Telling it like it is... agent who’s seen boom and bust

Af­ter 40 years in the busi­ness, Tim Blenkin knows a thing or two about prop­erty crashes, prices and the best kind of client. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

IT’S easy to see why Tim Blenkin’s small, epony­mous es­tate agency has been such a suc­cess. It’s built on the solid foun­da­tion of ex­pe­ri­ence and fur­nished with charm, wit and the sort of plain speak­ing that many of us ap­pre­ci­ate.

In a world full of flim flam and hard sell, Tim tells it like it is in the nicest pos­si­ble way.

So for the le­gions of us feel­ing de­pressed by the prop­erty slump, he has this no non­sense mes­sage: “Three prop­erty crashes, 1974/5, 1989/91 and 2008. Get used to it. It’s ev­ery 17 years. How is it that the banks never learn?”

It will end, he adds, though he can’t pre­dict when and adds that this re­ces­sion is the long­est and hard­est he’s ex­pe­ri­enced.

“It’s very tough and any­one who says it isn’t is ly­ing. We are still do­ing deals but the mar­ket is dozy, there’s no en­ergy in it and ev­ery­one is fright­ened of prices go­ing down. Also, there are more houses for sale than there are buy­ers. So I would ad­vise peo­ple not to re­ject the first of­fer be­cause it might be the only of­fer.”

To il­lus­trate the point, he re­calls that in the 1988 boom he ar­rived in the of­fice on Mon­day morn­ing to find 133 mes­sages on the an­swer ma­chine. Now there are barely any, which is why re­al­is­tic pric­ing is cru­cial to drum up any in­ter­est.

“We strug­gle with the un­re­al­is­tic as­pi­ra­tions of some own­ers who think their house is worth more than it is and with agents who over­price to win busi­ness.

“To sell a house to­day you have to put it on the mar­ket at a price to make heads swivel. If you aren’t re­al­is­tic then the house is likely to linger on the mar­ket for months forc­ing you to make re­duc­tions.

“I val­ued one house at £1.5 mil­lion in 2007 and the own­ers put it on with an­other agent for over £3m. Five years on and it has been re­duced to £1.5m and they’ll be lucky to get £850,000. That’s what hap­pens if you get pric­ing badly wrong,” says Tim, who was brought up in Beverley and worked in as an agent in Lon­don be­fore mov­ing to York in 1977.

He es­tab­lished his own agency in 1992 with his wife Claire, a fel­low char­tered sur­veyor, and their patch is York and the sur­round­ing towns and vil­lages, with the Howar­dian Hills a spe­cial­ity.

His PR skills and a lit­er­ary turn of phrase that make his brochures more se­duc­tive have helped pro­mote his prop­er­ties in par­tic­u­lar and the area in gen­eral.

“In 1978, a house I sold in York made the lo­cal pa­per with the head­line: ‘Now it’s the £20,000 ter­race house in York’. The owner had promised me din­ner if I achieved that price; she was as good as her word and we later went out for 18 months,” says Tim, whose love af­fair with the city has lasted far longer, though it has changed be­yond recog­ni­tion over the past 30 years.

“York city was a north­ern work­ing class place back in the 1970s but I can pin­point ex­actly when that changed. It was when we got faster trains be­tween Lon­don and York in 1986.

“I had a beau­ti­ful Ge­or­gian house for sale on Mick­le­gate for £180,000 then and I ad­ver­tised it in Coun­try Life. I got a call from a buyer in Lon­don who asked: ‘Where ex­actly is York?’.

“Now it is on the map and we have buy­ers from all over the coun­try mov­ing here.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful cathe­dral city with good trans­port links, but schools like St Peter’s and Bootham have re­ally helped boost its pop­u­lar­ity.”

The turn­around is one of many changes he has wit­nessed over the last 40 years. The big­gest be­ing the im­pact of the in­ter­net.

“It’s good for speed. In the old days we’d have to send pho­tos off for print­ing and then stick them on the brochures by hand. But in other ways it is bad.

“A good ex­am­ple is a lovely house I have for sale that has si­los in a field be­hind it. Peo­ple look at the prop­erty on Google Earth and dis­miss it for that rea­son but if they had con­tacted us they’d know that those si­los are re­dun­dant and soon they’ll be gone leav­ing a lovely open field,” he says.

What hasn’t al­tered is that es­tate agency is a peo­ple busi­ness and the very best agents have a high emo­tional in­tel­li­gence quo­tient. Though there are al­ways shocks and sur­prises when it comes to hu­man na­ture.

“We are very lucky in that we have de­light­ful and loyal clients who give us re­peat busi­ness.

“One re­cently gave me two days salmon fish­ing on the Tay and paid his bill be­fore his sale com­pleted. The ob­verse is a well­known busi­ness­man who asked me in­for­mally to find him a buyer for his house, which I did at a price well over £1m.

“When I asked for a mod­est fee for the in­tro­duc­tion he not only re­fused to pay but told his friends that the buyer had ‘knocked on his door’,” says Tim, who, nev­er­the­less, has drawn some gen­eral con­clu­sions:

“Al­ways sell to en­trepreneurs. They make a de­ci­sion and get on with it and be­ware re­tired peo­ple as they have far too much time. Has that lady from the Ham­ble­ton dis­trict, who has looked at 300 houses, ac­tu­ally bought one yet?”

Blenkin & Co, 29 High Peter­gate, York, 01904 671672, www.blenk­i­nandco.com

SPACE AND TIME: Sarah and Giles Spencer, who bought the house in 1930, owned Ye Olde Naked Man Cafe in Set­tle. The prop­erty has three dou­ble bed­rooms and there is a sep­a­rate build­ing plot at the rear, which has plan­ning per­mis­sion for a three bed­room home to be built.

TURN OF PHRASE: Tim Blenkin, of Blenkin and Co. Es­tate Agents in York, who warns this re­ces­sion is the long­est and tough­est he has known.

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