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A review of local estate agents and developers
And what some get up to
A changed village

                                                                                                                                                                                                              From a loved place to live to an investors dream and a locals nightmare.

It may seem an odd subject to highlight on a website promoting the attractions of Brancaster and Staithe, but over the last ten years the village has changed so much, and not in a good way.

The biggest change is how property developers have moved in buying up every scrap of land that local people once thought would never be built on.

In one instance of sheer opulence, a lovely million-pound house in this village was demolished in order to give the houses on either side a bigger garden.

New houses are crammed onto land and marketed at ridiculously high prices only affordable for wealthy investors and second-home buyers, and mostly unaffordable to local people and probably to most native Norfolk people in the entire county.  The irony is most of these properties remain empty for most of the year and some are unoccupied throughout the entire year.  Very few are occupied by residents.  Because of this, the local school is not always able to fill the places, risking closure.

Almost everybody in the villages knows who the very prominent developer is, and also the prominent estate agent who promotes these expensive properties to far-flung investors at the demise of the locals.  An example of how the Burnham office staff promoted a developer from Northampton above a local will be demonstrated later in this review.  There have been whispers and murmurs of discontent with the way Sowerby have assisted in the way the villages have changed and were even mentioned briefly in a derogatory manner during a parish council Zoom meeting during lockdown viewed by 50 participants.  Of course, none of the directors of the developer or estate agents lives in the village, so do they really care.

Estate Agents

Back in the nineties, two or three estate agents dominated in the area, and uncompetitive commission rates were the order.  In 1996 a new boy on the block appeared.  Max Sowerby opened his first office in Burnham Market.  His parents had previously owned a bungalow in Dale End Brancaster Staithe, and consequently, he was regarded as a local boy, as a result many people were delighted to see him succeed. The new competitive commission rates were applauded and he was much admired then.

But that was then and this is now.  As success increased things changed, more offices opened and competitors found it harder to compete.  As time went by and opposition was reduced, Sowerby's commission rates began slowly to rise and today rates are among the highest.  A recent valuation (early 2021) from two estate agents for the same property revealed Sowerby's rates during the valuation at 1.34% for locals and surprisingly and unethically, discriminatingly higher rate if the seller was a second homeowner.  Abbots (estate agents) rate on the other hand was 1%, so a £1,000 difference in commission on a £400,000 property.

What they get up to in order to secure a sale

This is an account of the sale of a bungalow in Brancaster Staithe.  Back in 2018, an elderly couple wanted to move from their house to a bungalow to avoid having to use stairs as they grew older.  A suitable property was known to be coming up for sale so the seniors contacted the vendor to express their interest.  The vendor said he would give the seniors the first option to buy the bungalow.  It was two years later that the vendor was ready to sell.  During this time the seniors prepared their finances to enable them to be cash buyers when the time came.  They also asked Sowerbys to do a valuation on their own house although they didn't need to sell it at that time.  The Burnham market office manager visited the senior's house for the valuation, during which time he asked the seniors if they were moving away, and he was told "no" just around the corner.  Was it the case that he was unable to put two and two together, or was he more interested in helping the developer rather than the local seniors?
The vendor contacted Sowerbys and asked them for a valuation ONLY.  The seniors expected the valuation to be around £440,000, but to their great surprise, Sowerby valued the property at £375,000, but "hey ho" they had a client who would pay above the valuation, hence the vendor told the seniors he was going to ask £400,000. 

The seniors told the vendor they would pay that and more if necessary.  The vendor then contacted Sowerbs and informed them that somebody local (the seniors) were also interested in buying the property and had arranged a viewing for them at 10 am.  Hearing this Sowerbys promptly rushed to turn up at the bungalow at 9-50am and asked the vendor to delay the senior's appointment by an hour in order to further promote their client above the local seniors.  (Sowerbys didn't deny this was true)

The vendor suggested that it should go to a sealed bid which the seniors agreed to, but the client didn't want to take that route as his two previous offers of £500,000 in the area had been unsuccessful.  (Sowerbys didn't deny this was true.)

The vendor was then told by Sowerbys that their client would make an offer for the bungalow which would blow the seniors out of the water and insinuated this offer would be in the region of £500,000. (Sowerbys didn't deny this happened).

The vendor told the senior that Sowerbys said their client was from Fakenham, had a wife and three children and was looking for somewhere on the coast as a residence.  The truth was the client was actually a developer from Northampton looking for a second home to develop.  Sowerbys say that the vendor knew the facts about their client from the beginning.  So who was lying, was it Sowerbys, the vendor or the seniors.  The seniors are adamant this was what they were told by the vendor at the time, and what reason would the vendor have to lie.

Sowerbys immediately arranged a meeting on behalf of their client with the vendor.  At that meeting, the vendor agreed to sell to the client for an amount undisclosed to the seniors but known to Sowerbys, hence the seniors were unable to counterbid.  Sowerbys said the property was sold privately so how do Sowerby get paid for the great effort put in on behalf of the developer.

It is a  mystery how Sowerbys persuaded the vendor to break his word to the seniors and sell to the developer.

The seniors wrote a letter of complaint to Max Sowerby with regard to what they considered to be the immoral and unethical manner in which the Burnham Market team had conducted themselves when promoting the developer from Northampton ahead of the local seniors, using their professional persuasive experience.

To be fair to Mr Sowerby, he did personally telephone the seniors to tell his account of the sale.  He did say that it was quite normal for an estate agent to represent a buyer, and was sorry the seniors were unhappy with the outcome.  There was no apology however for the way Sowerbys Burnham Office conducted the sale and he said it was entirely ethical.  Sowerby said it was entirely up to the vendor to sell to whom he wished. That is true but the vendor broke his word made two years before, which resulted in a financial loss to the seniors.

It is said there are two sides to every story.  If any person or estate agent disputes the account of the seniors, will be happy to receive their comments and publish them with the rest of this account.

          The Bungalow soon after the developer bought it.  Planning already in for large extension.

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