THEY’RE running a family business – and building firm foundations.
Now Sue Coates and her sons Jonathan and Matthew, of Lepton-based SW Property Management, are set to embark on another phase of expansion.
Brighouse-born Sue, 50, set up the business while working full-time in a local estate agency office. “A landlord who was a friend of mine was getting fed up having to deal with his properties and tenants and asked if I would look after them for him,” she says.
“Pretty soon I was looking after 20 properties and it was becoming unmanageable to do that and carry on with my full-time job. I worked on my own for about three years and the business grew on the back of recommendations and referrals. It became more than just helping out friends.
“Eighteen months ago, I got to the stage where I was managing 50 properties on behalf of landlords and that’s when Jonathan and Matthew got involved.”
Jonathan, 28, started working on a permanent part-time basis in January, 2011, and helped to push the business forward. He joined full-time in July last year. Matthew, 26, who is a self-employed personal trainer, devotes 12 hours a week to the business and helps deal with finances and accounts.
As letting agents, SW Property Management handles everything from finding tenants and scouting potential properties for landlords to providing landlords with a full management service.
Sue, a member of the Residential Landlords Association, says the business has grown at a time when would-be householders are finding it harder to raise the deposit for a mortgage.
“More and more people are renting,” she says. “More and more people are also becoming ‘accidental’ landlords who are deciding to rent out properties because they cannot sell them. These are people who have never been landlords before and need advice and support.”
Says Sue: “A lot of people have gone into renting properties without understanding the implications. They expect to collect their rents every month on the dot for ever and ever. But tenants have their problems. Their circumstances can change through losing their job or getting divorced. We try to advise landlords about the worst-case scenario.”
The company is based at the Coates’ home address in Sorbus Way. The arrangement means they have lower overheads than town centre lettings agencies and can be contacted seven days a week – hopefully enabling any problems to be dealt with quickly.
Jonathan attended Colne Valley High School and Greenhead College before studying sport at York St James’ University. “My dream was to become UK table tennis champion,” he says, “but it didn’t work out! I looked into teaching, but I didn’t think it was for me.”
Matthew is kept busy with his work as a personal trainer and dealing with financial matters for the family business. His big claim to fame was playing bass with local band Smooth when it supported Bryan Adams at his Galpharm Stadium concert. Rock stardom wasn’t on the cards, but Matthew says: “I enjoy what I do and helping out the family business part-time.”
Sue and Jonathan also attend networking groups. Jonathan is a member of the BNI Terriers, which meets at Lockwood Park. “I’ve been promoted to treasurer-secretary,” he says. “It’s extra time out of my week, but it boosts my profile out there and I meet more people because of it. You build up trust with the other members and you help with referrals for each other. We have made some good contacts.”
Sue worked in estate agency for eight years before setting up the business and before that had a varied career in office-based admin roles. As well as a good understanding of how the industry works, she is familiar with the property mix in the Huddersfield, Halifax, Mirfield, Brighouse and Wakefield areas.
SW Property Management deals with landlords’ portfolios as diverse as one-bed apartments, two-bed terraced houses to four-bed detached houses and a beautiful barn conversion at Stainland.
“Renting is growing in demand,” says Sue. “People are choosing to rent long-term.
“Traditionally, people would rent while they raised the funds to buy their own home, but renting is the norm in many countries and it is becoming more common here.”
Now the business is well-set for expansion. “The idea is to get a stable base in the area for residential lettings and move into commercial lettings and estate agency in the next 12 months– but to retain a small, friendly feeling. We don’t want to become too big and end up looking like everyone else.”
The Coates still find time for their hobbies, however. Sue is a Huddersfield Town fan and has been a season ticket holder for the past 10 years. Her sons follow Huddersfield Giants – an arrangement that creates some friendly rivalry.
Sue plays tennis at Marsden and enjoyed a trip to watch the stars at Wimbledon during the second week of the championship. She also enjoys long distance walking with friends and recently completed half of the Thames Path route from Henley-on-Thames to the Cotswolds.
Jonathan is a member of Paris Piscatorial Society and goes on fishing trips all over the country. Matthew, who has completed in several charity walks, is preparing for the Three Peaks Challenge later this year to raise funds for Kirkwood Hospice.