A belated Happy New Year to all our clients and customers. I actually worked between Christmas and New Year for once, as I’d forecast the start of 2018 was going to be busy from all the valuations we’d undertaken in November and December, and I was proved right. We hit the ground running on 2nd January with a new sale instruction every day (and they’re still coming in!). We’re now busy getting floor plans sketched and digitally configured, taking photos and ‘editing’ them (legally, of course!) for upload to the property portals, as well as drafting adverts and text. My sales team are eager to see the new listings launched as we have 641 buyers on our database who registered in the second half of 2017, averaging 3.51 per day. We’ve had 35 register this year to date but as we were closed on 1st January the average now is 3.88 per day, reflecting an uplift in demand of 10.54%.

I decided to join our in-house sales email group at the start of the year, to personally monitor the level of enquiries we were getting from the property portals as well as via our own website. We adopted a revised strategy for our on-line marketing in the last quarter of 2017, especially with Google, and I wanted to see how our investment was performing.  I wanted to see the results for myself, as the money being spent isn’t some shareholders funds we can speculate with; it’s money Hayley and I reserved from last year’s profits to increase buyer and tenant interest in our clients properties (naturally more sales and lettings results in more profit!). I should really take the word of my team, however, my phone has been ‘pinging’ with emails every few minutes, all day and during the evenings!

Our new social media strategy in 2017 exceeded all expectations. Each listing, sale or rentals, is now reaching an average of 3,713 people, all within the local area, and the click-through rate to our website is averaging over 7% – when we decided to embark on social media marketing at one of our Partner’s Meetings last year we set a target click-through rate of 2%! With such good results, and engagement, we’re currently having to book most viewings on available properties with groups of buyers and tenants, although as you will see from our website and Newsletter, we’re actively recruiting more resources to meet this demand.

Our sales team haven’t been the only ones very busy over the festive period and into the New Year. Our rentals team have been much busier than usual over the holiday period, mainly due to the weather. We were still completing repairs from Storm Caroline earlier in December when Dylan arrived just before Christmas, followed by Eleanor having a ‘bite’ at our portfolio in the new year. Most of it was small-scale damage, but with 500 properties in management the statistics add up. On top of these issues were freezing temperatures, which saw various boilers expire, including one commercial-sized boiler giving up on Boxing Day. It serviced 11 studio flats. Thankfully, nearly all the tenants had electric showers for bathing, and Taylor in our Maintenance Dept., along with the landlord, ensured the tenants were provided with whatever electric heaters they needed within a matter of hours. As the tenants pay an all-inclusive rent, the additional heating cost didn’t concern the them!

In between these events we’d had to deal with a case of a tenant who had forged a passport for Right to Rent ID purposes. Thank goodness we use a third party referencing company for ID checks (the passport was a brilliant forgery!) and the immigration authorities are now dealing with the matter. That incident was quickly followed by an electrical fire in a washing machine in a purpose built block of flats in Roundhay. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt – flowers and a card were sent to the tenant, along with a brand new washer/drier (of a different make – although the manufacturer of the damaged appliance has responded to our report and has already commenced investigations). Our landlord client wisely let us undertake PAT testing of all her electrical appliances only a few months earlier, so there was no way anyone could have anticipated the problem. But it goes to show how the unexpected can happen to any property, and that Risk Assessments, formal inspections and periodic testing are necessary.

One can never say our work is dull! We thrive on being busy but I’m not sure I want the first week of another new year to be quite so dramatic. Welcome to 2018!