Berriman Eaton Editorial – Wolverhampton West Magazine

Looking through some old sale particulars the other day which dated from the 1890s I realised how much things had changed over the years and thought it might be of interest to trace some of the developments.

Towards the end of the 19th century printed particulars measured approx 18ins x 12ins and the ones in our archives were printed by Steens in the Old Grammar School Buildings. They included large fold out coloured plans. The auctioneers were T J Barnett who were one of the forerunners of Walker, Barnett and Hill and in one set they proudly announced that during the year they had held monthly auctions, with multiple lots in each, together with several individual sales and the total sales amounted to £100,000.  How things have changed.

Some particulars of sales of local estates such as Wergs Hall and Wrottesley Hall in the early part of the 20th century were works of art with beautifully coloured plans and oval sepia photographs which faded off to the edges.The amount of time taken to produce such publications must have been considerable.

By the 1950’s standard sale particulars were typewritten on skins and duplicated by Gestetner machines which were good at putting ink everywhere except where it should have been! Auction details at the time were properly printed but photographs were not used. This, and for the next 25 years , was the time when auction was the way to obtain the best price for properties which were expected to create demand and Walker, Barnett and Hill continued to hold sales monthly. This was also the time when auctions of house contents were held on the premises and there were many superb country house sales where the next generation did not want to keep the fine period furniture, porcelain, silver and pictures which their parents had collected. The younger generation then preferred “G plan” which many have lived to regret!

Gradually presentation developed with stick-on black and white photos being introduced followed by printed photos with colour photos eventually appearing in the 1970s. By 1980 laminated brochures with a photographic front cover and full descriptions were in vogue. Floor plans were introduced during the 1990s and eventually photos and plans became more important than detailed descriptions of the interior. Printing, photography and the necessary technology have all advanced and today’s sale particulars have reached a high standard.

I have been taken to task by another agent in another publication for giving too optimistic reports on the state of the market. I take the view that when reporting to the public it is essential to be accurate and honest in my appraisal. Of course, I can only report on the experiences of my own firm and it is possible that other firms have different results. This year January was bad news due to the extended snow and ice which is not conducive to selling houses but February and March exceeded our expectations. April was not so good but the target for our Tettenhall office was to agree, on average, one sale per weekly working day during February, March and April. This was achieved and whilst not a record it certainly seems to be better than the experiences of my critic! I was also held to task for stating that the long term trend in house prices was upwards. Of course there are ups and downs but if we remember that the three bedroom semi was worth £2,000 fifty years ago and is now worth approximately £200,000, I think that the case is made.
The market is not good, May is fair although a little disappointing but I still maintain that reports of the death of the property market have been exaggerated. It needs some nursing but there is still some life there.