Oxfordshire Rental Experts
For mathematicians all over the world, 4pm is cast in stone each day. It is a moment when brains coalesce to review progress, share results and discuss problems.
8.30am is our 4pm
Every Finders Keepers office meets at 8.30am every day for half an hour. While many agents sit in traffic, we are cracking on. A comprehensive morning meeting is the only way to keep on top of information in such a fast-moving industry. Indeed, our new staff handbook states: “More can change in one day in Finders Keepers than in a whole week in another job.”
Key information is shared at the morning meeting, for example:
- “We had three offers yesterday on the 1-bedroom apartment, one of which will pay quarterly in advance if he can move his own bed in.”
- “The couple who made their offer yesterday have called to say they cannot move in for another 3 weeks but want to take the property for 3 years not 12 months and want the bathroom upgraded as a condition.”
- “A landlord who didn’t want pets and relented for a Jack Russell terrier now still doesn’t want pets so we have to turn a great applicant down.”
- “A tenant wants to be present for all viewings. She works late, but is willing to be home early on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
Of course 8.30am had a different meaning in 1972
When Mary Channer started the Finders Keepers journey, it was a time when most people were still having a high-fat breakfast before driving to work without seat belt, mobile phone or heavy traffic.
Mary had worked in the rental industry for a few years, but the lightbulb moment came when she devised Oxfordshire’s first property acquisition service. Starting with a small advert in the Oxford Times, she soon had lots of clients wanting her to not just acquire property, but also to let and manage it. Quickly, the search and acquisition service morphed into a full-service letting and property management service and Finders Keepers as we know it was born.
Three principles still driving us today
The rental industry in the early 70s was a dark place, characterised by non-existent customer service, decrepit properties and little protection for the landlord when regaining possession of a property. Renting was seen as a negative in society, almost for people who had not quite made the grade.
Finders Keepers wanted to be different and three principles created the culture which thrives today:
- Deliver a highly professional service
- Offer tenants the best properties in the market
- Act with integrity to build long-term relationships
All three principles were not just true to the founder’s ethics, but they also made commercial sense:
- Professionalism boils down to treating people as you want to be treated
- The best properties let fastest for the highest rents
- Integrity sounds good on paper but Oxfordshire is a small place and making a quick buck at the expense of goodwill is not good business
Finders Keepers is now a four-time winner of a national letting agency of the year award, most recently in 2012winning the Sunday Times Letting Agent of the Year award.
A focus on people
Square this circle: every firm claims to care about its staff, but nearly all of us have worked for companies which do not.
Common sense tells us that in a service business, the quality of your people will define your reputation more than anything else. As such, we have always tried to find the best people and help them grow in the best roles for them.
Actions speak louder than words.
Over the years our training has improved to such a level that we became the first letting or estate agency in the UK in five years to win a National Training Award, the most prestigious training awards in the country. Recently we have also been judged as Negotiator Magazine’s Employer of the Year and our training won a Sunday Times Silver Award.
Currently, we are investing heavily in providing our people with National Federation of Property Professinals qualifications. These are the cornerstone qualifications in letting and property management and the financial investment is considerable. At present, 62.5% of our staff are fully qualified.
Steady growth and a broader portfolio of services
Growth has been organic and steady with new geographies opening up alongside existing territories. The first office opened in 1977, with Abingdon arriving five years later. Since then we have launched the East Oxford, Banbury, Witney, Central Oxford and Bicester offices.
Creating happy customers is our ambition, and new services have been launched to fulfil landlords’ needs. Bricks & Mortar launched because our clients were frustrated by builders going over budget and taking too long. It now handles substantial building projects and good value upgrades. Our furnishing business, Decorum Interiors, offers high-quality interior design matched with clever sourcing so that schemes will stand the rigours of the rental market.
More recently our FK Student Letting business was the first dedicated student office in Oxford. Its surgical and precise approach to letting with simultaneous launch dates and parental guarantors has been copied (with varying degrees of success) by almost every local competitor and also those outside of Oxford.
Pride in innovating and pushing boundaries
Innovation matters. We have always got a real buzz from doing something new, different and useful for the customer. A refusal to accept the status quo can be very handy in business.