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A Golden era

John Bray and Partners celebrates 50 years of north coast property sales.

You’ll need to turn the clock back five decades for the beginnings of this story. As local postmaster and postman, John Bray was a trusted keyholder for a number of local properties. A familiar face around Rock, John subsequently set up a holiday letting business that expanded into an estate agency and the rest, as they say, is history. The excellent customer service that was the cornerstone of its inception in 1971, remains at the heart of the business today. The original holiday letting arm has recently separated from the estate agency; in an ever-changing market, it was time to pass this on to the next custodian. Now under the wider Sykes umbrella, John Bray Cornish Holidays is benefitting from a powerful, national booking platform while maintaining the same service, faces and local expertise at its offices in Rock and Port Isaac.

As of 2019, John Bray and Partners Estate Agents LLP is now owned by Josephine Ashby and Alex Roads, with Alex heading up the formal RICS valuations for the company. Jo, as Managing Partner, runs the agency day-to-day and explains that their core market is: “Rock, Daymer Bay, Polzeath and Port Isaac. However, as a client and market-led agency, we are moving further afield. This last year has seen us complete on properties on the south coast, in Seaton and Fowey, as well as stretching along the north coast to Boscastle, Trebarwith, Perranporth and Pentire Head. With huge demand for the wonderful beaches in north Cornwall we find ourselves being drawn further afield. The Seven Bays are in high demand with their abundance of coastal properties with beach access, all within easy reach of Newquay airport – and because of this we find ourselves growing organically into these other areas.”

Cassell Tarring

North Cornwall is a vast natural playground. With its combination of stunning beaches, scenic coastal paths and superior golf courses, the team at John Bray are in no doubt that they are very lucky to be at the heart of this. Jo continues: “It’s because we live here ourselves that we understand why people really want to come here; we are finding that many more owners are looking to relocate. Particularly now with the pandemic, people are spending more time, if not full time, here in Cornwall.” Despite being a holiday destination, the area maintains a vibrant community, particularly noticeable during the recent lockdowns, with everybody pulling together. Community volunteer groups were quickly set up to help elderly residents or those who were shielding, contacting everyone in the two parishes, and really proving that north Cornwall is a very nurturing place to live. Being a part of this for so many decades, it’s always been important for John Bray and Partners to play an active part in its community whether that be through charity donations or working closely with other local businesses.

Celebrating 50 years of success in a year when the world has been turned on its head has had its challenges but also many rewards. Marketing and Operations Manager, Shireen Cunliffe comments: “During the first lockdown when it first went quiet, there was an eerie silence, with no-one knowing what was about to happen. In fact, it became an incredible opportunity for us to showcase the north coast to the rest of the UK. By adopting video viewings, we found we could show properties when nothing else was moving and our area began to grow shoots of life again. Once restrictions were lifted, it was just like lighting a touch paper, and it has just gone and gone…it’s been exhilarating!

“There is no doubt that the focus for buyers wanting to secure their piece of north Cornwall is phenomenal. Despite media statements that there is a shortage of properties, we are getting a steady flow of new instructions, stock is coming, do not despair! But our message to buyers is very clear; be swift, be focused, be prepared…and of course be ready to compromise. When properties in an area are so sought after, there always has to be some flexibility in expectations.”

Pandemic-times have meant that John Bray and Partners has had to be adaptable and agile in order to prepare the ground for the next 50 years. Technology has been so important to the team, particularly when it comes to communication as buyers are messaging via multiple channels, whether that be email, text, WhatsApp, Instagram, Zoom and virtual viewings/video tours are here to stay. “As a company we were particularly strict about adhering to lockdown rules, using all the tools available to us to keep both buyers and our community safe,” affirms Shireen.

“As a result,” explains Jo, “pre-qualification has never been better. You now know who your buyer is, whether they’ve got the funds, what the timings are, and all of this is done in advance – and it’s acceptable to do that now. Previously, it would have felt massively intrusive to ask what we ask now in advance. Covid has reshaped the format of how estate agencies work, and this will never change.”

Looking to the future for John Bray and Partners, the message is one of nimble efficiency. 2020 was an exciting year despite everything and for 2021 and beyond, market-led, organic growth will be the agency’s direction: “Our buyer base has really grown. We now have even more people actively looking, with a significant volume of our instructions selling off-market, demonstrating the seriousness of the active buyer database we hold. That’s a sign of a strong market, when you’re able to pair your buyers with sellers. The pandemic has generated a lot of new interest, especially for those that have always loved north Cornwall, but haven’t necessarily thought so seriously about relocating. Remote working as a norm has made this much more achievable, and when you can’t travel anywhere else, Cornwall feels like it has become the hub of the universe.”

This is borne out by the arrival of the G7 summit to Carbis Bay as well as numerous television documentaries, selling the Cornish dream. While there is a premium being paid and prices have seen an uplift, Jo says that this shouldn’t perturb buyers. “Yes, it’s pretty buoyant at the moment, but that is also encouraging people who are considering selling, to sell. So, there is movement to the market, there are houses coming on. I believe the market is certainly going to settle; as Europe opens up, it will naturally do so. The market tends to move in steps, so we need to keep our feet on the ground.

“John Bray and Partners may have a half-century legacy, with experience to match, but as a company we see ourselves as 50 years young. The business is very much centred around people; whether that be buyers or sellers, and the John Bray ethos is about treating clients with respect and grace and retaining the relationship. This ethos overarches everything we do and is based on a platform of trust.

“It is time spent talking to people so that everyone understands what’s happening. It’s not about us, it’s about investing time for the benefit of our clients. The last 50 years has given us the experience, we know we’re just a part of the process. We just love this part of Cornwall, and we understand what people want to achieve here because we want that too,” finishes Jo.

For this niche estate agency, relationships and relationship building remains at the very core of what it offers. In a competitive location, the team at John Bray knows that it cannot rest on its laurels and must continue to adapt in a rapidly changing landscape, meeting the demands of both the pandemic and the developing nature of the market, while delivering the best service possible for every single client.


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