How The Modern House became a publisher and an estate agency
The estate agents who reinvented the property sector with editorial content are launching a print magazine

Matt Gibberd and Albert Hill describe themselves as accidental estate agents. In 2005, Hill was Design Editor of Wallpaper and Gibberd was a senior editor at The World of Interiors when they had the idea to sell design-led modern homes.

They got started by calling the owner of a listed modernist house and persuading him to let them market it. Without a shopfront and with online property platforms still in their infancy, they took an editorial approach commissioning an interiors photographer and visiting a library to research the story of the house.

The Modern House was born and today is both a publisher and an estate agency. Gibberd has described the brand as an online magazine monetized by selling houses and the magazine is now so popular the company has just launched a print version.

“Albert and I have always fancied ourselves as magazine editors wafting around people’s houses in Fair Isle tank tops and tapping out prose amidst a fug of pipe smoke,” said Gibberd, whose father and grandfather were architects. “We both worked as design journalists before founding The Modern House and a preoccupation with print is something that never leaves you."

He added: “In common with a lot of digital businesses, The Modern House acts like a media company in many ways: our website places original editorial content alongside the sales listings; we have a YouTube channel and a podcast series; our third book is in the pipeline; and we produce content for other like-minded brands. Despite all of this output, there’s no substitute for the tactility and longevity of a magazine.”

The brand’s investment in editorial seems to be paying off: its website attracted 26.5 million page views and 2.9 million unique visitors last year and over 300,000 people follow it on Instagram. A 2017/18 study by Rightmove found it received 70 per cent more views per online listing than other agents who listed the same properties. Its revenues grew by 43 per cent in the same year.

By:

Laura Peek

Laura is the founder of StoryCode and a former Staff Reporter at The Times.

Thursday, 08 October 2020

Photos: The Modern House

Modern House founders Matt Gibberd and Albert Hill, both 43, met at school in Dorset and studied History of Art at university before becoming journalists.
“Featuring originally commissioned photography, opinion pieces, long-form writing, interviews and more, we survey what it means to live life in a thoughtful, considered way both in and out of the home.”
– The Modern House

The magazine draws people in and house purchases follow, the founders say. The in-house editorial team develops a narrative about each property rather than focusing on the square-foot value. Hill says buyers fall in love with the story of a house.

The magazine contains gardening tips, a cultural diary, music recommendations, recipes and interviews with home owners. There are also long-form features on architecture, interiors and design.

“What makes The Modern House stand out even more from traditional real estate sites is the editorial format of each listing,” Architectural Digest said. “Magazine-worthy photography and in-depth narratives make viewing the homes feel like sitting down with a good coffee-table book.”

The brand’s thoughtful storytelling approach is an antidote to the hyperbole of estate agents, who often appear on lists of the UK’s least trusted professions. Gibberd and Hill do not do cold calls or hard sells and their team members come from the worlds of art, music, technology and even wine. The vibe at their stylish Southwark HQ is more crumpled linen than shiny suits.

“Everything we do is underpinned by a fundamental belief that good domestic design has a profound positive impact on our lives,” said Gibberd. “We want a world where the kind of carefully considered homes that you see on the Modern House website, and in the pages of our magazine, are the norm and not the exception.

“If any of the places that we feature spark a design idea, an action or a positive improvement by our home-owning readers (be they a wide-eyed first-time buyer or a seasoned developer), then we consider some part of our job done.”