Throughout 2018, I was responsible for writing a number of observational (and somewhat critical articles) about some of the major players in UK estate agency, such as Countrywide, Emoov and Humbert’s etc. So, conscious that it is always easier to criticise rather than to offer praise, I thought I would attempt to redress the balance by placing a spotlight on global property agents Savills, and more importantly perhaps, focus on the journey that they have had to undertake in order to become the global success that they are today.
I suspect many of you reading this article may well already be questioning why Savills’ growth and achievements are relevant to you today? Well, I ought to start by stating that when I first started in estate agency in 1981, Savills were an established upmarket firm (ably run by the largely chartered surveying partners) with a principal HQ in London and a handful of regional offices. Of course, in their own way they were indeed successful, but not even remotely close to what they have become today.
So, what has happened from the early 1980’s to the present day can neatly be summed up as follows;
Vision – In the 1980’s, then under the stewardship of Victoria Mitchell, Savills London residential operations expanded substantially beyond the prime central areas to incorporate many of what were considered at the time to be the “secondary” areas of London such as Clapham, Battersea, Putney etc. This was because Victoria and her colleagues saw a “sea change” in the market with buyers seeking value beyond central London- having been priced out of prime locations such as Chelsea, Kensington, Mayfair and Holland Park.
Diversification – Since its inception, Savills business largely comprised of a strong commercial, agricultural and chartered surveying operation, bolstered by a modest number of regional residential sales offices. So, keen to extend their reach, Victoria Mitchell sought to widen the scope of their traditional operations by expanding into international property and financial services, whilst simultaneously bolstering their planning/new homes and residential lettings operations – recognising that the advent of “buy to let” was going to be a residential market “gamechanger”.
Knowledge – In the pre-internet era, information regarding land and sale values was not as freely accessible as it is today. So, Savills were the first to set up a “Residential research department” – providing factual data to major developers & housebuilders, thereby quickly establishing credibility amongst new and established clients alike.
International – In 1988, Savills became a PLC by floating on the stock market, which provided the launch pad to expand around the world by making a number of key acquisitions and alliances and become the multi-faceted global property empire that it is today – employing over 30,000 people with 700+ offices and associates covering 60+ countries.
So, what can you and your estate agency business learn from this mini case study? Well, it’s simple really, as Savills success can largely be put down to a) recognising market opportunity through combination of strategic leadership and market awareness, and b) A basic understanding of the need to constantly adapt your “modus operandi” in order to grow your business. We all know that in our everyday lives nothing remains the same forever – so why should estate agency in the UK be any different?
So, at the beginning of this New Year, why not give some serious thought to where your estate agency business is currently heading? As Savills’ evolution amply demonstrates, both “change” and “evolution” can ultimately be the catalyst for success – particularly when mixed with a modicum of vision and a tangible lack of fear.
Happy New Year.