Director Simon Deen on his 15 years at Aston Chase

This week marks 15 years since I started my Aston Chase journey, and is perhaps a good opportunity to look back and see how much both the industry and Aston Chase have changed over that period.

The first thing I should recognise is some of the outstanding people I have worked with over that time, both colleagues and clients. Remarkably for an industry where staff turnover is high, the core sales team at Aston Chase has changed very little. Four of my colleagues were here when I started, and two have been here nearly as long as I have, either side of 10 years respectively.

The phrase “long term consistency trumps short term intensity” comes to mind, and it’s clear that one of the reasons behind Aston Chase’s success is not just the length of time that people have been here, but also how everyone is committed to the overarching ethos. Working through both good markets and bad, the aim is always to give clients the best advice possible, and to allow them to benefit from our expertise and experience. We genuinely care about what we do and who we do it with, and when that works well, it really feels like success.

Aston Chase are about as close as you can get to dealing with a licenced broker in an industry which amazingly, still has no barriers to entry. That’s been a force for good as well as bad as whilst it’s allowed some to thrive, the industry still struggles with its reputation, and that’s been a real issue when trying to attract young, talented people.

In terms of clients, I’ve worked with some genuinely lovely people and learned early on that irrespective of people’s ages, budgets or personal negotiating styles, essentially they’re all just looking for homes where their families can be happy, whatever stage of life they’re at. Helping them navigate that journey whilst incurring as little stress as possible, and getting to a positive outcome for all is really so rewarding.

However the area of the business that I’ve enjoyed most over the period is the New Homes space, and we’ve been fortunate enough to handle some outstanding schemes for some of London’s best developers. The three that stand out the most over that period have to be The Henson Building by Londonewcastle, Queens by Derwent London and The Park Crescent by Amazon Property. Three very different schemes, for three very different developers but all outstanding examples of what each was trying to achieve, and above all else, a truly collaborative process.

Estate Agency has been through some pretty challenging times since 2004. One global financial crisis, five (five!) Stamp Duty changes, three general elections one Brexit referendum (so far), and of course the predicted disruption that “Proptech 2.0” would bring about – online agencies offering a low cost, internet based solution to what has always been a business that relied heavily on the quality of personal relationships.

Whilst Proptech 1.0 (Rightmove, Zoopla etc) caused a seismic and irrevocable shift in the way that buyers and tenants searched for property, Proptech 2.0 simply hasn’t had the same impact, and the struggles of the biggest players in the market are now widely known. An apparent market share of less than 1% in London tells its own story, and it’s not even close to the success predicted.

However that’s not to say that things haven’t changed, and led by the successes of the property portals, the way in which we market our clients properties is almost unrecognisable from where it was when I started. Whilst printed media still has a place, it’s largely been replaced by digital marketing. Platforms like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram have given us the ability to alternate between targeting specific audiences which we can match to our clients properties, whilst at the same time giving ourselves maximum exposure to a global audience. However the most transformational element of this move to digital marketing has been the ability to track what is working and what isn’t, and adapt our strategy accordingly.

I genuinely believe that further change is coming, and whilst Proptech 2.0 didn’t disrupt Estate Agency as many thought it might, as an industry we definitely aren’t immune. Recent history is littered with market leading companies who thought that they were protected from change, and it’s really telling that having just conducted a quick poll of some of our junior negotiators, none of them know who Kodak or Blockbuster Video are, let alone did they own a MiniDisc player!

Whatever the future holds for Estate Agency, I am confident that the most successful companies will be the ones who not only embrace technology, but also who employ those individuals who are able to build the best personal relationships. This should be based on knowledge, experience, negotiation skills and the ability to understand how to most effectively market their clients properties, but also how to market themselves.

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