The Group’s origin is Martin & Co, a business started as an estate agency in Yeovil by Richard & Kathy Martin in 1987. The Martins then added a lettings service and in 1995 began to franchise their business model. They recruited franchisees from a wide variety of backgrounds, (to this day approximately 80 percent of Martin & Co’s existing franchisees did not come from a property background) and provided intensive initial training and ongoing support. In 2003 the Martins recruited Ian Wilson as their first external Managing Director, and a new strategy was agreed to focus exclusively on lettings.
The period 2003 to 2009 saw the private rented sector grow rapidly, and the Martin & Co network grew from 60 offices to 180 offices. Revenues at a franchisee level tripled during this period, and supported the migration of the business into high street retail shop fronts. By 2012 the Martin & Co brand was the “most instructed” single lettings brand in the UK, and claimed to be “The UK’s No.1 Letting Agent”.
In late 2012 the decision was taken to re-introduce an estate agency service as a “defensive play” based on the size of the property portfolio under management, and the inevitability of investors trading properties.
In December 2013 the business listed on AIM and became MartinCo Plc, and in October 2014 it acquired the master franchise rights from Legal & General to four property brands of strong provenance; CJ Hole (established 1867), Parkers (established 1948), Ellis & Co (established 1850) and Whitegates (established 1978). Collectively “Xperience”.
Xperience franchisees had a very different pedigree, most were career estate agents, letting agents or mortgage brokers who, as employees of Legal & General had been offered the opportunity of a franchise. Xperience revenues weighed more heavily towards estate agency and the Group’s Directors saw an opportunity to improve the lettings performance of the Xperience brands, whilst importing estate agency expertise into Martin & Co.
The Group continues to launch new franchisees in its traditional high street brands however, this is less prevalent than in the 2003 to 2012 period as most new office launches are by existing franchisees seeking to expand. Franchisees can and do adopt the multi-brand strategy of The Property Franchise Group and are not restricted to trading a single brand.
A typical “cold start” provincial office in branded high street premises with a member of staff and a branded vehicle will require total capitalization of circa £100k. A typical business plan envisages that operating and borrowing costs are covered on a monthly basis at the end of the first year of trading and will be cumulatively profitable at the start of the third year of trading.
In September 2016 The Group acquired EweMove Sales & Lettings Ltd, a new type of “on-line” estate agency which is open 24/7 and does not need to operate from high street premises.
EweMove was a franchise model which launched in 2013 and had grown rapidly to 90 franchises, winning numerous awards for its franchise proposition, its marketing and website. Crucially, it is also UK No.1 estate agent and letting agent on Trustpilot.
The cost of setting up a new EweMove franchise is much lower than the traditional high street alternative, with total capital required being typically £50k and day-to-day operating expenses are reduced through technology and central purchasing power. EweMove has its own operating platform and call centre staff, who take calls from customers and book appointments 24/7. The cost of advertising properties on Rightmove & Zoopla is taken centrally by the franchisor.
The Property Franchise Group has almost 400 offices in key locations across the UK and the majority of the nation's property stock is covered within 30 minutes drive time from one of its offices.