A pioneering estate agents in Hampstead is celebrating its 25th anniversary
- Credit: Archant
Vivienne Harris started her business, Heathgate, in the bedroom of her home during a recession and wasn’t expected to succeed
When, in 1990, Vivienne Harris started Heathgate estate agents out of her bedroom in Hampstead, she had no idea if it was going to be a success.
“Many people at the time suggested that I was either brave or stupid to open a new venture in the midst of a deep recession, but my view was that if I could make my business succeed during the bad times, just think what I could do when the market turns around,” she says.
She was right. In June 1992 she was able to move from her bedroom to her current premises on Heath Street, and over the first three years in that building she took over the entire three floors – eventually refurbishing and renovating the property in 2012. Despite these extensive renovations she is very aware that the people behind her business count more than any amount of finishing could.
“It’s very easy to have fancy offices on the high street or hire or buy the best software and equipment, but if you haven’t got the flair and knowledge and the team to work with your core values, you won’t succeed,” she says, adding that the ethos of providing exceptional service has always been at the core of the business.
“I have clients that were with me when I first started the business from home, who still solely deal with Heathgate today and whose children and sometimes even grandchildren deal with me too.”
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In the past 25 years her business has grown in terms of volume, she’s added property and project management divisions, and is in the process of building a designated investment and development department. She has also gone from working completely alone to having a team of seven, with hopes to increase her numbers.
But what’s the reason for Harris’s success? As well as her business advisors, friends and loyal clients, she believes her gender has been helpful – and says that rather than being hampered in an industry that it generally dominated by men, it has given her an edge over her competitors.
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“I am a believer that it is usually the woman that makes the final decision on any property purchase and being able to chat “woman to woman” is often advantageous,” Harris says.
“Plus I think that women are more empathetic and therefore more capable of placing themselves into the other person’s position. Over time these qualities with the addition of being a friendly and communicative person have stood me in good stead.”
When asked if she sees her agency continuing for another 25 years she has only one answer – “Yes, yes, and yes!” Explaining her intentions to expand the agency further, she says that there will “always be a need” for niche and bespoke service, despite the expansion of online estate agents.
“Despite all the hype about e-estate agents, they do not and will not negate the need for great service and a “go the extra mile” philosophy. You can’t pop in and have a chat to your e-estate agent, or meet the team or discuss the economy,” she says.
“Selling or letting property is about the people. It’s about giving great service and making people feel valued. We can all advertise on the internet – that’s the easy part.”
Harris says that the office arranged a small in house celebration last Tuesday and that she will be organising some parties and events in the near future, to thank her clients, friends, business associates and all those that have helped in the Heathgate success story.
“As I believe in being inclusive there will be a long list of invitees – thinking about it, I wonder if I can find a large enough venue?”