EVEN oft-derided estate agents have been forced into outstanding customer service, a leading Huntingdonshire agent said this week after picking up major international awards for the top end of the housing market.

Simon Bradbury, senior partner in Thomas Morris’s St Neots-based Fine and Country, is celebrating winning two awards in the franchise’s European competition for which more than 200 branches across the continent , specialising in upper-quartile properties, were competing.

Nearly all the awards went to UK branches, two of them – those for Marketing and Promotion and Best Property Presentation – to Mr Bradbury and his colleagues in Huntingdonshire.

“These awards are very important because the agents we were competing against are specialists in properties in the upper quartile (above £450,000) across the whole of Europe, so the quality is very high.

“For us to pick up two awards was really impressive.”

So why has the UK suddenly become so successful in the property market in the middle of a double-dip recession?

“I think we have finally got attention to detail and knowing that the customer is king. I know that sounds like a cliché, but I had always though the US was way ahead of us in customer service – but now I think we can teach them a thing or two.

“Our team is really in to proper service,” added Mr Bradbury, who has just opene a new Fine and Country branch in central Cambridge. “We have had to get it right because the market has contracted so much. The need for real customer service has come to the fore.

“Five or six years ago, to a degree estate agents were order-takers. Now we have to be more creative and focus on the customer.

“One of the advantages at the top end of the market is that you can spend more time with people and really focus on them.

“But customers at that end of the market are also more demanding,” he added.