Popular industry figure Jane Gardner is to re-enter estate agency with the launch of what she says will be a very “different kind” of business.
Three years after selling her previous firm, high street lettings business Sewell & Gardner to Countrywide, Gardner is now out of contract and able to get back into the industry.
During her enforced time out, Gardner has run her own marketing business, specialising in consultancy to agents.
She is now launching her new firm, JP Gardner Property, on February 5.
Unlike her last firm, it will be digital. It will operate 24/7 and charge vendors from £1,200, which can be paid upfront or split 50/50 on completion.
Its lettings service will be from £1,080 and there will be no tenant fees.
It will exploit social media, including giving every single property its own unique Google advert.
The site will also feature WhatsApp and LiveChat contactability to a dedicated account manager, together with direct access on to Google and Facebook platforms.
It will operate 24/7 around Watford and a large surrounding area into Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire – but Gardner does not rule out expanding into other areas, possibly by way of licensees.
“We may well roll out the concept, but only after it’s been 110% proven,” she said.
Gardner, who has 31 years’ experience in the industry, says her new team are people who “understand how to engage an audience digitally and can get the buy-in from a completely new generation of clients”.
Speaking to EYE last night, Gardner said: “In the three years since I sold my last business, I have been to agencies all over the country wearing my consultancy hat.
“I’ve seen the best and the worst, and I’ve learned so much – and most of the time, it has been sheer frustration because I kept thinking ‘I want to be doing this’.”
Gardner says she will be keeping her consultancy business: “I have been very careful to make sure there will be no conflict of interest, and have kept right out of the Watford area.
“I am so pleased to be back there. It is where I began my career in the eighties with Connells. And no, I have never thought of retiring – this business is in my blood. I just love it.”
The irrepressible Gardner – who won last year’s Strictly Agent Dancing with a cha-cha (“It wasn’t really my dance, so I may have another go this year with a tango”) says that she has also been learning from her team of IT-savvy “millennials”.
She said: “They don’t want to work office hours, and they expect availability – and fun.
“The ethos of my new company will be great service, and being available whenever our customers want – which may not necessarily be in conventional hours. We’ll also take account of the fact that moving home is stressful, and try and make it light-hearted.”
Vendors will be able to choose beween conventional and distinctive pop-art sales boards. If they choose the latter, there will be a donation to charity.
The new business will have a high-street premise – in Watford – where her digital marketing team works.
She said: “People will be able to go into it, but that’s not really the aim. We’ll be meeting our customers where, and when, it suits them.
“I suppose we’ll be a bit like Purplebricks: there will be a Local Property Expert, but what people will get is me.”
She added: “I hope I am right, but my feeling is that this is going to be the model for estate agency in 2018 and beyond.”