The Sunday Times Estate Agency of the Year Awards 2010


As a judge on these awards I have mixed feelings about the event itself, on a number of levels. I am looking forward to a glitzy affair, meeting people I only know virtually and the happy faces of the winners. However, the concern remains of a possible losers lynch mob, although I think I’ve covered that by telling everyone I interviewed that I was the spit of Claudia Schiffer.

Britain is in the grip of the coldest weather for years, there is the wrong type of snow on the rails, runways and roads. I am expecting a low turn out of Estate Agents but the gung-ho British bulldog spirit seemed to be in action, or maybe it was the lure of a ‘Champagne reception’ and upmarket guinea fowl in a basket.

I arrive mid morning at the Lancaster hotel where the Future of Estate Agency seminar is in full flow. I lurk in the foyer and after the coffee break wander into a room the size of an aircraft hangar. Circular tables with groups abound but where to sit, I can’t find anyone I know. I wander around asking if I can join tables, apparently not. They are protecting their spare seats as firmly as their instructions. I end up on a table on my own, I only look mildly pathetic.

Dan Hare from Estate Agents Events is playing the Dale Winton part and introduces Rightmoves Miles Shipside. As a fellow judge, I’ve only seen him in designer casual gear, he’s come from Prague through a circuitous route and has had to buy a suit out there, first joke of the day, the fabric is a ‘light Czech’. How we tittered.

Some quite interesting stuff came from Miles and his colleague the number cruncher Tim Muir. For instance, the peak interest in a property is in the first week. There is genuine pent up demand from buyers but financing remains the killer. Amusingly for me, there was an audible gasp when they announced they had mystery shopped all the attendants and the results were available in sealed envelopes. Judging by some of the statistics there was going to be some serious butt kicking, sorry, ‘re-addressing of customer service’ back at the office.

Bill Lublin an American Social media guru and most significantly a real estate pro. gave a pragmatic talk on how social media will generate business. ‘You snooze you lose’ was the message. Almost the whole industry here is sleeping beauty where social media is concerned.Will they listen? Hmm.

Eventually we all file out for the champagne reception where it is packed with a sea of men in dark suits and a varying quality of footwear. There are silk ties, fat ties, the odd cravat and once in a while I even spot a woman not carrying a tray. I am starving. I push through the crowds with one eye on the guy with the canape tray and the other trying to find people to talk to. Tricky when you have to avoid the winners and losers and pick the rest from their Avatars. I find a friendly face and he insists I try the competition to win an iPad. You have to value 5 properties and the nearest total wins. The Middlesborough property does rather tax me. I’m not used to five figure valuations.

Then I get cornered by the film crew to do a piece to camera on why I picked the winners. Hmm. If you see it, I’m the one with bits of samosa in her teeth.

And onto the awards, bathed in pink lights the room is terribly glamorous for a male dominated gathering. I find my table at the front, most on the table are journalists. I know their sort, so I grab the wine while I have the chance.

Nice lunch, (I’ve said before, I can’t do food blogging), then Peter Knight bounds onto the stage to open proceedings and we are shown a very professional video of us judges at work. Vignettes and close ups with name tags of the judges. There’s Chris Hamer the property ombudsman looking very regal, Peter Bolton King looking statesmanlike, then me gurning with bad hair, great. But at least the posh industry bloke who just dissed me now knows ‘who I am’, a minor victory.

Peter introduces James Cracknell our host. Obviously I have little interest in a six foot five tweed clad athletic God with Hugh Grant floppy hair and a terribly charming manner. He shows a film of himself and other nations rowers receiving their medals from Princess Anne. The lines of clinging lycra’d up athletes, all of whom would have Linford Christie covering his parts in shame, was of course also of no interest to me but certainly put this room of portly men in their place.

So onto the awards themselves ably hosted by a very pretty blonde weighing less than my new kitten. The organisers know their audience. I watch a succession of men and a very few women, come up and receive their awards, to increasingly loud cheering as the vin de pays took hold. I’m on shoes and socks watch, as yet again I am at eyes to shoe level position. My desperate seeking of white socks is thwarted by some sartorial intelligence but has been replaced by the tan shoes with dark suits sin. Hmm, I have found a property trend. I did however spot a striped black sports sock, which I traced back to a sarf London agency.

My table seating has the benefit of me being seated next to the live event tweeter, Dan Hare. I did my best to sabotage by twittering faster and wittering to him incessantly.

An acceptance speech by Sean Newman as winner of the ‘outstanding contribution to Estate Agency’ was a highlight. An unexpected lesson in humility and strength of character as he talked about priorities, perspective and overcoming a near fatal accident during a charity cycle challenge. Not a dry eye in the house and almost put me off generalising Estate Agents forever.

The awards completed, it’s time for the for the winner of the valuation competition. Bearing in mind that every person here bar the waiting staff is in property and everyone wants to win an iPad, a hush descended as Peter reveals the best property valuer in the room. No one was more bemused than the winner himself. James Cracknell.

So what did I take from these awards?

I learned that the industry, unlike the room, is not pink coloured it’s very male coloured.

That it wasn’t the ‘big boys’ who win the awards all the time, it really is on merit.

That there were people in the industry who really really do try to do a good job.

That it’s going to be damned tough out there for a while and it’s almost all to do with financing.

And of course, the most treasured thing I took? A Rightmove mug of course.

And the Gold winners are:

Best UK Single Office Agency:

W A Ellis

Best Single Office Regional

South East: Ashington Page

South West: Thompson Estates

London: W A Ellis

Midlands: Campbells

Northern: Cooke & Co.

Wales: Thomas & Rose

Northern Ireland: Pinkerton Murray.

Best UK Small Agency:



South East: Philip Green

South West: Maitlands

London: Northfields

Midlands: Hartleys

Northern: Karl Tatler

Wales: FBM

Outstanding Contribution to Estate Agency:

Sean Newman.

Best UK Medium Agency:

Marsh & Parsons


South East: Beresfords

South West: Wood’s Estate Agents (Newton Abbott).

London: Marsh & Parsons.

Midlands. Newmans Property Services

Northern: Thornley Groves.

Best UK Large Agency:

Connells Group.

Best Prestige Property:

Fine & Country

Best New Homes:

Pygott & Crone

Best Customer Service:

Newman Property Services

Best Financial Services:

Connells Group.

Best Franchise


Best Innovation:

Hamptons International.

Best Marketing:

Fine & Country.

Best Technology & Online:


Best Training & Development:

Arun Estates.