The Antidote to Traditional High Street Estate Agencies: Story of Home
Founded in 2020, Story of Home is quickly building a fine reputation on the London real estate scene for its personal, narrative-driven approach, putting the human story at the center of its process. During a recent appointment with co-founder Stuart Aikman, we were keen to learn more about the keys to the company’s success thus far.
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned in over thirty years in the tailoring industry, it’s that there’s no replacement for great customer service. Judging by Story of Home‘s track record in the two years since it launched, the same logic can be applied in the real estate market too.
Co-founders Stuart Aikman and Mathew Walters met fifteen years ago, crossing paths while working for an independent real estate agent in Regents Park and Marylebone. They immediately hit it off, and their mutual respect grew so much that they joined forces again at another agency covering prime central London.
Over the years the pair fostered a desire to strike out on their own and bring a refreshed approach to the real estate process. Thus, in 2019 the idea for Story of Home was born. “We wanted to build something that was our own – something that would allow us to focus more on the service.”
Key to Story of Home’s model would be, as the name suggests, a keen focus on the property’s story; not simply from an architectural and historical perspective either, but from the perspective of its owner, leveraging, “Descriptions written from the seller’s perspective, and the journey they’ve been on in that home.”
A Brand With Beautiful Homes…
“We launched in September 2020, with six listings – a brand with beautiful homes, and the power of word of mouth.”
The company has been on a remarkable upward trajectory since. With a strong network in the real estate ecosystem, their own hard-earned expertise, and a “white-glove” approach to customer service, Stuart and Mathew have been able to scale up and become profitable fast – something that’s been hugely aided by high praise from their clientele. “The feedback is awesome. Every review we get online is like a little gold star. We want to deal with people and improve their lives, so when we hear kind words, it means a lot.”
“Crucially, it leads to referrals, and better again, to repeat clients. Though only running for two years, we’ve managed on a few occasions to deal with the same client twice. That’s the highest praise.”
Engulfed in the Customer’s Journey
Words alone are a powerful vehicle for Story of Home, but even a quick glance at their website reveals an appreciation for beautiful imagery, stylish presentation, and thoughtful design as a whole – all in a bid to ensure that its homes stand out in a saturated London market.
It’s one thing making an impression online, but in a customer-facing industry it’s crucial to get the personal service just right. Stuart speaks fondly of this part of the job, “We’re extremely passionate about providing the very best service, to get completely engulfed in the customer’s journey and transaction. People want that personal touch.”
Going into more detail on what the transaction looks like, he keeps it simple– the antidote to traditional high street agencies. “Our clients deal with the same person from the very first appointment, and at every other step of the journey right up to the point where we hand the keys over. That will always be our model even as we scale up.”
If there’s a nice story… we’re interested
In much the same way that here at Marc Oliver, we want to help make luxury tailoring more approachable and accessible – less intimidating and exclusive – a key to Story of Home’s model is an open-mindedness about which properties to take on. While the company operates predominantly in sought-after North, East and Prime Central London, it’s not just interested in opulence. “If there’s a nice story (which there almost always is), and nice design elements, we’re interested,” Stuart quips.
“We’re open-minded, we recently sold a stylish studio flat in Wimbledon on the first viewing, and a ten-bedroom mansion with its own private boating lake in Woolwich! We prepare our marketing in a way that highlights the features.”
We’re just the stewards of the home
Our talk turns to the City of London, a place that our hearts and minds have become deeply intertwined with after so many years living and working here. Stuart speaks with excitement about his youthful memories of the city. “I grew up in a small town in Berkshire. It felt pretty boring, like nothing ever happened. We all know the kind of place – quiet, having to pedal an old bicycle to the shops or to see friends.” He pauses and laughs, “Actually that sounds pretty lovely now!”
“But I remember my first trip to London as clearly as yesterday… the excitement, the possibilities. From a young age I loved it, seeing all these amazing sights like the National History Museum and St Paul’s Cathedral, the vivid architecture and history.”
Dwelling on the rich, complex history and heritage of London, Stuart naturally harks back to the whole concept of Story of Home, the nostalgia, the respect, the pride of place, the narrative. “I often think about a property, whether it’s hundreds of years old or just a few decades old. They all have stories. Think of just how many people might have lived in this home before, and how many more owners there will be”
“Even though we buy, sell, and own them, we’re kind of just the stewards of the home. That really fascinates me.”
More thought goes into my outfit now than in the past
The flow of our conversation eventually turns to the matter at hand – clothing. Stuart and co-founder Mathew have an awards ceremony coming up, and the formal dress code must be respected.
Stuart’s a self-confessed style enthusiast, and promises to be an interesting client, “I’m really into fashion – it’s a part of my life – my wife works in the industry actually.”
Outside of awards ceremonies, however, his clothing needs have changed with the growth of Story of Home. “To be honest, I wore a suit to work for my whole career before now. I wanted to be really smart and had a collection of business suits. But when we launched Story of Home, we wanted to lean more into the business casual or smart casual look. We like to help people feel relaxed, so we tend to relax our own dress code a little most of the time. In fact, more thought goes into my outfit now than in the past.”
We’ll leave the business casual tailoring to another day, and focus on black tie. The formal dress code can be a minefield, but this is very familiar territory for us. It doesn’t take long to come to a consensus: We stick to the classic and cool – black dinner jacket and trousers in fine pure new wool, well fitted but not too snug, finished off with crisp, white cotton formal.
This will look just the part. We get to work.
To see Story of Home for yourself, visit the website.