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Interview of Stuart Aikman
Written by the Property Investor Today team
Stuart Aikman & Mathew Walters, co-founders - Story of Home

Who are you and what does it say on your business card?

Stuart Aikman & Mathew Walters, co-founders - Story of Home

www.storyofhome.co.uk 

How can high street estate agency offices thrive in the modern market?

There will always be a place in the market for good high street agents, but great service does not mean shop front. Times are changing and the need for a high street presence and shop window is no more, especially in London where we operate. You only need to walk down your local high street to see that people are glued to their phones, and this is where most buyers and sellers start their search. We believe that you will see less high street agents in the years to come as more estate agents take offices in less visible locations and focus their marketing budget online.

How have you continued to operate in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and impact of lockdown?

We built our infrastructure completely from scratch during the lockdown. It gave us time to really investigate the very best technology available in the property sector. Our CRM system is brand new and still in Beta testing. This has been extremely valuable as our feedback and input has helped develop some of the features. It is so advanced that it uses artificial intelligence and traffic reports to plan our diaries, various stages are also automated which frees up our time to focus on our clients and the business. It is hard to think that when we started out in the industry, we were booking appointments into paper diaries and using applicant cards. How times have changed.

What is your greatest achievement in your current role and what made it so special?

Turning a dream into a reality. We have always had the ambition to build a brand from scratch, and had been chatting about it for over 10 years, we finally made the decision in December 2019 and we are delighted with how things are turning out so far. The public response to our brand has been very reassuring and we have so many more ideas to implement which is very exciting.

 What is the most satisfying part of your job?

Nothing gives us greater satisfaction than handing over the keys to a new home knowing we have done everything possible to ensure a smooth transaction and move.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing estate and letting agents at the moment?

The challenges do not change in any market, we can count on one hand how many perfect years we have had in a combined 30+ year career. The biggest challenge is and always will be attracting clients and quality saleable properties. The market is extremely competitive in London, and unfortunately there are still many agents who over value to win someone's business. It is obviously important for estate agents to be positive and optimistic, otherwise you will never have any property to sell, but some of the prices agents quote are outrageous and are doing more harm to the long term saleability of the property than sellers realise.   

 What is your property prediction for the remainder of 2020?

People will move if they have reason to do so. The lockdown and restrictions kick started people's moves as they have realized they will be spending more time at home so want somewhere nice to live. Sellers with motivation will be keen to find a buyer before the end of the year or risk the unknown of a housing market post Brexit. Buyers will be using this as a way to try and beat down the prices.

Country house or city apartment?

Why settle for one or the other, work hard and have both!

Trendy roof terrace or traditional English garden?

For me it has got to be a roof terrace as I haven’t got the time or patience to maintain an English garden, but I would still have lots of pot plants.

Would you rather be a free-moving tenant or settled owner occupier?

My parents installed in me from a young age that buying a property is a solid investment and the way to go. To some people it may feel like a lot of effort and upkeep, or that it ties them down in one place. But with rental demand as higher ever you can always rent it and then you are free to roam as you please.

What is your favourite room in your home?

The kitchen, it's great for entertaining and the whole back of the house opens up to the garden bringing the outside in. It's been so important to my happiness this year.

Homes under the Hammer or Location, Location, Location?

I wish I had time to watch them, but from what I can remember Location, Location, Location. That Frank Spencer is a bit of a legend.

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