What does your working role involve?
I principally head up the estate agency team at Simpson & Marwick and also advise clients on purchasing larger properties.
In Edinburgh and East Lothian last year we sold 394 properties. In November, we took Simpson & Marwick out of the global law firm Clyde & Co., into which we had merged some years ago, and joined the Moray Group, which now has offices in Edinburgh/North Berwick, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
How did you get started?
I fell into it somewhat by chance. I went to Sheffield University to do business studies and somehow ended up with a law degree.
When I came back to Edinburgh I needed to get qualified in Scottish law and phoned the father of a friend of mine from school days. He said on that call that the apprentice who was due to start in September had phoned up the day before to say that he had accepted another apprenticeship, so I should just come along on 4 September. That was my interview and I am still here.
Having done a year’s “court” apprenticeship, I realised that property was more my thing and since then I have built up the conveyancing and estate agency department over the last 40 years.
What is your typical day like?
It varies dramatically. I am always up early and at my desk by 7am.
Things have obviously been very different over the last year, so I tend to work from home and only go into the office a couple of times a week.
Generally speaking, I am either out pitching for business at properties for the estate agency, or speaking to purchasing clients advising them on offering for properties.
I am now not supposed to be working full-time but over the last few months that has certainly not been the case.
Now that it is spring/summer I will definitely be spending more time on the links.
The best part of the job is definitely phoning clients to tell them: “You’ve got a great price at a closing date!”, or – even better – phoning them to say: “You have managed to buy your new home!”
What was the first property you bought or sold for a client?
I really don’t know as it is now so long ago! When I first started selling properties, we didn’t even have “For Sale” boards and certainly didn’t have photographs. We put a single sheet of foolscap up to the old ESPC shop in George Street and people would walk in and ask for the Edinburgh Central folder or Edinburgh East folder, and flip through properties for sale and make their own notes.
In 1979, we only had electric typewriters and a telex – no fax, word processor, and certainly no mobile phones.
What is your favourite type of property?
Probably the typical Edinburgh Victorian semi-detached or terraced house. They are great family homes and the three-floor ones are ideal once the family have flown the nest and you can just ignore the top floor.
Georgian New Town flats and houses are also – of course –spectacular. We are incredibly fortunate with the quality of housing stock that we have in Edinburgh, compared to virtually any other city in the world.
Where do you live?
My wife, Alisa, and I were fortunate to acquire a lateral drawing room apartment, comprising the drawing room floor of two townhouses, facing south and overlooking gardens, in the heart of the New Town.
It took us more than a year to renovate it and, as we have now effectively done our “downsizing”, we will be here for a good while!
Does your job affect your social life?
I used to work a lot on Saturdays and all day Sunday, but now I manage not to have to do that much.
I do spend a lot of time on the golf course, both at weekends and during the week. I have genuinely acquired a massive amount of business from my golfing connections.
I do nowadays have a rule that I try not to talk about property on the golf course. If I don’t say to my fellow players on the first tee: “Can we please have three hours without talking about property?”, the first question that is asked of me walking down the first fairway is “What is the property market like then?”
Everybody always seems to want to talk about property, wherever you are.
How is the market in 2021?
The last few months have just been incredible. One gets the impression that a lot of people actually have more money in their pockets to spend, and have realised that they can live more cheaply than they used to.
Because mortgage rates are so low, they can borrow much more and still live the same lifestyle.
That factor, along with the desire of many people to have their own private outside space and perhaps an extra bedroom so that they can work from home, has certainly fuelled the market.
The Edinburgh and East Lothian markets have had the most extraordinary run which doesn’t seem to be losing any momentum at the moment.
Born and raised: Edinburgh
Education: Edinburgh Academy, Sheffield University and the College of Law in Guildford.
Family: Married to Ailsa, a retired gynaecologist. Three children – Charlie, who is a lawyer in London, Jo, a doctor in Edinburgh, and Alice, who is studying architecture in the Capital.
First job: Coaching squash at Colinton Castle Sports Club, and then working a shift at its bar in the evenings.
First home: A flat in Comely Bank Street bought in 1979 for the princely sum of £17,500. Richard believes it would probably be worth about £300,000 now.
Plans for retirement: “The plan is that there is no plan. I will certainly go on for a good few years yet.
“Ailsa and I travel a lot, we are looking forward to the world opening up again, along with a combination of carrying on with work – often remotely while travelling – and, of course, more golf.”
Personal motto: “One should always remember that there were people on the Titanic who had declined the sweet trolley!”
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