11 questions we ask every agent: James Bailey

James Bailey set up his own estate agency in June 2021. He speaks to us about the challenges he faced setting up a new business in the middle of a pandemic, and how Alto’s estate agent software supports him.

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

I’m an independent estate agent offering sales and lettings in Sutton and the surrounding areas, where I grew up.

In June 2021 started my business which so far, thanks to lots of hard work and long days, has been a fantastic success. I have secured 31 sales subject to contract in my first seven months of trading.

How and why did you get into estate agency?

I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, working for a mixture of independent and corporate agencies. 

My CV looks colourful because I’ve worked for a number of companies, which some employers saw as a good thing, whereas others didn’t. But for many years I thought, “this isn’t what an estate agency should be”. 

In 2021 I took the plunge and did what I’d always wanted to do, start my own agency. I take pride in offering a flexible and personal service – I’m here whenever my clients want me.  

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

1. Recognition

As a new business, you aren’t recognised. You’re the new kid in town. The hardest thing I found was trying to get the name out there and ask for people to give me a chance.

I’ve sold 31 properties in 35 weeks which I feel is a fantastic result. I’m so thankful for the people who gave me the chance.  

2. Sole responsibility

I took the decision to do everything myself. I’m not great at delegation and this is my baby, so I went into this as an independent agent, working alone, for now at least.

It’s a huge amount of work, but I love what I do. While it’s tiring, I definitely get a buzz from it.

3. Emotions

On a more personal note, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster. If you don’t win an instruction, you take it more personally, but you can’t. It’s a battle.

There are some days I wake up feeling anxious about where the next bit of business is going to come from. You need to be strong because there are ups and downs.

It matters so much more because it’s my business and I’m trying to repay the faith that everyone has shown in me. 

How has your agency coped with such a busy property market?

With a lot of long hours!

I really enjoy what I do, but I’ve made sacrifices especially in my personal life. I work longer hours and earn less money. I’m doing 14 to 15 hour days and I’m working seven days a week, but that’s what it takes to make sure it’s a success.  

UK estate agent James Bailey headshot

James Bailey, Director at James Bailey 

How do you see the industry changing in the next few years?

I think we’ll see that agents have to be more flexible. 

Because people are working from home more, a lot of agents are suggesting that people don’t wish to view in the evening and therefore shut at 6pm.

That’s simply not true. 6pm onwards is actually one of the busiest times for viewing and it’s where a lot of my offers have come from.

Sundays, too! It’s a myth that people don’t want to view on a Sunday. I’ve secured three buyers in the last two weeks that viewed on a Sunday. They couldn’t do any other day.

We should never miss an opportunity by being inflexible. I have to treat every viewing as a potential buyer or tenant, especially for my clients. 

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

My job is a lot easier with a property management system and Alto means I can work more efficiently. 

I can send automated emails for appointments and it gives me reminders, progression notes, and much more. Plus, it’s all in one place. 

My iPad is with me every single day and because it’s cloud-based, I can access Alto at any time. I couldn’t operate without it. 

How does Alto compare to other estate agent software you’ve used?

I’ve used a couple of self-built property management systems from bigger estate agents. They were incredibly proud of what they’d built, but they were certainly not as good. 

Alto is the best software I’ve ever used and that’s why I came straight to it when I set up my own business. It’s user friendly and it does exactly what you want as an estate agent. 

I didn’t even compare prices because I’m happy with what I get for what I pay. 

What’s your favourite Alto feature?

I like the stats bar.

As a new business it’s invaluable because I can see how I’m performing at a glance – how many applicants I’ve registered, how many market appraisals I’ve done and how many of those I won. Plus the number of offers, sales agreed and viewings. 

I can search by week, month or quarter, and I’ve often used it to give me a little morale boost if I need it. 

How was the migration and onboarding process?

I had already used Alto so I knew it well, but I did a couple of good online training sessions with the team. I learn as I go, too. 

How have you found the support from Alto?

The Help Centre is fantastic. 

Just yesterday I needed to change something in the system and I submitted a ticket via the Help Centre, and it was done within two hours.  

What would be your top tip for other agents when choosing estate agent software?

Exactly what I tell clients when they’re choosing an agent. Pick what’s best for you, but don’t base anything on price alone. 

This system is going to be the difference between you being successful or not – and if you pick something that’s slow or doesn’t have the features you need, you’ll lose out. This is your engine. 

Discover more reasons why choosing the right software is key to growing your estate agency. Book your free demo of Alto today. 

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