Confessions of a valuer, chapter 3: Strawberries at twenty paces – The Property Chronicle
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Confessions of a valuer, chapter 3: Strawberries at twenty paces

The Guest Essay

In this very special series of exclusive articles for the Property Chronicle, Australian property legend Norman Harker reflects on his extraordinary 50-year life in real estate. He will pull no punches partly because, as he freely admits, Norman has a limited life expectancy of five years from December 2018 due to a diagnosed terminal blood cancer, which he has cheerfully accepted in preference to (in his words) “kicking the bucket without notice”. We are honoured he has chosen us to publish these brilliant, funny and incisive reflections of a lifetime in property.

Chapter 3: Strawberries at twenty paces, conducting buses, and qualifying as a chartered chappie

At seven, after getting a few pennies of pocket money, I felt like a millionaire.

A local strawberry grower paid by weight picked; just seven miles away, it was an easy ride in May with my brothers. Backbreaking work – but for 100lb at 4d per lb in ‘old’ money, it was well worth it! Even though one particular brother and I got split up after playing ‘mushy strawberries at twenty paces’.

In the seaside town we lived near, there were always jobs for a willing seven-year-old and upwards. Peeling potatoes, washing dishes, clearing tables. Close to slave labour rates, maybe, but it was my money. What’s more, I always got enjoyment out of the job, and I worked hard. It was a small town, so if a worker worked hard, then word got around – the same as within the valuation profession.

Child labour? But only a holiday job for me

I learned a lot: mushy strawberries at twenty paces can be messy; potato peeling is an art form; peel onions under water and don’t wipe your eyes; work well and they get you to do more, pay you more, and want you back.

The Guest Essay

About Norman Harker

Norman Harker

Norman Harker FRICS FAPI, the Principal of Sydney-based consultant Norman Harker & Associates, is a specialist Excel property consultant, with expertise in developing, validating, and securing the robustness of Excel DCF and CF analyses for analysing transactions, valuations, investment analysis and feasibility studies. He was an elected New South Wales divisional board member of the Australian Property Institute in 2013-2015 and for many years was a senior lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, where he specialised in developing applications for the use of practising valuers; before that he lectured at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. He began his career at Conrad Ritblat & Co in London, where he rose from trainee valuer to associate partner. He was diagnosed with incurable multiple myeloma in 2018 and given a life expectancy of five years, and also suffers from an incurable and often inappropriate sense of humour.

Articles by Norman Harker

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