Creating a buzz – Honeydell Estate Agents
“If you’re based somewhere with a supportive, business-minded community, it makes all the difference.”
Although starting out in the world of banking, growing up with an estate agent father and a passion for property meant working in the industry was always on the cards for Tracey. Having gone on to gain 28 years’ experience, setting up on her own was at the back of her mind for some time. But it was redundancy at the start of lockdown in March 2020 that finally gave her the impetus to take the plunge. However, although keen to offer a traditional service, Tracey realised she didn’t have to follow the standard estate agent business model.
“The perception is that a high street presence emanates success, but I’d seen client footfall steadily decreasing in branches,” she explains. “And the pandemic proved that premises like that were just not necessary. So, I decided to build a business that focused on offering the full service clients expect without the expensive public-facing office.”
Initially starting from home, Tracey then took on space in a serviced office but having heard about the support on offer at The Business Terrace, she soon decided to make the move. It was around this time that Jackie joined Honeydell. Having worked together previously in an estate agent and chartered surveyor firm, and with Jackie’s qualifications in accounts and extensive experience in block management, the pair knew they made a great team.
“At my previous job, when Covid hit, I unfortunately became ill and had to cut my hours,” Jackie says. “I was working from home, and it was a difficult time. It was then that Tracey asked me to join to take care of the accounts, but I suggested I could also help bring block management to Honeydell too.”
Adding this additional service proved a great success. With very few block management agencies in the area, it’s the fastest growing side of the business, alongside sales and lettings. And it’s a business they’re confident offers a service to rival that of the big players.
“We’re a new business but we’re not new to this,” says Tracey. “95% of our business is via referrals – clients come back to us. And every property we’ve taken on, we’ve sold or let.
“We’re registered with the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA) too which means we follow strict rules and codes of conduct. Also, as we don’t have high street overheads, we can be more competitive – we charge a flat 0.8% selling fee and we don’t tie sellers into long contracts.”
Being based at The Business Terrace has certainly helped with that success, Tracey says, and is a move she wishes she’d made sooner.
“If we’d been here when we started, any mistakes we made wouldn’t have happened as we would’ve had the help we needed,” she says. “Chris Lyle, the business advisor, was so helpful. She helped us with financial help and advised on new business grants. We wouldn’t have known about them if she hadn’t told us. That’s the difference here – everyone is so proactive, you don’t have to ask for help, it’s offered to you.”
“And it’s not just start-up help, it’s ongoing,” adds Jackie, “Chris is giving us lots of advice about marketing and pushing the business at the moment. Everyone here is so friendly too – it’s great to be able to connect with the other tenants.”
Although splitting their time between The Business Terrace and working from home, having an office space helps to prevent work and homelife merging into one.
“When I worked at home during lockdown, I lost my whole routine,” Tracey says. “When you’re in an office it forces you to have some sort of structure – it helps you to switch off from work because you can leave it behind at the end of the day, too.”
Although serving areas throughout Kent, Tracey and Jackie believe Maidstone is a great base.
“There’s a lot going on here with developments springing up all the time,” says Tracey. “More and more people are moving out from London now that they don’t need to be near the Capital for work.”
“We live here too, and we love the area. We’ve tried to reflect a Kentish feel in our name and bee logo, as well as our marketing – we’re currently giving out branded wildflower bee bombs to anyone who gets in touch about our services and ask them to send a picture of them once they’ve grown. It’s a nice environmentally friendly way to interact with our clients.”
Now that Honeydell has been settled in The Business Terrace for several months, the pair only wish they’d started their own business sooner.
“I would say to anyone else thinking of starting up on their own, don’t wait. That’s my only regret, that I waited so long,” says Tracey. “It’s easy to get comfortable when you’re employed but working for yourself gives you so much freedom.”
Jackie agrees, “We can do things at our own pace. We’re always aware of everything that needs to be done and we do need to be ‘on it’ but it’s a different kind of stress because you’re doing it for yourselves – there’s no one breathing down your neck.”
Going forward, the plan is to continue to build the business and eventually expand the team.
“We want people to take that leap of faith and give us a try,” Tracey says. We don’t have the overheads of high street agents, so our fees are less, but that certainly doesn’t mean our service is. We offer the professionalism and experience clients expect.
“Our main aim is growth. Not just for the business but also to benefit other people. We want to grow so we can take on apprentices – people who really want to get into the business. To see Honeydell develop into something that gives others opportunities would be perfect.”