The Bristol Magazine catches up with Bristol property experts Fox & Fox and puts a few questions to business owners Tom Derrett and Eva Callaghan about the current market in Bristol and how the events of the last 12 months
TBM: How long has Fox & Fox been operating in Bristol?
Fox & Fox has been operating since 2019 in Bristol. Before, the owners ran a property management company based in Wales that they built up from one to a 1000 properties over eight years. They sold their shares in order to have a business which is entirely their own. Both owners feel very passionate about the property industry. They love the challenges, the rewards of providing a good service for both investors and tenants, and that no two days are the same.
Tell us about the people behind the business?
Fox & Fox is a family-run business owned by Eva Callaghan and Tom Derrett. Eva is a qualified accountant and experienced businesswoman with a proven track record in the property industry. She is also a personal coach, which comes in handy when guiding landlords and tenants through the maze of lettings regulations. She is a mum to two girls and she has a thing about sparkling wine, Teslas and Quentin Tarantino movies.
Tom is a qualified barrister and brings a depth of legal knowledge to Fox & Fox Property. Tom started out deciding deposit disputes for the Deposit Protection Service in Bristol, before going on to become a property business entrepreneur, building a property management company and starting one of the UK’s premier property insurance brokers. He is a father to two girls, a music lover and has won a gold medal playing underwater hockey for England.
“Of course, the company could not run without the amazing staff that we have worked with for years,” comments Tom.
What are the main services you offer and what makes you stand out?
Fox & Fox is much more than a letting agency. We actively work with our landlords to ensure they make the most out of their property. That includes:
• getting them the best deals on finance products so they don’t leave too much capital tied up in their portfolio
• finding them new properties to buy that suit their requirements, whether they are looking for income or capital growth
• reviewing their portfolio and their options at least annually
• and working with Fox & Fox Accounting Ltd, to prepare their landlord tax returns.
Do you work just with established landlords?
We work with many experienced landlords but also with new investors who particularly benefit from our expert advice, many of whom we have helped to build a portfolio.
What would you say are the main services that landlords and tenants are looking for in an agent?
Landlords are looking for help to buy the right property to achieve their goals, whether that be income or capital growth. They are looking for an agent they can trust to provide a comprehensive advice-rich service and excellent communication where they can sleep at night confident that their investment is in good hands and their tenants are safe. Landlords also want to know that their agent is doing everything they can to ensure that their property is let to a responsible tenant.
As a family-run business, we care about each individual landlord’s needs. As qualified and regulated professionals we can be trusted with our clients’ investments. We make all our landlords a cast-iron guarantee that will never put a tenant in their property that we wouldn’t put in our own.
Tenants need to feel safe, be communicated with efficiently and know that their maintenance queries will be dealt with in a timely manner.
Are there any innovations or new ways of working coming into the industry?
It’s fascinating to see the advances in technology taking hold in the industry over the last decade. From spreadsheets and paper application forms ten years ago, now we have open banking, artificial intelligence software and online viewings, just to mention a few innovations. The regulation across the lettings sector is becoming tighter than ever before. There are so many checks on applicants, safety regulations, property licensing requirements and paperwork to file to be fully compliant with the law. It’s getting harder and harder for individual investors and small agents to operate legally. With full regulation of the industry just around the corner, we have made the decision to invest in the best software that will guarantee our landlords are not at risk of falling foul of the law.
Is this a good time to invest in rental property post Covid and with new and current government regulations – how do you see the market performing in the short to medium term?
This is a great time to invest thanks to the stamp duty holiday and increased rental demand, however, there are a great many more obstacles to profitable investment than there were ten years ago. It’s important for investors to get good advice on which sectors of the market are performing and how they are likely to perform in the future. Property remains an excellent investment but there are pitfalls for the unwary. Luckily, Bristol remains an exceptionally buoyant market and there are some fabulous opportunities for those in the know.
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
Covid affected so many industries and it is heart-breaking to see how many businesses are struggling. We maintained the value of our clients’ assets by increasing the amount of resources we put into rent chasing, especially at the beginning of the lockdown. We even went as far as to have one member of staff become an expert in Housing Benefit and Universal Credit claims to be able to help the tenants through a difficult situation which was no fault of their own.
The same as everyone else, we felt the initial shock of the lockdowns. Recognising that the business environment had changed dramatically, we decided to take the confident (or at the time it felt crazy) step to acquire two Bristol-based property businesses. The larger of the two acquisitions completed on the 1 December 2020, just in time to scupper our plans for a quiet Christmas with the children. Although we had a busy festive period, it’s been an amazing experience for us. We have really enjoyed getting to know so many new people and we very much appreciate all the positive feedback and support that we have received.