PLACES & FACES | Feb 2014

It’s A Family Affair

Larkes Estate Agency celebrates 22 years in the business with new premises in Great Yarmouth. Sarah Hardy reports

Larkes Estate Agents, one of the longest established estate agencies in the Great Yarmouth area, has contemporary new offices – in one of the town’s most historic quarters.

The family business has just taken possession of their new premises from the Developer Breitling Homes. The property is situated on Hall Quay, near to the Town Hall and facing the River Yare, it is a charming spot, where buildings reflect and remind us of the town’s noble past.

As Edward Larke, the son of company founders, Stephen and Barbara, explains: ‘Our building is very much part of the Towns History, it formed part of the main Post Office. The arch provided access for postal deliveries and collections from the rear yard.

The company’s new office, albeit it inside an ornate 18th century building with decorative carving, is highly contemporary and very much fit for purpose, Edward adds ‘The developer Breitling Homes were very successful in retaining as much of the original building and its features as possible, making the most of the light and views over the quay. We had a great deal of input and together we’ve been able to create a fantastic working environment.’

Indeed the building has been designed especially for the company’s requirements resulting in an impressive and inviting space, with masses of natural light from the large floor to ceiling windows.

‘A new mezzanine was built to create more space,’ says Edward, adding: ‘the arch at the rear of the building has also been retained, which gives us a dual aspect and really adds to the building's character.’

The open plan office has a modern Scandinavian feel with light elm flooring, black ash desks and a collection of mid-century furnishings. It is a bright and welcoming place, perfect to sit and chat, maybe looking over property details and seeking advice from the experts.

The first floor, with views out over the river, sees more office space, with administration staff enjoying very charming surroundings!

The partnership has also invested in rebranding, a new website and upgraded estate agency software. ‘With the relocation, we’ve taken the opportunity to refresh the business, the market is showing great signs of growth and we wanted to reflect this positivity by investing back into the company.’ Explains Barbara

Stephen commenced trading under the family name in 1992, after seeing an opportunity to open his own business as the property market started to show signs of recovery from the late 1980’s property slump. ‘It was a big decision at the time, but we’ve been fortunate enough to go from strength to strength ever since’ says Stephen.

The business was opened with solely residential sales, then, a couple of years later Barbara joined the team, looking after rentals, and finally, their son, Edward, a chartered surveyor, joined the firm last year to offer commercial property services to both new and existing clients.

‘We can now cover the entire market, from selling people’s homes to finding someone a good letting option to securing and disposing business premises for clients,’ Edward says.

Being an independent family run company, it specialises in offering a personal, caring service. As Stephen says: ‘With so much experience between <us> we have seen most situations so nothing comes as a surprise. We can really take the pressure off, making sure that people’s moves are as painless as possible’

Edward adds: ‘As we are a family firm, we don’t have a corporate outlook, rather we treat people as individuals and can tailor our services to suit their exact requirements.’

The move comes as the region’s property market shows real signs of improvement, in both sales and rentals. Barbara comments: ‘Our rental market is doing very well. Tenants do now expect a certain standard and those landlords who have been willing to reinvest in their properties have seen good returns by attracting quality tenants and reduced vacancy periods.’

And Stephen says: ‘Properties are coming on to our books all the time – and they are selling at a much quicker rate. Obviously, initiatives such as the government’s Help to Buy scheme are assisting first-time buyers back into the marketplace.’

Edward adds: ‘Yes my father has a tremendous amount of local knowledge - there cannot be many addresses where he hasn’t completed an appraisal nearby – and, of course, there are many properties that he’s sold several times over!’

He says the company specialises in the Great Yarmouth area and can provide advice on any type of property within a 20-mile radius of the Town.