The manager of one of Teesside’s biggest estate agents has bought the business – backed by the Boro player acknowledging he helped find a dream home.
Mark Smith has dealt with many thousands of Teessiders buying and selling their homes during his 28 years in the business, 20 of which with Robinson’s Tees Valley.
He’s signed a few nondisclosure agreements over the years, for famous actors and entrepreneurs buying property in the area.
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Mark has helped many footballers settle into Teesside life – and get along with one player in particular.
“The club used to call us and ask us to find accommodation for the players,” says Mark, who was previously director of Robinson’s office in Stockton.
“We helped this player settle in.
“He has become a friend more than anything.
“Being settled off the pitch is huge for a player’s performance on the pitch.
“I kept saying how frustrated I was, I wanted to take over the business, I had the energy to do it.
“He said ‘you helped me when I came to Middlesbrough, I’ll never forget what you did for me – one day I’ll come back and thank you’.
“It was during his time at the club that he fell in love with the area and the people.
“He swore he would not forget the trust, love and support the people of Teesside had shown him and was determined to repay them if the opportunity ever arose.
“I thought he would take us out for a meal or something.
“But it turned out he wanted to help with the business.”
They bought Robinsons from founder George Robinson and the agency will be renamed Smith & Friends over the next 12 months.
“With a name like that, people asked if George Friend was involved,” says Mark, who is a huge MFC fan.
“He has his own real estate business, but he supports us.
“A lot of players have rental portfolios, even though they left the area because they love it so much.”
Robinsons has offices in Middlesbrough, Stockton, Ingleby Barwick, Hartlepool and Darlington.
Mark and the new owner have big plans to change the culture of the company.
“[The owner] knew people had been in their jobs for many years, some for over 20 years,” he said.
“His view was that it should be recognized, celebrated and rewarded.
“He stressed the need for equal pay and wanted everyone to be paid above the minimum wage threshold with the possibility of bonuses; this ensured that if the company made money, everyone everyone would make money.”
“We are changing people’s perception of the traditional real estate agent,” he continued.
“We want to be at the cutting edge. We want to be the best. We want to grow and expand our network of offices. We want to keep improving. We want to do a lot of things.”
So what does Mark’s crystal ball tell us about house prices in Teesside?
“Pardon me with my rose-tinted Teesside specs,” he says, “but Teesside has been underinvested for years.
“A lot of investors from London are buying into the area.
“The spotlight has been shone on Teesside.
“We had the freeport, Rishi Sunak got up and said ‘let’s talk about Teesside’.
“It was the first time I really saw that in my life.
“People who maybe moved 20 years ago want to move back here.
“They found they can work remotely and want to come back for a better lifestyle.
“There is a shortage of stock in the market.
“People are worried about the cost of living
“But the cycle of life continues, babies are born, people move in together, people break up and, unfortunately, die.
“The good thing is that there is a lot of new construction.
“About 900 houses are being built on Yarm Back Lane, there is investment in Middlesbrough, different parts of Yarm, Redcar.
“Ben Houchen said 2022 would be the year of construction.
“There’s a tremendous demand for good quality rental properties, people coming here for a year to work.
“And access to transport is improving.
“Everyone has compared covid to a financial crash,” he adds.
“It wasn’t a financial crash – it was a pandemic.
“A lot of people are looking to remortgage, and I suggest they do it now.
“Prices are going up but it’s still cheap.
“When I started my career in the 90s, interest rates were 14%.
“But the world keeps turning.
“The Teessiders have spirit.”
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