Daisy Chain Register

A perfect match – Where Mums work flexibly to sell houses

The newest addition to my little family is six weeks old and I can’t wait to get back to work already. Before you judge me as a high flying, career driven maniac – I’m looking forward to getting back to work because I love what I do, the hours are flexible and the earning potential is attractive. It’s the ideal position to allow me to go back to work and ensure that I am providing the right care for my daughter whilst also enjoying work.

My husband and I set up Mr & Mrs Clarke, a boutique estate agency, two years ago. Friends were telling us that they were becoming disheartened with buying and selling property and we saw a gap in the market. Here is my story about our business and why mums are the perfect employees.

“Sorry Mrs Clarke but the chain has collapsed and the sellers are taking the house off the market.” This was the line that was delivered to me by a very well meaning twenty year old chap in a tight suit when our dream home was whipped away from us in 2014. It was a gorgeous house, in a pretty village that we had salivated over for the past twelve months. We had spent hard earned cash on architects, lawyers, surveyors and Farrow & Ball tester pots but that short phone call crushed that dream. It was incredibly frustrating especially when we discovered that it was down to the complete ineptitude of a band of useless estate agents not telling us what was happening.

As the old adage goes – “if you can’t beat them, join them!” So I set about creating an estate agency that focused on old fashioned values in a modern world. I dragged my husband along, who was sick of the corporate grind, and we put our skills together to create a boutique agency that sold homes through beautiful marketing and provided sellers and buyers the kind of customer service they deserve when forking out extortionate amounts of money on their small piece of England.

We spent six months working with a groovy branding agency, learning this industry and researching the market. Online estate agencies were just breaking into the house seller’s psyche by offering a low upfront fee and they were disrupting the High Street agent’s domination of buying and selling property. What we found was that sellers of houses were prepared to pay for someone to sell their house, as long as they were good at it. People were telling us that they wanted their home to be shown off like an article from Living Etc. They were also telling us that when they were looking for houses they wanted to be charmed, captivated by marketing and not just look at a list of room measurements. The Great British public didn’t want to pay the new breed of online agencies and have to do the viewings and negotiations themselves. Our answer was to recruit great people, train them how to sell homes and help people buy.

What we found most interesting when we started advertising for agents to join our team was that we attracted lots of mums from a variety of industries and with a range of experiences. Lisa was a high flying project manager. She wanted to be able to spend more time with her son and run her own business from home. Gen was a marketing executive with a two and five year old. She didn’t want to go back to a 9 to 5 and had always fancied creating her own business. Nicky had been a top lawyer before bringing up her two teenage daughters. The thought of selling houses for a living was the perfect job. All three work as much or as little as they want and they love the creativity and interaction with clients. Some weeks they will slog it out for 35 hours and the next they will be able to go to the gym, take a couple of days off – it depends on them and their clients.

The way our agents work is that they own a territory, a bit like a franchise but without the associated payment and rigorous targets, and they are responsible for getting clients and selling houses. Mr & Mrs Clarke provide all the infrastructure and support they need to run a successful business. My husband heads up a team who ensure the business grows and runs smoothly from our little office in the Warwickshire countryside. The beauty for agents is they work when and how they want and have everything they need provided for them. They don’t have to spend £75k setting up a business and they don’t have to drop the kids off at nursery at 7am to get into the office to sit at a desk and look busy before rushing home to shove something in the microwave and then crash on the sofa.

I hope you can see why I’m looking forward to getting back to work – although it will be in between coffee mornings, swimming lessons and baby yoga.

We are expanding fast and we are looking for great people to join the Mr & Mrs Clarke team. If you love property and believe in a better way of advertising and selling homes and like the idea of flexible working please get in touch – not with me as I’m still on maternity leave though!

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