When you think of a letting agent, you might have a stereotypical image in your head. However, when you meet Keely Nickolds, 34, everything is positively different. Nickolds Property Management, her family-run business, is a letting agency like no other.
Uniquely positioned to attract anyone from young professionals and doctors, to people who might be in financial difficulty and desperate need of a room, the Harlow-based business is one that gives back to the community.
“We try and help people turn their lives around. It’s what the job is all about. There’s no one else like us in Harlow. We’re an agency with a difference,” Keely says.
And that’s certainly true. While other housing agents might not be willing to work with such a wide range of people, Nickolds thrives on the variety. It works with people who may be vulnerable, suffering from physical or mental health issues, needing support with benefits, or even having problems with addiction. Where other agents don’t venture, Nickolds boldly goes.
The agency works with charities such as Harlow’s Streets2Homes to help equip homeless people with housing advice and assistance to secure accommodation. Alongside this, it works in collaboration with local councils like Harlow and Epping to help fund deposits for rooms and get people into a property.
Often, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing is one of the biggest barriers to vulnerable people being able to improve their lives and move up the ladder. In Harlow, this age-old problem is exacerbated by a demand for housing that quite significantly outstrips the supply.
To help combat this, Nickolds specialises in the niche area of houses with multiple occupancy. It currently has over 480 rooms in shared properties, with the majority of these in Harlow and the surrounding villages. An impressive portfolio considering it was only established three years ago.
But there’s no sign of the business stopping there. Nickolds is aiming to expand to around 600 rooms. Is it any wonder Keely is aptly nicknamed Harlow’s very own ‘Queen of the Rooms’? Her business is helping to house hundreds of local people.
And in a very modern way too. It is Facebook and not Rightmove where the majority of the business is done. Prospective tenants are able to contact Nickolds on the social media platform and find available rooms. The agency found that the people it targets were more likely to use Facebook’s marketplace section than traditional mediums, and adopted the platform right away.
Ever since then, it’s been all go for Keely. You can forget 9-5, this job requires much more than that. Keely and her five-strong team have to continually maintain properties and ensure that everything is running to plan. Juggling both landlords and tenants is not an easy task.
But what clearly helps ease the job is the team’s family connection. Keely works with her sister Kirsty among the others in the group, and when I visit the premises, I immediately feel part of the team too. The atmosphere is high-spirited and friendly, with everyone chipping in to help each other.
What’s also special is that the team, apart from one male, is entirely female. You couldn’t say that about many other agencies. Historically, the property industry has been a male-dominated arena.
However, just like it is in all other areas of its business, Nickolds Property Management is bucking the trend once again.