Belvoir is to launch an online estate agency platform within the next three to six months – and will be considering a self-service lettings offering at some point in the future.
The company, which announced excellent results this morning including a 62% increase in pre-tax profits, said it had polled its 300 franchisees about launching a self-service sales alternative.
Chief executive Dorian Gonsalves said: “The majority were very much in favour.”
He added: “My personal view is that all agents will be offering this in the next two or three years. Vendors are prepared to take some of the work off the agent in return for a lower fee.”
The company expects to be charging less than £1,000, payable upfront. It would not be drawn on whether the offering will be via an acquisition, but did say: “We are not designing the software ourselves.”
The move into online sales is due to coincide with the launch, also some three months down the line, of a low-cost entry for newly recruited franchisees. They will not have to have offices but will be able to work from home.
The company said it was not considering a self-service lettings launch for the time being but Gonsalves said: “We will be considering it in the future.”
Belvoir, traditionally a lettings-only company, said that its business now splits 81:19 in favour of lettings, but that sales are growing, with 100 out of the 171 Belvoir franchisees trained and able to handle sales.
As well as the Belvoir franchisees, there are 32 Newton Fallowell franchisees, ten Goodchild and 87 Northwood – the acquisition made in June last year.
In the first six months of this year, Gonsalves and group chairman, Belvoir founder Mike Goddard, said that the focus had been on helping franchisees make their own acquisitions. Gonsalves said that there had been 12 so far this year, and he expects a similar number in the second half of the year.
Gonsalves said: “The group has been focused on meeting our franchisees’ entrepreneurial growth ambitions and putting them in the very best possible position to maximise their market share within their territory.
“Our franchisees have embraced the opportunity to develop their business under our Assisted Acquisitions programme, many of them doubling the size of their business overnight, and from offering additional services such as property sales and financial services.”
The very strong interim results for the six months to the end of June show group revenue up 15% to £4,921,000, with a 47% increase in management service fees – what the franchisees pay to head office – to £3,796,000.
There was a 62% rise in pre-tax profits to £1,731,000 in the first six months of this year, up from £1,071,000 in the same period last year.
Seven new franchisees joined the group, and five existing territories were re-sold.
Gonsalves and Goddard told EYE that despite challenging conditions in both sales and lettings, business is still thriving. The number of properties under management has grown to 57,637, and Goddard said that despite a harsher tax regime for landlords, “We are not seeing landlords selling up. There is no mass exit by landlords, and indeed we are not seeing any exit.”
Gonsalves said that the company will continue to encourage its franchisees to expand by acquisition, and said that the company itself remains “very acquisitive” in a consolidating market.