Move over Sarah, Brenda’s on the property ladder

STEP aside Sarah Beeney - Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale took a step on the property ladder this week as she discovered what life is like at local Estate Agents McClelland Salter.

Mrs Hale spent the day with the Lisburn company, which is based in Bachelor’s Walk, looking at house sales and rentals from an agent’s point of view, as well as undertaking a valuation on a house.

The visit was organised as part of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust’s (NIABT) Fellowship Programme which offers MLAs a unique opportunity to learn more about the day to day work of organisations in their constituencies and participate in a range of activities from the boardroom to the shop or factory floor.

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Speaking at the start of her day in the world of real estate, Mrs Hale said: “McClelland Salter is a local business who know Lisburn and the local area well. For me, Estate Agents are the litmus test of the economy. They showed the first signs of a dip and they show the first signs of recovery.

“It must be difficult to tell a home owner their house is no longer worth what they thought it was, and that they have negative equity. I sold a house during the dip in the market so it went on the market at a lower value, which was a bitter pill to swallow. You think you have equity on your house and instead you are moving on at a lower price. The boom and bust has been a tough lesson but hopefully we have learnt from it.

“I want to see if there are the first shoots of recovery in the market, including the rental market, how the recession has affected the staffing levels and how they have steered through it. There are lots of lessons for me to learn; I’m really looking forward to it.

“I think as a nation we have a ferocious appetite for all things home with shows like the House of the Year Northern Ireland and Location, Location, Location. It will be really interesting, they may have to kick me out at the end of the day.”

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The Fellowship Programme involves a number of industries, including construction, which Mrs Hale is keen to try next as a way of examining the housing market from all angles.

“A lot of the people who come to me for help have housing issues and this is helping me to understand how I can help them. A basic need for people is a roof - a safe roof - over their head.”

Welcoming Mrs Hale to McClelland Salter was Tom McClelland. He said: “We are members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust which sees MLAs come into a business to shadow what that business does, how it does it. Certainly, I think this is very beneficial for both big businesses and SMEs to get the opportunity to meet MLAs and understand the issues affecting them and the pressures they are under and equally, they can understand the issues and pressures affecting businesses.”

Mr McClelland said that the property ‘bubble’, which saw house prices go through the roof before the recession hit was an anomaly which is slowly working itself out.

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“We knew it wasn’t sustainable,” he said. “We didn’t realise that many banks were over extended and about to go bust. We had to restructure our staff numbers and our business. We increased borrowing to keep staff, but in 2008 it was clear there wasn’t the same amount of work around and we lost staff.”

Since then, however, McClelland Salter have changed their focus and invested in IT, something which is seeing rewards now.

Mr McClelland added: “Property has to be affordable, whether owner/occupier or rental, it is a good thing for society that people can afford decent housing.”

The Fellowship Programme is open and available to all MLAs and participating members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust. Local Businesses who wish to find out more about the programme and benefits of membership can visit the NIABT website at

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