“People don’t buy and sell property for a laugh,” says Chris Wood, founder and managing director of Portolio, an Edinburgh-based estate agency that specialises in selling tenanted property.

Instead, vendors have serious real-life goals, such as paying for a family wedding, while purchasers are typically building wealth, so that they can, for example, go on holiday. Portolio’s goal is “to be the Obi-Wan Kenobi” of the deal, helping landlords and prospective landlords do what they want to do.

“The landlord selling and then the investor buying, who becomes the landlord, are the heroes of the story,” Mr Wood says. “That’s how we think. Our values have always been like that.”

Mr Wood set up Portolio in November 2017 with business partner Ross MacDonald, who helped set up of the Council of Letting Agents (CLA) and Edinburgh City Council's Inside Letting magazine. Both had owned letting agencies before – Mr Wood was in the business for nine years – and subsequently sold them.

Initially, the business was launched as a property portal cum coach and enabler for letting agencies to sell tenanted properties. However, despite good feedback, this proved a hard business model to implement, as it required a lot of users and funding, and in July 2018 Mr Wood and Mr MacDonald pivoted the business to become an estate agent.

“We simply started working directly to the landlord,” says Mr Wood.

That means the business partners are working with the same landlords and property investors they were previously. Mr Wood saw a gap in the market and “a real need to help landlords”.

“Landlords who are looking to sell their buy-to-let property and have a tenant in there have options,” says Mr Wood. “It’s good to facilitate one of those options, which is to sell with a sitting tenant rather than waiting for the tenancy to end.”

By taking this route, landlords avoid being in position where they are no longer receiving rent but must still pay the mortgage and other expenses.

“For some people, just to keep the tenant in derisks the situation,” says Mr Wood.

For property investors, the advantage is reduced capital outlay. They don’t have to use up any of their cashflow to get the property ready to let and often get instant rental income.

“Often they’re even getting furniture with the property as well,” says Mr Wood.

Portolio is unique in Scotland, though there is a parallel company in England. Almost two years since its founding, Portolio is now looking to scale. It currently sells four to eight properties a month, and the goal is to push that to 15-20.

The business partners have bootstrapped to this point, paying themselves very little, and there is now money for marketing. The RBS Accelerator programme is helping them to do the right things with that money at the right time.

“Being in the RBS Accelerator give you space and encourages you to do that, and importantly, it gives a level of accountablility,” says Mr Wood.

As Portolio builds a database of contacts and moves into digital marketing, the RBS accelarator has also helped with a city-centre venue for a forthcoming buy-to-let breakfast. That’s part of an awareness raising programme that Mr Wood hopes will see Portfolio serving all of Scotland and recruiting an estate agent resource by the end of the next year. He then hopes to target the north of England in 2021.

“We have a deep knowledge of what landlords need, and we understand tenants and legal requirements,” he says. “We want to become the go-to people for buying and selling tenanted buy-to-let properties.”