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By Gordon King

At the start of the 20th century, the company which became known first as Anglo-Persian Oil then British Petroleum was in deep financial trouble. Its hugely expensive concessions were not producing and the capitalist genius behind the venture, William Knox D’Arcy, felt that he was pouring his fortune into the desert sands.

The British Government was equally worried. It desperately needed a secure supply of oil for its rapidly expanding warship fleets, so it fell back on a tried and tested solution – and called in the Scots.

They arrived in the shape of the Glasgow-based Burmah Oil Company, which had cut its exploration teeth successfully in what is now Myanmar. With its expertise on board, the Persian consortium hit its first gusher, and a new age of energy was born.

In our own time, this may seem simply a story of imperial derring-do, but there are three key elements to it which are relevant to our current situation in Scotland.

First, the Scots of Burmah Oil achieved the almost alchemical transformation of potential, or latent, energy into actual, or kinetic, energy. Second, they were not alone in being pioneers who changed the world. Thirdly, a remarkable new energy environment is under way in this country at this moment.

Potential energy is the latent energy in an object at rest and kinetic energy is the energy expressed by an object in motion. The hard-headed drillers of the Persian oilfields were able to set their revolution in motion because they were blessed with that particular mindset which sees solutions instead of problems.

Some say it is an engineering mindset: the idea that, if it can be imagined, it can be done. But seeing the world in this way is not a preserve of the spannermen, as they self-deprecatingly refer to themselves.

It is hard-wired into a particular type of Scot, be they scientists, traders, philosophers, industrialists or technological ground-breakers.

Scotland has always punched above its weight in this most competitive arena of human endeavour and, perhaps because we have throughout history been a small nation far from the centres of power, we have always had to try harder.

Whatever the reason, there is a quite remarkable list of people from this damp little country who have identified the potential in a given situation and put into motion changes which are not only transformative but life-enhancing.

To take just a few, look at James Watt, Adam Smith, James Hall Naysmith, John Loudon Macadam, Lord Kelvin, Sir Alexander Fleming, John Boyd Dunlop, James Clerk Maxwell, and Alexander Graham Bell.

Is it a particularly Scottish trait? That is arguable, but our own small corner of endeavour, DM Hall, is one of the few wholly Scottish firms in its sector and the past 20 years have seen a classic example of potential energy being galvanised into forward motion.

The energy in our case has been unlocked from the skill sets, talent and dedication of our people and developed into portfolios of new products which have propelled the firm onto a fast-moving trajectory.

And we have contributed to the wider energy of the country – for instance, in the green power revolution, with DM Hall contributing towards writing the RICS guidance on renewable energy options and leases.

Renewable energy is another example of how determination and vision can harness the natural bounty of the sun, the wind and the waves. Ever since hardy teams of pioneers built the first Highland hydro dams, Scotland has excelled in solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and hydrokinetic energy.

Targets which may have seemed ambitious when they were announced have been met and triumphantly exceeded. Last year, Scotland generated 9,831,320 MWh of wind energy, enough to power 182% of all 4.47 million Scottish homes, or nearly 100% percent of homes from Harris to Harrogate. 

Scotland’s wind energy revolution is clearly continuing to power ahead. Up and down the country, we are all benefitting from cleaner energy, and so is the climate.

However, as we continue to languish in our current Covid-19 lockdown, it may seem that the dynamism of the country has been extinguished. But what we have to remember is that energy is never lost, it is simply transferred or stored.

And when the lid is finally lifted and the country determinedly heads back to work, all that latent energy which has been contained at home will be back in harness and we will soon be steaming ahead again.

Gordon King, BSc FRICS, is a consultant and former senior partner in the Edinburgh office of DMH Baird Lumsden and is a rural valuer who for many years sat on the RICS Rural Professional Group in Edinburgh and, latterly, in London. Today he sits on the RICS UK Valuation Professional Group, which also sits in London. 

For further information, contact Gordon King, DMH Baird Lumsden, 17 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, EH12 6DD. T: 0131 477 6001. F: 0131 477 6016. E:

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By Alan Gordon

I suspect that for any new role, 33 years should be ample preparation. But taking over as the Senior Partner of DM Hall, one of Scotland’s leading independent firms of chartered surveyors, on 1 January 2020 now somehow feels like having been unceremoniously dropped in at the deep end.

Most of my first 11 weeks in my new role was spent visiting our various offices around the country, familiarising myself with areas of our business that had not previously been a significant part of my day to day experience.

I was brimming with new ideas, and it was becoming increasingly clear that implementation of these would require careful prioritisation and planning. Our Management Committee was keen to get going and drive improvements with strategically targeted investment to meet our growth objectives.

Somewhere in the background, people were talking about a virus emerging from south east Asia, although there was no suggestion of the grave impact this was about to have.

All sectors of our business were experiencing a promising start to the year: markets had a new- found confidence following a lengthy period of malaise brought about by seemingly endless political and constitutional machinations.

The outlook was good, our challenges were becoming clearer, and we were all looking forward with some cautious optimism to a period of growth and development.

On a personal level, I was encouraged by the support of our Management Committee, the talented and loyal group of DM Hall partners, as well as our dedicated staff, who serve the company and our customers with such care.

Almost overnight, however, our priorities took a dramatic turn. Lockdown measures, introduced by the UK Government on Monday 23rd March, abruptly suspended the property sector, and limited our activity to little more than negligible levels. We were immediately thrust into survival mode.

Having been around as a firm for 123 years, we knew we had a strong brand and a viable, solvent business. We also have a fantastic team. We reverted to a crisis management mode

and have been meeting daily using video conference technology to stay “on the front foot” throughout, leaving absolutely no stone unturned.

For almost two months now, our entire focus and attention has been directed to preserving both our business, and the jobs it supports. We have adapted quickly to new communication methods and our daily meetings have helped us react quickly to a series of rapidly evolving problems.

As for many businesses, The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme and other Government measures have provided an important lifeline and has given us vital breathing space. We have used this time to make careful preparations for a return to work, with the safety of our staff, our clients, and the public at the forefront of our priorities.

Planning for unknown future workflows and an unspecified return date brings about significant challenges; the property market, however, is resilient and it has proved this time and time again. I recall sitting on the DM Hall Management Committee through the 2008/2009 financial crash and subsequent years when there were undoubtedly some dark days. I am in no doubt that managing our way out of the crisis will inevitably be a bigger challenge than managing our way in.

Both as an economy, and as a firm, I am confident we will emerge strongly from this crisis, possibly in a different size and shape, but markets will function again. Everyone has a part to play in our return to business activity: investors need to be satisfied with returns and lenders must feel confident about their exposure to risk. Market sentiment can be fragile and, for good or ill, media influences the psychological climate. Ill-informed speculation is unhelpful.

Responsible reporting, and particularly in the world of social media, responsible “commentary”, will be important in allowing confidence to flow back into the market.

At DM Hall we are ignoring superficial distractions. Our mantra from the outset has been to make sure we focus on controlling the controllable, taking advice from experienced, trusted advisors along the way.

There has been a lot of talk lately about “flattening the curve” of the virus. Speaking for myself, as curves go, I am in no doubt the learning curve I have been propelled upon in my first few months as the Senior Partner of DM Hall has been a good deal steeper than I bargained for.

Alan Gordon is Senior Partner of DM Hall LLP.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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.

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– Tell us about DM Hall’s property management team
Our established team works closely together and when stress levels are high, someone always manages to say or do something to make everyone laugh. I strongly believe that a happy team makes for a productive team and that’s definitely the ethos we have here.

– You have recently been promoted to head up this department, what are your initial goals?
I intend to build on the good work that has already been done, continuing to give our clients the best service possible.

– Can you briefly mention areas in which your department can help customers?
Centrally located in Livingston, we manage a mixed portfolio of properties throughout Scotland for a variety of Landlords. Each service is carefully tailored to meet their requirements, ensuring that their asset is effectively managed. Properties vary from single occupier properties to industrial estates to multi-let offices and more. We are the first point of contact for the tenant and deal with any issues they may present, as well as collecting rent etc., taking the burden away from the landlord.

– What is the best part of working in the DM Hall property management team
The atmosphere is relaxed, but we work hard to ensure our work is delivered at a high standard. We have a great team spirit and support each other well; the weeks just seem to fly in!

– Away from your day job, what are interests away from the day job?
I’m a massive Hibs fan, so family time is spent watching them or my daughter who plays for Hibs Ladies under 11s. I also enjoy all types of music from Foo Fighters to Ash to Kylie and have 6 gigs lined up to go to next year, one of them being The Proclaimers at The Castle!

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In terms of macroeconomic mood music, it is tempting at the moment to put your hands over your ears. Scotland faces political instability at home, in the wider UK and in Europe and the economic outlook still fails to inspire confidence.

However, to lighten the gloom, it is worth taking into account a remarkable surge in the performance of the leisure and hospitality sector. It is heartening across the country, but north of the Highland Fault Line, it has been something of a gold rush.

The last time there was as much excitement in the Highlands, the Redcoats were chasing Prince Charlie round the glens. The roads and ferries have never been busier, the hotels fuller or the pubs and restaurants more crowded.

A typical client with say a 12-bedroom hotel on the West Coast reports 100% occupancy, a rate which is sustained over an enormously extended season and tails off only slightly in the shoulders.

Room rates, also, have gone through the roof. A very unremarkable B&B which might have charged £70 a night two years ago is now typically holding its hand out for £120. A decent bed in Skye can fetch £250 – more than central Edinburgh.

The same applies to most of the other Western Isles, notably Mull and Islay, and the businesses along the remote single tracks of what has become one of the world’s iconic drives, the North Coast 500.

VisitScotland, often much maligned, has to be congratulated for the success of many of its campaigns. Scotland the Set brings film fans flocking to the locations of Outlander and Harry Potter, and castles and lochs are an enduring draw.

Road Equivalent Tariff has also made access to the Islands much more accessible and there is no doubt that, in a continent troubled by various geopolitical issues, Scotland is seen as a safe haven, as well as one of the last great wildernesses.

How does this affect commercial property? Well, the market values are intrinsically linked to businesses’ ability to generate profit and virtually all enterprises in the sector are having to put fans beside the cash registers to cool them down.

It’s not just the high end hospitality outlets which are benefiting from the convoys of coaches, cars and campervans heading north, but also businesses in out-of-the-way places many of which, frankly, should have dusted down their offering a long time ago.

As revenues climb, hospitality and leisure businesses should be perceived as a much better risk and lenders should be looking at this bonanza and wagging their tails. But at the moment on the whole they seem to remain pretty much behind the curve. Nor have valuations yet been greatly affected.

What we are seeing is a cautious element of self-funding. There is no great appetite for the heavy investment required for new building, which is often, anyway, bedevilled by planning issues.

Instead, owners are adopting more bespoke ways of getting heads onto beds – such as building annexes and extensions, or establishing chalets in often extensive grounds. Others are exploring eco and camping pods, or huts and lodges.

Owners of a West Highland hotel doubled their turnover with the simple expedient of an extension which allowed them to repurpose the restaurant capacity and also increase bed space. The investment was small compared to the immediate return.

Another aspect which might ring alarm bells with lenders is that many business owners are funding new investment out of cash flow rather than taking on potentially expensive new debt.

It is to be expected that lenders will eventually wake up to what is an unusually positive time for the Scottish property sector in leisure and hospitality, and as transaction activity grows an improvement in valuations will inevitably follow.

Meantime, the P&L graph across large parts of the sector remains on a satisfyingly upward curve regardless.

Alan Gordon is Principal Commercial Partner in the Glasgow North office of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors.

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It is a sobering thought that 40 years have slipped by since I first ran a tape measure across the inside of a house and popped my head under the floorboards.

1978. What a year. The Smurfs appeared on TV for the first time, Christopher Reeves flew as Superman and Rod Stewart asked: Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? Scotland did not win the World Cup.

None of that, I have to say, impinged greatly on my consciousness as I stood in the offices of DM Hall for the first time with a senior figure asking me what on earth I was doing there. I should (oops) have been in college. Pity no one had told me – communication!

However, for £50 a month – riches beyond the dreams of avarice in those days – I was perfectly happy to endure a dressing down and I soon got my feet under the desk where they have remained (apart from an occasional survey) for four decades now.

It has been my privilege to share a remarkable period of change with what I regard as one of the best professional services firms in Scotland. After significant growth in the first 20 years, we endured a number of recessions – 2007 was the worst – and growth is now less dramatic, but steadier and sustainable.

It is interesting to look at some of the differences between then and now. Work/life balance stands out. In my early career, there was an intensity and a passion for the profession and an understanding that if you worked hard and well a partnership was within your grasp.

I started early and worked late. I wanted to make myself as indispensable as possible. But it came at a cost. After one 14-day spell without seeing my children, I heard my daughter saying dispassionately to her mother one night: “Daddy’s back.”

This sacrifice of personal life to career is not, I feel, reflected in the people who are coming through the profession today and, with the wisdom of the years, I have to say that this is a very good thing. DM Hall employs individuals, not numbers.

What else has changed? Well, technology, out of all recognition – though the firm was always in the forefront of technological advance.

We were the first to equip our surveyors with two-way radios. Unfortunately, in Lanarkshire we shared a waveband with a taxi firm and in Glasgow we were on the same band as a scrap merchant. It was endlessly entertaining listening to their lorry drivers being roasted by the office for a staggering variety of misdemeanours. Whatever happened to their driver Swifty?

We graduated to mobile phones, which were like bricks, to make ourselves more accessible to the client base. Now, of course, we are totally interconnected and available to offer advice in real time 24 hours a day.

What will come next? Well, I have a notion for jet packs for surveyors, a la James Bond, so that they can swoop down to a property to be valued and whizz back to the office typing a report on the way. The skies won’t be safe.

Seriously, though, over the decades, my personal high points have centred on my family and the career progression I have made with the firm. Partnership comes with recognition of worth, but it also needs luck, opportunity and timing.

I am proud of bringing our charity partners aboard and seeing so many people within the firm devote time, effort and money to something outside their own lives. I have jumped out of a plane, kilt walked and bungee jumped for charity. (They told me it was team-building).

We have become more informal, shedding the suits and enjoying dress down days. Our modernisation and rebranding have taken us firmly into the 21st century.

But some things don’t change. A house remains a house and a flat remains a flat and it takes the expert eye of a trained surveyor to see the devil in the detail.

Our ethics also remain the same and the high standard of our professional practice will always be fundamental. Deo volente, that will never change.

Eric Curran is managing partner of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors, based in the firm’s Glasgow North office.

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A warning to people selling their homes to beware of internet-based scams offering cut-price Home Reports has been sounded by Eric Curran, managing partner of DM Hall, one of Scotland’s largest independent firms of chartered surveyors.

Home Reports are required by law by anyone selling their home in Scotland. The price of a Home Report, which should be prepared by an established and reputable firm of chartered surveyors, starts at around £300 plus VAT. Its purpose is to provide potential purchasers with all the relevant information they need if they are thinking about making an offer on a property. They are heavily relied upon also by prospective lenders on the property.

But a number of recent instances in Scotland have come to light where scammers, impersonating reputable firms of chartered surveyors, including DM Hall, have been offering unsuspecting home sellers cut-rate Home Reports over Facebook and other social media platforms.

Mr Curran, who is also chair of the Residential Property Committee of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, (RICS) said: “Scammers have been exposed recently for doctoring Home Reports which may have been carried out some years ago and are in the public domain, by re-dating them and passing them off as the recent work of established firms of chartered surveyors such as ourselves.

“They use our name and those of other reputable firms because they recognise that as panel surveyors are preferred by leading lenders, our professional opinion is highly-rated and forms the basis of their lending decisions.

“But when it comes to light that the Home Report is question is fake, lenders will immediately withdraw their offer of finance and the planned sale will collapse, causing serious irritation to everyone concerned and the house seller will be left out of pocket.”

Mr Curran warns anyone selling their house to look out for the tell-tale signs that they are being ensnared in a Home Report scam.

“First, they will offer their “services” on social media at a price which is more than half the going rate and, second, will demand to be paid in cash. Wise homeowners should have nothing whatever to do with them and should report them to the police.

“Alternatively they should seek the guidance and advice of a firm whose members are regulated by the code of conduct of the RICS.”

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DM Hall saw an increase in both turnover and profits in the year to December 2017 which sets the scene for significant growth.

Eric Curran, managing partner of DM Hall, said: “In 2017 we saw significant investment in the future: in our IT capability, a series of office re-locations to modernised premises and, as ever, the recruitment of new, young graduate surveyor talent to our ranks. We are witnessing also satisfactory and highly encouraging returns from our investment in non-core activities including property searches.”

The Annual Report records that “economic fundamentals in 2017 were similar to those in the previous year hence the trading conditions experienced, and the financial results produced by the firm are very much in line with 2016.

“The firm, however enjoyed an increase in the volume of Home Reports instructed and this helped to lift turnover 3 per cent above last year’s level. Staff costs increased in the year reflecting the challenges of recruiting and retaining qualified staff as well as the reduction in the number of members. Operating costs have been well controlled and show a year on year reduction.

“The members broadly expect 2017’s trading conditions to continue into 2018. The firm will continue to focus on growing core services while expanding peripheral services and leveraging technology to maximise efficiencies.”

Turnover in the year rose from £14.72m to £15.23m and profit before members’ remuneration and profit share was also up, to £2.52m from £2.46m in the previous year.

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DM Hall has recruited seasoned Building Surveyor, Kevin Reid, who will join the firm’s Aberdeen office as an Associate in early September.

Kevin established his own private practice in 2007 and has serviced a broad range of clients in both Commercial and Domestic or Residential sectors.

He has worked on a variety of instructions / projects for client companies including, Halliburton, First ScotRail, Hammerson, ASCo, as well as a range of smaller local clients including shop owners, engineering works, HMO landlord and a large number of private clients.

Head of DM Hall’s North Commercial department Stuart Johnston said: “We are very pleased to have secured a Building Surveyor of Kevin’s calibre and experience to cover both the Aberdeen and North regions of the country.

“He will be bringing a wide and varied level of experience that we are confident will put DM Hall in a strong position to offer an extensive and professional service in the building consultancy market.”

Kevin said: “I have always admired the professionalism of DM Hall surveyors and I am delighted to find myself now joining their ranks. I hope to contribute significantly to the team’s existing pool of expertise and cannot wait to get started.”

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