This month, unLTD’s Phil Turner heads to Raffina to grab lunch with Penny Gibbs, a property consultant at Sheffield-based estate agents Redbrik, to find out about what drove her drastic career change as well as her busy life, balancing a full-time job with two young children.
Hi Penny. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I started my role with Redbrik in May after deciding to take my career in a new direction. It’s a completely different industry from what I’m used to, as I previously worked in media sales for 20 years, predominantly radio. My career to date has involved account management, creating campaigns, executing them, working with clients on brand portfolios and raising their profile through different media streams. Over the last 10 years or so the media landscape has changed drastically, and much of the advertising went online and onto social media, so my role took on another dimension – but all the skills I acquired have been very transferable.
So what led you to move on from that?
“I had been in the role for so long and so much had changed in that time, so I just decided it was time for a new challenge, both personally and professionally.”
I’d had two children in the meantime and after COVID hit, everything looked so different. I’ve always been interested in property, both myself and my partner have properties that we let, so I wanted to fuse my passion and industry knowledge with the sales skills I’d mastered over the years. That’s when I met with Mark Ross, managing director at Redbrik, and we discussed me taking on the property consultant role in the North West Sheffield office.
Some of the things that have happened to the media industry have happened to the property industry, in terms of the proliferation of online. People used to advertise in the Sheffield Telegraph if they wanted to sell a house, do they still do that?
There is still a place for print advertising in property, but advertising online is definitely the quickest, easiest and most popular way to get your home seen now, so we’re big advocates of this. At Redbrik, we’re really passionate about using social media to attract potential buyers and show off your property in all its glory with a range of innovative marketing techniques like video tours and image collections. We also rely heavily on property portals outside of our own database of buyers. But the beauty of using Redbrik, rather than an online agent, is that you get all the online content, alongside our start-to-finish customer service. We don’t only deal with the pre-sale, going to speak to that person during the valuation, instructing their property, and all the viewings, but once it’s sold, we also deal with the post-sale through our revolutionary new service SecureMove.
So you started touching on SecureMove. Could you explain more about what that is?
Essentially, SecureMove has been created to speed up the sales process and create reassurance for both the vendor and the buyer, by legally preparing properties before they go to market. Upon instruction, we prepare the property information form and then as a company, we order the searches for that property. Once we have a buyer financially secured, we then ask for a reservation fee, to take it off the market and give them access to the searches, shaving weeks off the sales process and providing more security.
“Since introducing SecureMove, the majority of our sales complete within 90 days – usually less – and our fall-through rates have gone from 49% to just 8% – it’s a real USP for us.”
Have you had any pushback from people who haven’t liked the idea?
It’s really popular, once people understand the concept of it. I’ve sold houses before and the process has been soul-destroying, to a point where I’ve had offers accepted on my property where buyers haven’t even got a mortgage in place, plus chasing the solicitor and the estate agents just constantly can be exhausting. I can understand why someone might have doubts, but once you understand the concept, you can really see the benefit it has and what a difference it makes to your sale. Everything is quicker, easier and you have so much more security, so there is a lot less to worry about. You also have everything managed under one roof, so it’s much easier to keep track of.
What is the working culture like at Redbrik?
Fantastic. When you start a new job, walking in for the first time can be really nerve-wracking, especially when you don’t know anyone or what to expect. But at Redbrik, from the minute I walked in, I’ve felt welcome and at home, they’re genuinely really lovely people.
“No one can do enough here, they always want to help and they’ve gone above and beyond to help me settle in and learn the ropes, which I’m so grateful for.”
What have been the things that have been most difficult?
Working in a new industry is always difficult to start off with – learning the terminology, and understanding the systems and processes. When I started working at Redbrik, I received extensive training and by the end of it, I felt so confident and was ready to get out on the road. I had spent my whole previous career knowing the industry inside-out, so the change was nerve-wracking for me, but I feel a lot better now.
How do you find balancing being a mum with very young kids with a full time job?
It’s a constant battle. I have always been very career-driven, so when I had my little girl I must admit I found that I lost myself a little bit. Equally, mum-guilt is the worst – I feel guilty dropping my son off in the mornings and my daughter is going through a clingy phase. I have to remind myself that everything that I do is for them, to give them a good life. So I am working full time, but it’s to give them the best possible life that I can.
Where we ate: Raffina
Raffina is a charming café/coffee shop on the way into Fox Valley, which also houses the Redbrik offices upstairs. It’s open for breakfast and lunch with a menu that includes a range of breakfast options, including homemade waffles and pastries as well as plenty of lunch options such as toasted paninis, salads, bagels, quiches, wraps and cold sandwiches. They also serve sundaes and cream teas if you’ve a sweet tooth, so it’s a great lunch destination.
I went for a Caprese panini – toasted with buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato, pesto and rocket, alongside an oat milk latte, while Penny tucked into a chicken caesar salad.
Find them at Unit B5, Fox Valley Way, Stocksbridge, Sheffield // www.raffina.co.uk