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Cardens Estate Agents is one of Exeter’s largest independent property specialists in residential sales and lettings, as well as catering for Exeter’s vibrant student market. We chat to founder Jon Carden about how his business has developed and grown over the past two decades and how the Exeter property market is currently performing.

Jon Carden founded Cardens Estate Agents in 1991 at the tender age of 25, after having gained experience in the local property market Jon saw the opportunity to develop a business model that would put clients first. Starting with just himself, a secretary and a network of contacts, he has since grown an enviable reputation and established a business that now employs 15 people. This growth has meant several office moves and the team is now located in a modern office suite in Longbrook Street on the main route into, and close to, the city centre. A location that proved pivotal in shaping the business with high footfall, by students and other potential clients, en route to the city centre.

“When I first started off Cardens dealt mainly in residential sales and professional lettings in Exeter, however I was keen to grow the business. Our current location lent itself extremely well to diversify into the student market, as Longbrook Street is a main route into town for much of Exeter’s student population. Students@Cardens was born and that side of the business has gone from strength to strength – so much so that we quickly took the decision to develop a separate division. We wanted to give students a strong brand to show this was just for them and that Students@Cardens differentiates itself from other agencies.”

Today there are three divisions that make up Cardens Estate Agents: Cardens Residential Sales, Cardens Residential Lettings and Students@Cardens. Each division has a specialist team and manager overseen by Jon Carden and co-located in the Longbrook Street office. Jon confirms that the brands are complementary and together with the diversification has facilitated the continued growth of the business over the past 22 years.

“I think sometimes we’re perceived as just lettings specialists, which obviously helps to cement the reputation of our Students@Cardens division as well as our professional lettings service, but in reality we also have very strong residential and investment sales. We’ve been successful in selling some fabulous properties, ranging from £350,000–£600,000, in the city centre and St Leonards. I believe it is this broad range of experience and expertise that has helped develop and grow the business against the backdrop of an inconsistent property market.”

Speaking about the current state of the market in Exeter, Jon is optimistic, yet pragmatic.

“The first quarter of 2013 has been our strongest in the past five years, which is very encouraging, and as a city Exeter’s property market is definitely withstanding a lot of the pressures being experienced by other parts of the country.

However, as an agency we prefer to remain realistic and stick to the core values our business has been built on. We believe in trying to win based on our reputation, experience and good old fashioned personal service. At the end of the day we want to serve our clients in the best way possible, which is by being realistic and giving sound professional advice based on our extensive local knowledge. We believe this is the best route to achieve the positive outcomes for our many clients – and our success shows that they value and appreciate our way of doing business.”

Cardens’ relationship with Simpkins Edwards began even before the estate agency was founded, as Jon Carden and Partner John Coombs knew each other socially from playing cricket together. When Jon Carden decided to start up his own business he turned to John Coombs for advice on a wide range of topics from tax to accounts, projections and planning. Having been involved in the business from the start, John Coombs and his team have continued to support Cardens with tax minimisation strategies, accountancy support and general business advice for more than two decades.

“I know I can always rely on John and his team at Simpkins Edwards for advice and practical support whenever I need it. His advice when starting up the business was invaluable and the relationship has continued to work very well over the past 22 years,” added Jon Carden.

So what does the future hold for Cardens?

“We will continue to develop our residential and student divisions but are also looking at future expansion into more rural properties surrounding Exeter’s heartland,” explained Jon. “We’ve already found that the key to our business success has been diversification and we won’t be resting on our laurels.”

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