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.
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.