Man who put area on the map for high-end prop­erty

Ste­wart Charnock-bates is a one man brand spe­cial­is­ing in Calderdale’s top prop­erty for the last 20 years. He talks to Sharon Dale.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE -

FOR some­one who had no de­sire to be an es­tate agent Ste­wart Charnock-bates has made a pretty im­pres­sive job of sell­ing houses.

A char­tered sur­veyor, he fell into the pro­fes­sion af­ter a client asked him to sell a batch of new builds in Krum­lin. His epony­mous Calderdale com­pany, which spe­cialises in mid­dle and top end prop­erty, is now cel­e­brat­ing its 20th an­niver­sary.

“I was busy ad­vis­ing on site ac­qui­si­tions and plan­ning per­mis­sion as de­vel­op­ment was my forte. I never wanted to be an es­tate agent but the de­vel­oper said he thought I’d be good at sell­ing his prop­er­ties and I agreed to do it as a favour.

“Some­one want­ing to buy a new prop­erty at Krum­lin had their own house to sell so I agreed to sell that and so it went on. I found I en­joyed it and the rest is his­tory.”

The busi­ness out­grew the base­ment of his home and burst into a ded­i­cated of­fice in the cen­tre of Hal­i­fax. Back then it was very much a lo­cal mar­ket with most buy­ers and sellers trad­ing up and down within the area.

“It’s changed a lot in the last 20 years, “says Ste­wart. “Mainly thanks to the eco­nomic growth of Leeds and Manch­ester. We are 20 or 30 min­utes away from two of the big­gest cities in the coun­try and now we have a di­rect rail link from Hal­i­fax to London that takes about two and a half hours.

“The Ry­burn Val­ley has ben­e­fit­ted enor­mously and Rip­pon­den is al­most un­recog­nis­able thanks to the de­vel­op­ment there. Vil­lages like Bark­island, Soy­land and Tri­an­gle have im­proved be­yond recog­ni­tion.”

His proud­est achiev­ment is pro­mot­ing Hal­i­fax and the sur­round­ing towns and vil­lages to the out­side world by ad­ver­tis­ing his prop­er­ties in the York­shire Post, in re­gional mag­a­zines and through an of­fice in May­fair.

There is no doubt he has raised the pro­file of the area and he has tempted buy­ers away from the well-man­i­cured Golden Tri­an­gle of North Leeds, Har­ro­gate and York and from the flat plains of Cheshire to the wilder, windier and more rugged beauty of the moor­land land­scapes. The area, he say, has char­ac­ter and its homes can of­fer bet­ter value than the con­ven­tional York­shire hotspots.

The ris­ing in­ter­est in Calderdale was con­firmed when he sold the first house over £1 mil­lion in 2002. The first over £2 mil­lion came the fol­low­ing year.

“We have con­sis­tently sold houses for over £1 mil­lion ever since and a lot go to peo­ple from out­side the area, though Calderdale ap­peals to a cer­tain kind of per­son.”

He is that type, although he does es­cape to the sun in Tener­ife when he can. He grew up in the Tri­an­gle area and steadily climbed the prop­erty lad­der helped by his love of de­vel­op­ing and con­vert­ing pe­riod build­ings.

The derelict Drill Hall in the cen­tre of Hal­i­fax is now apart­ments af­ter he bought it and fought for plan­ning per­mis­sion to con­vert it. His favourite project was the ren­o­va­tion of the Field House es­tate, which he bought from Sir Ernest Hall. He re­stored the grand, his­toric house and split it into two prop­er­ties, one of which he kept for his own fam­ily.

“I lived nearby when I was a lad and I used to walk up there never dream­ing that I’d end up liv­ing there,” says a dap­per Ste­wart, who has brought im­age con­scious­ness and at­ten­tion grab­bing tech­niques to his agency.

His pink sign boards caused a sen­sa­tion when first launched and are still eye catch­ing, and he re­cently in­stalled a web win­dow in his Rip­pon­den of­fice. The in­ter­ac­tive touch screen gives di­rect ac­cess to the com­pany’s web­site from the street out­side. An­other ben­e­fit is that the screen saver is a Charnock Bates sign.

“We wouldn’t have got per­mis­sion for an il­lu­mi­nated sign out­side the build­ing,” says Ste­wart, who was the first agent in the dis­trict to launch a web­site.

Web­sites and email have re­duced foot­fall in the of­fices and he fears they will even­tu­ally kill off high street es­tate agency.

“I think it will hap­pen but I also think it is com­mer­cial sui­cide. A high street pres­ence is nec­es­sary for mar­ket­ing pur­poses and the fact that clients like to see you are there. Plus, its sup­port­ing the town cen­tre and that’s im­por­tant for a lo­cal busi­ness. You have to give some­thing back, which is why we are here and why we get in­volved in fundrais­ing with our an­nual ball and in spon­sor­ing lo­cal sports clubs.”

Un­like many of his con­tem­po­raries who have di­ver­si­fied into fi­nan­cial ser­vices and let­tings, he prefers to stick to sales

“It’s un­usual but we can say we are to­tally in­de­pen­dent. This can be a cor­rupt busi­ness but we are not com­pro­mised or tied to any­one.”

It is a strat­egy that has paid off. He is one of the few agents to ex­pand in the last few dif­fi­cult years, open­ing up an of­fice in Rip­pon­den and cre­at­ing more space in his Hal­i­fax of­fice.

“We’ve just ex­panded into the base­ment and my of­fice is down there now, which is funny re­ally be­cause the base­ment is where I started all those years ago.”

JUST THE TICKET: The Old Sta­tion House was con­verted from the orig­i­nal sta­tion mas­ter’s house, ticket of­fice and wait­ing room and has been sen­si­tively re­stored by Mar­garet and Derek New­ton. The cou­ple lived in a car­a­van on site for sev­eral months while the build­ings were be­ing ren­o­vated.

AN­NIVER­SARY: Ste­wart Charnock-bates is mark­ing 20 years of his prop­erty busi­ness which has raised the pro­file of Calderdale.

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