11 questions we ask every agent: Hunters, Dewsbury
Ashraf Esat runs the Hunters office in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. He’s just celebrated his seventh year as a franchisee and shares his branch’s software migration to Alto.
Can you tell us a bit about your agency – what areas do you cover and how long have you been operating?
We’re part of the Hunters network, which has over 200 branches in England and Wales – offering national coverage but with local expertise.
We operate in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire and our business is around 70% lettings, 30% sales, with around 300 fully managed and rent collection properties. We have a team of seven including myself.
How and why did you get into estate agency?
My story is slightly unconventional. I was a conveyancing solicitor for around ten years. But I saw the opportunity to move into the property side of things and haven’t looked back since.
I took a two-year gap after leaving conveyancing, spent time looking after a client’s portfolio and got a good feel for this side of the fence.
I started looking for opportunities and the Hunters model really appealed to me. We started with no properties and now we’re in a good position, with a strong portfolio of managed properties and a good sales business too.
What would you say are the three biggest challenges your agency has faced over the past year?
1. Challenging sales pipelines
The amount of time it takes for solicitors to complete transactions is an issue for everyone. When I was conveyancing, we could do it in eight-to-twelve weeks. Now it’s taking four-to-five months.
2. Limited stock
Although we’re getting some properties in, there’s not much available. Those we get are selling, but people are reluctant to move because they know the competition is so rife.
3. Slow customer service
It’s not just in our industry, but people have lost urgency since the pandemic. You only have to look at the utilities industry and see how long it takes to get through to customer service teams. It’s an issue across the board.
What made you upgrade to Alto, and were there any business challenges or problems that encouraged you to make the change?
We switched to Alto around a month ago after being given the option by head office.
Around 12 months ago we switched to a new platform but it wasn’t doing what we needed it to. It was cumbersome, particularly for lettings which has different needs to the sales side.
As soon as we saw Alto, it was clear it would be better for us and we jumped at the chance to switch again.
How has it changed the way you run your business?
Alto is a purpose-built system – it’s really easy to use and so much of it’s just common sense.
The drop-down menus are transparent, the system works for both sales and lettings and we didn’t need much training to pick it up – although the training videos are really useful if we do need them.
Everyone loves it and it’s just made things so much easier in the office.
What concerns, if any, did you have in advance of changing software?
We could see that Alto is a comprehensive system and works better for our needs, so there were no concerns about using the software.
If anything, the concern was changing software twice within the space of 12 months. People don’t like change and we just wanted to make sure it wasn’t another waste of time and investment. But that hasn’t been the case at all.
How did the reality of the data migration compare to how you thought it would go?
The data migration was absolutely fine.
There were a few little things that didn’t follow through but you’re always going to get that.
How did you and your team find the Alto training?
We always say that when you get trained on a system that you’ve never used before, it’s difficult to understand it. You forget what you learnt and that’ll always be the case.
However, the Alto training gave us the basics and now we just use the on-demand training videos and refresher sessions if we have specific questions. There’s always a video or Help Centre article to refer to if we come across something new or something we don’t understand.
How do you think the market might change over the next 12 months?
I think people are uncertain what’s going to happen – perhaps more than ever before and mainly because of the cost of living crisis.
I don’t think the market will slow down too much, but we’ll continue to have a problem with the amount of stock available.
What top tips would you give to other agents to help prepare their business for the data migration?
The most important thing is to make sure your data is up to date and you’ve removed all duplicates.
Migration is only as good as the data itself. You can’t expect the migration to put you in a better position than you’re in now and there’s no point transferring unwanted data, so clean it up first.
We did a data washing exercise which takes time, but it’s got to be done.
What would you say to other agents who may be thinking about making the move to Alto?
We’ve only had the system for a month, but from what we can see, it’s really good and we’d definitely recommend it to other agents.
It’s incredibly easy to use and everything makes sense.
See how Alto’s cloud-based software can help overcome your challenges across sales and lettings. Book a free, no obligation demo today.