Belvoir Lettings: The franchise opportunity

The specialist lettings franchise talks to Startups about what they can offer franchisees, their success to-date and the company’s ambitious plans for expansion

Franchise: Belvoir Lettings
Description: We provide lettings and property management services which embrace our core principles of specialism, professionalism and customer service. A Belvoir franchise is a unique opportunity to build a potentially lucrative asset and offers the chance to work for yourself but not by yourself.
Started in: 1995
Founders: Mike Goddard
No. of franchises: Over 150
Coverage: UK
Average cost per franchise: Average overall investment of £120,000 to £170,000
Website: www.belvoirfranchise.com

Now one of the largest specialist residential lettings franchise agencies in the UK, Belvoir was founded in 1995 by Mike Goddard and his wife Stephanie in Lincolnshire, adapting Mike’s RAF values into a lettings agency built on customer service, professionalism and specialism. This business model swiftly became a franchise operation in 1996 when the first office opened in Moray, Scotland. Mike Goddard is currently executive chairman of Belvoir Lettings and spent three years as chairman of the British Franchise Association (bfa), cementing his enthusiasm for fair franchising within the UK.

Over the years Belvoir has grown dramatically with 160 offices throughout the UK, some of which have been trading for over 15 years. Our offices are owned and managed by local people but have the advantage of being part of a nationally recognised brand, operating under a successful business model.

Under the skilful leadership of current CEO Dorian Gonsalves, Belvoir became the first specialist residential lettings agency to launch on AIM of the London Stock Exchange in February 2012.

Here, Startups finds out about Belvoir’s ambitious expansion plans, the skills they’re looking for in potential new franchisees and what the business has to offer its potential new recruits.

Moving into franchising

Where did the business open its first franchises?

The first was opened in Moray, Scotland, growing mainly through the midlands of England following that and then throughout the UK.

How successful were those original franchisees?

The first franchised office (Moray) is still open.

The franchise opportunity

What makes the franchise different / unique?

We understand that choosing the right franchise opportunity for you can be a lengthy process, so we aim to give you as much information as possible at our interviews. The only investment you will put in at this stage is your time.

You will receive a list of contact details for all of our franchise owners, so you may contact whomever you wish to discover the real opportunity available. We will also discuss the viability of your opportunity, such as possible territories and considering your plans for growth in the future, whether you are starting your Belvoir office in a fresh territory or considering a resale opportunity.

When you join Belvoir, you will become a member of our business family and, when you need it, you can enjoy the support and guidance of everyone else within the network.

What services do you offer?

Residential lettings and Buy to Let advice.

How big is the market opportunity?

The private rental sector (PRS) is growing at a phenomenal pace. The credit crunch and recession in 2007 hit the residential housing industry particularly hard and first time buyers continue to find it difficult to secure mortgages. As a result, Buy to Let (BTL) landlords have been able to capitalise on some excellent investment opportunities and the rental industry is thriving.

How many franchisees do you have today?

Over 200 franchise owners in over 150 offices.

How is the brand marketed?

  • www.belvoirlettings.com
  • National and local awards
  • National and local PR
  • Involvement with government accreditation bodies
  • Merchandise
  • Prominent high street presence
  • Property portals
  • To Let boards – innovative designs
  • Branded cars

How do you divide the regions?

Areas are divided by unique postcode territories.

The perfect franchisee

What do you look for in potential franchisees?

The passion and dedication to become a local property expert, by adopting the Belvoir way of exceptional customer service and professionalism.

So do franchisees work from an office, or are they home-based? Is it part-time or full-time?

There are prime location Belvoir offices in each area and it’s a full-time responsibility.

How are franchisees vetted?

There will be an initial interview at our central office in Lincolnshire.

What do you offer franchisees that sign-up?

As you do not need to have previous experience in the property industry, just an interest, you will need to attend our intensive three week training course. This course discusses everything, from marketing to legalities, to ensure you have the best possible foundations for your business.

Following that, you have access to your own business development mentor, our franchise support team and various ongoing training courses. You will have the chance to become the local Buy to Let specialist, which can really differentiate you in this buoyant market.

Being part of a recognised and reputable brand will help you hit the ground running, and give your business the very best chance of growing and succeeding during that crucial first year and beyond. Belvoir has been named Lettings Franchise of the Year in 2010, 2012 and 2013, and our network achieved Best Large Chain in 2013 at the Estate and Letting Agent Awards.

How much do franchisees pay and what are the ongoing franchise fees?

Belvoir believes in total transparency with regard to fees, and no money will be requested until a formal offer of a franchise has been made. At this stage a deposit of £3,000 + VAT will be requested. Two weeks prior to commencing the Belvoir training course, the remainder of the franchise fee must be paid (£22,500 less £3,000 = £19,500 + VAT).

After your initial set up franchise fee, along with the 1% for National Promotion, you will contribute 12% of your monthly turnover to Belvoir for business and network development. This ongoing fee endeavours to create a win-win situation, as both parties are highly motivated to help each other succeed.

Taking into account the set up fees and working capital, we estimate that most franchise owners will require an average overall investment of £120,000 to £170,000. This figure will vary depending on your location, and can be higher or lower depending on personal circumstances. The good news is that 70% of this average investment amount can usually be borrowed from the bank (subject to normal terms and conditions). As the average overall investment is around £120,000 to £170,000, you will need 30% of that for your initial cash investment.

Success and growth

How successful are some of the franchisees today?

The top 25% of franchise owners have an average turnover of around £332,000 (YTD July 2013).

Each office takes pride in being the local specialist.

How is the brand looking to grow?

In 2012, under the skilful leadership of CEO Dorian Gonsalves, Belvoir became the first specialist residential lettings agency to launch on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. Belvoir has exciting and ambitious expansion plans and has identified many new territories. Additional franchise owners are needed, with the aptitude, determination and people skills that will allow brand Belvoir to grow.

What is the potential of the business?

A cultural shift in favour of renting property rather than buying looks set to continue in 2014 and beyond, predicts Dorian Gonsalves, CEO of Belvoir Lettings, which means the demand for lettings agents will only continue.

What will the challenges be in achieving that?

There is no doubt that the lettings market is highly competitive, but the Belvoir business model is proven and effective. With over 150 offices nationwide the network is growing fast and new offices are opening all the time, which means the strength and reputation of the brand is developing in line with our forecasts. Other Belvoir franchise owners both regionally and nationally are on hand to help you grow your business so that you break even as quickly as possible and go on to make a profit. Being part of the Belvoir family rather than acting alone will give you the very best chance of succeeding.

What awards has the business won?

  • 2010, 2012, 2013 Gold Lettings Franchise of the Year at the Letting Agency of the Year awards in association with The Times and Sunday Times
  • Silver Franchisor of the Year at the Negotiator Awards 2013
  • Gold Website of the Year (belvoirlettings.com) at the Negotiator Awards
  • Gold Best Large Chain at the ESTAs 2013

To what extent are the founders involved today?

Mike Goddard is executive chairman.

Finally, is the company a British Franchise Association (BFA) member?

Yes – we have full membership.

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