Family matters for Morgan Douglas’ Gemma

Landing in the north east of England by way of Surrey, London, Southeast Asia and Australia, Gemma Bern has certainly racked up the air miles, however one thing has always kept her grounded – her two young daughters.

Clocking up the air miles has paid off in terms of experience – as newly opened Morgan Douglas continue to go from strength to strength.

Working in the hustle and bustle of the busy office in the heart of Durham city, Gemma makes it her responsibility to ensure the student tenants who call the cathedral city home, feel as relaxed and comfortable as they would, wherever they are travelling from.

However, outside the confines of the workplace, there is nothing more Gemma likes to do than relax with family time back home in Surrey, with daughters Tilly, 5 and Izzy, 2.

It’s family time that has been well earned, as alongside fellow Morgan Douglas director, Douglas McCaroll, Gemma has seen the Elvet Bridge based student lettings firm grow to a point where they are in a position to be selective as to which landlords they take on – no mean feat after a little over 12 months in business in the historic cathedral city.

It’s all part of Morgan Douglas’ refreshing approach to the lettings world, which sees tenants placed in the box seats – rather than the traditional approach of putting landlords at the top of the food chain. It’s an attitude which is based on the idea that if you trust a responsible tenant to look after the landlord investment, you’ll end up with a happy tenants and a happy landlord – and it’s working with a recent 150% staff growth, and a waiting list for many properties managed by Morgan Douglas.

It’s an approach that has seen Morgan Douglas drop the residential side of the company name, and focus solely on the student lettings. Gemma says it’s down to the relationships the firm builds with the students.

“We decided to focus on students as that’s what we have the most knowledge of. No two students are the same and we meet a variety of tenants. Some are more laid back than others, but generally they are all responsible and we get on very well with them.

“We can meet them in their first year if university whilst they are searching for their second year home and build a relationship which runs to their third and final year, and even beyond if they stay on to continue their studies.”

Personally, it’s the latest in a string of success for Gemma’s career in the property and letting industry – an industry Gemma explains, she always wanted to be a part of:

“I got into property when I was still at college working on a Saturday at sales centres and showrooms or new build developments in and around London. I took that role full time when I left college for various agencies within the industry.

“It’s a job I enjoyed and I was there until 2009 when I left to go travelling. When I came back, I was right back into property, working in a local estate agents.”

This letting season, which generally starts on the 1st of November each year in Durham, has proved to be a particularly good one, successfully letting all city centre stock prior to Christmas with only a few slightly further out properties remaining. The new office location situated on Elvet Bridge, in the heart of the city centre has been extremely beneficial with a very high footfall of both students and landlords alike. Without any targeted advertising, students are visiting the office to source their ideal home, along with landlords who require a little assistance or don’t want the hassle.

They have also seen a large number of enquiries recently that have come from recommendations- both students and landlords. Twice recently it has been commented that “we have heard you only have nice houses”.

Morgan Douglas have monitored where most of their enquiries have come from since 1st October to date and although they have been using the more traditional property websites this year, they actually found that most of their leads come directly from their own office/website or from the leading online student rental website StuRents – which is well known to students as the leading national advertising platform for student accommodation.

All of Morgan Douglas’ properties feature on the ever popular StuRents website, for thousands of Durham students to see – no matter where they are coming to the North East from.

Gemma says “While it may be another piece of good news, the team aren’t going to be resting on their laurels any time soon”.

The relationship is especially relevant, as the co-founder behind StuRents, Michael Rainsford, is a graduate of Durham University who in his ever-expanding successful business continues to personally makes contact regularly with various letting agents including Morgan Douglas.

Gemma continues:

“We have a very good relationship with Michael and his team and hope this continues over the years. The combination of correctly advertising our properties, knowing our stock and advertising on the correct platforms along with a lot of hard work has proven to be a successful one.”

If you are moving to Durham for university come September, or are returning from this year and are looking for accommodation, contact Morgan Douglas. Call them on 0191 389 8630 or drop them an email to [email protected]. To see their full range of city wide properties, visit