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Winning a Sunday Times Award for Lettings



It is coming around to that time of the year when I need to gather all the information together to show the Sunday Times Awards panel WHY Sewell & Gardner deserve to win an award, or rather ANOTHER award for Lettings!

It is hard enough to run a business in a traditional way, to open up each morning, go through the motions of marketing, advertising, viewing property for rent!  Then there is the negotiating of offers, tying up the deals (hopefully), taking an initial deposit payment, undertaking references, preparing tenancy agreements, getting all of the legal safety requirements in place, organising the inventory, check-in, signing of agreements and paying of completion monies, registering the security deposit and boy oh boy, so much more!!

So when you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to do all of the above, and far more besides..  And that is what Sewell & Gardner lettings try to do, every single day.  It is what the awards panel look out for… They will not expect to give an award to an agency just going through the motions, however good those motions are!  They will want to see innovation, passion, customer service over and above the rest… and there are a lot of other agencies, some great agencies, to compete against.

I am lucky to have a marketing background, along with quite a number of my staff & colleagues, so it is an absolute treat to have the opportunity to put my marketing skills into action, and to think up new ideas and new ways (or re-vamp old ways) of making lettings interesting – compelling even!

Over the years we have been the first agency in the area to introduce a number of different concepts

  • Our Bag for LifeFirstly we had the ‘Bag for Life’ (before they became ever so popular everywhere you shop) and all of our new tenants had a lovely [branded] hessian bag for life, full of moving day necessities (tea, milk, toilet rolls, washing up liquid, disinfectant wipes…) and some lovely celebratory ones too like a nice bottle of [screw top] wine, a couple of [plastic] glasses and a box of chocolates [for an energy boost of course]!


  • Sewell & Gardner REWARD CARD accepted hereThen we had the Tenant Reward Card, which is still a massive hit today.  All of our new tenants (and purchasers) are in receipt of a reward card, which offers them discounts from very many of our lovely neighbouring businesses, shops & salons, all trying to keep business local and compete with the big boys!  This Reward Card takes a lot of time and effort, we have to introduce the card to the businesses, encourage them to offer our clients a nice discount or two (and change it as often as they like of course), give us their logos, photos, stories, all for us to put onto our website and facebook pages, into our tenant / purchaser Reward Card booklet, and keep it up-to-date all of the time so it remains relevant and current.
  • Magical Mystery Tour BusNext came the Magical Mystery Tour bus.  A local charity called ‘Roundabout’ offered us their mini-bus (provided we took the minibus driving test…. which 4 staff have now passed) and this tour bus runs on the 1st Saturday of the month, taking a group of applicants, most of whom are new to the area (maybe relocating here and unsure of the best places to live) around lots of current rental properties, whilst showing them the sites and highlights of our lovely town and it’s surroundings.  This is such a popular event, and we have joined forces with a local pub who provide our ‘guests’ with a pint or a glass of wine & a light lunch after the tour, in order to chat over what they have seen, fill out our landlord feedback forms and (hopefully) make an offer on the place they like the best!
  • Sewell & Gardner's £1000 cheque bookBecause we deal with a lot of Corporate Clients, let’s face it, we have an awful lot of business parks around here, so companies are forever relocating staff into the area!  Plus we have the NATO base just around the corner,  so we deal with a lot of military contracts too.  In light of this we have our Company Chequebook offer… where local companies whom we deal with on a regular basis, have a cheque book worth £1000 (10 x £100 cheques) to hand out to their relocating staff, when they rent a property through Sewell & Gardner.  A nice way to say ‘thank you’ for choosing us!
  • Next month we launch our Investor Minibus Tour.  Along the same principle as the Magical Mystery Tour, but this time we take our Investor Landlords to all of the best new developments on offer, show them the new apartments & houses, tell them the rental yields, explain all about the obligations on a landlord, what a tenant expects, how quickly we can let the property, what type of tenants are around at the moment, pretty much anything and everything the landlord investor needs to know!  On the bus is our mortgage advisor Kevin Bushby from One Stop Finance [www.osfg.co.uk] and he is there as an advisor on the best Buy To Let deals on the market and how to manage your investment portfolio.  Also on the tour we will visit a number of 2nd hand residential properties which are currently available to the investor, many will have a fully referenced tenant in situ, so the process is even easier, you just purchase with the tenancy in place!

Magical Mystery Tour Bus

So the daily life of a Letting Agent isn’t just about the mundane and the routine.  At Sewell & Gardner we are ALWAYS looking for new ways to improve our Customer Service, both to the Landlord, the Tenant and also to our neighbouring businesses and shop-owners.  We love RICKMANSWORTH, we are so proud to be in such a brilliant area, with a wealth of attractions to tenants and landlords!  In fact we are so confident of the high levels of customer service that we provide, we have a Landlord Guarantee to payback fees if the landlord is justifiably unhappy with the service provided!  Thank goodness, it hasn’t happened yet, but it keeps us on our toes all of the time and ensures that we do the very best we can!

This brings me back once more to the reason I started to write this blog…. The Sunday Times Lettings Agency of the Year Awards 2012.  The deadline for my entry is 23rd March and I am hoping to be in exactly the same position as last year…. WINNING GOLD.  Check out our video of 2011 and the amazement when Alex Sewell & I won GOLD for the Best Small Agency in the South East!

Jane Gardner and Alex Sewell on You Tube








Jane Gardner, Lettings Director P.R.O.U.D.  (oh and F.A.R.L.A. too)