Innes England – win win win!

Last night we were at the Insider East Midlands Property Dinner at Nottingham University. This has become the event in the property world annual calendar. With over 400 people from the East Midlands present it is an opportunity to meet lots of people – and celebrate the good things about our region.

the winning team (obviously not at sailing!)

We were also celebrating as we were announced as “Agent of the Year”. As you might expect we were just a little bit chuffed to have pipped FHP and JLL to the post…

And then earlier in the week I picked up my Estates Gazette. At this time of the year they publish their annual results survey – which used to be the Top 100 surveying firms. But, times have changed and it is now the Top 60. This is probably because lots of smaller firms have been swallowed up!

I was delighted to see my firm, Innes England, were at No.44. In a National League – we are pleased to be there.

But our real coup is that we got to the dizzy height of No.29 when we are judged on turnover per fee earner. This shows either that we all work really hard, or that we employ talented people – or both! Most firms have found in the last 12 months that they have had to earn more with less people…

The EG awards are Industry recognised and are important in our marketing strategy. That we beat our local rivals and competitor firms on both counts is great news. It is interesting though that firms are judged on turnover – and I always wonder if this is right. As I have said here before turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and cash is king…

In the meantime we’ll settle for our new title of “Agent of the Year” and EG league table finish.

Onwards and upwards!!

A very very green building!

I had the pleasure this week of having a look around a passiv-haus development at Water Meadows Park, just north of Leicester.

And this is one of the most sustainable buildings I have ever been in. It has been built by and for Interserve. Designed by my friends at CPMG Architects in Nottingham it is at the edge of our current green technology. The developers are Raynsway Properties - they are the ones who took the leap of faith!

In essence this building is a super-insulated box. It has thick walls, small windows on the north elevation, huge windows on the south and lots of technologies to reduce the pull on our valuable resources. It takes cooled air from earth tubes and has very effective solar shading in the form of external venetian blinds. The real key is air-tightness – trying not to let the ambient air escape. Building regulations have been exceeded ten-fold in the air-tightness test! This is not the only impressive statistic – the space heating demand is one-fifth of a ‘normal’ building, energy demand is less than one-third!

All of this adds up to energy bills way below the current averages – it is estimated that it will cost less than £3,000 p.a. to run. On a like for like basis you might expect a 10 year old building of a similar size to cost around £9,500 p.a. to run.

Inside I quite liked the building – it is minimalistic – clean lines and high ceilings help. I am never sure about exposed mechanical venting systems – but like most buildings people stop looking above eye-level after the fist week! Interserve have only just moved in, so it is a little sterile at the moment. It needs to be lived in for a while to gain some personality.

But the real question, as you might expect from me, is about ‘value’. It was more expensive to build than the average. I know the rent agreed, but I figure that in the current market the figures don’t quite add up. But I admire the developers approach – this is for the long term. It won’t be long before occupiers start to look at occupancy costs – especially as fuel bills rise.

There has also been a learning curve on this building – which someone has to do!

Sometimes it is good that it is not all about the money?

Mac OS Lion – one month on…

I am a mac fan as you probably know and I upgraded my various laptops / desktop machines to Mac OS (Operating system) Lion more or less as soon as it was released.

On the whole I like it. Mac does stuff that works – and this holds a big appeal for me. I like the lack of discs! The new App store is really good too. Apple have moved further away from CD’s to load your software. You buy programs in the App Store and they download. That’s it.

I love the finger gestures as well – you can switch between screens easily on the trackpads. And as I have a baby MacBook Air 11″ – the full screen Apps are great. Hopefully all programs will soon be full screen enabled (hint to Microsoft here).

The Launcher is a good place to find everything. Files are easily sorted by date or name.

I also love the autosave feature – where you can swipe between older versions if you have made a real mess of what you are working on.

As with most Apple products for their machines the best features are the ones you don’t notice. The start-up from cold on my Air machine is about 9 seconds. It’s only when I see other people with windows machines I realise the benefit of this. One of my friends has a machine which you need to go and make tea whilst it cranks up. Of course, I rarely turn the machines off – they sleep, to be awoken by opening the lid!

The only downside I have found it that at my office we have some significant Canon color printers – and the Mac won’t talk to it anymore. They have found a workaround, but it’s not great. I’m told that I have to wait for 4 months for an updated driver…

That sounds like a Windows expression?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged app store, , Mac OS, Mac OS X, Mac OS X Lion, Microsoft, Microsoft Windows, Operating system

Price Fixing – or a coincidence?

We haven’t been to New York for a while so are planning a quick trip before Christmas. November is a great time of year for the Big Apple…

I have been checking on prices – ideally flying out on a morning flight and avoiding an overnight one back – they mess with you. I’m happy going into either JFK or Newark – and vice versa for coming back. We would normally fly Virgin Atlantic – I have thousands of miles (even if they’re not worth very much).

But we always check other airlines too. BA offers Premium Economy too – they call it world traveller. And they fly into JFK…

Imagine my surprise when I checked the flights….

Now that is what I call a coincidence. The same price – to the penny! You couldn’t make it up?

Come on Willie and Richard – tell me you didn’t have a chat about how much you would charge me to fly to New York? Or is this the most amazing coincidence ever?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged BA, Big Apple, coincidence, , Newark New Jersey, Premium economy, price fixing, Richard Branson, , Virgin Atlantic Airways, Willie Walsh

Market threats or opportunities?

It’s fair to say that this is a pretty weak market. Although the Government seem to have taken some tough measures to cut Public Sector Borrowing, we don’t seem to be dragging ourselves out of recession.

The optimism of 2010 has gently slipped away. We all though that the market would be back in mid 2011, that has been and gone. And it’s not back.

I can’t see much improvement until 2012 now. The major economies of the world seem to be struggling to get things going again. There is very little optimism around. We rarely hear great news stories in the property industry.

So we all need to be gloomy?

Well, not quite. In any market place there are opportunities when the market is weak. In fact their are opportunities because the market is weak.

Offering great service stands out in a poor market. But we also need to think strategically at these times. It is possible to find win:win situations in deals – particularly in commercial let property. As an example we are seeing more leases being negotiated early – well before lease end. Tenants can drive good deals, but landlords can also protect their interests too, by securing an income stream.

I think we are going to be in a period of uncertainty for some time to come.

But the market has always been cyclical – and it always will be. It is only a matter of time before it comes back…

In the meantime – we have to make the most of it.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Business and Economy, , Landlord, Lease, Leasehold estate, opportunity, , Public sector, rent

Scotland Golf Tour – Autumn 2011

It was six months ago that I was last in Scotland – but for the last couple of days I have been in Border Country. Specifically between England and Edinburgh, where they have some fantastic golf courses.

One of the tricky holes at Torwoodlee!

As before we use Freedom of the Fariways tickets – which are great value. We get six rounds of golf for £95. But this time we had some spare vouchers – so my six rounds cost £10!

The six we played were:

Lauder – 9 holes. Wet, windy and horrid conditions. In no hurry to go back – a very poor score!

Torwoodlee – We played 9 holes in the morning and 18 in the afternoon. Conditions had improved – and this was a great course. It’s hilly to say the least! A better score around here.

Innerleithen – 9 holes. One of my favourite Scotland courses. It’s old, tiny and very tricky. A good score (4 over par in 9) so I like it!

Peebles. This is a proper course, it’s big and long. I was hitting the ball well and hit my longest drive here – 282 yards. Conditions were good – and the courses is in superb condition.

Woll – 18. We couldn’t get onto our favoured last day course of Hawick, so Woll was the choice. I was enjoying it until I pulled a muscle in my back – at which point my game was over… It did give me a chance to write this blog!

We stayed this time in Peebles – the Green Tree Hotel. The are really nice people and it’s good value. It’s not 4*, but it’s not 4* prices either. It is clean and comfortable.

So that’s it I guess for my goldf tours of 2011. But we love these courses that I guess we’ll be back in 2012.

It does seem odd that I have played more golf in Scotland this year than in England?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Edinburgh, , , Golf in Scotland, Hawick, Innerleithen Golf Club, Lauder Golf Club, Peebles, Peebles Golf Club, , Torwoodlee Golf Club, Woll, Woll Golf Club

10 Downing Street – secrets

After my visit last week, lots of people have been asking me what it was really like in Downing Street – and what ‘secrets’ I gleaned. Well, oddly enough, there weren’t many. But in case it ever comes up in Trivial Pursuits the following might be helpful…

1. There is a Tracy Emin neon light mounted on a first floor wall – reading ‘more passion’. It’s pink – and bright.
2. The Camerons live at No.11 and they have a really cool slide in the garden – George Osborne lives in the flat at Number 10 and he has a trampoline (to relieve the pressure of the day job).
3. The pictures on the stairs of Prime Ministers are black and white. But you only get your picture up after you leave. Churchill has two.
4. Each room gets redecorated or painted every four years
5. Every time they do any work they consult with English Heritage – who have a view!
6. The building is tardis like – with over 100 rooms
7. The black door at the front is bomb-proof steel – not timber. It has no lock, but the letter plate reads, “First Lord of the Treasury
8. They have Carex in the wash-rooms – in plastic bottles!
9. The staff pick was John Major – the nicest bloke.

I hope this helps… either if you are in a quiz – or writing one!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged 10 Downing Street, Downing Street, English Heritage, First Lord of The Treasury, George Osborne, John Major, Prime minister, Tracey Emin

fashion meets architecture meets fashion…

One of my favourite shops in New York is the Prada store in Soho. It’s a fantastic example of what you can do with an old New York Victorian steel framed store. They stripped it and built two huge slides. It has little to do with shopping – and lots to do with whimsical architecture.

Since that time Prada has worked on making some even more quirky buildings – including one in Omotesando Street in Tokyo. This is one of the foremost ‘architectural showcase’ streets in the world, and features a number of fashion flagship stores designed by internationally renowned architects and all within a short distance of each other.

I was really interested to read an article in the week about how these stores are evolving their brand. The argument runs that a style can be quickly copied (you can buy ‘real’ Rolex watches off the street in Shanghai!) so the big brands have to do something different. So Prada and their fellow designers are looking at changing their buildings to become “beautiful public spaces offering local benefits”.

They are losing their labels too. The new Los Angeles Prada will have no name on it; New York’s will incorporate “cultural activities separate from the retail areas”. These brands are trying to create something that cannot be easily ripped off. They are creating an experience – where the sales pitch is secondary. It’s an interesting proposition.

I like the idea of this – once again the building can become the centrepiece of the offer. It becomes about a place. The sales pitch is subliminal and subtle.

Of course this probably works for Prada – but whether it does for Next or Marks & Spencer may be a little more debatable!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Fashion, Italian fashion, New York City, Omotesandō Tokyo, Prada, Rem Koolhaas

Super-green building?

Hot on the heels of my blog post earlier this week comes news of the greenest building in the world!

I had a meeting with Juwi – a sustainable energy company in the week and they were keen to tell us about their ‘life choices’. The spiel goes, “Our headquarters in Wörrstadt are the world’s most energy efficient building in the world, which produces more energy than is used.”.

So, the World’s most energy efficient building. You can download their data sheet here. It makes for interesting reading.

On the face of it, it’s pretty ‘green’. Solar panels, wind turbines, natural ventilation -lots of natural light and all of the other features we have become used to.

They are a hugely successful company – 1,400 employees and €800m turnover. They do live a green way of life.

But is their claim about being the greenest building in the world right? Well, the answer is that I don’t know. I can’t get any information. It seems they produce more energy than they need. But I can’t work out how much. Nor can I find any information on what certification has been used for the building. In Germany I had thought the body responsible was the German Sustainable Building Council – they have a website here. It even has a list of certified buildings here.

This is not a blog post criticising Juwi – far from it, I think their building looks brilliant. And it clearly is ‘dark’ green! It has all of the features we have become used to – and they need to be congratulated on their work.

But, I think this reinforces my earlier blog post. we need some consistency in how we measure buildings. And be clear about what we are measuring. We also need to be careful if we make bold statements – like being the greenest, bluest, yellow-ist etc.

In Aya Sofia in Istanbul a few weeks ago I stood at the centre of the Universe. That’s what is said on the sign…

Invest in Nottingham – go on!

On Monday Nottingham hosted another showcase event for potential investors. It was Invest in Nottingham day!

Last week at Downing Street a couple of our national clients commented on how good it was to see Nottingham promoting ourselves. One in particular, who does work in Bristol, suggested we were miles ahead of them. But that is no reason to pat ourselves on the back – we need to compete with other cities – Birmingham, Leeds and the like.

I was able to to attend two of the ‘events’ n the day – the lunch at Nottingham Trent University and (another) visit to Antenna.

The lunch, sponsored by Westfield, was really well attended and the keynote talk by David Greenaway, VC at the University of Nottingham was particularly well received. David is passionate about Nottingham – and outlined the impact the University has on the City. It has a turnover of £530m, but its economic impact is estimated to be £1bn each year. Their ground breaking work with the MRI scanner was mentioned (I learned for fly many years ago with Sir Peter Mansfield) but latterly there is much excitement about the new early cancer detection test. This is currently being trialled in the USA and the signs are apparently encouraging.

It was also apparent that our two Universities have a wider impact on the City. They contribute to the health and well-being of the place. They help in developing skills and adding to the arts and culture. Of course latterly they are making a global impact too – with the new campuses in Ningbo and Malaysia adding a student cohort of 8,500.

We still have some great stories to tell about Nottingham – but we mustn’t rest on our laurels. We have to keep pushing for the High Speed Two train and the widening of the A453. Our tram extension will be great news. The extensions of Broad Marsh and Victoria Centre will help too.

We have to keep these stories alive.

I was reminded of an old adage during the talks – it’s better to travel than to arrive. And this surely must be a moniker for us. Lets keep travelling… onwards and upwards!