Fife property expert Ewen Sparks has joined chartered surveyor DM Hall as head of the firm’s Cupar office.
An established figure in the local property market, Ewen was previously a partner at Shepherd Chartered Surveyors, where he was in charge of valuation surveying services out of the St Andrews office. In his new role with DM Hall, he will oversee operations covering most of the north-east of Fife, including St Andrews and East Neuk.
A partner at Shepherd since 2007, Ewen originally joined the firm’s Dundee office after graduating in 1989 with an honours degree in Estate Management from Heriot-Watt University. He re-located less than a year later to St Andrews, where he took over the management of the office in 1993 and was made an associate in 1995.
Eric Curran, managing partner of DM Hall, said the firm’s newest recruit will strengthen an already formidable professional team.
“Ewen has extensive experience of the Fife property scene, and is well-known throughout the area,” he said. “It’s a great pleasure to welcome him to the DM Hall family, and we look forward to a successful future together.”
Married with two children, Ewen was chairman of the St Andrews Merchants Association from 2003 to 2007. He is also a past president of the St Andrews Business Club.
Commenting on his new role, Ewen said: “Having lived and worked in Fife for the best part of 30 years, I’m pleased to be taking on a new role in a market that I very much know and care about. DM Hall is a highly-regarded name throughout Scotland, and it’s a privilege to be joining the firm.”
DM Hall is one of Scotland’s largest independent firms of chartered surveyors, with a network of 28 offices and more than 120 fully-qualified surveyors. It provides a range of services from Home Reports and commercial property valuations through to building consultancy and property management.
New appointee has built a successful professional property industry career from his first job as an apprentice bricklayer
DM Hall, one of Scotland’s largest independent firms of chartered surveyors, has appointed John Kempsell to the role of senior surveyor in its Dumfries office.
Born and bred in Dumfries, John, 52, entered the property sector on leaving school as an apprentice bricklayer. Four years later, time-served, he enrolled at the local technical college and emerged with an Ordinary National Certificate (ONC) in Construction.
A Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Construction Management followed, and he began to gain surveying experience as a technician with Dumfries & Galloway Council Assessors Department. In 2004 he transferred to the Council’s Building Control Department as a Building Inspector.
In 2007, studying on a day release basis, John graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University with a BSc in Building Control. The following year, he joined South Lanarkshire Council as a Building Standards Surveyor
Subsequent employment with Allied Surveyors in Dumfries where his geographical focus was on the western side of Dumfries & Galloway, led to him re-training as a Valuation Surveyor and he became a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in 2012.
He said: “It’s early days for me here at DM Hall but I’m already enjoying being part of the team and serving the clients in our region. My geographical focus is on the western side of Dumfries & Galloway, I am responsible for all types of residential surveys, including home reports, valuations and energy performance certificates”.
Eric Curran, managing partner of DM Hall, said: “John’s arrival adds further strength to our offering to clients in south west Scotland. His extensive experience in our sector is a huge asset both for clients and colleagues.
“Local knowledge is important to our clients and John has spent the greater part of his life and career in Dumfries and surrounding areas, so we could not have asked for anyone with greater local knowledge and we are delighted that he has chosen to spend the next stage of his career at DM Hall.”
The Scottish poet and dramatist James Thomson pictured the cessation of working life as:
An elegant sufficiency, content,
Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books.
That may not be exactly how the next few decades work out for me but, as I approach the end of my long association with DM Hall, with whom I have been a partner since the age of 22, I hope I may be excused for reflecting briefly on a varied professional career.
I have to admit at once that, as I sat alone in the newly-established Inverness branch of the firm in 1984 – literally waiting for the phone to ring – the prospect of lasting more than four decades in the business seemed fairly remote.
But ring it did – an instruction, as I remember, for an inspection for Alliance and Leicester. The role of Chartered Surveyor, on which I had embarked at the age of 17 straight from school in Broughty Ferry, suddenly seemed rich with possibility. I hired a secretary and the ball was rolling.
Inverness and the Highlands was a tough territory to cover in these days. The largest local government area in the UK was a lot more remote and I pride myself in having been the first professional services person in the region to have a mobile phone.
Having said that, it was even clunkier than the Dom Jolly variety. There was a huge box for it in the boot of the car and a full-sized handset and receiver on the front seat. The signal bounced off ships sailing close to the coast, not satellites.
There were only three places I could get reception – Ullapool, Gairloch and Nairn – and, like most people working in the area, I made sure I had a supply of 10p pieces and a mental map of where I could access red telephone boxes.
A major difference between then and now was that surveyors really did get into the guts of the buildings they were inspecting. A boiler suit and a torch were indispensable for crawling into tight underfloor spaces and clambering into attics.
Insurance and liability issues have put paid to all that now and I am not sure the profession is necessarily the better for it.
Technology, of course, has transformed surveying – with a communications revolution which means that surveyors who inspect a property in the morning are now routinely expected to have a report on the client’s desk by the afternoon.
And, just as home buyers search online now rather than leafing through an agent’s books, more and more instructions are transmitted to the profession online, increasing the sense of distance and anonymity.
I used to know every bank manager and agent in the area, as well as being on first name terms with the girls on the mortgage desks, who were always ready with a cup of tea and the latest market intelligence.
Looking forward can be slightly disconcerting. I worry that there are now only two educational establishments in Scotland which are offering courses in general practice valuation surveying. Where will the next generation of professionals come from?
However, looking ahead can also be very gratifying, and I am pleased as my time draws to a close that DM Hall – in existence since 1897 – is guaranteeing its future with a splendid phalanx of new young partners, as well as proper succession structures for the young people coming up behind them.
I am also particularly pleased with the number of people embarking on non-standard routes into the business, such as some of our very able administrators who are taking things to the next level by qualifying as AssocRICS.
I will always be grateful to my colleagues who asked me to take on my current role, meaning that I was able to become the first person in the firm’s venerable history to go from being the youngest partner to Senior Partner.
It has been a long journey, and one I am very glad to have made. As the sign on a transport café south of Aberdeen says: “Ye may gang faur, and fare waur.”
John Albiston is Senior Partner of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors.
DM Hall, one of Scotland’s largest independent firms of chartered surveyors, has let 8 Ettrick Walk, The Centre, Cumbernauld to Speedy Dry Cleaners Limited on a new 5 years full repairing and insuring lease at an annual rental of £11,000.
Acting on behalf of Hamcap Cumbernauld Limited LLP, the transaction follows a series of lettings at The Centre in 2019, including those to Fosters Funeral Services, Savers, Fitbar Limited, Arora Bathrooms, Mobility Living and The Polish Deli.
Gavin Anderson an Associate in the Commercial Property department of DM Hall’s Glasgow North office who oversaw the lease process, said: “despite challenging conditions in the retail sector, The Centre in Cumbernauld is attracting a good level of enquiries which have been converted to new lettings.
“The opening of Xercise4less last year, which attracts members to the location throughout the day and evening, has greatly helped footfall in The Centre”.
DM Hall is joint letting agent of The Centre, Cumbernauld alongside Whitelaw Baikie Figes.
Leading Scottish firm of chartered surveyors DM Hall has entered into a three-year partnering agreement with the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) to be its preferred and promoted property services and advice provider.
Founded in 1978, the ASSC is the leading source of knowledge on short-term letting and holiday homes in Scotland. The ASSC is also the only trade body representing the interests of the traditional self-catering sector. It has more than 650 Members operating in excess of 7,000 self-catering properties throughout Scotland, from city centre apartments and rural cottages to lodges, chalets, and castles.
The association commits its members to maintaining the principles of quality, integrity, cleanliness, comfort, courtesy and efficiency and to offering visitors to Scotland consistently high standards within their self-catering properties. The ASSC’s vision is to place its members at the forefront of a professional, vibrant and prosperous Scottish self-catering sector.
Mark O’Neill, Head of Energy at DM Hall, said: “Withdrawal of Government guidance on energy assessment issues, specifically related to self-catering holiday accommodation, was the catalyst for initial conversations between ASSC and DM Hall.
“Further discussions, however, led ASSC Chief Executive Fiona Campbell to conclude that ASSC members could benefit significantly from accessing DM Hall’s expert insight and knowledge across a wide range of property issues.
“As a result, ASSC has directly recommended DM Hall to its members as its preferred and promoted property services and advice provider.”
Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive of ASSC, said: “Many of our members are already aware of DM Hall’s expertise and its presence throughout Scotland.
“With this move to appoint the firm as our preferred property services and advice provider we expect to enhance significantly our offering to ASSC members, both here in Scotland and further afield.”
DM Hall was established in 1897 and now employs over 230 people across 26 offices in Scotland.
Alan Gordon is DM Hall’s Principal Commercial Partner and is based in the firm’s Glasgow North office.
Another big one bites the dust.
Earlier this year saw, to no one’s unalloyed surprise, the last slice of the pizza as the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, which includes Jamie’s Italian, Fifteen and the Barbacoa restaurants, called in the administrators.
At a stroke, another 1000 hospitality sector jobs disappeared from Britain’s High Streets, adding to the dismal total racked up recently by other UK restaurant chain casualties such as Carluccio’s, Byron, the Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Prezzo.
However, does this mean that the casual diner, on whom the health of the sector depends, is going to be wandering the streets in a fruitless search for polenta and a prosecco? Not a bit of it.
Because while the chains have been hammered by a perfect storm of over-rapid expansion, rising rents, business rates – not to mention food, utility and wage costs –the final nail has often been vigorous competition from a revitalised independent restaurant sector.
As the chains close their doors, well managed, on-trend, individual restaurants, often family-owned, have been hurrying them on their way with unique offerings which are flexible, friendly and suited to the neighbourhoods in which they operate.
In Glasgow, Finnieston is the obvious case in point, there are no corporates in the city’s buzziest restaurant district. Similarly, in areas peripheral to the CBD, independents are making inroads as the chains abandon the heart of the city.
The same applies to the more affluent suburbs, with a mix of independent options, some of them surprisingly sophisticated and successful, catering for a huge variety of different appetites.
With hindsight, it is easy to say that the mid-market chains sacrificed a lot of the initial attraction of their offering in the madcap scramble for market share. Ferocious competition for prime sites quickly added to the damage.
But while economy of scale can justify fast-paced expansion, it reduces the ability to react quickly to changing circumstances. Reviving a whole group can be prohibitive, and many previously popular operators were starting to look tired, with a dated service offering.
Will the sites that the chains vacate in the city centres be inhabited by a new breed of independent – capable and ambitious enough to begin the cycle all over again? It seems unlikely.
Many central sites are often too large and “soulless” to appeal to the independent operator and risk remaining empty unless they can be sub-divided and put to an alternative use. The rating revaluation of 2017 is still a sore point in the industry and the national minimum/living wage continues to spiral upwards. VAT continues to be an onerous burden.
But some independents have proved that they can provide an offering as good as, and often substantially better than, the household name UK players. This is proof that demographic analysis and spreadsheet-based analytical business modelling is no substitute for experience, a keen instinct and a refined sense of local trends.
The privately-owned small restaurant or bar has always been much more prevalent in Scotland than south of the border. The growth of multiple outlet, corporately owned, branded chains was beginning to change the profile of the leisure property offering and ownership in Scotland, aligning it more with the English model.
But there are signs that this trend is being reversed, and I think it is a consumer driven reversal with customers showing a preference for the more versatile, customer focussed, reactive type of business that independents can provide.
So while the independents have been faced by the same issues as the chains, it is turning into something of a tortoise and hare story. The indies are winning the day, and people who enjoy eating out in places with individual flair have something to celebrate.
Nick Hancock, the DM Hall surveyor based in Edinburgh, who broke the record for the longest single occupation of Rockall, is on his way back to the tiny North Atlantic speck 230 miles west of the Scottish mainland.
This time, instead of undertaking a gruelling feat of endurance, he will be acting as a guide to a party of adventure tourists who will be the first people to set foot on the storm-lashed rock since the last landing in 2016.
He will use the skills he honed during his 45 days on the 25 x 22 metre islet in 2014 to ensure that safety lines and fixing points are suitable for the ascent to where he anchored his tiny shelter from the Atlantic waves.
He said: “I will be acting as a guide more in the sense of a mountaineering guide, rather than a tour guide, since a tour of Rockall would take a very short time indeed. The whole trip will be very weather dependent.”
Only a handful of people have ever spent more than a few hours on Rockall since the first recorded landing in 1811. To put this in perspective, more than 3500 people have stood on the summit of Everest since 1953 and 12 have landed on the moon since 1969.
The trip, organised for May 2020 by Lupine Travel and adventure sailing experts Kraken Travel, will have taken the best part of two years to organise and the 18 tourists will be looked after by a captain and a crew of four.
Nick said: “The travel companies got in touch with me because, I suppose, I am something of an expert on Rockall. We will use St Kilda as a staging post if the weather dictates, either on the way there or on the way back.
“It takes a minimum of 16 hours, and perhaps in excess of 24 depending on wind direction, to travel from Oban to Rockall and the ocean swells can make landing very tricky. Also, there is not a great deal of room on the rock, just a small platform where my survival pod was and a flat area at the top.
“We may have to take the tourists on in groups. The rock is very slippery with bird waste and landing such a large number of people will be quite an operation.”
Those who do manage to land will become, like Nick, exclusive members of the Rockall Club, which was founded seven years ago to mark the 40th anniversary of the island becoming part of Scotland.
If Nick does land on the rock again he will equal the final record to be broken which is the most number of landings by an individual, which currently stands at 3.
An exciting opportunity to acquire the seven-bedroom Courie Inn Hotel Bar and Bistro, located in Main Street, Killin in picturesque highland Perthshire, FK21 8UT, is being marketed at a price around £625,000 by DM Hall, one of Scotland’s leading independent firms of chartered surveyors,
Substantially refurbished and upgraded throughout in 2014, the Courie Inn, is a popular venue with both locals and tourists which boasts a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. In addition to its seven charming letting bedrooms, all of which are en-suite and exceptionally well-appointed, The Courie Inn operates a successful bar and bistro which is open to the public.
The property is a traditional two storey building with attic and has planning permission to extend to the rear. It has been modernised for use as a licensed bistro with professional kitchen and bar. There is a parking area to the front.
Set close to the geographical epicentre of Scotland, Killin is located on the A827 but is still within 90 minutes’ drive of both Glasgow and Edinburgh. Rich in history, the village of Killin is a popular stopover for travellers and a renowned destination choice for those seeking magnificent Scottish scenery and a wide range of outdoor pursuits.
Set in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park with Ben Lawers National Natural Reserve nearby, visitors can enjoy a wide range of wildlife spotting, outdoor pursuits and walking. Killin benefits also by being on the increasingly popular Rob Roy Way.
Current sales, comprising two income streams, one from room letting and the other from bar and bistro sales, amount to £440,00 excluding VAT, and have been on a rising trend.
Kerry Boyle of DM Hall’s Edinburgh-based commercial sales team who is overseeing the marketing process said: “this is an exciting opportunity to acquire a great business set in a beautiful location with a growing reputation for outstanding service and quality accommodation. It would suit an aspiring hospitality industry operator who really wants to make his or her mark.
“Offers around £625,000 are sought for our client’s heritable interest, or freehold interest, in the property. The sale includes all fixtures and fittings and goodwill.
“Anyone interested in learning more about this exceptional opportunity should contact me, Kerry Boyle on 0131 624 6138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.”
DM Hall, one of Scotland’s leading independent firms of chartered surveyors, has moved to strengthen its Fife-based commercial property team with three new appointments in its Dunfermline office.
In addition to the promotion from Surveyor to Associate of Dunfermline-based Duncan Fraser who covers commercial valuation in Fife, Leigh Nisbet, a commercial surveyor and agent, has moved from DM Hall’s Dundee office and Linda Morris has been appointed Office Administrator.
Michael Court, Head of DM Hall’s East commercial team, said: “The commercial property scene in Fife continues to be dynamic and we have made these key appointments in response to the level of work we are being asked to undertake on behalf of our clients in the region.
“Our Dunfermline commercial property operation is critical to the overall success of the firm and I am delighted to welcome our colleagues in their new roles.”
Duncan Fraser qualified as a Chartered Surveyor in 2011 and joined DM Hall in 2015. His experience and role includes commercial valuation for a variety of clients including pension providers and a number of major UK Banks and lending institutions, commercial agency, rating consultancy and professional services in rent review, lease renewals and lease negotiations throughout the East of Scotland.
Leigh joined DM Hall’s Falkirk office in 2006 as a commercial assistant and studied part-time at Glasgow Caledonian University achieving a BSc (Hons) and qualifying as a Chartered Surveyor shortly after. Before her move back to Fife her most recent role was as a commercial agent and Registered Valuer in the firm’s Dundee office, managing the letting and sale of various types of property for a range of clients as well as undertaking valuation work for pension funds, private clients and a number of major UK Lenders.
DM Hall, one of Scotland’s largest firms of independent chartered surveyors, has secured the sale above the asking price of a unique investment opportunity in the heritable interest of 65 Bruntsfield Place, EH10 4HQ, a 10,028 sq. ft. property located in the highly sought-after and affluent Bruntsfield-Morningside district of Edinburgh, just 1.5 miles south of the city centre.
The property, a substantial traditional detached two storey B Listed Georgian villa, constructed in 1826 with a sympathetically created extension to the rear, is currently let in its entirety to the City of Edinburgh Council without a break until November 2033 and is used as a hostel. The Council took occupation of the property in November 2003 and currently sublets it to a local housing association.
Ross Chinnery, a surveyor in DM Hall’s East Commercial Property team, based in Edinburgh, said: “65 Bruntsfield Place was originally a private residential dwelling which was granted a change of use to an unlicensed hotel in November 2000.
“The building’s accommodation is arranged over basement, ground and first floor levels set within a generous plot extending to some 0.38 acres or thereby with private gardens to the rear.
“DM Hall was initially instructed by the landlord, an overseas private investor, to renegotiate the current lease with the City of Edinburgh Council where a new 15 years extension was agreed with an uplift in rent.
“On the strength of this, the client sought to move the property on, and DM Hall was then instructed to sell the investment. Initially, offers over £2.92m were invited for the benefit of the heritable interest but the subjects generated such a strong level of interest from investors, ranging from private individuals to large corporate funds, that a closing date was set, creating a competitive bidding situation.
“The property was sold successfully for £3.36 million reflecting a Net Initial Yield of 4.33%, showing a significant uplift on the property, and evidencing the fact that there is a substantial market for this type of investment when properly marketed.”
The building is currently used as a 20-bedroom hostel for homeless people, with 14 of the bedrooms having en-suite facilities. There is a shared kitchen and the accommodation is arranged over basement, ground and first floor levels. There is a lift within the extension providing access to all levels, aside from the basement in the original building.