How to choose a car?

I have blogged about cars in the last few weeks – The Paris Motor Show, the amazing Jaguar F-Type and at the weekend my day out courtesy of Jaguar at Oulton Park. On Saturday I ventured down to Evesham to help my son Jack look over a new car – a VW Scirroco.

My car is leased and is due for replacement next year – and the fun of choosing something starts soon. The reason is that many cars are now built to order and it can be 6/9 months before you get something out of the factory.

I’m not sure quite which way to head. It needs to be fast, fast and fast. Then a bit comfortable. With room for golf clubs. And fast.

Most people in my industry go for a BMW or Mercedes. I currently have the latter. I have had the former.

But it’s not all about the choice of the car – but about the dealer experience. My Mercedes is looked after by MB-Nottingham – an independent dealer. The service I get is second to none. Unlike the main Nottingham dealer – where the service was not just expensive but also pretty average – at best. And Sytner BMW have form – they made an incredible mess of a BMW525d car I had for 2 years.

On the other hand I had excellent service at Sytner Audi and Mini.

A few years ago we were subjected to quite appalling service at the local Fiat dealership – and whilst I quite fancy getting a Fiat 500 Abarth – there is no way I could face dealing with the local dealer!

So, the service you get after you have acquired the car is as important as the car itself?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Audi, BMW, delaers, MBNottingham, Mercedes, Sytner, VW Scirroco

Nottingham Squash Rackets Club – the next challenge

Last week I was elected to be Chairman (no PC stuff here) of the amazing NSRC. The thinking goes that I have challenged the previous committee for long enough – I’m a firm believer in put up or shut up.

So I did the former – and now have the rather grand and old fashioned title – Chairman. And I have a new committee – 12 good men and women (including me).

Squash was a popular sport in the 1970′s but then fell into decline. Latterly it has had a resurgence – and there is a campaign to get the sport into the 2020 Olympics. It has been described as turbocharged chess. It requires fitness, mental agility and a certain aggressiveness! It’s said you don’t get fit playing squash – you get fit to play squash! It is a genuinely hard workout – my knees are testament to that!

NSRC has seen a decline in full members over the last few years. And this hits the bottom line. This is a real pity because the club has 10 courts – six of which really are of international standard. Three courts can become two doubles courts. We have a gymnasium and a fantastic bar / conference facility. You can get coaching at the highest level available. Beginners are welcome. Racketball is played – which is slightly easier on the joints.

So my role is to somehow steer the ship through troubled waters, to grow the membership and to shout about the Club and the game at every opportunity.

So, if you fancy a game – just let me know. If you want to learn – ditto. If you want a great environment to hold a meeting – you get the idea.

Nottingham Squash Club will shortly become the best club in the Country… That’s the acid test!

Magic – you have to watch this!

Sometimes the things you can watch are just brilliant – this is one such thing! Astonishing and brilliant!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged comedy, entertainment, Magic, Marcus Tempest, TED

Some Nottingham Talent – at last!

I am old enough to remember the last time Nottingham produced a pop sensation. Hailing from Arnold (where I lived) we were blessed with Paper Lace. You can’t fail to remember ‘Billy Don’t Be a Hero’ or ‘The Night Chicago Died’. CLassic stuff it’s not! 1974 it was…

And just shy of 40 years on we have produced our second pop sensation in the form of Jake Bugg. He made the No.1 Album chart last week with his new album – which is fantastic news! The single, Two Fingers contains plenty of references to Nottingham. The video stars another local celebrity Vicky McLure – of This is England fame!

Jake is about to head off to America – supporting Noel Gallaghers High Flying Birds (who are brilliant live by the way!). He’s also appeared on Jools Holland.

I have to admit that my first pre-conception about an 18 year old is of a ‘boy band’ or another Justin Bieber. But Jake isn’t any of this. The songs are quite ‘folky’ and have great lyrics. I like the album…

And my youngest son has a claim to fame now – about two years ago Jake played before them at The Maze in Nottingham!

Good luck to Jake – if you have an interest in music – take a listen to the album – it is really rather good!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Billy Don't Be a Hero, Clifton, Jake Bugg, , Paper Lace, The Night Chicago Died, Two Fingers, Vicky McLure

Jaguar – coming of age…

You might remember that I blogged a couple of times in the last month about Jaguar – I saw the new F-Type at the Paris Motor Show and shared how amazing it is. I then put some pictures up last week. It seems that Jaguar were watching!

Yesterday I was invited with lots of other bloggers to a Jaguar Experience Day at Oulton Park near Chester.

It was a fantastic day; we got to drive to a number of cars – at hair raising speed around the track. I drove the XFR and XKR models – the experience was amazing. Fast laps, ice track driving, chicanes and more fast laps. The pro-drivers are really brilliant at putting you at ease, but pushing you to get the best out of the cars.

It was great fun – speeding without the fear of a policeman in sight! I managed to squeeze 105mph at one point on the track. Which I thought was good – until I was taken around the track by ‘Carl’ – who promised to frighten me. He delighted in telling me he had been told off for breaking the noise limit the day before. I could understand why – he thought it was fun to drive around a long bend at 140mph – sideways!

I have never been a Jaguar person – all those pipe holders and smoking jacket racks weren’t my thing. But times have changed and the new Jaguar line-up is different. I think for the first time in years the range is brilliant. I genuinely think that they are a credible alternative to BMW and Mercedes. And I might well have one next… I was very impressed.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged F-Type, Jaguar, Oulton Park, Paris Motor Show, XJR, XKR

Twas the night before the smoking ban

Apparently Christmas is soon. If you have been in John Lewis for the last four weeks or so they have Xmas stuff. No sooner has the summer started than we are expected to get ourselves sorted for the next festival.

And there is a war raging on the other side of the pond! A Canadian author has pc’d the poem, A Visit from St Nicholas – attributed to Clement C Moore. You might know if better by the opening line, “Twas the night before Christmas”. Had Pamela McColl the guardian of the uber-PC world of 2012 got it right she would have probably started the poem, “Twas the fourteenth week before Christmas”, but no. Her crime (and that is what it is) is that she has decided that Santa in the Poem is depicted smoking a pipe and includes the line, “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth…”

Clearly history need to be changed. It is apparently going to encourage new smokers and will save lives. Most five year olds are going to be impressed by the pipe smoking Santa and put it on their wish list?

Presumably we now need to remove all reference to Sir Walter Raleigh from history too – for bringing potatoes and tobacco to Britain?

Sometime I wonder why we must mess with history because it doesn’t match up to todays exacting standards? That’s no different to Mcdonalds in Nottingham removing the official opening plaque unveiled by Martin Brandon-Bravo when he subsequently lost his seat! You can’t just erase bits from history like that!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man!, Nottingham Tagged Clement C More, History, Martin Brandon-Bravo, McDonalds, Pam McColl, Poem, Sir Walter Raleigh, Twas the night before Christmas, Xmas

RICS referrals

Two weeks ago I sat as an RICS APC assessor. Unfortunately we had reason to refer candidates. The referred candidates will now have heard from the RICS – but won’t yet have had the full reports. That means I can’t comment on specifics…

But referred candidates shouldn’t give up. They have usually tripped up by not being able to demonstrate their declared competences. Most people sitting who have worked in a professional environment – so will have a basic grasp of what’s going on. But invariably referrals are at what we specify as ‘level 3′ – which is where you need to have more than knowledge – you have to demonstrate that you have given advice. This is a big step!

So what next if you are referred? Well you need to read the referral report. It does explain what level you have reached and what the shortcomings were.

But some practical advice?

Firstly, go back over the interview – try to remember the depth of the questions you felt unsure of; that is an indication of what you need to work on. Then think about how you are going to demonstrate those competences next time round. It’s about being able to prove to the panel that you’ve done the job! Don’t say you have if you haven’t! There are no trick questions – but some might not have a right or wrong answer. Sometimes it’s about seeing if you have an opinion or have thought through various scenarios.

If you can – do a mock interview. There are plenty of people who will help – you just need to ask. You need to do work that is allied to your competences – do as many of the jobs you can. Ask questions – spend time with experienced surveyors! Think about trying to get time in other firms or departments if you can. It’s not always easy, but moving around can help.

Above all – don’t give up! It’s a blip…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged APC, Competences, fail, Licenced Assessor, pass, referral reports,

Reading the market – easy?

No certainly not. But, as the saying goes, we’re paid for our opinions not our doubts! So valuers do need to pin down that illusive magical number – the value.

Our Institution try to help by laying out what ‘Market Value’ is, essentially willing buyer, willing seller, arms-length transaction, after proper marketing and where the parties act knowledgable, prudently and without compulsion. In the APC interviews I do, we often get candidates to explain the constituent parts of the definition.

As you can see – this is a bit of a black art!

There was a time when it was all about location, location, location. But then we started to get a bit more sophisticated and grandly looked at covenant strength – or how likely was it that the tenant would go pop! Then buildings got a whole lot better – so we had to start thinking about differentials for the qualitative differences. Latterly we have been having a debate about whether green is best – and my joint paper is linked to on this site.

Life has got complicated.

But we are seeing another aspect which is impacting on value – and this is a relatively new phenomena. The relative bargaining powers of the parties is beginning to come to the fore. This is the ‘without compulsion’ bit of the argument. There is no doubt that some parties are acting with compulsion – maybe with their bank behind them. Some people are desperate. They are not necessarily willing sellers. So, whilst there have always been people who must sell or must buy this is now becoming a feature of the market.

And, of course, the difficulty is how do we weigh these things up. In some cases we are letting property where we are paying a tenant – usually as a Rate saving scheme. Does that mean the property has a negative value? Is it worth nothing?

As I said, it’s tricky placing a value on property at the moment!

The sneaky Rates trap

Last week the Government announced that it wouldn’t carry out a Rating re-valuation in 2015 – pushing the date back for two years. Many of my peer group started when the 1973 list had been in place for years – eventually a major revaluation was undertaken in 1990 – since that time there has been a new Rating List every five years.

The last list – effective from April 2010 is based on valuations 2 years previously – i.e. in April 2008. And, in case you have been in a cave. that was pre the property crash. In other words the values are taken at the peak of the market!

And rather than have a re-basing of values – the Government have chosen to leave these sky-high values in place for another two years. The thinking behind the 5 year revaluation was to make the Rating List more reflective of the ‘current’ values.

The Government statement suggests, “we want to prevent unexpected hikes in business rates on local firms over the next five years. Tax stability is vital as business rates are the third biggest outgoing for firms

The property industry are up in arms about this.

It is nonsense to suggest that this helps business. What actually happens after the revaluation is that the Government adjust the Rate poundage – so that the net effect on their income doesn’t change. So if the total Rateable Value of all properties drops by 10% they simply increase the Rate poundage by 10%.

The lack of valuation helps London but not the provinces. On Bond Street values in the last 5 years have increased by around 50%. I don’t think that this is the case in Nottingham! We have probably seen values drop.

So the provinces are hugely disadvantaged.

And the Government suggesting Tax Stability helps us is just an insult. It’s no comfort if we are paying too much money to start with.


Charity damage limitation

I was reading David Standards blog last week. He touches on the Lance Armstrong story – and his fall from grace due to drug scandal surrounding him.

But like most of these stories now there is a side effect we tend to forget about. There is a hugely successful Lance Armstrong Foundation – highly visible and a huge money spinner – it spread $65m amongst Cancer causes last year. Lance’s story still features on the website here.

But after the story broke about Lance’s alleged drug taking – he had to resign. Donations have fallen from $40m in 2009 to $24m last year. Armstrong has resigned as chairman of the Foundation, and Nike has terminated its longtime contract with him.

Nike’s statement, posted on its website, said, “Due to seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him.”

So Armstrong cheated and now the great fund raising scheme he started gets cheated too – of millions of dollars.

I couln’t help but connect this story with the Jimmy Savile allegations that have emerged in the last few weeks. It is suggested that when he was confronted with the allegations by Stoke Mandeville Hospital that he threatened to withdraw his support – and thus strangle a very lucrative source if income.

In both cases the losers will ultimately be the charities – though no fault of theirs. But the celebrity attraction that raises the profile in the first place can go horribly wrong if they’re not the squeaky clean people we’d like to think they are?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Charity, drugs, Jimmy Savile, Lance Armstrong, Sidneymedia