- Office Based
- Property Management
The Property Franchise Group is a multi-brand estate agency operation that provides the services of traditional sales, residential lettings and property management.
The Group’s core focus has been on lettings, dealing with a private rented sector that grows on average 8% p.a. and continues to do so.
However, each brand in The Property Franchise Group offers a sales service, offering multiple revenue streams within the UK property market.
The Group’s network consists of nearly 300 offices spanning the length and breadth of the UK, encompassing five established brands: CJ Hole (south west), Ellis & Co (London), Martin & Co (national), Parkers (south east) and Whitegates (north west and Midlands).
The franchise has been in operation since 1985 and franchise opportunities are available as either ‘cold’ starts, resales of existing offices or rebrands of agencies that are currently not part of the Group.
Sixty percent of the Group’s franchises have been operating for over five years and we do not have any company-owned offices.
Training covers all aspects of running an estate agency with a focus on generating business, progressing sales and lettings, and marketing.
Franchisees will also have access to the Group’s internal Training Academy helping them reach their specific needs and continue training for their staff.
As a franchisee you will to be office-based in a prominent high street location with a member of staff from day 1. Once your business is up and running, you will meet with potential landlords and investors, manage & grow your team and will deal with day-to-day property management issues.
Depending on your success you may have an office manager in place and focus on expanding the business through acquistions or with additional offices in your territory.
Husband and wife team, Chris and Merolyn Whitaker, joined The Property Franchise Group in 2015 following 16 years serving in the Army’s Intelligence Corps. Just two years later, the couple completed on one of the network’s largest ever single office acquisitions…
So, what was the motivation behind this huge career change for the former military pair?
“Throughout our years in the Army, we’d continually invested in property and had built up a successful portfolio across the South West of England. We’d always struggled to find an estate and lettings agent that we really trusted and who delivered the quality of customer service that we expected, something which was particularly important for us due to the long periods we’d spend away from home on deployment.
“We’d both always wanted to be our own boss, and with our previous experience of the property industry and those within it, estate agency was the natural progression into this. It was our shared ambition to not only own a business, but to be the kind of agent that we’d always looked for – and never found.”
How did the journey start?
“Having made the decision to take the plunge and purchase a property business, we took the first steps and agreed on location. We had existing roots in the South West and, with Plymouth the largest city in the UK without a Martin & Co presence at the time, we were naturally eager to secure the territory.”
It was the pair’s discipline and dedication that drove them on…
“We knew that having committed to launching our business time was of the essence, and so we both dedicated ourselves to studying for our ARLA qualifications whilst on tour with the Intelligence Corps – a feat in itself! And, on 30th April 2015 we said a final goodbye to our military careers and opened the doors to Martin & Co Plymouth.”
It’s a daunting prospect for any first-time franchisee, and it was no different for Chris and Merolyn, who had a number of fears and challenges to face head on…
“Launching the business on that Spring morning with not one single property or landlord on our books was certainly a little unnerving, with perhaps our greatest fear being that we’d open the doors to complete tumbleweed! These apprehensions were intensified by the fact that both ourselves and Martin & Co as a brand were completely unknown in the local area. Whilst we had childhood roots in the South West, having been posted abroad for the previous few years, we had no real connections or allies here - a real world away from the close-knit army family we’d left behind. There were also already a large number of well-established, traditional agents in Plymouth, and we had to make sure we stood out – and quickly!”
And stood out they did. But, how?
“Our previous careers had evidenced our drive, commitment, and real sense of service, and it was this that truly came into play as we progressed our franchise business. We challenged the doubters and the sceptics by working hard to create an honest and professional offering and committed ourselves passionately to delivering an exceptional service – the one thing that we’d really struggled to find ourselves as property owners. We prided ourselves from day one on doing the job properly, and in doing so quickly earned ourselves a reputation for excellence.”
And excellence continued…
”When we opened our doors back in 2015, we were right at the bottom of the rankings of Martin & Co offices in terms of income. Just two years later, we’d moved up to rank 8th across the whole network! Not only that, but we were finalists in the Best Young Business Growth awards at the Property Franchise Group’s annual conference – a huge honour to be recognised by our peers in this way.”
And the road to success was just beginning. In the same year, the couple completed on one of the network’s biggest ever single office acquisitions when they acquired Plymouth’s largest and most longstanding independent lettings agents, with a history spanning more than half a century.
Wow! Tell us more…
“Ever since we launched, we had expansion in our sights and when an opportunity arose to purchase one of the city’s most established agents, we absolutely jumped at it! Executive Lets had a strong presence in Plymouth stretching back over fifty years and, specialising solely in private rentals, was a perfect fit with our own expertise across both lettings and sales. The acquisition meant that we were able to enhance our offer by providing a fully comprehensive lettings and estate agency service to customers across the South West of England – as well as significantly growing our local presence, our portfolio, and our team.
And the facts speak for themselves. Not only was it an unprecedented move, with a relative newcomer to both the industry and the local area acquiring one of Plymouth’s largest and most established lettings agents, but the scale of growth has been phenomenal. The couple’s purchase of Executive Lets saw it re-branded as Martin & Co and incorporated fully into the agency’s existing operation, resulting in the number of properties under management quadruple and it’s team grow more than three-fold."
But, it’s clear that the couple isn’t stopping there…
“Despite consolidating the largest and fastest growing agents in the city, we still view this as only the very start of our journey and are confident that in continuing to meet the needs of local landlords, homebuyers, and sellers, we’ve placed ourselves in the very strongest position for future growth and expansion.”
It’s of course the individuals’ unwavering enthusiasm and enterprising spirit that has brought them such success, but as both Chris and Merolyn know from their time in the armed forces – it’s the support from your colleagues that truly makes the difference…
“We would never have got to where we are now if it wasn’t for those around us supporting our every step, and guiding us in the right direction. The support of other Martin & Co franchisees across the whole network has been – and remains – invaluable. Everyone is in exactly the same boat and we have benefited hugely from the continual sharing of ideas and experiences along our entire journey to date. The encouragement, acknowledgement, and inspiration we receive from our peers has been instrumental to our success."
So, what’s the long term plan for the couple?
“With over 90 estate and lettings agents in the city of Plymouth alone, competition is tough – but we have huge aspirations to continue to grow and to become the number one agent in Plymouth, and we know that with our determination, motivation and real passion for what we do – we’ll absolutely achieve this sooner than we probably think!”
On 22nd November, the Romford branch of Martin & Co moved ownership and is now in the safe and experienced hands of Rak Vasis and his wife, Alpana.
Having met at school and married when they were young, the entrepreneurs now have two grown up children and a very friendly dog called Poppy, but it was a life changing event which lead them to consider the property franchise business.
“I graduated back in the 1980s and started my career in estate agency, employed by a wide range of high street companies before leaving the industry to work as a freelance marketing consultant,” explained Rak. “I think there was a part of me that always missed the housing market. Then last year I was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was a huge shock and after surgery and chemotherapy, Alpana and I decided to revaluate our lives and took the decision to go into business for ourselves. As we didn’t want to start up from scratch, and with a hankering for an old life, a franchise in the property sector seemed like a great option.”
Not long after making this big decision, a mutual friend introduced Rak to the owner of the Martin & Co franchise in Romford. “I only met to get some advice initially but as fate had it I ended up buying his franchise. Since then we’ve become good friends and I’m sure he’ll always be there if I need any advice.”
“I didn’t have too many concerns about the purchase but The Property Franchise Group were just brilliant throughout,” Rak remembers. “They took the time to get to know me personally and once it was decided that I would be a good fit for Martin & Co they made sure the deal was right for both the seller and me.”
The training Rak received in the run-up to the completion included a residential course based at The Property Franchise Group head office in Bournemouth. “The trainers were specialists in their fields and the induction took a group of potential franchisees through the latest processes and procedures within the industry as well as offering good sales and business strategies which was all extremely useful.”
Rak also commented on the ongoing support from The Property Franchise Group. “They really work with you every step of the way. During the process they offered me support in terms of a mentor and provided check lists to act as prompts to help ensure compliance with the maze of regulatory requirements.”
Romford is a busy franchise with over 100 managed properties on the books already so Rak will have plenty to do, but this is exactly what he is looking for.
“I want to run a good, honest business, providing a reliable service to landlords and tenants alike. I think word of mouth is really important in this industry and Martin & Co has a great reputation to uphold and build upon. I’d like to be part of that family, offering a great service that local people appreciate - I believe that is the way to grow the business in the future.”
Having worked in the Wolverhampton branch of Martin & Co as an enthusiastic and eager-to-learn graduate, almost a decade later she is back in the Property Franchise Group fold as the new owner of Whitegates Wolverhampton.
Property wasn’t always at the forefront of the 29-year-old’s mind – having graduated from the University of Wolverhampton with a degree in Law, Perdip could have easily found herself in the country’s courts rather than running a successful independent estate agency.
“I worked at Martin & Co in Wolverhampton initially but left and set up The Lettings Shop in West Bromwich when I was 21,” she says. “Prior to that I had worked at places like Argos and Comet while at university in order to save up as much money as I could so I could start my own business when I finished uni. At one point I was managing more than 300 properties at The Lettings Shop.”
A combination of family life, the pressures of running an independent agency and a yearning to take her business back to Wolverhampton from West Bromwich, though, saw Perdip look at a resale opportunity back where her journey began with the Property Franchise Group.
“I’ve had two kids since starting The Lettings Shop and my husband came into the business to help run it,” says Perdip, “but I felt that running an independent lettings agency wasn’t working as well as it had before. It’s so competitive against more established agents and then the onset of online-only agents. I felt coming back into the Property Franchise Group would work better for me, having that established and larger brand behind me. As soon as the opportunity to purchase the Whitegates office in Wolverhampton came up, I was interested.”
However, having got the resale process over the line with support from the Group, Perdip was left thinking her step back into the fold was cursed.
“The Group has been really helpful as this wasn’t an easy resale and we’ve had a lot of issues. Pretty much everything I have done has been jinxed,” she laughs. “But they have been really supportive and have been up to Wolverhampton to help as well. I couldn’t have done it without their support.
It’s started really well as we are doing around four or five valuations every day and people are saying that they dealt with us 10 or 15 years ago so that shows how established the Whitegates brand is in the area. That kind of thing is exactly what I want to hear. We brought over around 140 properties from The Lettings Shop so we’ve now got 340 managed properties at Whitegates Wolverhampton.”
Never one to stand still and take stock, though, Perdip is already pondering expanding her Whitegates operation back to her old stomping ground in West Bromwich.
“West Bromwich and Wolverhampton are a fair way apart so one thing I have found bringing over properties from The Lettings Shop is the distance as a lot of our landlords in West Bromwich like to come into the branch to see us,” she admits.
“Already I’m thinking I may have to open a West Bromwich branch to deal with that but we’ll see - one step at a time!”
“I followed my instincts and built the business I always wanted”
Brian Phillips has owned the Bath Martin & Co office since July 2015, when he bought it after completing his MBA. Since then he’s broken many of the records set before his arrival, and he plans on opening at least two new offices.
Where did his vision come from? Brian explains.
“I always had my own instincts and ideas for what I could achieve, so I gave up my job as a financial advisor in Hong Kong to buy a business and become my own boss.”
Fortunately for Brian, the perfect opportunity came around – a letting agent in his home town of Bath.
“I knew I wanted to franchise, but didn’t have much preference on where. As it turned out the Martin & Co Bath office was available and offered the best combination of value and potential. The beauty of buying into a franchise meant that I got all the support and training I needed to be the best business owner I could be, so I was able to create a long term plan without stumbling over the day-to-day management of the office.”
Equipped with the business knowledge and franchise support he needed, Brian was able to focus his attentions on growing the Bath franchise to his expectations.
“The main challenge was getting the office to meet its potential. We renovated the office, updated the branding and I spent a lot of time building a new team of staff around me – in whom I had total confidence. Once the foundations were in place, it didn’t take long for my decisions to pay dividends, as we were soon breaking financial records that the old Bath office would never have achieved.”
Brian always knew his instincts were going to be his greatest ally when he went into franchising.
“It’s ultimately a case of having confidence in your instincts. You have to focus on your strengths and build the business around those strengths. It is all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks and organisation of the business, but it is essential to make time to plan and set targets and to have the flexibility to change those plans as new opportunities present themselves. I believe my ability to trust my gut and to keep a long-term view for my office was a big part of getting to where we are today.”
How has Brian’s role changed since he took over the office?
“I am still very hands-on but I’m able to take this approach into different aspects of the business. Before I had my new team around me I was spending a lot of time conducting viewings and appraisals, but now I have staff I can trust I now focus more on organising and growing the office for the future. I’m very lucky that I’m able to reinvest most of my profits back into the business should I choose to, so we have plenty of scope for improvement in the future.”
Brian has finally taken complete control of his career and now owns his own business – so what’s next?
“We’re expanding into sales at the moment and expect to build on this. We’re also going to look at opening new offices both within and beyond the Bath territory, as I think there’s a lot of room for growth in the surrounding towns.
“The franchising experience has been incredibly rewarding. I’m glad I followed my instincts.”
After leaving the army I turned to franchising to channel my ambition
Craig Lundberg is the franchisee at Whitegates Woolton and has been since 2016. However, his story is an unconventional one – how did he end up running an estate agency?
“I don’t know many people who grow up wanting to be an estate agent!
“All I ever wanted was to be a soldier, so that’s exactly what I did. I joined the army at aged 16 to follow my dream. In 2007, I was deployed in Basra, Iraq as a Lance Corporal – aged 21.
“During an important operation, a rooftop grenade attack went south. An explosive hit me in the chest and left me totally blind. I was lucky to survive that attack, but my time in the army was over.”
In 2009, Craig returned to civilian life. In the aftermath of a global financial crisis, Craig bought some property, becoming a landlord in the process.
“I built a modest portfolio, and then I heard from my business partner Nicola Carter that a franchise – Whitegates Woolton – was up for sale. Given my knowledge of the property market, it seemed the right time to branch out into estate agency. I used some money from my portfolio and bought the business.”
Craig had endured a tough time leaving the army and finding himself back in England. What motivated him to go into business?
“I was never going to let my blindness hold me back. I always strive for success in everything I do and I do not fear failure, so I had faith in my ability to make something out of whatever path I pursued. Fortunately for me property has been a great decision and the support I received from head office has more than made up for my lack of estate agency experience in the past.”
Now that Craig is established in the local market, is he enjoying the experience of being a franchisee?
“I’m really enjoying it, and the best part about being your own boss is that you are only limited by your ambition and work ethic. The Property Franchise Group really supported me and made the process as stress free as possible, so I’m just getting my head down and growing my business.”
Using his past experiences, what advice does Craig have for prospective franchisees?
“Great things in business are never done alone. By surrounding yourself with great people who want the same thing as you, you will have the best possible chance of succeeding.
“It’s not a secret that hard work will pay dividends in the long term, it’s just a case of preparation and learning from the inevitable failures along the way.”
What are Craig’s long-term goals now that he is an experienced franchisee?
“For now I want to keep developing my Woolton office. The next stage is expanding into other franchise areas, and my ultimate goal is to be named Franchisee of the Year for The Property Franchise Group.”
And does Craig have any final words of encouragement for new business owners?
“I can only speak for myself when I say I would definitely do all this again. I have the total support of the Group and they are helping me achieve my ambitions. They made the start of my journey as stress-free as possible and I’m excited about what the future will bring.”
Craig Pearson is the franchisee at Parkers Reading. In 2015, after 17 years of franchising, he was named our No1 branch in a network of nearly 300 national offices.
How did he get there? Craig explains.
“First things first, my ambition has always been to be the top-performing branch in the UK, and to remain in the top five. Having a goal gave me motivation. And the bigger the ambition, the higher the motivation to achieve it.”
But it takes time to climb the ladder. When did Craig’s story start?
“It started in 1999 when I was offered first refusal on the Parkers Reading branch. I was already an experienced estate agent, having worked in the industry for 10 years as a sales negotiator and valuer, so I knew the market well enough to make a strong start.”
Craig built his business and survived the 2007 crash – he now owns three offices.
“I worked tirelessly to make it through the financial crisis and its aftermath. We needed to adapt the business to the market and it was then that my knowledge of the industry showed through.”
And after the recession, how did he manage to grow his business to what it is today? And what advice does Craig have for budding franchisees?
“To answer the first question, you need to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in to make a success of yourself. The key is in the first three years. After you lay the groundwork, the business will grow. Expect long days and stay patient. The rewards will come.”
“As for getting into the industry, my advice is to get some experience in estate agency. Spend a year or two working in an office environment and get to know the business down to its smallest detail. Managing an office, a team and targets will become a lot easier.”
However, Craig acknowledges he couldn’t have made it to the number one agent on his own.
“When I started out we had to focus on getting the business going, but within two to three years the ‘behind-the-scenes’ benefits of being a franchise started to have a big impact on business. We were trained, we remained legally compliant, we had a good website built for us, and this allowed me to concentrate on business generation for my office. These things also provided a stepping stone to opening my second and third office as I had extra time and support to push the deals through.”
And what are Craig’s reflections on his career?
“Franchising is the best thing that could possibly have happened to me. I’ve earned good money, I am my own boss and, most importantly of all, I get to spend time with my family.”
And his goals for the future?
“Stay at the top. And open more offices!”
Craig runs a national class business and his tireless hard work, self-motivation and ambition have set him apart. Now operating three offices, Craig is a testament of what can be achieved within a successful franchise model.
Gail Loller has been a franchisee in Liverpool since 2001. In that time she has won multiple awards and now owns three offices, and plans to open a fourth.
Being at the top wouldn’t be as impressive if Gail hadn’t started, as many people do, at the bottom.
“I was an office junior”, Gail explains. “I had just had my second child and I needed something new to focus on. It was just a job.”
But what was an office job became a lot more once Gail started getting noticed.
“I had already worked in financial services and property, and my husband was a surveyor. I had plenty of knowledge and skills to progress in the estate agency industry, so I set about climbing the ladder.”
So, after starting at Whitegates in 1989, Gail became a Branch Manager of one, and then two, offices.
“Once I was managing my two office I spotted the opportunity to franchise. So I took the plunge – I became the first person to ever franchise with Whitegates. Seven other managers soon followed my lead, and things have gone from there.”
Gail recognised that her personal needs were taking her towards franchising.
“As a mother and an individual I wanted to work for myself, without any red tape or bureaucracy. I needed the freedom to make my own business decisions and spend time with my family, so franchising was the natural progression.”
Gail pointed to the fact that the male-dominated industry drove her to new heights.
“Being a woman in the industry meant I had to be 10pc better than the men. I needed to work hard to succeed, but the two key benefits were that I was always in control of my own future and I would reap rewards equal to the effort I put in.”
When MartinCo plc purchased the Whitegates brand in 2014, Gail was already an experienced franchisee. She was encouraged to push her business empire to even greater heights.
“It’s hard to believe that I had evolved from an office junior to being identified as the kind of franchise owner who should be owning three, maybe four offices.
“I was suddenly being supported by a nationwide brand, learning how to look at my business in greater detail than ever before, and identifying hidden opportunities that I may have missed before.
“It also helps that my children, by this time, had started growing up. I was able to dedicate more time to my work without missing out on those key family moments. I worked even harder and found a second wind to running a business.”
Gail’s West Derby office has won “Whitegates Branch of the Year” three years in a row and aims to own five offices in the future.
How does she keep going?
“I’m nearly 50 now, but I have as much energy as ever. I’m up at 5am and go for a run, and I still get a buzz from selling a property. The day that stops, I’ll retire. But that’s not happening any time soon.”
Mitul Gadhia was the youngest franchisee in The Property Franchise Group when he launched his first office in Loughborough in 2012, aged just 21. Now 26, he owns three offices across two brands, and is finding new ways to turn his business into a success.
Having worked his way up the ladder at Nationwide from the age of 16, Mitul walked away from his ready-made career and started again by franchising in the property industry.
Why take the risk? Mitul explains.
“I was earning great money and thriving at Nationwide, but I always knew I wanted to run my own business adhering to my own standards. I’ve not looked back since.”
Mitul points out two key factors that helped him forge his success.
“You need to work very hard for yourself and your team. Franchising isn’t a get rich quick scheme - without the hard graft, you won’t make it.”
“But also, the franchise support has been incredible. The training was exemplary, I got all the expert advice I could ask for from industry veterans, and I have been encouraged to take my business in a direction that suits me and my goals. It has been a wonderful team effort from day one.”
Mitul chose franchising in the first instance with Martin & Co and has since launched the Whitegates Leicester office, making Mitul one of just a handful of franchisees who owns multiple businesses across different brands in the Group.
“I would say that I had a privileged start in the franchise – I had saved up a good amount of money from my previous job and already had a budding property portfolio across the UK – but I got a real head start just by listening to the advice being offered to me by The Property Franchise Group.
“All of this has been priceless, and helped me on my journey to owning two more offices since I started in 2012.”
Mitul’s achievements as a young business owner have not been limited to recognition within The Property Franchise Group. His recent accolades include: Best Young Business Award Winner 2014; Winner of 'Young Achiever Award' and ‘Overall Winner’ in the Business Category at the Leicester Mercury Young Achiever Awards. He also won 'Silver - Rising Star of The Year Award' at The Negotiator Awards 2015.
“I couldn’t have done this alone. My experiences have taught me to trust both my own instincts and the expertise of the franchise. The competition is getting stronger and the market is getting tougher, but we are confident that we can diversify and attract new customers to the offices.”
“The long term goal is for each of my offices to be number one in their locality. This means the highest amount of listings, market share and number one choice for landlords and vendors. I won’t rest until I’ve achieved it and I know we will look for ways to make it happen.”
Finally, is Mitul happy with his decision to franchise with The Property Franchise Group?
“Absolutely. I’ve never regretted it – I have minimised risk, listened to advice and remained passionate. We both strive for high standards and constant success, and that holds us in good stead for the future.”