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Under the skin of the letting market

Here we share news and views on both the local letting market in & around Oxfordshire and all planned and recent legislation.

Creativity as a competitive advantage for a letting agent

“Finders Keepers must have a factory of ideas in one of its offices” Sunday Times Judges Report, June 2011

You could say that our recent Gold for Innovation at the Sunday Times Awards in June has been a long time coming.

After all, we have been Oxford letting agents for a while (39 years, which means that life begins next year) and we have always got a buzz from doing new things to help our clients, help our team and help our business.

While we have maintained our perspective – we are not tackling urban crime or coding the next Facebook – it is reassuring to know that a relatively small company can introduce market-leading innovation into the rental industry.

Customers should not rely on the big and so-called prestigious estate agency chains for new ideas and advances in service. Indeed, often the biggest companies have the most inertia, a fact which makes a firm such as Apple all the more impressive.

At the risk of self-absorption for a moment – an occupational hazard in a newsletter – in the past 3 years we have introduced a number of initiatives which are firsts for the whole of the United Kingdom:

  • The first School Catchment Areas for each property
  • The first Nearest Fee-Paying Schools for each property
  • The first estate or letting agent in five years to win a National Training Award
  • The first tenant discount card
  • The first landlord discount card
  • The first mobile website to check your rent ledgers
  • The first ‘Renting FAQ for Tenants’ translated into 10 languages

A sceptical reader might say “Fine, but what is the impact for your business?”, and this is what delighted the Sunday Times Judges so much.

Our website analytics, below, show that while only a minority of applicants click on the ‘Schools Catchment Areas’ (which is natural as only a minority of applicants are families), those who did stayed much longer on the site (12+ minutes instead of 4 minutes) and viewed three times the number of pages.

Analytics for showing average user engagement (‘All Visits’) vs. those users clicking on our State School catchment areas.

With our new website and mobile website live (a version of which works on any smartphone) the pressure is now on to think of the next tranche of ideas and stay ahead of all our competitors and the rest of the Oxford letting agents. The best ideas are in the heads of a company’s staff and customers; they just need releasing. We have an Ideas Box open to all staff – with all suggestions going to all directors. Feel free to convey any cerebral sparks to

“Finders Keepers implemented a truly innovative and new idea with spectacular results…they recognised the importance of school location in the decision making process of renting families. With this in mind the team plotted the precise catchment areas of all state and fee paying schools in their areas of operation. This information was then added as a search option to their website. Feedback from existing tenants is positive.” – Judges’ Report