We got to ask Giles Ellwood, CEO for Homesearch what is the secret to his and the data-led estate agency that he runs.
What products or services do you provide?
“We are first and foremost a property data business and in a unique position to provide the most comprehensive information and insight on every home in England and Wales. Over the last four years we have built both a proprietary database of every residential property and a technology platform that tracks the live available market for both sales and lettings – overlaying that data against our own.
“Through providing this holistic market view, we’re able to continually innovate and build out the data-led product and services that best suit our customers’ needs.
“We’ve built an award-winning property data and estate agent prospecting platform which enables agents to generate new leads and ultimately win more instructions.
“Our platform provides all the property data, reporting and lead generation tools in one place, to give estate agents a major commercial advantage in what is a fiercely competitive marketplace.
“In a nutshell, we’re able to inform agents and their clients of where they might find the perfect home for their requirements, even if it’s not currently for sale yet.
What type of businesses do you work with?
“The Homesearch platform is currently designed to meet the needs of estate agents to keep them one step ahead of the competition and has quickly become the go-to prospecting solution for established market leaders such as Knight Frank, Hamptons, Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward. We also have over a thousand leading independent estate agent subscribers.
“Geographically we are primarily focused on agents in England and Wales but are continuously innovating and investing in our platform to expand our audience proposition. We have already begun to move into complimentary property industry related verticals, such as financial services, as we see the massive growth potential for Homesearch.”
What problem does your company solve?
“There is currently reported to be an average of 29 buyers for every one property for sale on the market and so there is an alarming shortage of housing stock available. This presents a major headache for both homebuyers and estate agents alike.
“The research conducted by Propertymark also identified that the number of properties and instructions available to its member estate agent branches is at an all-time low. Despite all the talk in the industry of record house prices, this is amid a widely felt national drought of properties being put up for sale.
“In response to this deepening supply-demand crisis, we’ve developed a platform solution which equips estate agents with the data and insight needed to stimulate the market and unearth properties for sale to meet their client demand. The result being that we arm agents with the intel to proactively encourage homeowners to put their home on the market. This means a higher volume of quality, qualified instructions for the agents.
“In addition to helping tackle the shortage of housing stock available for sale on the market, we’ve also addressed the lack of rich, data-led insight available to the professionals who need it. We’re finding that forward-thinking estate agents are increasingly waking up to the need to harness big data and technology to drive business growth in tough market conditions.”
“Our approach is paying dividends. In terms of generating new revenue streams for estate agents, we’ve found that those currently using our platform see an average 1,100% return on investment (ROI). Our aim is for that ROI figure to reach 1,500% by the end of this year as we help address the chronic lack of leads and quality instructions available to agents in a market where buyers heavily outweigh sellers.”
What is your USP?
“Put simply, our USP is our data.
“Roughly 65% of the 24 billion data points within the Homesearch platform are proprietary. We have an in-house, UK based, data science and engineering team whose job it is to continually find and explore the unknowns and continually refine our data and modelling.
“It’s important to stress that our big data capability also played a critical role in us recently securing major business investment, having completed a £5m Series A funding round with Octopus Ventures – the venture capitalist firm that originally backed Zoopla.”
What are your company values? Have you ever had them challenged and if so how have you dealt with it?
“Our core values centre around meaningful relationships, working for everyone, listening and thinking ahead, information as power and being essential. This is complemented by our personality traits such as being pioneering, attentive and grounded.
“The biggest challenge to our company values to date has come from our own internal pressures and desire to live and breathe them. They need to be much more than just buzzwords and instead be integral throughout the culture of the business.
“We do our best to hold up every member of our team, and every supplier we count as an ally, to both our own values and our personality to give those relationships every chance of success. It’s not a perfect process and we’ve come to learn that both company values and personality should and do evolve as the business matures. That said, we always want to stay true to our core mission which is to improve the property industry for everyone.”
How do you ensure that you recruit a team that reflects your company values?
“We have a rigorous recruitment process whereby we assess personal values as well as just technical capabilities. This enables us to uncover whether their mindset and attitude is aligned with our business values.
“We’re also aided by the fact we’re a relatively young proptech business with big ambitions and have placed no ceiling on what we want to achieve. This plays a big part in attracting the right calibre of people who are looking for the challenge and motivation to continually innovate and push boundaries. I’ve never been prouder of the team we currently have. They consistently go above and beyond for our clients and for the business.”
Are you happy to offer a hybrid working model of home/office post-covid?
“Absolutely! We do our best to foster a culture of responsibility within our team. You only get that when you offer trust and flexibility to all.
“We’ve found by offering the flexibility to work remotely or from our London-based office pays dividends in terms of individual and team performance. As a technology business, it won’t come as a surprise that our team here are equipped with the tools to communicate in real time whether that’s in the office, at home or abroad. We see no boundaries to hybrid working.”
Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
“In our line of work it’s vital that we ask lots of questions of our clients to ensure we’re getting under the skin of their business and meeting their needs. Acting on honest feedback and establishing an open dialogue with them is critical and the only way to ensure your product or service is meeting and exceeding their expectations. Complacency is the worst possible trait in a business where long-term relationships are integral to its growth.
“It sounds simple but don’t overlook the key ingredient of making your clients feel special as it will pay dividends in the long term. If things don’t run as smoothly as you’d hope, then be honest, always. If you make a mistake, own it. It’s not the mistake that’s remembered it’s the way it was handled.
“With suppliers, ensure the relationship isn’t just transactional and you treat them as an extension of your team. This is key to getting the best results from them and will help if you go through a rough patch. We are ultimately suppliers to our clients but we’d always want to be seen by them as a partner invested in their success.”
Any finance or cash-flow tips for new businesses starting out?
“My best advice is don’t be afraid to ask for uncomfortable discounts when you’re small and starting out but always pay your suppliers on time. Whether it’s personal or business relationships, treat people how you expect to be treated.
“Operate within your means so you don’t make the major mistake of running out of cash. Raise investment early but raise only what you need. It may be tempting but don’t give equity away in pursuit of an ego-driven figure.
“Remember that obsessing over running costs can stifle ambition, particularly in the start-up phase. My favourite approach is to not to fixate on keeping costs to a minimum, make more money to pay for the growth investments you need to make.”
If you could ask one thing of the government to change for businesses what would it be?
“I’d first make it easier and more cost effective for companies to set up Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) schemes, so they’re able to retain and incentivise their top talent. Keeping the best people and giving them a clear career pathway provides essential stability for businesses, particularly start-ups where growth can accelerate at real pace.
“I also feel more should be done by the government to create the right conditions for budding entrepreneurs to create businesses, such as pushing the banks to help more start-ups. At the moment it feels there has been a lot of disincentives like cutting entrepreneurs relief by 90% a couple of years ago.”
What is your attitude towards your competitors?
“As cliche as it sounds, we welcome competition.
“We entered the market with an innovative product mid-way through 2019 and by the time we’d moved from our beta release to paid product in 2020, there were already a number of replicant companies claiming to do the same things we did.
“That competition helped highlight the value in our data, and it also made us work harder to release what our own estate agent subscribers told us they wanted and needed sooner. As long as you’re prepared to work harder than the competitor next to you, and be the best for your clients or customers, you’ll do well.”
Any thoughts on the future of your company and your dreams?
“The future is bright. We’ve got a real opportunity to drive lasting change within the property market but also need more estate agents to join us on this journey.
“We’re working tirelessly to deliver a unique platform which can transform the way estate agents do business, generate instructions and increase profit, but we need more agents to embrace data, insights and technology to realise it’s full business potential. It’s largely still an industry that operates in the past with estate agents using the same old trusted methods, so we know there is a need for more proactive thinking from agents if they are going to make that step-change.
“We’re aware of our responsibility to estate agents to continually innovate, enhance and push the boundaries of data and technology to provide them with the most leading-edge platform available. If we can nail our business plan, we’ll succeed in making the market a more informed, connected and dynamic place, for everyone.”