Every which way but sold
With the property market in the doldrums, Graham Norwood meets a business adviser who wants to revolutionise sales
Extreme sports like skydiving and bungee jumping are old hat but the selfproclaimed “business thought leader” Jonathan Blain has created something new: extreme house selling.
Until recently the Old Bakehouse, his five-bedroom waterside home at Tuckenhay in south Devon, would have sold quickly and probably for a lot more than its £1.5million guide price. After all it has a private landing stage, a balcony with views over the River Dart and plenty of high-technology toys.
But today’s market is tough so Blain has recruited someone he calls a world-class expert — himself.
“Estate agents have an outdated approach,” says Blain. “They need a business mind and that’s what I bring.”
Blain’s website says he is mentoring corporate grandes fromages. His list of clients includes the BBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland and computer firm Apple.
“You can’t change the property market but you can make the best of a bad lot,” he insists. “Estate agents have a formula: written particulars, local press ads, popping a photo on a website. That’s worked until now but suddenly it’s not enough. A lot of other skills can be put into selling, but agents don’t possess them.”
To prove the point he has created a personal sales website for his home (www. theoldbakehousetuckenhay.com), placed online advertisements that pop up alongside Google internet searches and made a 10-minute documentary on the property for video website YouTube with shots of the local area, an interview with the architect and slow motion shots highlighting the myriad gadgets. He’s also produced a downloadable online book about the place, and written to the chief executives of 1,000 British firms explaining why they should buy the Old Bakehouse as a holiday retreat.
He has also placed small ads in national newspapers and in December he will run a stand promoting his property at Christmas shopping evenings in Henley where he lives with wife Jenny and their three daughters, aged five to 12, when they are not in Devon.
Blain describes himself as “an entrepreneur, explorer, adventurer and innovator” and says three of his biggest lifetime achievements have been to sail through a hurricane, survive a shipwreck and walk barefoot on red hot coals. He takes the same ebullient
approach to selling his coastal home. He calls today’s market “a hurricane as big as the one I experienced” but it can be mastered if vendors apply business techniques to the selling.
This approach involves sellers being pro-active and “not just sitting back and waiting, expecting the estate agent to do something”. Tactics vary according to the house and the abilities of the vendor but like any good entrepreneur Blain has taken advantage of the downturn. Based on his Devon experience, he now has a consultancy called Property Selling Strategy (www. propertysellingstrategy.com) to advise frustrated sellers, so long as they are happy to pay him £1,000 a day plus expenses. But if Blain says you can sell a home in today’s tough market by timing the sale well and using business acumen, why is he getting rid of his Devon property during the biggest market slump for 15 years and hiring two estate agents to help him?
He explains: “I part-inherited the Old Bakehouse and we intended to move there, which is why we spent so much time and money on the modernisation. Now our plans have changed. We’re staying in Henley. Sadly the Devon place has to go.
“The agents we have are at the top of their game and we recognise that’s the route buyers will use. Even so, no one understands the house better than me so I’m on hand to help.”
He has created a 140-point plan outlining what he believes is required to find a buyer for his home and anyone else’s. This includes the use of telephone-marketing, texting, advertising vans and even hot air balloons to publicise a property, using friends and family to tell others about it, and commissioning original art rather than photographs to give an impression of a lifestyle associated with a home.
With help like that, you can almost hear the estate agents breathing a sigh of relief. Clearly, even with a recession looming, you can’t keep a business thought leader down.
The Old Bakehouse is for sale through Savills (01392 455755; www. savills.com) and Marchand Petit (01803 839190; www.marchandpetit.co.uk).
For sale: Jonathan Blain, left, produced a package to sell the Old Bakehouse, below, including a documentary and original art (right above) to give an impression of life there