During lockdown, they upped their marketing game, even while there was nothing, strictly speaking, to market: “We’ve gained well over 100,000 Instagram followers since the start of the year, and the number of visitors to our website is up 130 per cent on last year.”
They’re not averse to a portion of that traffic consisting of armchair enthusiasts like me. “We’ve always tried to apply an editorial sensibility to The Modern House,” said Gibberd.
“In many ways, we look at it as a publication. Choosing which homes to list for sale, for example, is fundamentally an editorial decision.”
As for their distinctive aesthetic, which can be easy to mock once you’ve clicked on your fifth photograph of a willowy intern in Margaret Howell gazing sadly at a cheese plant under natural light, it is undeniably key to the agency’s success.
The presentation of a house or flat on the website will inevitably depend on whether it’s a new-build or has people living in it – a fairly austere space can be humanised by rogue toys or unauthorised art works.
“Sometimes we do some gentle styling of an interior, but these days it’s quite self-selecting – and our clients tend to know what they’re doing,” said Gibberd.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get to use The Modern House as an estate agency. The only two places I’ve ever seen on the site that triggered a visceral desire to up sticks were a skilful conversion of a pilchard works in Cornwall, which would be a tricky commute if we ever had to start going into the office again, and architect Brian Housden’s house – a sort of miniature multistorey car park on the edge of Hampstead Heath, which was listed at a frankly unaffordable £3.25 million.
But until the day dawns when they go subscriber-only or install sales bots, I’m staying on the email list. For six months, it was the only travelling I got to do.