Archive for September, 2016

How Else Could our Microsites and Data Rooms Save you Time and Money?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Our goal at Estatecreate has always been to help commercial surveyors sell property faster.

So we’re best known in the industry for our data room and microsite services to support the sale of commercial investment properties.

Our 24-hour turnaround on micro-sites means we can get a commercial property to market faster than anyone else. And our secure data rooms are the most efficient and convenient way to share documents, communicate with investors and learn where to channel marketing efforts.

But over the years, people have asked if they can use our services for a whole host of other purposes.

Honestly, some of these we wouldn’t have thought of ourselves. But it makes sense. When you can get a great looking site live at the drop of a hat, and combine this with the secure data room technology – well, there are all sorts of applications.

Here are some of the most popular alternative uses for our services:

Funding Opportunities

A beautiful site to showcase your project and an easy way to keep an eye on which investors are showing interest.

RFPs/Request for Tender 

Layout bidding terms and criteria. Allow bidders to upload their bids to the site up to the bid deadline.

Planning Consultation

A simple way to present the consultation, and make all required documents available to all relevant parties. Allow all interested parties to post feedback onto the site and publish FAQs throughout the process.

New Home Sites, incl. PRS

Our sites have been specially designed to showcase commercial property in the most effective way. But they work really well for residential new home developments as well. We can also work with your software supplier to manage availability and provide an online application process.

Managing Portfolios

Our sites are also used to manage large portfolios. The sites can be used for sharing key files, managing contact information and tracking lease renewal dates.


One last thing. This is by no means an exclusive list. If you’ve got an idea for how our sites and data rooms could help your workflow, please do get in touch as we are always interested in how we can develop our service further to meet a market need.

Founder Interview. Sam Zawadzki from Apply.Property

Monday, September 26th, 2016

He’s a serial entrepreneur and English Channel swimmer. Now Sam Zawadzki is on a mission to make property transactions simpler with his new product, Apply.Property. Here he talks industry insights, moving into the commercial market and being stung by jellyfish at 6am. 


Hi Sam, thanks very much for taking the time to chat to us. Let’s start with a quick ‘elevator pitch’ for Apply.Property.

Hi, you’re welcome. Apply.Property is a viewing booking and online application tool for agents. It’s like a 24/7 secretary for each agent, that helps get viewers into a property and then chases up offers and feedback. It helps agents manage their leads more effectively, and ensures landlords get the best price for their properties via a transparent online offer system.


So how did the idea come about?

I was working as a freelance digital consultant at the Yellow Pages, but really wanted to get back into doing my own projects full time. My past businesses were in all in the property sector, and when I looked at  industry I thought there was room for simplification. Uber makes it easy for me to book a taxi, I want the same simplicity for booking a viewing & making an offer.


What problems does Apply.Property solve?

I realised that agents are paying a lot of money to portals for leads that they don’t always make the most of. So I want to make sure agents get maximum value from each lead. It’s also about consumer experience, making it easy for this millennial generation that just wants to be able to tap a button on their phone and have a booking confirmed in their diary. And a large part of it for me was also about making every property it’s own mini marketplace. Having done rentals for quite a while in Edinburgh I knew it was a very competitive market, especially in the centre. You’d often have tenants bringing large amounts of money because they wanted to pay a deposit then and there, and people offering to pay more than the advertised price to secure the property. Having an online tool that allows tenants and buyers to offer above the asking price creates a mini marketplace on each property. So if you have two groups of tenants they can compete against each other on price and other factors like ability to pay rent in advance, or move in dates.


So what does the user process look like? 

The potential tenant or buyer sends in a request for a viewing through a portal like Rightmove or Zoopla, then the software will respond instantly with a link to the agent’s online calendar. The viewer can book directly onto that so there’s no need for human involvement there.

Once they’ve seen the property, if the viewer wants to make an offer they can also do this directly through the software, and fill in their offer online.

The agent can see everyone that’s made on offer on the property and compare all the variables like amount offered, move in date, length of lease etc. to help make their decision.

We’re taking away the to and fro via email between a tenant and an agent, making a huge time saving for the agent and making it way more useful for the consumer.

Essentially Apply.Property takes away all those admin tasks that are really important but are not really the core value of an agent, which is the human skill of being able to go into a property and sell it.

One way we pitch it to people is to say – “How much more work would your agent get done if they had a PA taking care of all the diary scheduling, the reminders, the follow up and offer collating?”


How has feedback been so far?

The agents that have used it have been really happy with it and we’ve seen some excellent results. One agent group put 32 properties through the system. Of those properties 73% have gone up in value because of the offer feature, with the average rental increase per property per year of  £1176. That also meant that individual agents made £150 extra each per property. So yes, there have been some really encouraging statistics from the offer feature, and some great feedback that it makes life lots simpler.

One of the key things from the lettings side is that the landlords love to see the applicant report. They think it’s really professional, a value added service and proof that the agent is getting them the best price.


Has anyone made the argument that a tool like this might actually not work in the tenant’s favour, as it’s putting prices up? 

Yes, we have heard that and there are two responses to this. Firstly, we’re very strict on not using the term ‘bidder-auction’ for our service, because bidder-auction means that just the person who pays the most gets the property. In this case people can offer above the asking price, but it’s not a guarantee of getting the property. For example someone might offer way more money for 6 months, but the landlord might prefer someone willing to take a 2-year lease but at a lower monthly rental. So there are lots of variables there.

Secondly, we see the economics of what we’re doing as quite Keynesian. We’re not doing anything that would make the property more or less valuable – we’re not doing anything to the environment like adding an extra bedroom or introducing a new school to the area.  All we’re doing is saying that if there are two groups of people who want to rent a property then the one who can pay the most, or rent for the longest or whatever should be the one that gets it. So we’re filling supply and demand. If anything, my long-term view is that as a landlord, if I get tenants who are willing to consistently pay more than market rental, it shows me I should buy another property and do it up to a nice standard and actually improve the rental stock in that area.


From a marketing perspective the data capture side of things must be really useful too?

Absolutely. There are some really large brands I’ve spoken too and asked the question – ‘if someone enquires for a viewing and you can’t facilitate it, do you remarket to them, or keep them on a database?’ – and it’s just nothing. It’s a black hole. There’s so much more that can be done and we can help facilitate that too.


Have you found any resistance to tech entering the industry? 

There is a real, real mix. I’d say it’s less about peoples’ attitudes to technology and more a resistance to sales. Agents in general continually get people selling stuff to them so when we’ve tried cold calling there can be a lot of resistance to any new technology.  But if we were to get a warm introduction to the same agent and they see all the benefits it brings them it would be a completely different conversation.

In general I would agree that the property industry has been a little bit slow to adopt new technology, but the stuff that’s going on with the major high street brands hybridising and buying online agents to improve their digital offering is really big in the market right now. There was a report this morning that said next year Purple Bricks will have a 10% share in the market which is a huge statistic. So I do think there’s more pressure than ever before for agents to adopt new technologies in order to survive in the market.

I think where financial technologies were 3 or 4 years ago is where property technology is now. People have realised this that this is a trillion pound market, it’s the biggest asset class and there are loads of improvements that can be made.


There are huge opportunities aren’t there?

Yes – it’s quoted to death but one example would be the difference between a taxi company and Uber. The innovations are actually really small – the only difference is that instead of calling a taxi company you tap your phone, and instead of having to have cash it just comes off your card. But that reduction of friction in the transaction – that tiny little process change – just has a huge impact. And it’s what we’re looking to do in our space – so you don’t have to call an agent or download a Word Document, but you can do it all online.


Do you see an opportunity to move this into the commercial property world?

Absolutely – the two fundamental things that we’re doing are firstly making it easier for people to get into the property and then make it easier for them to submit an offer. I don’t see any reason we wouldn’t move into the commercial space. We’ve had conversations with a couple of large commercial agents about this. Once we’ve grown a little bit I’d love to see us make an offer to the commercial space as well.


What adaptations might you have to make to do this?

A key thing for commercial would be slightly better lead scoring. With lettings and sales, there’s a lot of data that’s slightly less relevant, but in commercial I think there’s a lot of key information that can be scored about the leads, for example what kind of timeframe are they looking at. There’s also opportunity to build a profile based on properties they have been interested in the past.


What are your plans for growth over the next few years?

There are two routes. We want to grow this to be a sizeable UK business, which I think will take around 3 years. If we can do this and grow very quickly in the UK we’ll look at internationalising, taking the same services and facilitating that technology abroad. If we go down that path I see it as a 5 – 8 year commitment


Finally – I’ve got to ask about the Channel Swim I saw on your blog – what the hell was that like?

Really really tough. There was a huge amount of training, I was spending three hours in the pool a day, plus a lot of cold training in the sea. But it was a good challenge – and definitely one that I wouldn’t have completed without being part of a team. When you had other people relying on you, you can’t let the team down.


The jellyfish at 6am looked particularly nasty. 

There’s nothing crazier than seeing a cold sea full of jellyfish and thinking ‘I’m going to jump into that’


Thanks a lot Sam. What’s the best way people can follow your progress?

If you’re interested in what we’re doing send me an email to and I will keep you updated on our news. Also do have a look at our website


Why a newsletter might be the most effective marketing tool a commercial surveyor has. And 11 ways to create one that works.

Monday, September 26th, 2016

When the number of available marketing channels seems to increase by the month, how do you know which ones to focus on? Is social media as effective as everyone says? Should you be investing in Virtual Reality?

Well, maybe. But all the stats show that the returns on a newsletter are still higher than almost any other marketing method. And definitely higher than social media.

Newsletters are especially effective in industries where it’s important to build strong relationships with clients, but we don’t see or contact them very often. Like commercial property.

And yet, most companies don’t do it. Or if they do, it’s a Friday job for the intern. But there’s so much more that can be done.

We’ve been looking into this a lot recently. Mostly because want to make the Bird Dog one of the absolute must reads in your inbox. So we thought we’d share a little of what we’ve learned along the way.

Here are 11 best practice tips for a great newsletter:

1 – Give value

Your clients are busy people. So your newsletter has to be worth their time. To make sure it is, give them something worth reading. Insights into your area of expertise. Great articles they might not have otherwise discovered. Opinion pieces that widen their perspectives. And what ever you do, make sure that you…

2 – Don’t be boring

So many companies fail to get the most from their newsletter because they fill it with articles about themselves. Sales they’ve made. New divisions they’ve opened in the South-West. Or even worse, thinly disguised sales pitches of the kind you might get at a networking event. It’s the equivalent of a one-way conversation. After one or two of these, most readers are going to lose interest. The solution is actually quite simple (and fun)…

3 – Create your newsletter for the person, not the client

Your relationship with your clients is based on commercial real estate. But beyond their interest in real estate, there’s a complete, rounded person who enjoys – quite possibly – golf, great restaurants, holidays abroad… extreme sports?
Use your knowledge of your clients’ interests to create something rounded that they’ll enjoy. Don’t ignore your major common interest, but do acknowledge that they (and you) exist beyond this niche world.
If all this is sounding a bit overwhelming don’t worry. You haven’t got to create everything yourself. You can…

4 – Curate

This take some time. Quite a lot of time. But it’s worth it, because time is exactly what your client doesn’t have much of. If you are able to deliver interesting, valuable, relevant information on a regular basis then the trust this builds will pay dividends over time. So keep a folder where you collect all the interesting things you find over the course of the month. Pocket or Evernote are great tools for this. Look in places others might not go. Also, don’t forget…

5 – You are an expert

Make the content you do write the most valuable part of your newsletter. You can do this because you know the kind of questions your clients ask you, the kind of problems they have. There’s plenty you’ll know that they don’t. Write pieces that help them out. Explain terminology. Forecast trends. Give tips. But remember – always give value. Another way you can do this is…

6 – Make it look great

Design matters. How your newsletter looks communicates a lot about your company. Mailchimp has some great and customizable templates. If you can get a designer to help, even better. It’s worth it. A couple of good questions to ask yourself as a design brief are: How do I want my readers to feel? What do I want to say about who we are as a company? Once you’re happy with how it looks and the content…

7 – Test everything

Before you send, test that it looks good on every single platform going. Most people are going to read this on their phones. Check that it reads well on yours. And most importantly…

8 – Test subject lines

So many people spend a lot of time on a newsletter then rush a subject line at the last minute. But if you haven’t got a line that makes people want to click, all that effort has gone to waste. Many direct mail providers allow you to A/B test subject lines, then automatically send to the most effective one. There are whole books on what makes a great subject line, but testing your own is the most sure-fire way to learn what works for your audience. Just as important is to…

9 – Test timings

When are your audience most likely to have the time read your newsletter? 5.30 on a Wednesday? Almost certainly not. Think about their schedules. Do they check mail at weekends? Can you hit their downtime? Trial a few different times to see when gets the best results. When you’ve figured out what, how and when to send, remember one golden rule…

10 – Don’t bombard

We get so much spam these days. The easiest way to get on your customers nerves is to send too often. Once a month is fine. But once you’ve decided on a timeframe, stick to it. People appreciate consistency. Which is why…

11. Don’t give in at the first hurdle

You might not hear back straight away from your readers. And you might not get direct sales the first few times. But if you do it, and do it well, people will notice. Over time, it will be worth it.

One last thing. Sometimes it pays to get a little help putting your newsletter together. We get ours from Ben at Word Butler Copywriting. Give him a shout at