The Choices Group is an award winning, multidisciplinary high-street agency based in London and the South East, covering all aspects of sales, lettings and management from its 14 highly-rated branches, as well as operating a nationwide service. Founded in 1989 by Chairman Simon Shinerock, with whom innovation has become synonymous; the business’ primary area of focus in 2022 is to continue improving upon the success of the Advanced Rent Option (ARO™), which is the flagship of the company’s unique proprietary Primary Tenancy™ business model. ARO™ quite simply affords landlords the option of taking a year’s worth of guaranteed rent upfront, included within the service, at no extra cost.
Overcoming Initial Hurdles and a Moment that Shaped the Future
With the start of the business having coincided with the worst housing market recession since the war, the initial six years were inevitably a fight for survival. In 1995 however, which marked the start of the buy-to-let-boom, a pivotal moment took place in the form of a simple special offer, which not only opened a floodgate of landlord leads but resulted in spectacular growth across the following years.
The Birth of the Primary Tenancy ™ and How it Led to ARO™
2008 marked the beginning of the next crash, and competition was inevitably beginning to catch up. Once again, the founder’s entrepreneurial instincts came into force. What could Choices offer that other agencies couldn’t’? Whilst his initial thoughts were forming in relation to offering a no-strings-attached rent guarantee (minus the need for complicated insurance), the idea then occurred to him, that if Choices were to become the tenant, then that kind of guarantee could be offered. This then led to the birth of The Primary Tenancy.
The Primary Tenancy™ turned out (and continues to be) a much better business model for everyone. Tenants get a professional landlord and a rent guarantee of their own, giving them up to a year’s rent free if they go off sick or have an accident. Landlords are relieved of their regulatory obligations (as well as maintaining anonymity) – and as an agency, if anything goes wrong; things can get sorted out more quickly and more efficiently.
Despite the clear advantages of the Primary Tenancy™ however - it was felt that more needed to be put in place in relation to strategic thinking around the model and its marketing potential. Hence the birth of ARO™ (The Advanced Rent Option).
The Advanced Rent Option (ARO™)
“I remember talking to another agent about what we could offer landlords as a real incentive to choose us over other agents, when the idea of upfront rent came up. Interestingly, this other agent thought it was a great idea to offer upfront rent. But there was a big hurdle: An agent couldn’t pay out rent unless they were the tenant even if they had the cash to do it; a regular agent would have to start by changing their entire business model.
It suddenly struck me that the Primary Tenancy (which had taken years to develop and refine) would be perfect for this concept: a classic, simple, attractive idea that’s much harder to copy than it seems. But despite the perfect fit (and the simplicity of the proposition); it took over three years to get the formula right and come up with the most effective ways to get the message across and attract enquiries.” Simon Shinerock
Embracing the Need to be Different
As well as being innovators, Choices has always taken property beyond a transaction, understanding that moving home is inextricably connected to pivotal events in a person’s life. The goal of the group has always been to create a more inclusive, seamless experience and to provide clients, partners and employees with something both different to and better than the established competition.
The Group also operates Angels Media, publishers of the ‘Today’ range of wellknow industry magazines, as well operating the ValPal lead generation and nurturing network, which serves over 4000 offices and generates more valuations for agents than Rightmove or Zoopla. The ValPal network also offers selected estate agents a license to offer ARO™ as a means of building their businesses.
From Strength to Strength
The Advanced Rent Option continues to attract huge levels of attention from agents and landlords alike – and continues to go from strength to strength, as does the business. Choices believes that in order for true success
to be achieved, there is a range of key factors that need to be in place, such as listening to the needs of employees, ensuring everyone’s key strengths are used and acknowledged, formulating long-standing relationships with key stakeholders, continually leveraging the use of technology, honing the sales process, being adaptable, never becoming complacent, ensuring that positive and productive communication remains in place across departments, creating effective marketing campaigns – and ensuring that any errors, of any nature are simply taken as an opportunity to learn.
Having won the prestigious Allagents ‘Best Agent Award’ three years consecutively, Choices is also a member of the Property Ombudsman Scheme and Safeagent, the UK’s leading accreditation scheme for lettings and management agents. Choices also proudly ranks in the Zoopla Property Power 100 – and the Simply Business Property 100: the top influencers in the UK property world, letting and managing over 2500 properties on behalf of landlords and arrange millions of pounds of property sales every week and has long since chosen and trusted NatWest to deal with their range of financial requirements.