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A very real account of building a socially conscious estate agency while simultaneously becoming a mum

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Estate agent unfortunately comes with preconceptions. It’s one of the top 5 least trusted professions in the UK, and you’ll hear words like ‘sharks’ and awful experience’ being thrown around a lot. 


My sentiments exactly, when  my partner James and I bought our flat and first home in Peckham, through a very well know high street agent. We were an excited young architect and an urban researcher, first time buyers, with visions of how we would renovate this amazing home and what we would create. We were met by an unenthusiastic sharp shiny suit glued to his phone and unable to answer any of our questions about the home he was representing. The buying process was horrible, the agency were nothing short of rude and aggressive, but we battled on and eventually completed in January 2020. 


We then spent a year and a half renovating, and living in a gloriously dusty mess through lockdown (more on that story another time…). We shared our experience of buying with friends and family, who could all either relate, or who then regaled us with/recounted tales of others they knew who had had bad experiences when buying or selling with high street estate agents. 

At the same time, I was reading about the increasing levels of homelessness during the pandemic, a topic that has always affected me, and over the course of about a week I began to put two and two together. 


Why not build my own estate agency, one that is trustworthy, and one that offers a meaningful and enjoyable experience to buyers and sellers undertaking one of the most stressful things anyone can do - move house.  A new wave of estate agents has been cropping up over the last 10-15 years, , which is a great answer to the problem of the high street ‘sharks’. But the one crucial thing they are missing is the obvious link between house buying and homelessness that hasn’t really been meaningfully explored. So I decided to start my own estate agency, and sponsor a bed in a hostel for a homeless person for every single house I sell. 


So over the course of 2022, that’s what I did. The only problem was I’d never been an estate agent, and I didn’t have the first idea about how they operate. Which actually turned out to be an advantage. I felt unplagued by the usual sales tactics, and that I could really make this my own and do things my own way. I started by reading articles about other agencies, the start up stories and how they built their businesses, so I had an idea of where to start. I then set about signing up to Rightmove, creating an Instagram account, designing a for sale board that complimented the street, building a website and the plethora of other admin tasks involved in setting up a business, all of which I had to learn.  Next I designed a leaflet that I thought people would want to keep, the kind that doesn’t look like a sales ploy, but the kind that you’d want to keep on your pinboard because it looks so nice. I walked the streets of Peckham depositing my leaflet and quite quickly got my first call from my very first wonderful client, Tim, who set aside my lack of experience and so fully believed in what I was building that he signed up to sell his beautiful 3-bedroom home on Holly Grove through my agency, which I named Bonnington Square after the amazing square in Vauxhall. 


I had £12k that I’d saved up over the years which I cautiously decided to plough into the business (Rightmove is £1500 per month and I needed to pay the upfront costs!) so it really was a scary leap of faith financially. But so far so good, it’s paying off slowly but surely as more and more people hear about what I’m trying to build, and come on board. Armed with my photography experience and James’s architectural prowess, we were fully equipped to take beautiful photos that show homes in their best light, and draw equally beautiful floorplans that don’t miss a thing. 


We’ve now sold 9 houses across Peckham, East Dulwich, Brixton and Vauxhall and have given over £700 to Centrepoint to help alleviate youth homelessness.  


We then decided to have a baby! It all coincided quite well, as our son was born just as the Liz Truss inspired mortgage crisis hit in 2023, so business naturally slowed and I was able to take some time off to care for him. And of course to privately panic about becoming a new mother, muddle through the sleep-deprivation and bodily changes, and discover a whole new world of daytime activity with a pram. 


The housing market is definitely now making a welcome comeback. Rightmove had its busiest ever Boxing Day last year in terms of website visits, so buyers are back and many people are also looking to sell. Our son is 9 months and through a mixture of very welcome parental help and nursery care I’m now back to business and so excited for what 2024 has in store.


If you can relate as a local business owner, if you want to sell your home, if you’re looking to buy or if you’re a new mum looking for a local friend to have a coffee with, or anything else - I’d love to hear from you so do get in touch!


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