“I think the current situation proves that lettings is the most valuable part of an agency business,” says Neil Baldock, Director at the Chelmsford-based estate agency, Charles David Casson. “One: because it’s what gives you a valuable asset that you can sell. And two: because the cash flow from it will keep us going through these times.”
Despite the benefits of lettings, Baldock recognises some of its challenges. “It is a time drainer and it's quite hard work,” he says. It was in this gap, between the strength of lettings for business continuity and the obstacles to getting set up, that the idea for the CDC Hub emerged, a collaborative agent network.
Baldock explains: “We're going to start employing lettings managers out in the field. So rather than open up a branch in Colchester, for instance, which is 20 miles away, we're going to get the field based agents generating business and those properties will then be managed from our central office.”
Baldock plans to expand the field-based network to cover other agencies. “They could either run this under their own brand or licensed under the Charles David Casson Group brand. They can then focus on servicing their clients.”
Charles David Casson won’t just share their branding, but also their expertise, systems and platforms, such as Goodlord, which a smaller agency may find difficult to access. “If somebody wants to build a lettings agency on their own, they've got a lot to learn. But we've got nine years of experience of exactly how to do it,” says Baldock. “We have a central hub to look after all the time consuming stuff and the compliance because we've got all our systems set up - and everyone else will be able to use them. It basically lessens their overheads.”
“Nobody's ever had the vision before,” says Baldock. “There's loads of opportunity to go self-employed in the estate agency world, but no one out there does this kind of championing of the lettings world, offering an opportunity where you can build a letting agency.”
The CDC Hub is built on the spirit of collaboration, which Baldock strongly advocates. “Historically, this industry is not a collaborative industry. We don't work well with each other. We never have done. But we should because that's how we'll survive and that's how we'll grow and grow together.”
“I think this is now the perfect opportunity for that to happen,” says Baldock. “We're facing a challenge that nobody could have ever predicted. We never saw a situation where we couldn't go to work. The tenant fee ban, we saw that coming, we could take steps to negate it. But with the pandemic, it just came out of nowhere. If people do collaborate now, they’ll put their business in a better position, should something like this ever happen again.”