Our Head of Lettings, Tracy Winteringham, is celebrating 25 years in the business this week – and she’s been reflecting on the changes she’s seen during that time.
The internet was in its earliest stages and social media was unheard of when Tracy joined the industry as a young lettings negotiator in 1994. Prospective tenants picked up the York Press’s weekly property supplement to see what was available – and landlords were contacted by phone or letter.
“When I look back over that 25 years I can’t believe the changes I’ve seen – most of them as a result of the internet,” says Tracy. “The industry itself has had its ups and downs, too, but I can honestly say I’ve always enjoyed my job.”
A role that’s changed enormously
Tracy’s original role – as now – included taking photos of flats and houses offered for rent and gathering the particulars. But whereas today she downloads pics and descriptions straight to our website and social media, 25 years ago the process was far more involved.
“I would have to send off the film to be developed and then stick a photo to a gap above property descriptions which were photocopied. There were no photos in the Press for lettings – just a short line stating the location, number of beds and the price. Lettings were seen as a poor relation compared to sales!
“We only had one external shot so the first time people saw the inside of a house or flat was during their viewing. These days people view internal photos so don’t waste time travelling to view somewhere that’s unsuitable. Most properties now go at their first or second viewing.”
The phones are also much quieter these days, as most people contact Letters via email or social media. “It’s changed the way we work, too.” says Tracy. “We have landlords living in Australia and New Zealand, for example, and in the past we had to be very careful when we rang because of the time difference. Faxing documents could be problematic. Now we just drop them an email and we can get an instant reply.
“Any maintenance or damage to a property is rectified more quickly because we email a photo to the landlord so they see straight away what the problem is. We also have a 24-hour online reporting service which briefs the tradespeople, so they arrive at a property prepared.”
Tighter regulatory compliance has impacted Tracy’s day-to-day work, although she says most landlords with managed properties won’t have noticed the difference. “I’ve always been with good, responsible letting agents who’ve worked hard to manage properties efficiently,” she says. “But nowadays there’s more than 200 pieces of legislation affecting the private rental sector, from Legionella risk assessments to smoke alarms. There’s new legislation all the time which we have to keep on top of.”
“It makes me proud”
The York lettings market has massively increased in size since the early 1990s because buy-to-let mortgages made investments easier to finance. Tenants then stayed for months rather than years as it was easier to get on the housing ladder; and today’s more transient working population means some people prefer to rent.
Tracy joined Letters 17 years ago and is among our longest serving members of staff. “Several landlords have been with us all that time and many of our tradesmen have been with us for years, Letters is like my second family and I’m proud that we’ve remained independent all this time. It makes me even more proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Anya Mathewson, Letters’ Managing Director, said: “Tracy has been a valuable member of the Letters team for 17 years, with her wealth of experience, enthusiasm and knowledge. I’m sure our long-standing landlords and tenants will join me in congratulating her on this notable milestone.”