Confessions of a valuer, chapter 8: a matter of chance – The Property Chronicle
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Confessions of a valuer, chapter 8: a matter of chance

Investor's Notebook

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 8: A matter of chance – striking lucky

I had started my career at the bottom of the pile – although I was generally a pile in the bottom. ‘They’ say you make your own luck. I wish I knew who ‘They’ are, because in my case it was pure luck that saw me in the right place at the right time under the right people.

For the cricketers pictured above – that wasn’t a matter of luck: England were bound to lose because a) it was Bradman and b) Gubby was short-sighted, wore black shoes, wore his belt too tight, and parted his hair funny.

But to return to my surveying career…

At the top of the pyramid at the British Land Company was the charismatic John Ritblat (JHR). He had somehow managed to pass the exams to become a chartered chappie but had promptly forgotten, as useless to him, most of what he had been required to learn. His abilities were not in the chartered chappies syllabub.

His personal syllabub was:
1. Engineering ‘sale and fleeceback’ transactions (we called them ‘fleecebacks because rent was above rents on open market lettings);
2. Novel (at the time) company transactions including a reverse takeover that led to the acquisition and control of the British Land Company;
3. Selecting and motivating the key people in the organisation.

Our leader’s syllabub:

… which was made up of sale and fleeceback transactions…

Investor's Notebook

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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