Lettings agent starts up own company with a difference just before Covid-19

Lettings agency director Ryan Clemson had to deal with a global pandemic months after starting up the business, but there are reasons to be optimistic

Ryan Clemson of lettings agency Uniek Residential sat at desk smiling.
Ryan started Uniek Residential in 2019, months before the start of the pandemic Credit: Adam England

Ryan Clemson, director of Uniek Residential in the Cathays area of Cardiff, cut his teeth at other local agencies before taking the leap into starting up his own company in 2019, those halcyon days just before the world got thrown into almost unprecedented chaos. The 27-year-old has roots in mid-Wales but spent time working in events management in England before returning to Wales to get into this line of work.

“I knew the area a little bit more and in London, the overheads are pretty grand compared to Cardiff really, to get going,” he smiles. “and the contacts I had here before helped me get into that a little bit easier. Someone helping me apply for jobs said I’d be a good lettings negotiator so I walked into an agency here, handed over my CV and within two weeks was working there.”

He was at the agency for 18 months before spotting a gap in the market “to maybe do it a little bit better” and starting his own company, “but if I have, who knows?” he laughs.

On the website of Uniek Residential, it describes itself as the antidote to “stuffy letting agents”, having experienced the stress of looking for properties themselves, but just how did the pandemic affect the directors, and the business as a whole?

“Last year was sort of damage limitation really, just to keep open,” admits Ryan. “Fully fledged businesses a lot bigger than us have struggled. Luckily, our overheads are quite low. In terms of staff, there’s only me and Kam [Hosseini, fellow director] really so, you know, that was one thing that saved us.”

“We’re not growing as fast as we would have because we’re not taking on the worst side of the property portfolio,” says Ryan, who explains that the aim of the company is to “save us the ag and save the tenants the ag”, in a bid to deliver a good service.

Listen to this story

Fingers crossed, everything’s back to normal. But we just have to see how it goes

Ryan Clemson

Of course, the worst of the pandemic looks to be behind us, and Ryan explains that people are becoming more confident again in terms of going for properties, something that’s “pretty tricky” when all you’ve got to go on is a video, as it’s not the same as looking at a property in person.

He explains: “Especially when you’re going onto the sales market – you’re parting with half a million quid over video? It’s not going to work, is it?

“We’re getting there this year and are starting to come back to normal slowly,” he continues, explaining that even at this stage there are tenants who are looking for a property next year. He describes the current market as being “crazy”, with many properties not even making it onto the market due to the demand.

He explains that over the next few years, he’s hoping to “take a little bit more of a backseat in terms of the lets from students”, with a lot on his plate at the moment. Describing the workload as a “bit of a killer”, he’d like to see two teams: one looking after lettings and one looking after sales, but of course, things aren’t always predictable.

“Fingers crossed, everything’s back to normal. But we just have to see how it goes – not jump to conclusions and try to grow too soon,” he concludes. “Because, as you can see from the last two years, anything can happen.”

Ryan's tips for house-hunting for renters

Consider who you're going to be living with. Will living with your friends work out?

If you're sharing and don't know the other tenants, meet them beforehand.

Take a good look at the property in person before signing anything, as a video might not best represent the property.

At the same time, don't wait too long if there's a property you like - you might get beaten to it.