11 questions we ask every agent: Boyce Brixham

Kit Greenslade is a sales negotiator at Boyce Brixham, an estate agency with almost 100 years’ experience operating in and around Brixham, Devon. He chats to us about their fuss-free move to Alto.

Can you tell us a bit about your agency – what areas do you cover and how long have you been operating?

The agency has been well established since 1925 so we’re approaching our 100th anniversary. 

We’re well established in the area, offering sales and lettings in the TQ5 postcode, which covers Brixham, Churston Ferrers and Galmpton. We currently have a team of 11. 

How and why did you get into estate agency?

I joined Boyce Brixham five years ago. And funnily enough I met my boss at a drinks party. 

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and was looking for a new challenge. I like meeting new people and liked the idea that every day would be quite different – so I thought I’d give estate agency a go. 

What would you say are the biggest challenges your agency has faced over the past year?

1. Working from home 

It wasn’t an easy transition to get our team to work remotely because our old software system wasn’t cloud-based. 

It was a real challenge to make sure the team had all the information they needed as quickly as possible. So it felt like we didn’t really have the option to work from home without jumping through hoops. 

2. A busy market

Keeping up with the incredibly busy UK property market and trying to maintain efficiency across the business has been tough. 

Last year was the busiest we’ve ever been. At times it was a new level of busy – we didn’t want to miss out on anything, but staff still had to take time off due to isolation periods or childcare needs.

How long have you been using estate agent software? How has it changed the way you run your business? 

We used Vebra/Encore Live for at least the last 13 years, so we’ve been software-based for a long time but on desktop, not in the cloud.  

Having a cloud-based system makes communication so much easier and everyone much more efficient. There’s no chance of losing anything unlike with paper-based systems, and you can match people to properties more easily. 

There’s no need to go through files every time you want to follow-up with someone – the system does it for you. 

What made you move to Alto, and were there any business challenges or problems that encouraged you to make the change?

We’d been looking to move to cloud-based software for a while and thinking about moving over to Alto.

In such a tough market, it’s important to stay ahead of our competitors. And some of the functionality that Alto offers in terms of access to information for landlords, tenants and vendors was particularly appealing. It overcame a number of challenges for us. 

Did you and your team have many concerns about changing software?

There were some concerns, yes. 

It’s fair to say there are a few people here who are ‘tech dinosaurs’ and don’t always understand the terminology. 

When you say it’s cloud-based, there are always concerns. People were asking, “Will I need tech wizardry? Will it move too fast? Will I be able to keep up?” 

How did the reality of the migration compare to how you thought it would go? Was your thinking worse than reality?

The reality certainly wasn’t as scary as it seemed – like anything that involves change. 

The migration and onboarding team were always on hand to support and we’ve made good use of the user guides too. 

It’s early days and we’re still figuring things out. But my team are finding it easier than they thought they would and are seeing the benefits much earlier than they thought. 

How long did the migration take?

The actual migration only took about a week, but the whole process took about a month from start to finish from the initial test migration to using the system. 

How do you think the market will change over the next 12 months? And how do you think having the right property software will play a part in that?

The market is forever tricky because stock levels are still down when you compare to pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) levels. But the fact we can offer vendors more information is invaluable in a tight market, when there’s not much stock. 

It’s hard to tell what will happen. If anything, things plateaued after COVID-19 and prices were holding strong. They’ve levelled out slightly in our area but they’re still strong from before the pandemic.  

What  tips would you give to another agent going through the same process – in particular, how to get their current data right before the transfer?

Make sure your housekeeping is up to date. That’s the best tip I can give. Make sure you understand your current software and tidy up your data because a lot of stuff is automatically migrated to Alto. 

My other tip is to make sure your new software works with your current processes. Does it offer more than your current system? Speak to other agents we have someone working here who had previously used Alto and could tell us what it was like. 

If you had your time again, would you move to Alto knowing what was involved?

Yes, 100%. 

It was really easy, with no hiccups. 

It’s not a massive process and it doesn’t actually take up that much time – but the benefits are already obvious. 

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