing property and negotiating with a buyer to achieve the best possible results.
- We’ve received 79 5-star reviews via Google and allAgents from across landlords, tenants, sellers and buyers – reading them shows that we are achieving our first aim to provide a highly professional service with a human touch to all types of customer: our landlords, tenants, sellers and buyers.
- We are winners of a Best Estate Agent Guide Award 2020 for coming in the top 3% of agencies in the country - rated for our marketing, performance and service (based on Rightmove data analysis and 20,000 mystery shops).
- In addition to our two founders, we employ three staff who all earn at least the London Living Wage.
- Where possible we use local recommended contractors to do work to support the local economy and to ensure the highest standards.
- We have a Volkswagon UP 1.1 litre company pool car that staff who don’t have their own transport can use for business purposes.
- We have contributed to a number of publications and government consultations to influence positive change in the sector.
- We are providing a public-facing independent social enterprise business presence in the local community and local economy, in an area around the docks that has historically been almost purely residential.
In relation to key aim two: To help meet more people’s housing needs through using the majority of profits for homeless housing and support or reinvestment.
- We’ve helped raise over £8817 for our local homeless charity the 999 Club who support people in South London – demonstrating that although we don’t yet have overall profits as a company, we are committing resources and doing what we can to work towards our second key aim and help meet more people’s housing needs through raising awareness and funds for the 999 Club.
- Providing a professional and personable service as detailed above also helps us to meet more people’s housing needs.
In relation to both key founding aims:
- We were chosen as a finalist for the William Sutton Prize for Social Innovation – awarded by the UK’s largest housing association Clarion Housing Group to champion innovation for the good of society.
- We were awarded the Cecil Jackson Cole Award for Social Responsibility by Agents Giving.
- When people are moving home/selling or letting a property they often need unwanted items of furniture removed. We have developed a relationship with homeless charity Emmaus Greenwich who collect all furniture in good order that have the necessary fire labels. They then sell these items in their shops to raise funds for their charity or give them to individuals or families in need.
- Our voluntary board meets when required and reviews progress reports and annual accounts to provide advice and help us work towards and achieve our aims. Once we have profits, they will also vote on how funds are allocated to homeless housing and support projects. Members have expertise across housing, homelessness, management, social enterprise, finance, real estate and lettings, property and asset management, proptech, as well as property marketing and communications.
Some example reviews by type of customer:
- Vendor: "We were delighted with the service from Toby and the team at Urban Patchwork when selling our apartment. From start to finish they were professional, supportive and enthusiastic. We felt that we were genuinely important to them, and more than once we found that they had 'gone the extra mile' in ways which few agents would do. Competitively priced, too. Highly recommended." Heather Giles, allAgents 2020
- Landlord: "A very refreshing change to deal with an estate/lettings agency that is so professional, organised, diligent, personable and knowledgeable. And not a pointy shoe or shiny suit in sight. The usual stereotypical estate agent persona doesn’t feature here, and what you get is an experience that is far better than with any other agent I’ve used...Lastly, they are a social enterprise, and give a decent chunk of their profits to a homeless charity. If ever there was an example of an organisation who have got it right, it’s this one." Markos Malangos, Google 2019
- Tenant: "The best agency experience so far. They are supportive, helpful and quick to respond. Their professionalism and small human touches make them stand out." Ausrine Latvyte, Google 2019
- Buyer: "It was the second property we saw during our search and somehow the house and Tessa made me feel that this will be 'My Home'. The process from then was smooth. They were always happy to clear our doubts and explain things to us. They played a very fair role both for us and equally for the seller. We did around 3-4 viewings of the house and all were arranged at a time feasible for us. Toby even helped us with things that our solicitor were not able to clarify. Rayen...helped us a lot with the unknowns we faced after the move. In all, they have a wonderful team with both technical and soft skills which makes you feel you are in the right hands. We will surely recommend them to others and use them for all our future needs. Thanks a ton Tessa, Toby and Rayen :)" Neha Misra, Google 2020
The over £8817 we’ve helped raise for 999 Club was achieved through:
- Promoting the 999 Club on our website, through social media, press releases and marketing materials; in our branch window, and in customer-facing materials like our terms of business, valuation/viewing packs and emails/letters
- £3778 was raised in our first year through a range of methods (see our first year’s Impact Report here)
- £985 through Managing Director Toby’s RideLondon sponsored cycle in August 19
- £1382 through Co-founder Tessa’s Thames Trek for 999 Club in October 19
- £280 via our website donation link
- At least £125 in Urban Patchwork customer donation matched-funding, as per our pledge
- Over £2267 was raised by local resident Sandra File after she read an article in the local paper about our fundraising efforts for 999 Club – we’ve helped to support Sandra’s fundraising and are continuing to do so this year through a photography competition initially and are funding the prize. Enter here.)