"Swift and decisive action" and the implementation of cost saving measures has meant that Cumbrian estate agents PFK have announced a pre-tax profit despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The multi-disciplinary professional practice and property business, who have five branches across Carlisle, Penrith, Keswick and Cockermouth, has announced a pre-tax profit of £60k in its interim results for the 6 months ending 30th June 2020.

It is significantly below the comparative period in 2019, but PFK have stated that they are pleased after the group’s performance was impacted significantly by the truly unprecedented implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Andrew Green, managing director, said: “The majority of our management team have been with us for many years with exposure to all types of markets in the past, but this unexpected public health crisis is incomparable to anything else.

"However, swift and decisive action and the implementation of cost saving measures has meant that we have so far navigated effectively through the crisis and I think are well positioned for the future.

"Going into the second half of the year residential property market conditions are much better than we could have hoped for. Additionally, our Land Agency, Surveying and Planning teams are all doing well and, whilst we are mindful of the economic and other risks which the pandemic holds, we are also financially sound, and we think well placed to meet the challenges and take the opportunities which lie ahead. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our fantastic staff who have seen us through this unprecedented period."

The housing market started the year positively but the national lockdown on 23rd March saw PFK’s group Estate Agency network close temporarily for two months and the housing market come to a standstill overnight. With virtually no transactional business during lockdown, house sales (exchanges) for the half year were significantly below last year.

Nevertheless, PFK traded profitably during the first half of the year and is in a strong financial and operational position to deal with any more adverse pandemic effects. The benefits of PFK’s multi-disciplinary practice have also been apparent as Land Agency and Planning were able to operate “normally” with no staff or small numbers of staff furloughed and both traded very well.

Comparatively in 2019 the company had significant post tax profits of £512,051 for the year ending 31 December 2019, largely due to the disposal of a relatively small part of its land at Junction 40.

There were also a number of board changes as previous Managing Director, Stephen Lancaster, resigned in March and previous Head of Planning, Rachel Lightfoot left in July 2020. Andrew Green was appointed as Managing Director and PFK’s Heads of Finance and Estate Agency also strengthened the board, respectively Joseph Webb and Lynne Lancaster. Chair, John Rowlands, stepped into an executive role for a time and other non-executive directors all stepped in extensively to help the business through this period.

During lockdown PFK furloughed the majority of estate agency workers under Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and immediately transitioned its remaining workforce to full remote working. Whilst already operating digitally, the new methods of working (including virtual viewings) utilised technology to an even greater extent. PFK also rapidly began planning for recovery to ensure a swift and safe return to operations as soon as the housing market restarted ensuring stringent health and safety protocols were in place and all branches made Covid-19 secure.

Head of Estate Agency, Lynne Lancaster said: “We prioritise people at all times be it our colleagues, customers, suppliers ensuring their health, safety and wellbeing minimising impact on them and delivering continuity of service. We are incredibly proud of how our people have dealt with this changing and fast paced situation demonstrating their resilience, professionalism and fortitude in the face of adversity and the quality of our response.”

David Stout, Head of Land Agency added: “We were quickly able to adapt our ways of working to deal with the pandemic and so able continue to look after our clients’ affairs and properties without interruption. It has been a difficult, but also very busy, period for the rural economy which has generally speaking manged to adapt to operate relatively normally."

After lockdown ended, PFK saw a very significant recovery in the housing market and this has continued through the summer. Compared with the same period last year recent trading in July shows new applicant registrations are up with significant interest from out of area buyers. Home owners continue to show desire to re-enter the market with market appraisal activity increasing and new instructions the highest the market has seen in recent years. The Chancellor’s stamp duty land tax holiday has also provided further impetus to the market.

In line with national trends footfall trends, PFK closed the Whitehaven and Kirkby Stephen offices, which are now digitally serviced from Cockermouth (covering all of West Cumbria) and Penrith (covering all of Eden).