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Celebrating 30 years of Browns Estate Agency

1991: The Boro were in the second division, Maggie Thatcher was Prime Minister, the average property price was around £56,000 – and Browns Estate Agency opened its doors.


We’re over the moon to be marking our 30th birthday this June and celebrating with 30 Days of Fun, with gifts for our wonderful customers, clients and social media followers. Find out more about the gifts, and how you can get involved, here.

30 years is quite the milestone, so we thought it would be a great time to take a trip down memory lane with one of our founders, Chris Brown, to find out how Browns Estate Agency and the property market have changed over the past three decades…

Trish Brown opened Browns Estate Agency on June 1st, 1991, having resigned from Black Horse Agencies, with me, her husband Chris, joining a month later after resigning as a Director of the same firm. Three colleagues joined us, making a team of five.

The way we operated back in 1991 was a stark contrast to the technology we have at our fingertips these days – even the internet was still in relatively early stages – making the process of marketing, buying, selling or letting a property much different.

Colour photocopiers were not available, emails were not used by the general public, mobile phones were not yet cheap enough for common use and digital photography was yet to be invented at a cost for common everyday use.

Property portals were also yet to come into existence, with Rightmove launching several years later in 2000 and Zoopla following in 2007. So, how exactly did we showcase the properties we had on offer?

Property particulars – the details used to sell the home – were printed in Black & White, with small mini print photos stuck on by hand.

We sent a roll of film of our properties by courier up to Newcastle every day to be developed, and the colour mini prints were then delivered by the courier next day having been developed overnight.

Clients either came into the offices to pick them up or they went out in the mail that night.

In 1991, nearly all clients only had a landline and those out at work were left a message to ring their agent on their return, which often was the next day. In today’s world very few either have or use a landline, and viewings and offers can be arranged in moments by calling on mobile or sending an email.

Advertising has also had an overhaul in the last 30 years – think about it, if you were searching for a new property, would your first thought still be to check the local paper? But back in 1991 the main form of advertising was in the local press, with often 32 full pages in The Gazette on a Thursday night. Now, agents rarely advertise in the press and use property portals, websites and social media instead.

30 years ago, many of the large chains of estate agents were owned by Banks and Building Societies. However, most closed their chains when they realised that the selling of houses was a ‘Cottage Industry’, run by owners who lived and took an interest in the local community, and had local expertise and knowledge.

In recent years online estate agents have opened without any local offices, and even the largest, who have poured millions into advertising, have only 10 per cent share of the market, indicating that local knowledge is perhaps what the public do appreciate. This expertise is something we know our own customers value, and something we will continue to champion.

Back to the present day, and it’s fair to say digital photography and emails have revolutionised estate agency, together with Property Portals like Rightmove. The flow of information has become instant, making sales and lets much faster to process.

Perhaps the most beneficial change is that purchasers now have the opportunity to view properties online before contacting their estate agent to arrange a viewing or make an offer. The recent introduction of virtual viewings has revolutionised the buying process, particularly for those who may not be local to the area.

The property market has certainly been a rollercoaster ride over the past 30 years, with recessions, the 9/11 New York bombings, and the 2008 American Subprime Mortgage crisis all affecting the housing market. On September 16th, 1992 – a day known as ‘Black Wednesday’ – interest rates rose up to 15 per cent, having risen by 5 per cent alone on days prior. Thankfully, they have now reduced to a historic low.

Who knows what the next 30 years will entail for estate agency and the housing market, but we’re sure there will not be as many changes as have taken place over the last 30!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane, and we look forward to celebrating our 30th birthday with all our clients this month.

Find out more about our birthday month here, and keep an eye out on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to be in with a chance of receiving one of our birthday gifts!

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