A city centre estate and lettings agency is on track to reach £1m turnover for the first time this year, after expanding its sales team to capitalise on the housing boom.
Established 13 years ago, Newcastle-based Walton Robinson has grown from a five-strong lettings firm with a portfolio of 70 properties, bringing in sales of £222,000 in its first year, to a thriving business involved in sales, lettings, property management, buy to let and refurbishment, targeting £1.15m in sales in 2014.
Named after founding partners Mark Walton and Marcel Robinson, the company was bought out by Walton in 2006, when the firm still focused on professional and student property lettings in and around the city centre.
Now based in offices in the Haymarket the ranks have been swelled sixfold to its current workforce of 31.
To date, the firm manages several hundred properties, a growing database of thousands of let-only properties and in the 2013/14 letting season found tenants for over 400 properties on a let-only basis.
Over time it has also invested in cars used for all viewings and property management visits, growing its fleet from two to 13 and, keen to drive youth employment, the team includes three apprentices and four newly qualified graduates are due to join full time this summer.
Projected turnover for the whole business in 2014 is £1m, 90% of which has already been achieved, making a target of £1.15m very achievable.
Managing director Mark Walton attributes the firm’s growth to centralising their services, keeping up with social media and technology and taking advantage of increased activity within the property market.
He said: “We try to make sure we give the full circle of services, distinguishing ourselves by not cutting corners and giving everything to all people.
“Other firms want to have lots of different offices, but when you do that they tend not to be staffed up enough. Customers will call in but the right people might not be there to help them.
“So we are all based in the same city centre office. There’s more than 30 people working in one office and they are multi-disciplined and can support other departments, so the sales staff can help admin and lettings and vice versa. Sales especially have grown significantly recently.
“Last September and October we were selling one a month, but then we realised the market was changing so invested a lot last year into the department – a six-figure sum to get it right.
“We now have an experienced team in place who came from Rook Matthew Sayers and they are doing three to four properties a week – it’s grown by 1000% in 12 months. The sales team is important but it’s the market that’s changing. This year we’ll turnover £175,000 in the sales department but next year we’ll reach £250,000.”
As well as experiencing sales success, the company has reacted to rapidly growing numbers of foreign students coming to the city’s colleges and universities, by employing staff who speak languages including Chinese, Malay, German, French, Dutch, Greek and Italian amongst other languages.
Firms connected to the North East’s universities’ overseas campuses also work closely with Walton Robinson, putting new students coming to the UK in contact with the agency.
Walton added: “We’ve had Chinese speakers for a long time and one of the staff members, Alice, works on Weibo, the Chinese version of Facebook and Twitter, getting everything that we do shared on there, and we use a lot of social media generally too. It’s a big growth area – we put a lot of time and effort into it.”