Ev­ery which way but sold

With the prop­erty mar­ket in the dol­drums, Gra­ham Nor­wood meets a busi­ness ad­viser who wants to rev­o­lu­tionise sales

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Property -

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“Es­tate agents have an outdated ap­proach,” says Blain.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

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