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Sunday, 25 March 2018
GORING-based estate agency Warmingham recently published impressive figures using Rightmove data which showed it to be “No1 in the area”. So why don’t we know more about the family-run business?
Bob and Sue Warmingham opened their independent agency in 1984, covering the Thames Valley, Berkshire Downlands and Chilterns.
Essentially a country practice specialising in the sale and letting/management of village and riverside properties, it also deals with new homes, land for residential development, riverside moorings, local commercial businesses and probate and family trust valuations.
The firm is made up of 10 staff, two of whom work weekends only. There is just the one branch, which enables the firm to make sure every member is “excellent” at their role.
“We believe that we have the best staff and afford them a unique environment with personal and professional growth at the heart of their employment,” says managing director Paul O’Loughlin, adding: “We put a lot of time into training.”
The agency invests a considerable amount of time and money in the development of its staff, with all of of them qualifying in their relevant fields with both the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA). But that’s not the whole picture.
“Experience is training in itself,” says Paul, “and we have a combined experience of almost 150 years between us! What’s more, we make sure every single member trains in photography.”
This last point is really quite interesting. Warmingham thinks a good set of pictures is vital in finding the right people for the right property. The firm has invested in two pieces of top-end camera kit — from Hasselblad and Canon.
“Some agencies use a basic digital camera that won’t do a property justice, but most other agencies hire a photography/marketing agency to photograph a property,” says Paul.
“Sometimes, we find ourselves having to visit a property at various times of day, to capture different moods or sun patterns.”
Paul has even had rival agencies asking which professional photographer Warmingham uses for its brochures. “That’s so funny,” he says, “but it just goes to show we put everything into each member of staff. Not that we see each other like that — we’re like a family.”
Some of them are literally family. Agency director Sue Warmingham is Paul’s mother and the wife of fellow director Bob, while sales manager Louise Parker is Paul’s sister. Says Sue: “Being a family-run business, we live on our reputation. As a consequence, our clients perceive us as both a constant and reliable as well as at the cutting edge.
“As one client said, ‘21st century technology, 18th century courtesy and attention.’ We have such wonderful staff, we really are one big family. There has never been any hierarchy — we all take turns making the tea!”
Sue also thinks their secret is the work ethic of the staff. “We all work so hard! Each agent goes above and beyond the call of duty.”
But it’s not just about the staff. “Buying a house is so stressful for people, and it’s a privilege to be asked into their home,” adds Sue. “When you take on a house, you’re not just taking on the sale but you’re getting involved with every aspect of the seller’s lives. They all have jobs, children, parents, friends, hobbies, responsibilities. You are getting to know them and building up a relationship. It really matters. It’s personal.”
Apart from the staff, all of the agency’s time and money goes into their clients. Standard Property has noticed a difference in the approach of our local estate agencies — each one does things differently.
At Warmingham, for example, they definitely spend more money on sponsorship than they do on direct advertising.
The agency say they are extremely proud to be associated with a great many schools, charities, and events within the area, including the Goring 10km run, the Stoke Row 10km run, pre-school PTA events, primary school events, choral societies, food and music festivals, and other local community projects.
Paul said: “It’s all part of our ethos — our number one priority is integrity. It’s the reason so many of our clients are from recommendations and repeat business.”
He added that not only will he not take on a client who he does not trust, but he will also not take on a property if he doesn’t trust the seller/landlord.
“We are known throughout our area as being honest, straightforward and giving excellent advice which you can rely on,” he added.
And so here’s to another 32 years of Warmingham doing things their way.
As Paul says, “Why waste two hours on a meeting that could have been spent launching a property, taking a sale, or taking a viewing?”
That’s the Warmingham way.