Humberts, one of the country’s oldest estate agents, is to be placed into administration.
The news was broken to shocked staff on Friday, and they were told to expect their P45s.
It is understood that some 48 jobs may be affected.
Staff were told that the board of directors has concluded that the company is not in a position to continue trading, and that steps are being taken to place the company into administration.
They were told that the company’s trading activities would be closed immediately, and that staff were being made redundant. It is not known whether franchisees of Humberts might be affected.
Despite repeated emails and voicemail messages, EYE was unable to make contact with senior people at Humberts including Matt Spence, who headed up the company that bought the firm almost two years ago. Attempts to contact the head of marketing and Humberts CEO Tim Simmons also failed to elicit responses. The public relations firm previously representing Humberts told us it is no longer doing so.
The telephone at Humberts’ flagship “hub” in Dorset was picked up by an answering service, and we were simply told that the phone was answered when the team was unavailable.
The live chat service on the Humberts website was working normally at the weekend, with the assistant telling us that the agent was open.
Humberts’ properties are still being listed on the portals, including 29 in Dorset according to Rightmove. The latest was listed on November 25, while a property added on November 19 is marked as under offer.
There are also residential branches of Humberts in the Cotswolds, Devon, Dorset, Sussex, Kent, Somerset and Cornwall. Commercial branches are also part of the Humberts business and include locations in the Lake District, Dorset and Somerset.
Humberts was founded in 1842. It merged with Chestertons in 2009 with both businesses in trouble during the recession. The two de-merged in 2013 but Humberts went into administration in April 2018.
It was then bought by a holiday lettings business, Natural Retreats, headed by Matt Spence.
The new owners embarked on a programme of replacing high street branches with ‘hubs’, the first of which was at Poundbury, Dorset. It appointed Tim Simmons as CEO in May. He started at Humberts’ office in Bridport, Dorset, in 1999 as a junior negotiator.
Speculation about Humberts was posted on social media.