James Greenwood, managing director of Stacks Property Search & Acquisition, explains why an estate agent may want to consider a franchise in property search
Anyone considering a start-up business in estate agency, whether as an independent or a franchise, can’t have failed to be at least slightly daunted by the staggering amount of competition in the market.
By contrast, buying agents are still quite thinly spread: my estimation is that for every 500 estate agents, there is just one buying agent.
And yet, the market is growing at a rate of approximately 20% per annum, and in some sectors and areas, where supply of property is particularly limited, buyers simply aren’t getting a look in unless they are represented.
Considering that when Stacks started in the early 1980s, there were no other buying agents working outside London, this is an industry that has become established very quickly, and for which there is clear, growing demand.
So for an estate agent with a desire to go it alone, a buying agency franchise could be a great option. Buying agents’ fees are now comparable with estate agency fees, while overheads are much lower, with high street premises the exception rather than the rule.
It’s a time-intensive industry rather than an expense-driven one, and new start-ups can survive quite happily in the early days with a few good clients, and grow the business over a timescale that suits them.
By contrast, an estate agency only becomes viable once a critical number of instructions has been reached, so the pressure for early success is intensive.
Despite all these arguments, we still witness significant resistance from estate agents to jumping over the fence to join what they often consider to be their poor relations.
While most of Stacks’ franchisees come from a property background, only a handful come from frontline estate agency.
Ten years ago, we considered a property background virtually irrelevant, believing that integrity and strong people skills were more important, but as the industry has become more professional and competitive, we positively encourage and pursue new franchisees with an estate agency history.
Our three ‘non-negotiables’ for new franchisees are property expertise; knowledge and love of the geographical area in which they intend to operate; and a reputation and standing within the community.
The skill set for buying agents and selling agents is very similar. Both require an ability to deal with people at one of the most stressful moments in their life; an ability to personally engage with clients; property knowledge and expertise; an ability to negotiate; and above all, an ability to deliver a service.
Estate agents with strong people skills may find the transition from selling to buying an easier one, as estate agency is more about the bricks and mortar and the deal, while representing a buyer requires an ability to empathise, understanding lifestyles, personalities and aspirations. Estate agency is about the short-term deal – buying agency is about the long-term satisfaction of clients.
An appreciation of the mechanics of estate agency, the process, the trigger points for potential instructions, the jargon and shorthand when dealing with estate agents, is clearly a huge benefit for a buying agent. And a good network of contacts within the estate agency industry is a crucial element of being a good buying agent, so a franchisee who already has a full address book will have an excellent head start.
At Stacks we have a strong ‘partnership’ culture, whereby we look to work together, support each other, share new ideas and introduce business. Regular round-table meetings, marketing discussions and training sessions allow regional directors to become involved in the direction of the brand, and to benefit from each other’s skills and experiences. 
On joining Stacks you are tapping into hundreds of man-hours of experience in the subtleties and nuances of representing buyers, as well as a range of skills and knowledge.
Stacks facts:
•Stacks operates on a fully-franchised system (as opposed to licensing), whereby the territory franchisees sign up for is owned by the regional director
•Prices for new territories range from £20,000 to £40,000, depending on size, potential market and how much support they will require
•Regional directors manage their own local marketing budgets
•Stacks currently has 17 offices throughout the UK and Spain with a strong presence in the midlands, south, south-west and M4 corridor  
•Stacks are looking to expand in Sussex, Kent, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire
•Franchise enquiries: 01594 842880