The corporates are raiding their treasure chests to go on major acquisition trails of independent high street agents – and if not their businesses, their lettings portfolios.
In a buying spree unprecedented for years – probably since the eighties – the prices they are prepared to pay appear to be at the very top of the spectrum.
One two-branch business has just sold to Countrywide for a reported £1m-plus.
In the rush to consolidate their business, the buy-buy is translating to a bye-bye for some owners, allowing them to retire, follow their dreams or make their loved ones their priority.
In other cases, some partners are staying with the businesses post-acquisition while others are being enabled to leave.
The corporates also seem keen to get top quality local staff with the businesses they are acquiring, with no job losses yet reported to Eye.
In one of the latest deals, Underwoods Town & Country, with offices in Northampton and Wellingborough, has been sold to Countrywide for what is reported to be a seven-figure deal.
Underwoods was bought by Karen Southcott ten years ago through business transfer agency Watersheds.
She was subsequently joined in the business by her daughter, Laura Crouch, who has recently had a baby and who says her priorities have changed.
Watersheds has now completed the sale of the two-branch business to Countrywide at a reported £1m plus.
While Countrywide has yet to announce the acquisition, Watersheds has gone public with it, calling the deal a triumph for the mother and daughter team who built up their business with such success. More on this story here
Meanwhile LSL, the UK’s second largest chain of estate agents, is on the prowl for further acquisitions and yesterday evening revealed that it has doubled the size of its acquisitions team.
So far this year, its LSLi brand has bought six-branch London firm Hawes & Co, and Thomas Morris, with branches in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
Last year, LSL bought ten lettings books, and has acquired a further nine lettings portfolios this year, with more in the pipeline.
LSL owns a number of estate agency brands, including Your Move, Reeds Rains, Marsh & Parsons and Davis Tate. Its LSLi brand offers both growth and exit strategies to agents.
David Brown, LSL’s commercial director, said: “Acquisitions are a key part of our strategy.
“We understand that many independent agents have spent years in building their brand and reputation but have reached a stage where they need a helping hand to either grow their business or plan for their exit or retirement.
“We can provide that support and, by doubling the size of our acquisitions team, are actively looking to acquire even more businesses this year – building on our success so far.”
Meanwhile Sequence, part of Connells, has said it plans to add 75 new lettings branches to its network within the next six months.