A YORK estate agent is expanding after gaining its independence a year ago.

Preston Baker previously operated under the Bairstow Eves banner, which in turn was owned by Countrywide.

Countrywide was bought out by Hunters, the York-based estate agency group in September 2011 The buy-out prompted former Bairstow Eves franchisees James Baker and Ian Preston - who are cousins as well as being business partners - to go it alone.

In the past year, it has launched a financial services division to ensure buyers can afford mortgages, and intends to have a mortgage advisor in every branch.

It has also just opened a new branch in Moortown, north Leeds and is targeting further growth in North Yorkshire market towns, including Ripon, Thirsk and Harrogate.

Mr Baker said: “This is our fifth branch in four years and we have an expansion plan to open one or two branches per year for the next five to ten years.

“We believe the market’s actually very good at the moment.

“There’s a lot of negativity about the housing market but as long as you’re proactive and positive about the market it’s not a bad time to buy or sell.”

The business was recently recognised for its approach in the Sunday Times Estate Agency Of The Year Awards, in which it won a silver medal for Best Small Northern Estate Agency and was shortlisted in the innovation category for its use of iPad presentations, QR codes and customer review sites.

The judges said: “As an ex-corporate agency, this business combines the best of corporate infrastructure, systems and processes with the best of bespoke, small agency attitude and service.

“Preston Baker is a very exciting agency which has excelled this year, and it embraces technology and new techniques to give both buyers and sellers the best possible experience. “Continued investment in the business has enabled growth and the owners have recently launched a financial services offering.

“Their ethos is to ‘do ordinary things extraordinarily well’ and the judges are sure this business will continue to go from strength to strength.”