Dave Robson talks to the leading Tees commercial property agents who can see only bright times ahead as restrictions end…
Get ready for boom time! That’s the confident prediction of a Teesside commercial property agents which has emerged in good shape from a difficult 12 months for many.
Since 2007, Parker Barras has established itself as a flexible, responsive and reliable presence in the commercial property sales, lettings and development field.
And director John Taylor, who founded the business, says it’s ready to respond to whatever the post-lockdown economy brings.
He said: “At the start of the pandemic there was massive uncertainty but demand remained relatively strong. And as we got further into last year, demand increased.
“So there’s already a high demand for industrial units and land. But now, with things like the freeport and the Teesworks redevelopment on the steelworks site, I think it’s going to be boom time for Teesside over the next five years and we’re well placed to be a part of it.”
Dad-of-three John believes that once the country “opens up” post-lockdown, there’ll be a lot of movement in the property market.
He said: “Sadly, some businesses won’t make it through, so vacant properties will come up, either to be purchased or let – I just think there will be a mass of activity.
“But the announcement of the freeport, the Treasury jobs coming to Darlington and the additional investments local councils are making, with strong initiatives to rejuvenate town centres, creates positivity, which will lead to more private investment.
“We’ve already had several enquiries on the back of the freeport as people wanting industrial space look to relocate here. For example, we’ve been dealing with a major garden furniture firm which is looking to relocate, set up a distribution base in the North-East and bring goods in via the port.
“It’s very encouraging that so early on, we’re seeing inquiries of that type.”
Parker Barras prides itself on a strong work ethic, which John feels can be traced back to his days at Acklam Grange School in Middlesbrough.
He said: “When I was 14, I worked in pizza shops for guys predominantly from Iraq and Iran. One of them used to buy properties and because his English wasn’t great, I used to help him.
“By the age of 16, and helped by my dad, I was already building up a sizeable portfolio. Then when I was 17, I opened up a pizza shop – Romano’s on Roman Road in Middlesbrough.
“My friends were always going out on the weekends but I was working all the time. The work ethic was instilled into me from an early age.”
Six years after launching Parker Barras, John won awards in 2014 and 2015 for being the most active dealmaker in the North-East.
“I’d get approached by businesses on Teesside who wanted me to help them with their commercial properties, so we went on the acquisition trail on their behalf.
“We’d handle the whole thing – we’d source and secure the property, we’d go to the client and say, ‘We’ve got this property here’, we’d liaise with the solicitor and we’d work on the exit strategy… basically, we’d do the donkey work and the client could sit back.”
Experts in sales and lettings of all types of commercial property, including industrial, retail, hospitality and office space, Parker Barras also offers business rate and licensing advice.
John explained: “Recently a client applied for a licence for a pub in Stockton and was refused, but we took over the application and got it passed successfully. We can also advise and help struggling social clubs to survive and thrive.”
And his optimism for Parker Barras for 2021 seems well-founded, with the commercial property market “thriving” – a look at the firm’s website shows the range of sales and lettings on the books – and several exciting projects under way.
John explained: “We’ve just acquired three buildings in the last month totalling more than 140,000 sq ft of office space.
“We’ve also dealt with a new industrial estate in Lagonda Road, Billingham, on behalf of a client who has built in excess of 23 industrial units and we let over 50 per cent before completion.
“And in Middlesbrough, the council has a great vision for the Middlehaven area and the town centre.
“But we already have involvement, with one of our clients having Centre North East, the tallest building in Middlesbrough, and we’re working on plans for that.”
Since 2015, “home” for Parker Barras has been the quirky Qube building at Middlehaven, giving the seven-strong team easy access to Middlesbrough town centre and the A66.
And if there’s a family “feel” to things it’s not surprising, given that John’s dad David and brother James are both partners in the firm.
John said: “We have very different roles but it’s good because we’ve all got our own strengths and can collaborate really well on a project and push it through
“And when we’re acting for a client, we have a very personal approach. We look at it as if it was our project and it’s our money we’re spending or investing.
“That personal, proactive approach enables us to act efficiently on the sale and letting of all types of commercial property, as well as advising and assisting in development acquisitions, investment portfolios, planning and licensing issues.”
With head of operations Paul Richardson bringing a wealth of experience to the table, there’s an increasing focus on the leisure and hospitality sector. Parker Barras also offers a no-obligation market appraisal service.
John added: “Working proactively and using innovative ideas, our aim is to increase clients’ wealth by increasing revenue and saving money.
“The fact we have long-standing relationships with our clients and the fact they are happy to refer Parker Barras is testimony to the work we do.”