Agency launches franchise in bid to expand

One of Yorkshire’s best-known estate agencies is branching out into franchising. Sharon Dale reports

An abbreviated name tends to be a sign of affection, which is why Dacre, Son and Hartley are known as “Dacres” to generations of West and North Yorkshire homeowners.

Now the famous brand, synonymous with selling houses, is for sale in a bid to expand throughout the North of England.

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The firm, which launched in the 1820s and has 20 branches, 120 staff and turnover of £120m, is offering franchises and aims to grant at least six sales and lettings licences over the next year.

Patrick McCutcheon, Head of Residential Sales and Franchise Director, says: “The recent improvements in the economy and the property market make this the ideal time to bring our franchise offering to the market. We have a very successful business model that has stood the test of time and continued to thrive despite some challenging economic conditions. We are keen to grow the business and franchising is the next logical step.”

Initially, licenses will be granted to franchisees in key towns and cities in Yorkshire. Dacres are keen to have a presence in Calderdale, Wakefield and York.

The cost of a franchise is a £25,000 fee and ten per cent of annual turnover thereafter. Like all franchises, the owner has to provide premises, staff and equipment.

The latest move comes after a steady branch expansion programme that started in the 1980s. The company recently opened offices in Settle and Boroughbridge.

Patrick says: “The acquisition of Graveson estate agents in Settle saw the successful merger of a local business into the Dacre, Son and Hartley family and, as well as the franchising offer, we are still very much on the acquisition trail looking for established estate agencies that would complement our existing geographical footprint.”

To support the franchise launch, the firm has joined forces with a Midlands-based estate agency which has implemented a similar business model.

Patrick says: “We felt it would be extremely beneficial to partner up with another firm that has successfully launched a very similar franchise operation. We have been able to benefit from their knowledge and experience.”

The administration and training facilities will be based at Dacres head office in Ilkley. Patrick adds: “All new franchisees will receive residential sales and lettings training as well as an introduction to the Dacre, Son and Hartley brand and history.

Hunters, a Yorkshire estate agency with its head office in York, went down the franchising route in 2005. It now has 135 branches of Hunters throughout the country and the target is 500 by 2019.

But MD Kevin Hollinrake says the business model presented challenges he hadn’t anticipated.

“Two years in and I thought it was the worst decision we ever made but now I think it’s the best thing we have done. To begin with we under estimated how much it would cost us. In the end it was £3m to £4m. We also realised that there was no point in having ten or 15 franchises. The profit margin is only there if you have over 100.”

He adds: “You have to be strict about who you recruit as a franchisee. They need to understand that they have to stick to our formula.”

The company outsourced the franchising at first but soon brought it back in house after realising only they could convey the passion and ethos behind the brand.

“We learned a lot of lessons and we are better for it,” says Kevin. “Franchising enables you to expand much more quickly. Setting up a new office costs between £150,000 and £200,000 but this way the franchisee makes that investment and that’s a massive benefit. It also shows they have a real commitment to the business and a reason to work hard to make it succeed.”

Patrick McCutcheon admits he too has ambitions to take a solid Yorkshire brand nationwide.

“The main goal at the moment is to grow in the north but in time our ambitions could easily extend south.”

* or call 01943 600655.