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Greenwich borough, Housing, Lewisham borough

One of SE London’s biggest estate agent groups in big trouble

Mann's branch in Sidcup

In recent weeks bad news for estate agents has been coming in thick and fast. Foxtons recently announced they’d slid into a loss. But another agency has bigger problems.

Countrywide is the UK’s biggest agency owning multiple brands and 850 branches. Among their brands is Mann with branches in Woolwich, Lewisham, Sidcup, Dartford and Lee.

Countrywide’s share price has dropped an astonishing 97% since 2014. It was 158.50 a year ago and is now just 14.26p.

Another brand under the Countrywide umbrella is Hamptons International with branches at Blackheath and Greenwich, as well as Bearstow Eves in Bromley.

Last week an emergency appeal for fresh funds was launched. The company has a large debt mountain and declining income with four profit warnings in just eight months.

Economic problems

High house prices affecting affordability and economic uncertainty have hit transaction numbers, especially in London.

Another large source of income for the group was letting fees to private tenants, and Countrywide brands charge some of the highest out there.

Mann fees, for example, are extremely high which appears to turn off many renters and hits repeat business.

From early 2019 extortionate fees for renters, which can run into hundreds of pounds for basic £5 credit checks, are to be banned.

Does Countrywide have a future? Is it wise to use them given the current situation given likely job and branch closures? It’s unlikely that wider economic factors and legislative changes offer much hope for a reprieve anytime soon.

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5 Comments

  1. Glyn

    My heart bleeds for the poor Estate Agents.

    They may have to start doing some graft for their inflated fees which has not been the case for many years.

    The days of sitting there waiting for buyers to desperately make offers in order to secure a property are over.

    Long overdue in my humble opinion.

  2. Stephen Hoffman

    Countrywide have had this coming for a very long time. They have a managing director for almost every reason out there, more chiefs than Indians. Super top heavy on management and they have poor old school management. Their chairman is also chairman at royal mail and they are in trouble too, get the picture? Basically countrywide haven’t moved with the times. They tried with Alison platt but they fought her in the boardroom and their back to basics plan is rubbish as they haven’t a clue what to do. Look estate agency in the UK is old and full of sharks. Where else apart from selling cars and such can you leave school buy a suit and help negotiate someone’s biggest life investment? The business is filled with very dodgy people who have made a lot of money scamming the British public and it’s high time they were taught a huge lesson. I say let countrywide sink and from the depths rise a better cleaner industry.

    • Charles Calthrop

      True: they haven’t moved with the times at all and – as with travel agents – ignored the burgeoning online markets rather than buying out startups as they emerged. ISDN was somewhat affordable in 1999 and 1 and 2mb as early as 2001.

      Yet estate agents simply used their online presence as an extension of the service rather than a viable front, citing either the complexity of the process or the need for ‘local expertise’ as a reason to keep their high street presence. Too many chiefs indeed, and while I wouldn’t be at all surprised by some kind of bailout, it is well past time for the whole thing to be torn down and rebuilt as a professional industry.

  3. Jo

    When I was looking for a place to rent last year Mann were by FAR the most expensive with ludicrous fees. Sheer greed.

    They quickly knocked them in half when I queried but why even try it on? Hardly builds trust so I gave them a wide berth. Who knows what tricks they’d pull at leaving time.

    If that’s how they operate no wonder they are in trouble. I’ll never consider any company in this group again.

  4. anonymous201486

    All estate agents are equally bad. Foxtons are trying to bounce me into upping my offer to the full asking price with specious arguments. I have been buying and selling property for nearly 30 years and know that I am doing. If there really is a downturn in the market, their client might wish that he had taken my offer.

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