Northwood Cardiff and Newport have recently moved into their new home at Morgans Residential in the heart of the village. Director Kate Gwinnutt explains how the move can help both customers and the community as a whole
If you weren’t born and bred in Rhiwbina, you may remember the day you moved here.
For Kate Gwinnutt, moving her estate agency and team to Rhiwbina was a no-brainer. Northwood Cardiff and Newport is an award-winning company that’s recently made its new home in the village, having taken over Morgans Residential. In the last few months, the team has already become a part of community life.
“You can see that Rhiwbina is a community that cares about itself,” says Kate. “At Northwood, we’d outgrown our office on Whitchurch Road and were looking for the perfect place to put down our roots. I’ve always wanted to be a part of a special community and there’s such a good sense of that here. The location itself is wonderful; it ticked a lot of boxes in what we were looking for.”
Despite becoming a familiar face in the village, Kate grew up in Caerleon.
“I grew up there and even met my husband Ben in the local Comprehensive there. We both went to Exeter University where I studied biology and Ben studied History and German. We both took years abroad in our third year of University. Ben spent the year in Vienna and I spent a year in Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.”
The pair completed their degrees at university and both went back to live in South Wales.
“Mum and Dad had started running Northwood Cardiff and Newport at that point. They opened the franchise 17 years ago and at that time, Northwood was still a new business. Theirs was only the tenth office to open. There are now 85 across the UK.”
But for anyone who thinks that Northwood are just a faceless corporation moving into the village, Kate is quick to point out that their business is very much a family-run affair.
“I used to go into the office in the Summer Holidays during university and help Dad with the filing and that’s how it started. I always said I’d never work for him but he had a member of staff that was going on maternity. Dad said it’d be good for me to do some 9-5 work so that I could get some knowledge. He told me that it’d be good to get something on my CV while I decided what I wanted to do with my life. The trouble was that I started enjoying the work and when the member of staff came back part time, I started job-sharing with her. I started doing viewings and looking after the accounts and here we are nine years later!”
Kate and her dad are now both directors of the company, which has already gone a long way to integrating themselves within the Rhiwbina community.
“Within the first week that we were here, we were introduced to the Plastic-Free team and the local rugby club were also in touch about donating for their raffle.”
Northwood were keen to retain a large core of the Morgans team during the takeover, who are still based at the office on the corner of Heol-y-Deri.
“The best part of that is that we can still tap into the local knowledge and expertise that was so important to the success of the previous business. In Residential sales, we have Gina, Louise and Nicola, who have been helping people find homes in the area for well over 40 years between them. In Lettings, we have Chrissie, a familiar face to local landlords, Emily our lettings negotiator and Abi our lettings administrator.”
Kate has supplemented the existing team with key people from Whitchurch Road.
“We have Michael who’s in lettings. He started working with Northwood six months after the office opened 17 years ago. Dad’s always been keen to train and invest in people; we want to give our members of staff opportunities. Michael started as an apprentice and has worked his way up. Ryan is also in Lettings; he’s been a negotiator with us for over three years now and then there’s James, who has been with us for 11 years. He was working in Lettings but is now in Sales and absolutely loving it! And of course, there’s my husband Ben. He takes care of the lettings. It really is a family affair!”
While the merger was perhaps unexpected, it has breathed new life into the village.
“Everyone’s been really positive about the merger and we believe that we’ve now got the best of both worlds here. It’s lovely to meet new people every day and every day is different. We’ve got some great ideas for the future and we’re already planning for the Winter and Summer festivals already.”
In addition to the community input, customers can also sample the great Northwood experience when it comes to letting or buying a home.
“Dad has worked really, really hard to get the business to where it is. He’s semi-retired now. He’s still the franchisee but is now more of a personal consultant, who helps and advises.
“As such, we can offer our customers a fantastic service. We offer our popular guaranteed income scheme which isn’t insurance-based and it’s quite unique – we effectively become the landlord and agree to pay the landlord, regardless of whether the tenant pays or whether the property has been let. The risk is all on us. That has very much been a selling point for us for the last 17 years.
“We offer guaranteed rent for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years. We’ll deal with it all for you. We’re there to take the hassle out. And if a traditional letting is what you’re after, we can of course, offer that too.”
And Northwood aren’t just a one-trick pony either.
“As the market has developed over the last few years, we realised that there was nothing stopping us becoming an estate agent,” says Kate. “It’s a very big decision on who you trust to sell your house for you. It relies a lot on liking the people who are going to sell your property and we have to show that and prove that. We want to do it the right way and we want to help.
“We want to provide the best customer service possible and we also need to be here when people need us. We want to make the journey of letting or selling a home as easy as we can for everyone. We offer so much more than an online agency can.”
So far, so good then for Kate and her team. But there’s still a lot to do.
“The plan is that Lettings will be rebranded to Northwood and the Morgans name will stay for Sales. We’re keen to integrate in the community and to grow further.
We need to keep our Northwood customers happy too so we’ve got to keep that balance right.”
There will be ongoing training too, that’s backed up by the national Northwood brand.
“Legislation has changed so much over the years and our franchise office has kept us informed about all of this since the start. If we have a tricky question, someone in the network will have an answer to it.
We are part of the Rent Smart Wales scheme and also part of the SafeAgents scheme, which provides peace of mind for landlords and tenants.
“We’re good at what we do. We’re not just coming in cold at this,” adds Kate.
And what about the next generation of Kate’s family?
“We’ve got a little one and we’re possibly looking to move. Rhiwbina’s definitely top of the list of places we’d like to move to!”
In the meantime, Kate and her team have a few matters to attend to.
“As a team, we’ve still not got around to having a night out yet. There were a lot of people away in August so we’ll definitely be getting that in the diary asap!
“We are aware that Morgans was a family business. We now have the benefit of the backing of a national brand but we are still our own limited company and still as accessible as Morgans was. It’s still the same from a client’s point of view too.”
It looks like Northwood have found their new forever home.