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Interview of EAT & LAT Team
Written by the Letting Agent Today team
Interview with Maxine Fothergill, ARLA President

Who are you and what does it say on your business card?

My name is Maxine Fothergill and for the past ‘almost’ 20 years, I have been and still am the founder and MD of Amax Estates based in Gravesend, Kent.

Back in 1988, I was working in the city as a Foreign Exchange clerk but due to exorbitant interest rates of 15% at that time, being pregnant and needing to bring in extra weekend income to help cover our mortgage, I applied for a weekend role at Robinson and Jackson in Bexley and the rest, as they say, is history – I got the bug and loved the job.


In 2002, I got an opportunity to start my own business and have never looked back. I have the best career in the world and love my job more than ever.     

How has your company had to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic? And what is your role at ARLA?

Back in March 2020, like all companies, the pandemic took us by storm. Due to having a brilliant team we were able to change our operating practices by having skeleton staff alternating time in the office and working from home. I did not furlough any staff as we still needed to do the day-to-day job, deal with maintenance within the legal framework and most importantly, we still needed to open post, bank cheques, chase rents and service charges and pay our landlords and contractors.

Looking back, I am so glad we were able to put provisions in place and will always be enterally grateful for the help and support Propertymark provided via regular emails and webinars.

I have always believed in the importance of being part of a professional organisation and therefore joined what is now Propertymark as soon as I started my business. Through the years as a small business owner, I have found my membership to be invaluable and I do not know how I would have coped without the support provided to me.

I have always been a great advocate for our organisation and was honoured to have been voted in by the membership to join the ARLA Presidency team back in 2019 and on June 30 this year, I was delighted to finally take up my place as this year’s ARLA President.

How is PropTech helping agents to be more efficient?

Two words – efficiency and compliance. Innovation is constant, but it is fair to say in agency we can be late adopters of new solutions, whereas the pandemic raised the profile, need and indeed urgency in terms of integrated PropTech solutions to allow remote working with enhanced compliance. 

From websites, cloud-based software, creative virtual viewings to brilliant marketing, I think PropTech will continue to play a huge part in our industry as we move out of the pandemic.

Do trade bodies have enough influence and bite nowadays?

I can’t speak for other organisations but I can certainly speak for Propertymark; we are known and respected and as such are always invited to be around the table with government officials on any pending changes within legislation. This has an immense benefit to the industry and our policy and campaigning team use data collected from the members to ensure accurate representation of the industry.


What is your greatest achievement in your current role and what made it so special?

This has to be taking up my new role as ARLA President on June 30 to represent our members during the coming year. This is special because I get to represent an organisation that I believe in and that has always been there for me.   

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

I am a very social person so for me I love to help people. This is why working in property is such as great job as it means being influential at a key point in people’s lives and finding the right property to meet their needs.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing letting agents at the moment?

I believe the biggest challenges at the moment are dealing with the backlog of arrears due to law and court changes imposed on us during the pandemic. This is not going to be easy to fix and it certainly is my hope the government look at helping our landlords financially, enabling our tenants, where possible, to continue to stay in their chosen properties.  

What is your property prediction for the remainder of 2021?

Due to the stamp duty holiday, I believe we will see a number of new properties enter the rental market in the coming weeks. Equally, with the courts now gradually dealing with breach of tenancy evictions, and due to the result of taxation changes, I can foresee more small portfolio landlords exiting the market once they regain possession.

I can also see more landlords owning a number properties changing the way they operating by setting their portfolio up as a company and therefore being able to be treated as a business.

One thing that for now will also remain positive from many surveys undertaken is, overall, the Private Rented Sector is the tenant preferred choice. This for me is very positive and something we as ARLA Propertymark Agents can be proud of.                  

What is your property prediction for the remainder of 2021?

The extended stamp duty holiday will result in new properties entering the rental market over the coming weeks; conversely with the courts gradually dealing with the end of possession rules combined with breathing space criteria and disadvantageous taxation changes, I can foresee many incidental landlords existing the market. 

Subsequently I can also see many portfolio landlords incorporating their assets to change the way they operate by setting up as a company and therefore being treated more favourably as a business. 

One thing is certain and supported by many surveys is that the PRS remains the first choice for vast majority of tenants and for me this is positive and a sign the industry continues to serve a valuable part in providing much-needed homes.


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