We asked Martin Smith, Partner in our North East building consultancy team, a few questions about his career and the North East property market.
What is your favourite building in the North East, and why?
Emerson Chambers, Newcastle – although not part of the original Grainger Town development, the early 1900’s building is a great example of art noveau architecture. The way in which the architect has designed the building incorporates some amazing architectural detailing into the property that reflects the age of the nearby older buildings. This is a fine example of how ‘new’ buildings should tie into those of its surroundings. The amount of ornate detailing on the building is unbelievable, yet simply works. It’s now a book shop and walking past it each day on my way to work, I still always take it in.
What was your first ever job?
My first ever job was a paper round at the age of 12 years, I used the money I earnt to buy stickers for my football albums.
My first job in surveying was with South Tees NHS Trust, developing and refurbishing wards and medical facilities, ranging from building extensions for MRI scanners and overseeing their installation, to minor refurbishments for the IVF clinic.
What is the biggest project that you have been involved in?
Converted and fitted out a building in the grounds of a former stately home for a television company in Eastleigh, Hampshire. The project lasted circa 1.5 years and I don’t ever recall it raining at that site throughout the project, making the visits very pleasant indeed.
What does the future look like in the North East property market?
We’ve always been the ‘poor relation’ in the north east to more buoyant markets in nearby Edinburgh or Leeds, but there is still a very active business community that requires servicing. Last year’s Brexit results have no doubt had an effect on businesses in the North East, particularly some of the larger companies, and the full extent of it remains to be seen. I firmly believe however that the people in the North East are resourceful, hardworking and have the experience of finding new industry (after the demise of the historic coal and shipbuilding industries) and I’ve no doubt that whatever the lasting effect the North East will ultimately continue their enterprises.
In terms of property and in the words of Nat King Cole, “there may be trouble ahead” but ultimately I’m confident that the property market will remain positive.
What one thing would you change to influence the future of the North East property market?
I would like to see the North East promoted more by some of the North East Chamber of Commerce, regional development agencies and local authorities so that inward investment would be stimulated. It is apparent that the lower property prices in the North East (in comparison with London and some other regions) represent a great opportunity to pick up a bargain, with good yields for investors.
If you could give one piece of business advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Pay attention to detail. Building Surveying is a very technical discipline and the key to it is in the detail. I think that the technical side is a little daunting for new surveyors, but with some technical knowledge, the problems faced can be overcome with some logical thoughts and a thorough analysis of the options available.
Name three people that you would pick to work in your team.
1. Ole Kirk Christiansen – the inventor of Lego, as he could most definitely help when it came to building things.
2. Muhammad Ali as I could do with him in my corner when it came to dilapidations and contractor final account negotiations.
3. Sir Ranulph Fiennes, we often have to go to some weird and wonderful places and I’m sure he could help find them