6 December 2016
LINCOLN BUSINESS CELEBRATES 20 YEAR MILESTONE
It goes from dining room table to one of best lettings agents on the High Street
A Lincoln property lettings agency that started as a ‘cottage industry’ run from a dining room table has reached a major milestone by celebrating its 20th anniversary this week.
Paul Collins and wife Sharon own the Belvoir franchise at 450 High Street in Lincoln, along with another specialist student lettings business, ‘Student Living’, based at Aqua House on Harvey Street.
A consistent winner of countless industry awards – including being named Belvoir’s ‘Best East Midlands agency’ last year, the Lincoln office has grown to become one of the city’s largest property specialists and one of the top performers in Belvoir’s 300 strong UK wide network.
It’s a far cry from the day when, in 1996, Paul retired from his post as a warrant officer at RAF Digby, after 22 years’ military service, to set up on his own in ‘civvy street’.
“Leaving the security of a career in the armed forces and building a business from scratch into the size of business we have today is our proudest achievement,” says Paul.
“But there have been many challenges and changes along the way and many of our long standing landlord and tenant clients have been the keystone to growth by spreading the word about our service through personal recommendations.
“They have supported us through thick and thin and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them from the bottom of our hearts. In fact, many tenants have gone on to become our landlords – which in itself is a fantastic endorsement.”
At an open day to celebrate the business’s 20th anniversary Paul and Sharon also paid tribute to members of their team – some of whom have been with them for over 10 years.
“We believe that dogged determination, coupled with a genuine passion for what we do has helped us succeed. But most important of all is honesty and integrity and “telling it like it is”, adds Paul.
“It’s very important to give our customers honest and objective guidance –even if that means that sometimes we do not secure their business. We have had prospective clients come to us and, after discussion, we have advised them to seek further advice from other specialists in wealth management before going down the buy- to- let route.
“We know this ethical approach always pays in the end because we have had clients come back after looking at the bigger picture. We have also had many other referrals from people who admire this kind of integrity.”
In the early days of Belvoir Lincoln, the office dealt with a lot of private landlords who were in negative equity and were seeking a regular income from property that they could not sell, due to market forces at that time.
At the end of his first year in business Paul had more than 50 properties on his books, ranging from one bedroom bungalows to five bedroom houses.
Later, Paul and Sharon witnessed the growth of private investors going into property as a new asset class to add to their pension arrangements.
But when, in 2002, the University of Lincoln moved its main campus from Hull to the city, a new student market started to take shape and Paul set up his complementary ‘Student Living’ business to provide professional management of ‘HMOs’ – Houses in Multiple Occupation – to meet the growing demand for this type of rented accommodation.
“The University of Lincoln, who give us full accreditation, is within the UK’s top 50 and continues to grow and succeed, so we expect this to be an increasing source of new business in the future.
“ But across the board, our main Lincoln office deals with the full spectrum of landlords and tenants who come from all walks of life –from landlords with just one property through to professional investors with multiple property interests. In the same way our tenants vary from young, single people looking for an apartment through to business professionals seeking a larger, prestige home to rent.
“Having been both a tenant and landlord myself – letting my own property whilst serving in the military abroad – you get an instinctive feel as to what standards are expected and it helps us deliver a great service that meets expectation.”
Over the past 20 years the property industry across the UK has changed dramatically, with increased competition in the sales and letting sector coupled with burgeoning legislative changes covering everything from health and safety through to tightened reference and compliance rules. Property prices have swung wildly in various parts of the country and Lincoln has not been immune to such changes.
“But with the strength of a national brand like Belvoir behind us, giving us access to the very latest market intelligence, support and back-up, our business is much larger than just the team you meet in the office.
“I was one of the very early franchises, having met up with the founder of Belvoir –a former RAF Wing Commander, Mike Goddard, who, with his wife Stephanie, also set up his business from in the kitchen of his home. From the outset it has been a mutually beneficial relationship. We have learned from each other and grown together. Along with the rest of the 300 plus franchisees in the Belvoir Group, we have never been alone and always had somewhere to go to for advice if we need it.
As members of the Association of Residential Letting Agents, and other regulatory bodies such as the Safeagent Scheme Paul and Sharon’s team have the professional qualifications and experience to look after any of their clients’ property needs.
And what do they think the future holds?
“Despite the many continuing challenges and changes that affect our business we view the future with optimism. There is the potential for a medical teaching hospital linked to the University that will bring more people to the area. And as more changes in legislation are imposed on landlords, we believe that many who currently self-manage their properties will perhaps start to consider passing the increasing responsibility to professional agents such as ourselves.
“With a general housing shortage, an increasing UK population and on-going difficulties in getting onto the property ladder, we believe that more and more people will choose to rent, rather than buy, as they do on the continent.”
When Paul opened up for business 20 years ago an average 9 per cent of properties were let in Lincoln. Since then it has more than doubled.
“As Lincoln continues to expand, develop and prosper, there’s still plenty more growth to look forward to,” he adds.
For further information please contact :
Brian Johnson, Rosemarie Teece or Graham King
Powell Communication Consultants
T: 0845 371 3011
M: 07770 841740