Jan Hytch MBA MNAEA MARLA, my notable property person today, is very well respected in Norfolk as a partner of local chartered surveyors firm Arnolds. Here is her story.
1. Please introduce yourself. Say a bit about yourself and your company
My name is Jan Hytch and I am a Partner with Arnolds Property Consultants LLP. I look after the residential lettings and agency areas of the business. I’m also the Operations Partner, so I also head up the HR and IT functions for the firm.
2. How did you first become involved in property?
When I moved to Norfolk in 1984 I saw a job advertised with a local estate agent and surveyors in my new home town of Wymondham. I liked the work from day one, but after three years the firm sold out to an insurance company, and became a large corporate estate agent. After that they were more interested in counting beans than providing a broad and varied property service to local people. By this time I was an area manager, and this ‘management by accountancy’ didn’t lie happily with what I knew our clients wanted, so that was my cue to move on.
Working in an independent firm serving the local area, you have to listen to what people want, and get it right, or your business won’t survive. Then you have to keep listening, and keep getting it right, as people’s needs and wants change. Twenty five years on I’m still listening, and doing my best to make sure my firm does what our clients want us to do.
3. What do you think is your greatest achievement so far?
Personally, a proud moment for me was to become the first female Partner at Arnolds. I’m still the only female partner (!) but I hope that wont always be the case! It’s not that I’m a rampant, card-carrying feminist – just that I think a mix of male and female perspectives is invaluable in so many ways. In terms of the firm, I don’t think there are any single great achievements I’d claim in terms of what our business has done, because it’s a partnership and we all contribute and work hard for our clients, as do all our staff. But I am immensely proud of the firm, and our tremendous team of people whom we are fortunate enough to have working for us.
4. Do you or your company have any exciting plans for the future?
The origins of Arnolds as a Norwich based property practice go back over 100 years, and we have already started our exciting plans for the future! We recently moved our head office to a newly refurbished building in a very prominent position on the corner of Prince of Wales Road and Upper King Street. After over 40 years in our previous premises, the new building is much more high-profile and in harmony with our business going forward. Crucially it gives us the right sort of space for the firm to grow, and we have many plans for developing both our existing and future new areas of work.
We have also rebranded to a fresh new image, and our name Arnolds Property Consultants LLP acknowledges our new status as a LLP – in line with many professional firms – and also to reflect the broader range of services offered by our firm.
5. What do you think are the greatest problems facing the private rented sector today?
Red tape and unnecessary regulation are a constant frustration. Much of it is ill-conceived and doesn’t really address the issues that are of most concern to tenants, agents or landlords.
Availability of good quality rental property has improved massively over the last 10 years of buy-to-let. But it has dried up dramatically due to the economic restrictions of which we are all too well aware, as well of course as the availability – or lack of it – of mortgage funding for buy-to-let purchases. Demand for rental properties is expected to increase year on year, and if the flow of new investment properties remains low, rents will rise disproportionately to incomes.
6. What do you think are the greatest opportunities?
Part of the consequence of the property value crash of 2008/9 was that many homeowners became ‘reluctant landlords’, and themselves became tenants – i.e. people who had to rent because they couldn’t sell, and needed to move for work/personal reasons, ended up renting accommodation themselves. In many cases, the initial reluctance has now been overcome and, although the sales market is now much more buoyant, many have decided not to try selling again, but have decided to keep their original property as an investment. Some go on to buy another property, but others choose to continue renting for the flexibility it offers in terms of following a career and being able to easily move to follow work. Given the stark warnings we are all being given about pensions in the future, this is another opportunity for people to take control of their own financial future.
7. We have a new government. What would you like them to do for the private rented sector?
Licence letting agents and in so doing give us the responsibility to devolve good practice down to those Landlords whom the Government think their legislation will reach.
In my experience there are very few really bad Landlords out there – mostly those for whom this draconian legislation is aimed at are either mis-informed, or have lost touch with legislsational changes. It will also raise the service that Tenants can expect to receive both from agents and landlords, which will hopefully make it a better experience.
8. Do you use social media (blogs, twitter, LinkedIn etc)? What place do you think it has in the future of the property industry?
I use LinkedIn which is quite useful, though there are many ‘trophy hunters’ who just seek to add as many people as they can to their profile, however tenuous or irrelevant to them, as if to build their credibility! We’re looking at the whole idea of Twitter and similar sites, and have talked to our client forums to see what they think, but so far our clients have been indifferent to the idea, as the majority don’t use it themselves. We’ll keep listening to them, and if it becomes important to them we’ll react accordingly ….
9. What is the most important lesson you have learned during your time in property?
Firstly, that every person you deal with has the potential to change the way you and your business is perceived. Quite a number of our current landlords were once our tenants years ago, and when later in life they brought their investment property to us to manage for them, they told us they came back to us because of the way they felt we treated them as tenants. Although they knew that our client is always the Landlord, as the tenant they felt fairly and courteously treated, which is always our aim.
10. What advice would you have to someone thinking of entering the property industry today?
Three little bits of advice:
(a) Be prepared to work hard and think about everything you do from your client’s perspective. ‘If it was me, what would I expect in the same circumstance?’. Then do something just a little bit better.
(b) Never underestimate the British people’s love affair with property – you will always be dealing with people who are passionate about the building they have entrusted you to look after for them, so learn how to tune into your client’s wants and needs, and understand their expectations so you can manage them better.
(c) This is one of the few industries where you really can make your own luck – and fortune. If you follow (a) and (b) above, over a period of time you will build yourself a personal reputation and following, which will result in people recommending you to their contacts and friends, and so your career will flourish.
Thanks Jan, wise words of advice there. Its nice to see female partners in professional companies although as you say, we could have a few more.
For more information about Jan’s firm Arnolds see their website www.arnolds.uk.com.