Estate Agent Kirsty Hodgson found herself unemployed during lockdown in 2020.
We chatted to her to find out why it was the best thing that could have happened.

No place like home – Kirsty Hodgson, Bespoke Estate Agent

Sat in her home office in Castlefields, Kirsty is extremely positive and passionate about the area she lives in and clearly loves.

So it should come as no surprise that she’s won awards for selling houses in Prudhoe and the surrounding areas, even in times of economic uncertainty within the property market.

PB: Tell us about how you started up… KH: I have worked for local estate agencies in Prudhoe, Crawcrook, Winlaton and Hexham for the past 22 years. I then went self employed with Purplebricks for two or three years covering the Tyne Valley area and did extremely well. However, the format just wasn’t working for me so I changed to a different estate agency as a self employed agent just before the first lockdown and was quite quickly out of any work and no longer required by the company. This was the best thing that ever happened to me. I have always wanted to start up my own estate agency and run it the way I want, with customer experience at the heart of the business. I put a business plan together and thought if I can sell one or two properties a month that would be lovely. It quickly grew and grow and six months after launching I was already looking for an assistant.

PB: How has your business grown since taking on the assistant? KH: I was lucky to start when the property boom happened after lockdown as people had realised that during those periods of isolation that they needed more space for families or a workspace for managing the new working from home norm. I also had lots of people that realised that their house was no longer manageable and wanted to down size.

There was also a lot of people that wanted more garden space and wanted to live more rural. Lockdown changed my life, but also changed people’s priorities. I found that the Tyne Valley became even more desirable with a lot of people moving from Newcastle, looking for a more rural living. Commuting was no longer a concern as working from home became more and more common. This definitely helped increase my business. However, I have to say the majority of my business and growth is down to recommendations, which is amazing and something I am hugely grateful for.

PB: Are you looking to expand outside the Tyne Valley Area? KH: Yes, this is the next part of protecting my business and the reputation we have built up. We have reached a ceiling point with the business, selling twice as many houses than any other Prudhoe agent in 2022. Therefore, I am looking to take on more valuers to cover the surrounding areas. I still will be covering my home town Prudhoe and surrounding areas as I am very precious about the area that I love.

I have taken on Jack to cover Durham and Consett areas and Richard for Hexham and surrounding areas. I also am looking for someone for the Blaydon, Ryton and Throckley areas as well as having someone for Ponteland. We will work together to keep my ethos of always being helpful, friendly, always getting back to people and doing what we say we will do. We always are professional and I have very high standards. But most of all I want to help other local estate agents to have the success that I have had under my mentorship and support. Being in charge of your own business and earnings makes a dedicated estate agent that is truly working for you as word of mouth and recommendation is everything.

PB: Tell us about your team? KH: My right hand lady is Ailsa, who not only came to me with three years of estate agency experience but also happens to be my best friend from school. Ailsa is my daughter’s God mother and was maid of honour at my wedding. We are so close that we are synced together and talk daily, and Ailsa is as passionate about my business as I am. She started for me nine months after launching my business. Sue joined the team in 2022 as our dedicated Sales Progressor.

She has worked in conveyancers’ offices for decades as a legal secretary so comes with lots of inside knowledge. She is there to help from a sale being agreed and the sale completing. Her role involves chasing solicitors and making sure everyone is doing what they should be and keeping buyers and sellers up to date. We are also there to help advise with any issues due to survey and hand over keys on completion.

PB: What are the biggest challenges home owners and buyers are facing at the moment? KH: Interest rates. They have risen very quickly which has come to a shock to homeowners as the rise in payments is significant. The rates are currently sitting at around five per cent which as a whole over the last few decades is a normal rate. I know when I first bought property the rate was 6.5 per cent. We have had such low rates in recent years that it’s really hard to adjust. I am finding there is still lots of first-time buyers around as the cost of rent is very similar if not more than it is to get a mortgage.

PB: And what about estate agents? KH: Our biggest challenge currently is pricing. Expectations of the sellers are not matching the expectations of the buyers. It is our job to educate on this. A lot of buyers are talking about the prices dropping further, personally I don’t see this happening in our area.

PB: How is the property market right now? KH: The Tyne Valley area is very sought-after and is selling well. We are currently selling around 12 houses every month and in the peak of the market in 2021 to 2022 when everything went crazy we were selling around 15 houses every month.

There is currently a shortage of properties on the market, therefore, we do have lots of active buyers. With food prices dropping again and energy prices lowering these are all good signs and along with experts predicting a possible interest rate drop in the first quarter of 2024, I certainly don’t predict a property crash. Again, particularly in the North East and even more in the Tyne Valley, we are very lucky we live in such a lovely area!

PB: Has the average property price changed much since you started your business? KH: Yes, the prices have changed quite a lot. In 2019 the average property price in NE42 was £180,000 and fast forward to 2022 the average property price sat at £205,000 and that is on the rise still at £213,000 for 2023 so far.

This 22 per cent average price rise in the last five years is due to property price increase, but I also feel that the significant increase in 2023 is due to the more higher end of the market selling up and downsizing.

Looking at data, the Tyne Valley area has increased in average sold prices by 1.5 per cent in the last 12 months. And the trend for England and Wales is currently on a decrease of property prices by minus 1.7 per cent. However, this is not the case for the North of England. Apart from the Durham area the majority of the North of England and York area has continued to rise.

PB: Tell us more about eXp… KH: eXp World Holdings is based in USA and is a real estate agency brokerage that now runs in 24 countries across the world and has more than 89,000 agents currently. eXp is one of the fastest growing brokerages in the world and eXp UK are the fastest growing estate agency business in the UK, powering individual agents around the country to provide a personal service and experience to help get you moved.

I am proud to be in the top five per cent of the best estate agents in the UK which won me ICON status within eXp in 2021 and 2022 and gifted me shares in the eXp World Holdings. I also won Agent Of The Year in 2021. This was such a proud moment for me, working in little old Northumberland and winning the top UK award. Hard work really does pay off. Like I said earlier, being nice, helpful and honest goes a long way.

"I have always wanted to start up my own estate agency and run it the way I want."