The es­tate agent who holds key to a life­time of mem­o­ries

Ed­ward Water­son has been in more than 100,000 houses over the last 40 years but now he’s closed the door on es­tate agency. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE -

MOST child­hood dreams do not ma­te­ri­alise but at the age of six Ed­ward Water­son’s de­sire to fol­low in his fa­ther’s foot­steps was spelled out in a beau­ti­fully hand­writ­ten note to his par­ents.

It read: “I’d like to do what daddy does and sell houses. I would like to see the in­sides of houses and see the fur­ni­ture and things like that.”

His fa­ther and grand­fa­ther were char­tered auc­tion­eers and af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Hull Univer­sity, he achieved his early am­bi­tion and he be­gan work­ing for Chas Char­ter in Hull be­fore work­ing his way up to part­ner at Carter Jonas in York.

Af­ter 40 years in the busi­ness, he is re­tir­ing on a high as one of York­shire’s best-loved agents, known for his staunch ethics, ex­quis­ite man­ners and for­mi­da­ble mem­ory. He has been in more than 100,000 houses and he can re­call ev­ery one of them, though some are more mem­o­rable than oth­ers.

“One of my first jobs in 1972 was col­lect­ing rents from the slums in Hull on my bike, though the place I re­mem­ber most was the house with no roof in Hull that sold for £49,” says Ed­ward, a char­tered sur­veyor.

Sarah Beeny’s prop­erty Rise Hall, near Hornsea, is an­other that sticks in his mind. Asked to value it in the mid 1990s, he told owner Hugh Bethell that it was worth less than noth­ing such was the scale of the ren­o­va­tion work re­quired.

“I asked if he would take a fiver some­one would in­vari­ably say: ‘Bert’s got a photo of it’. It was of­ten the ser­vants who kept pic­tures of the house rather than the own­ers.”

Pe­riod prop­erty is Ed­ward’s pas­sion and he has drawn a few con­clu­sions from his ex­pe­ri­ences over the years.

Peo­ple who live in un­usual homes tend to be quite wacky, he says, and when deal­ing with cou­ples, it is usu­ally the woman who makes the buy­ing decision.

He has never in­vested in buyto-let prop­erty him­self, as he feels you shouldn’t be an agent and a dealer, though if he had he would be very well-off in­deed.

“When I first came to York in 1982, pe­riod houses in the city cen­tre were very cheap. You could buy one for £40,000. The pref­er­ence then was to live in the coun­try and York cen­tre was quite a poor area full of bed­sits,” he says.

That be­gan to change in the mid to late 1980s as high fly­ers moved from London to work in the bur­geon­ing fi­nan­cial and le­gal sec­tor in Leeds.

“York piggy-backed on Leeds’s af­flu­ence. Peo­ple couldn’t per­suade their wives to live in Leeds but York was a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. It is phys­i­cally at­trac­tive, has a great cul­tural of­fer­ing, the best schools in the North of Eng­land and fan­tas­tic trans­port links. We have had hedge fund man­agers who work in London mov­ing here as it’s only a two hour com­mute to the of­fice by train,” he says.

“The trend for city liv­ing has re­ally taken off in the last five years though as peo­ple move from the coun­try to cut travel time and petrol costs.”

Though sales are buoy­ant in cen­tral York, where he lives with his wife Jill, he pre­dicts that the prop­erty mar­ket will bump along the bot­tom for an­other five years.

His own fu­ture, mean­while, prom­ises to be busy. He is plan­ning a book on the York­shire Arts and Crafts ar­chi­tect Wal­ter Bri­er­ley and he will be do­ing lots of un­paid work for or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing the Civic Trust, the Na­tional Trust and St Michael, Spurri­er­gate.

Giv­ing back is a con­stant need. When his fa­ther died at the age of 40, his mother had no way of pay­ing school fees un­til an anony­mous bene­fac­tor came for­ward and he was able to at­tend Arun­del.

“I’ll never know who it was but I will be eter­nally grate­ful,” he says. “Hav­ing been on the re­ceiv­ing end of char­ity. I know how im­por­tant it is and what a dif­fer­ence it can make.” ONE look at the views from this for­mer Dales sheep farm tells you why Richard and Hazel Clarke fell in love with the prop­erty.

“It was the lo­ca­tion,” says Richard. “It’s a beau­ti­ful place.”

The house, which dates back to 1482, is the heart of stun­ning Wens­ley­dale and is a real es­cape to the coun­try. The near­est vil­lage is West Bur­ton four miles away and the near­est town is Ley­burn, which is 11 miles up the road, but there are neigh­bours and, says

HEART OF THE COUN­TRY: West Routengill is a for­mer hill farm set in beau­ti­ful Wens­ley­dale. The own­ers have car­ried out an ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tion and there is plan­ning per­mis­sion for an ex­ten­sion.

ED­WARD WATER­SON: One of York­shire’s best-loved es­tate agents will be missed by col­leagues and clients alike.

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