A refusal to bury his head in the sand has meant that Keith Pattinson has seen his estate agency survive three recessions and come out on top as the biggest independent in the region. Ruth Lognonne met him.
BY his own admission, Keith Pattinson wasn’t very brilliant at school. He was young for his school year (a disadvantage of being born in August) and failed his A-levels as well as the final year of his degree.
However, Pattinson had a competitive edge which was honed through his love of rugby and decided that a job as a chartered surveyor was what he wanted after seeing a neighbour with the same vocation rev past him in a Lotus Elise sports car.
The young entrepreneur qualified in his field and moved to Leeds to work for a London-based chartered surveyors. It was here that he met his wife, Valerie, who hailed from Durham.
When she was offered a teaching position in her home county at Stanley, the couple moved to the North East where Pattinson took a job with a local agent.
However, his ambitions began to get the better of him and it wasn’t long before he decided to go it alone.
“The company I was working for at the time was not client-oriented so I wanted to move on,” he says.
“I saw an advert for a big city centre showroom for sale at Ridley Place, in Newcastle.
“I started out with three others and although we were focused and knew what we were doing, I had a very different lifestyle to what I enjoy now.
“I drove around in a Hillman Hunter which cost £100 and quickly adopted the culture of working hard and being innovative.”
Pattinson’s first major innovation was in 1977 when estate agents were typically charging sellers £25 for their opinion of the property’s value.
Pattinson decided to offer free valuation and marketing advice. However, this novel idea was not so well received by other estate agents across the region.
Pattinson says: “All the agents thought I would go bust as they collected reasonable amounts, charging for advertising, boards and photos.
“But we grew our customer-base substantially and sold more properties as a result. People soon cottoned on to our success.
“We grew and I took on more staff, opening our first branch in Prudhoe, Northumberland. We made no profit in the first year and my wife’s salary kept us going.
“Each year we reinvested in the business and I took very little money from it, until we became more secure and then my wife and I started a family.”