Tuesday 28 October 2014

Options for my home office


I've started my home garage, changing it from this-

and now, today I've got to this point-

Whilst spending my day painting the walls and floor with a weatherproof sealant, I have been thinking about what the next steps will be in converting this space into an office that will allow me to work in quiet and comfort, whatever the weather conditions outside.  First consideration has been to waterproof the walls and floor, as the UK winter (and often the other seasons) can have a big impact on the security and safety of this potential workspace.  It has flooded more than once, through the walls from the outside garden flower beds, so I have accentuated the beds and put in more plants to soak up any excess water.  Next step is to make the office a place where I can work and be inspired to market properties as well as I can.


Leave it as it is
           Least cost and time/effort
           Has the effect of a New York loft
           Will be more expensive to heat, as there is no insulation
Another coat of white paint
           Low cost and effort again
           A blank canvas to add pictures and effects to inspire
           Doesn’t solve the heat and insulation problem
Lining the walls with an insulating material
           Will help to keep long-term heating costs down
           Cheapest option that involves further action
           Major concerns over building regulations
           Brings fire safety issues in to play
           Time and money to source the right materials at the right cost
Line the walls and then plaster/board over and decorate
           Will look like a conventional office
           Will be more insulated and save on heating costs
           Expense starts to grow
           Sourcing materials is even more costly and time consuming than above
Pay a builder to convert officially
           Will add value to my home
           Will be official and legitimate
           High cost solution to what may be a temporary problem
           Will accentuate my desire to permanently work from home, rather than eventually build up the business to an office base.

I am genuinely undecided about the best way forward, as I want this to be a low-cost solution to a problem, for the time period that I am working from home, and I also want it to be weather-proof, comfortable, safe and inspiring.

Decision time will be my next full day off work, 2 weeks from now.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Some of my inspirations


You can be inspired in all sorts of ways by all sorts of people.  Some of my inspirations are as follows-

I love the music of Hootie and the Blowfish, and their lead singer Darius Rucker.  They can be found all over You Tube, but they also have a jukebox on their website-


I also love the music of Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers and David Gray.

I love all types of art and have been to many art museums in cities all over the World.  My favourite artist is Mark Rothko.  I don't get into the whole modern art debate, I just like his paintings-

I think that TV is starting to take over from the movies as the premium entertainment vehicle of it's genre. Recent programmes that have caught my attention include True Detective, Hannibal and the recent Dr Who
series have been excellent.  My favourite show has just finished airing in the UK, it's the US version of The Office.  The characters had more depth and more time to develop than the UK predecessor, and the programme was witty, funny and hugely entertaining every single week.

I think that originality and creativity runs through the likes I have for all of these things, and I hope that shows in my work. How about you?

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Poetry to be creative?


I'm starting to think creatively and I feel I need to get as much creative process as possible going as I can. I've never been an actor or a painter, but I used to write a lot of poetry in my teens and early 20's.

I've started bits again, mainly inspired by events and situations I've found myself in.

Here are 3 recents poems-

The methadone metronome
Teeth like melting snow
Framed by black
Eyes that betray the presence of the body
Are you aware that you're here?
If not, where do you think you are?
Clothes that haven't seen a washing machine in months
Skin likewise with soap
There's an army of these, each it's own sleeper cell
Unaware of the tens of thousands in a similar trance, with similar hunger
What can feed the need?
Anything that can be sold on for money
Money that will sit in the pocket for only minutes
This army of zombies attack the retail trade and soak up resources
They soak up resources from the Police as well
Their offspring are paperwork, CCTV images, statements
These replace the offspring that were taken into care
Where next?
Who is understaffed?
What can we sell?
Who's on to us?
We are all on to you,
But we grow tired too

Sick of abbreviation (abbr.)
Thick Scottish accents leave me dumbstruck
Car indicators that are never used
Far from what was learnt on driving lessons
Noise for the sake of noise annoys
Toys used to be toys, not apps with in-app purchases
Health and Safety has become it's own industry
Wealth earned from advising people to use common sense
A beard is now a fashion accessory
A weird change from it being seen as someone who hadn't shaved
Miracle creams from every provider under the sun
Satirical TV stations have sprung up from repeating others leftovers
Dave, GOLD, Watch, Pick, Challenge, all in HD
Save me from these flashbacks of my childhood, teens, twenties

Notes from a talk
It's been changed to a bigger room because "it's such a hit."
But there's only 5 minutes to go, and there are only 4 others here
A pair of windswept silvers in row 2, look like they'll get a flask of tea out soon
The other 2, at the front are actually part of the staff, they're leaving now,
Awash with self-important utterings in  RP pronunciation
I've actually walked in with the crew, might get mic-ed up if I don't keep moving
Here come the crowd, and it's clear that I'm dragging down the average age
I expected besuited estate agents, university professors and civil servants
I've got retired civil servants and university professors - the estate agents are out of suits at home,
Or still in suits at work, they're not here
I'm looking for information, debate, society and
Well, I'm looking for a way in, a different way of working
An epiphany that awakens my senses to a money train
My sense of energy, my sense of self, my sense of commercialness
All asleep for a while
But not now

Just a bit of fun, hope you like them!

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of me


I'm having to rein in my imagination and enthusiasm a little today, I'm raring to go with my estate agency and I'd open it tomorrow if I was a bit more impetuous. It's been a long-standing dream and I won't rest until I get to do this for myself, but it has to open right and correct. I want to take my local market by storm, so I have to get everything properly formed before I start advertising and get people on the phone to start me marketing their property.

Imagination and enthusiasm
This has run away with me a little over the last few days. I want to have a website, 4 blogs, 2 You Tube accounts, 4 accounts in other social media, market every day and still have time to do all the other things I carry out now - surveys, consumer trials, mystery shopping, writing books and buying and selling books and video games. I have to be realistic and decide when to switch these things off to concentrate on getting this business right. It will be after Christmas to start switching things off, with the most time-consuming going first.

I have also got to rein in my ideas for the business. I'm sure that loads of tech and kit will make it interesting for me, but it needs to be cost-effective and the right thing for my customers. I've looked at tech for showing properties to customers, for sale boards with tech to contact customers walking or driving by, expensive laptops, producing glossy brochures for advertising each property for sale, etc.

I've consigned all of this to the trash pile, as it's a group of things that I would believe added a small amount to the process but at a high cost to the business - and ultimately to the customer.

I'm focussing on the things I need to get in order first, and developing my ideas about where I want to go with this, what I want to be and what I want to achieve.

Monday 20 October 2014

A big week lies ahead


A big week lies ahead. Back to work today, followed by evening school, so I won't get many things done today, however it's a big week, and I've got plans!

Tomorrow morning is research into business grants for small business and start ups. It will start online, but I'm hoping to set up a meeting with the local enterprise agency (or whatever they are called nowadays) to speak to someone face-to-face about if and how I can go about this. Failing this, I'll go to the local Citizens Advice Bureau to see if they can get me any information. My father volunteers for the CAB in another part of the country, so I know that they are a useful source of information and advice.

Wednesday evening, after work will be dedicated to more work on the photography side, developing my style and ideas on what my photography will look like, and how I can develop my style and skills from my photography class, where I have been capturing images of landscapes, flowers and portraits. I need to develop ideas in the area if interiors and how I can make exciting, original and appealing photographs to sell my customers homes, without infringing on the Property Misdescriptions Act.

I will also be furthering my blog on the local property market. I have written 5 posts so far, and publicised then via a Facebook page on my local town. It has had a small response, and is a slow burner but it's interesting for me to formulate my ideas on the msrket and the competition. This will help me with strategy in the long run as well.

Thursday will be dedicated to weatherproofing my 2 nx garage in preparation to convert it into an office. The interior walks and floors will need to be watertight and this is the first task. It's half cleared and ill pant the inside walls and floor if the back half, before moving the stuff inside and preparing the front half. It's a full day job, I expect, when including drying time.

Busy week!

Saturday 18 October 2014

I've just been to a talk on the future of social housing


Notes from a talk about the future of social housing

house prices,estate agents,housing crisis,Housing,Social housing,right to buy

First speaker, female, book about growing up in social housing and how this is intrinsically linked to class. Once I have a house with a bay window and a tree outside, I've made it!

Second speaker, male, about the effects of Right To Buy, and the privatisation of the UK's housing stock in the Thatcher years. New public housing production fell off a cliff and the Conservative government expected the free market to step in. It didn't. We still haven't addressed this since and it runs to the core of the current issues in our housing market. The government wants a huge number of homes to be built, without issuing any incentives or subsidies to do so.

Third speaker, male, about housing associations. He sees them as the "least worst option." There is no such thing as a UK housing market. There are a series if regional markets. I'm terms of the North East of England the main concern is that economic activity and growth have been low for a sustained period - thus subduing the house-building market.

Opened up to the floor, for questions or reflections from the audience.

Your thoughts on Right To Buy?
It's fine, as long as there is something in place to replace the social housing stock. It strikes through to the British psyche of home ownership and being a nation of homeowners.

What is your opinion of Right To Buy as Buy-to-Let?
The realisation of the asset may come much later than the purchase. Second or third generation Right To Buy owners may not see the house in the same way as their parents or grandparents who initially bought the home from the council.

Comment on the floor
The future of the housing market will not succeed by leaving the free market to resolve private and social housing needs. There needs to be incentives and interventions by government to produce a different response from the house building companies.

Friday 17 October 2014

Making time for everything needs planning


Here comes another weekend, another weekend off work and another weekend where I've made loads of and for what I'm going to do to entertain the kids. But I am using today's blog to remind mysf that I need to make time and make plans for my fledgling business.

A trip out tonight and a quite full day out tomorrow make the weekend feel hectic at the outset, but there's light at the end if the tunnel. I'm going to a talk and discussion on the future of social housing tomorrow - a sort of busman's holiday. During the day out with my wife and kids, I will break away for a couple of hours, leaving them to explore the city. I'll be interested in the theory of the talk, in the future of social housing, but with always a slant towards how this relates to my business and how I can use the information to expand the business and earn money.

Tonight's trip out will be to an illuminations, and I need to use this time to get my homework done for my photography class.  I need to take one photo, bearing in mind the discussions we had last week on composition. It needs to be well composed, using the rule of thirds, leading lines, the balance of colours and textures. I will also need to present it to the rest of the group and explain my photo in technical language. Wish me luck!

I'll share the photo on here and the feedback I receive.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

My brush with The Apprentice


Watching these guys in The Apprentice gets me thinking. I entered this years The Apprentice and I got through to the last few hundred, where I has to put a 30 second pitch to the production team.

I turned 40 earlier this year and the landmark started me off on a bit of a journey, now with 229 days to go. I entered The Apprentice and Mastermind, I entered the Great North Run and I write and published my first ebook.

This has heightened my desire to open my own business, and to open it as close to perfect as possible. I mean perfect in terms of getting it open as close to ready and as close to my own vision as possible, on or under the budget I have set myself.

But back to The Apprentice, and the potential business partner to Lord Sugar. On last years programme, Neil Clough struggled at the interview stage with his estate agency-based proposal. This years crowd are too busy fighting and undermining each other to make these tasks successful so far.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Social media as a platform to reach other like-minded professionals

230 I've been getting involved in discussions with other estate agents and entrepreneurs on various social media platforms. I think a debate, and the ability to have discussions, share ideas and generally talk about the industry with other people is heartening and useful. I'm mainly coming across useful content and discussions on LinkedIn social media site, under the Estate Agents UK Networking Group. Once on there, you can ask questions, start discussions, respond to other people's content, or just have a read of what other people have put there. I have found posting specific questions about marketing get a good response and generally start a lively debate, where people share their experience of that particular subject and usually have some strong views about it. I have developed in other areas on LinkedIn as well, as I have started to make connections with people I have worked alongside in estate agency over many years in the past. I think that having a network of people that you have shared experiences with and can trust their opinion will give you a testing ground for ideas and marketing projects. On other social media, I have developed another blog, based on the property market in my town - the idea is that as my knowledge of the market develops, and the content specifically related to the town builds, then I will become an authority in the property market where I will operate. This should lead to me being trusted and being sought out both by home sellers and landlords, for my experience and knowledge. This is also being serialised on the Facebook page that I have set up relating to the town I will operate in. I am using the town for my photography practice, and posting these photos on the page as well. I also add links to local events and local news to ensure that the page stays fresh and interesting. I use Twitter to publish links to my Blogger pages, so that I can reach a wider audience with my blog, and likewise with Tumblr, where I can also share a lot more of my photos and my thoughts about them. All-in-all I am finding that the links I can make via social media are becoming more and more useful to establish my presence in the local market and to add to my connections with people who have a similar outlook and will give me honest feedback. I urge anyone to give it a go!


Monday 13 October 2014

Facing my fears


Ive had a couple of nights of poor sleep and I think I know why. I'm formulating, cojitating, weighing up and thinking about setting up my own estate agency with every spare minute, and the parts I fear loss of control over are starting to get to me. I don't lie awake at night specifically thinking about these things, but I'm sure that the constant thought and planning must weigh on my mind most of the time. 

I always find looking over these issues and then talking them over quite cathartic, so I'll put them in print here, and then discuss them with my wife later today or early tomorrow, and look at how to tackle these issues. There are 2 main issues that are starting to bother me at the moment.

The Rightmove question
This one for me is the biggest question, and possibly the biggest monthly overhead. My intention at first is to either go without Rightmove from the beginning, or to offer it to customers as a pay-up-front additional extra. I do not believe that Rightmove is the be-all-and-end-all for estate agents, and I'm willing to back my judgement on that by not signing up with them.

However, I don't want to lose potential instructions by not offering it. I don't want to give the other agents in town a way to knocks service by stating that I'm missing a vital piece if the jigsaw.

Action : Speak to Rightmove and find out the cost of monthly listings. Also find out the possibility of pay-per-listing and the cost of this. From there I can see what a potential cost to my customer may be. I also need to provide a solid, reasoned argument as to why I won't be using Rightmove and have this ready to proactively address my customers concerns.

Industry resistance to online-only agents
I know that I shouldn't overly worry about what other people think of me, but it's not their thoughts, it's their potential actions. I read with interest, the following article last week-

And it regards estate agents in the North East of England coming together to all agree to remove themselves from Rightmove and Zoopla and all list their properties only in a new portal that specifically excludes online-only estate agents. Now this isn't my patch, but news can spread, and the ill feeling that estate agents with High Street offices have towards online-only agents is quite widespread. I don't want to end up
operating in a town with this level of animosity.

Action : To ensure that I know my own reasons and arguments for being an online-only estate agent. I will highlight my lower overheads, and explain that is why I am cheaper than the local agents with a High Street office and a team of staff they have to pay for whether bust or not. I thnk I'll push this as a selling point, rather than a weakness.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Everything I think I need to sort out before opening

228 After a whirlwind and scattergun start to my plans for opening an estate agency next year, I have decided that the next best step is to gather together all the aspects that I think I need to cover before the grand opening.

Here goes (in no particular order)-

  • A new computer or laptop. My current one is fine for family use but I need a separate workstation with more memory.
  • A dedicated telephone line for the business.  Either an extra landline at home or a dedicated mobile phone and number.
  • Sorting out the 2nd garage at the rear of the house that I will convert into an office space.
  • Furniture for this home office, including a desk, lockable filing cabinets, chairs and stationery.  I have an old dining room table, dining chairs, an office chair, a sideboard, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and some other smaller pieces of furniture in the garage already, so some of these will be re-used or upcycled.
  • A cashflow forecast and business plan for the first year of trading.
  • I need a website designed and built.  The design and content are still to be decided, and will take the form of a complete blog of it's own.
  • I need to source a provider of for sale boards, design what my boards will look like and have them produced.
  • I need to get a grip on what advertising I will use, how it will look, where it will appear, etc.  This is a massive subject and will be it's own blog subject in the future.
  • I'm looking at links to the local community to run alongside my advertising and other marketing.  I'm thinking about links to a local school, a local sports club and some other community projects.  I will provide them with support and financial help, maybe with a twist.
  • I will need a solicitor for 2 reasons.  Firstly for advice for setting up my business as a legal entitiy, then a reliable referral point for any conveyancing business that I come across.
  • An accountant, for the setting up of the business as well.  I will need advice regarding how to set up the business, whether a sole tradership, a partnership or a limited company will best serve my needs.
  • I will need to open a business bank account, with online access, but also a local branch for paying in any rent money taken in cash or by cheque.
  • A final decision on whether I open with sales and lettings.  If I have lettings as well then I will need contacts for the management of the properties, such as electricians, plumbers, glaziers and central heating engineers.
  • I will be looking into the availability of business grants in my area to help with the set-up costs.  As I type this, I have now put this to the top of my mental list.
  • I have an idea about becoming a "hybrid" of online and offline state agents by using the window of a High Street business to display my properties and contact details.  I'll need to look into this and start to speak to local businesses about the possibility of this.
  • I will need to register with the ombudsman service for estate agency, look at membership of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and, if relevant, the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
  • I will need to look at contacting, and forging a working relationship with a local mortgage adviser that will be able to assist my clients with their financial needs.
  • Likewise with a local surveyor, especially for clients that are buying without arranging finance.
  • I have spoken to several companies in the past that supply a software tool for managing an estate agency.  A sort of client and property database, with the ability to upload properties to portals, match clients with properties, email property details to clients and other daily functions.
  • On that note, I will need to look at which property portals I am considering and from there, look at costs and fit this into my marketing plan.
  • I will need to look at several levels of insurance - any changes to my car insurance, any changes to my home insurance from having a business operate from home and any business insurance I need for operating in clients homes.
  • I will most probably set up a charitable foundation where any fundraising will go.  I also intend to donate a percentage of my profits to this charitable foundation.  In the early stages of my thought process, I want some of this money to go to a local charity and some to go to a charity related to housing, maybe Shelter.
I know that this won't be a comprehensive list, and other things will pop up as time goes by.  If anyone has any ideas, suggestions or can see any glaring ommissions then please let me know!

Tuesday 7 October 2014

I'm having a good day!


I feel great today, quite positive and I've got a lot of menial paperwork and organisation done at home.

I've got loads of progress made at work.

Got good feedback about my blog, and about my photography yesterday.

None if this is particularly related to opening the business, but I thought I'd record my feelings and let you know how I feel!

Monday 6 October 2014

Keeping up the spirits takes things to look forward to


When the weather is awful, as it is today, it can be difficult to raise your spirits and raise your mood. Especially as today feels to me like the first day of what's going to be a long Winter.

So, what do I do to get in the mood to work, develop and get my blood going.

I've already mentioned in previous editions of my bold that I have taken up brain training and have goneback to   running. Both make me feel alone and ready to go for the day, but on a non-run day, and with brain training over and done with for the day, what keeps me going?

The light at the end if the tunnel seems far away, and most of what I'm getting into for the business are slow burners or things that are still at the planning stage. There is the burning desire to do this properly, the countdown that you are at the top of every blog page (now only 231 days to go) but I need smaller steps along the way to keep spirits up and focus on the task at hand-

I went to the Sunderland v Stoke march on Saturday with my family

It's my eldest's birthday on Saturday, so we're going out for the day.

We're going to see the family and meet up with some friends in Essex for 5 days in late October.

There's a midweek evening kickoff Sunderland match in early November that I'll take myself along to.

We always do something really Christmassy in early December to start off the season. It was the Polar Express train ride last year.

Christmas and New Year will be celebrated heartily in our house, with children of only 7 and 6.

In January I'm looking to go to Spain with  the lads for a few days of drinking and relaxing in the sun.

My birthday in February.

We're planning on a family trip to Disney/Florida in March, or to Disneyland Paris and a trip around France (depending on finance.)

All these small steps build up to give me the next focus and keep me on an even keel whilst working full-time and trying to prepare a new business at the same time.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Last photos from week 2 of my photography course - slow shutter speed

These are the last 2 pictures I took tonight, using a slow shutter speed of 30 seconds to capture the movements of traffic (and traffic lights) on a busy road and a busy roundabout. The first one is from above a motorway, and I left the caged bridge crossing in the picture to give it some focus and context-


The second photo is of a roundabout, with the same technique, slow shutter speed and a narrow aperture (to balance out the amount of light getting in) and this is of a roundabout.  I'm not 100% happy with this - I could have done with a more elevated position and a busier time of day, but the movement of the car lights and the traffic lights is still evident-

As I said, this is all for this week, hopefully I'll learn some new techniques next week and I can move forward from there to develop my own style.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Photos from week 2 learnings on my photography course


As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have enrolled and am participating in a photography course at the local college. It's a 20 week course, so the idea is that I am prepared to take brilliant photographs of people's homes when the time comes and I am marketing property. I will also extend my current website, where I have exhibited and sold my photographs- My new photos for this week are as follows- This is another experiment with depth of view, where I set the camera up to have a clear view of the first cupboard handle, with the others fading out of view. This is by setting a shallow aperture, and leaving the shutter speed at 1/60. Another experiment with depth of view was with the kids sitting on the sofa, playing on their iPods-


The next two photos are in the same style, working with the depth of field to get the subject at the front in focus, with a blurred background-

 Both are just attempts to play with my new camera and have an understanding of what I can do with it. The final photo for this week is using a very fast shutter speed to capture a single moment in time linked to the movement of my eldest when playing in the garden. He was throwing a conker and I managed to capture it's movement just as it was reaching the edge of the frame-

 Obviously these are basic exposures at the moment, and I'm experimenting with my Canon EOS 1200 digital SLR camera that I've only owned for 2 weeks.

The camera is a

The tripod I've bought and used is -

Friday 3 October 2014

Timing is all important - can I make it perfect?


When is the best time to set up my estate agency? I've thought about the perfect timing, but obviously there's no such thing as a perfect time to start a business. I want everything to be set up, ready to rock and roll from day 1 with no pending issues.

In my view, the housing market is split into two main areas of high trade. We have the post-Winter, early Spring market that peaks in and around Easter. The second starts as the kids go back to school in September where people want to make their move before Christmas.

My current plan is to open in May to start taking on property instructions ready to sell to the 2nd wave described above, the September to Christmas market.

I believe that this is the slightly smaller if the 2 markets, but you've got to start somewhere and I'm not confident that I'd be ready for the first market, which would mean starting early in the New Year to have taken on property instructions ready to sell houses at Easter.

I hope this goes some way to explaining my decision to pick a certain date, which is now only 234 days away…

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Shop local is more than a slogan - it's my ethos!


How can I establish links to my local community?

How can I use my local knowledge to network my services around my local community?

How can I let my local community into my business?

These are questions that have been occupying my brain today. I want to use the fact that I live in the town I'll be operating in to develop links to the local community and to promote my business. I want to let people know that the money I earn from selling their homes will stay in their local community and will be (mostly) spent in other local businesses rather than leave the town for companies registered elsewhere. I want to share the importance of local businesses with other businesses and the local community. I want the community to see my work, share in my passion and give me their instructions.

So, where to start?

I'm thinking of several ways of creating this feeling and way of working-

My website
I'm looking at adding a local community page to my website, and it will take one of two forms. Either a space for other local-owned, local-operated companies to be able to put their details on the site - hyperlink, ethos, local credentials, etc.  Or a community notice board for messages, local events, etc. my concern about the latter is that it would take some managing, and could become a forum for abuse or trolling.

Networking clubs
These are popular in many areas, but I don't know offhand whether there is one in my town. As I will be operating solely in one town, it feels pointless to go any further.

Blog on the local market
I'm thinking of adding to my existing blog portfolio by blogging on news and views of the local town. I think that people who live, or are thinking of living, in the area will find this useful and informative. It will establish my voice as an authority in the local market and mean that I will be the 'go-to-guy' when peoe want some knowledge or information about our housing market.

Links to local schools/charities/clubs/associations
I've long thought of this as a way to establish your credentials in a community and to build your business. My main ethos would be to operate a payd referral scheme. So I'd agree a project that the organisation wanted funding. For example, the local rugby club may want to invest in new goalposts at a cost of £1000. For every person who sells a house with me via a referral from the rugby club I'll donate a fee to the club, say £50. At this rate, after 20 referrals from the rugby club, their new goalposts would be paid for, courtesy of your friendly local estate agents!

A webcam in my home office
I think that if people can see me at work, can see where I operate from, can see what I'm doing, then they will see into my ethics and buy into me and my business.

Use my local base in my marketing
I will make sure that my website underlines the fact that I live locally and shop locally. It will explain why I think it's important and why I think peoe should support the principle.

Books on shopping and shop local from Amazon