Cold war bunkers and public toilets - they've all been sold by growing Doncaster firm

Cold war nuclear bunker? Public toilet? Old church?

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 9:26 am

Barnsdales’ Doncaster auctioneer James Vandenbrook has sold them all!

They have been among the properties that he has worked with since he joined the expanding firm.

A few years ago, Barnsdales were a Doncaster town centre estate agents employing a dozen people. But after a programme of diversification, the firm now employs over 50 people at locations across the UK, in a whole range of property related services, including auctions. Of those staff, 24 work in Doncaster.

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Clive Chippindale, Managing Director, Barnsdales FM, Head of Facilities management, James Vandenbrook, Associate Auction Manager and Jason Barnsdale, Managing Director, pictured with other team members. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-08-10-19-Barnsdales-2

The expansion has come since Jason Barnsdale became the fourth generation of this family to run the business, which was first set up in 1905.

Jason took the helm in 2007, having previously worked as a quantity surveyor in London.

Since then, the firm has bought up a series of businesses and moved into a large out of town office at Sidings Court, near Doncaster Lakeside.

Acquisitions have included a number of property management firms, and a chartered surveyors business.

Jacqueline Thompson, property manager, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-08-10-19-Barnsdales-6

They now also do facilities management work, and are responsible for running 29 large blocks of flats across the UK, from Cornwall to Bolton, making sure they are nice places to live. They are often working for residents management companies who appoint them.

Mr Barndale said: “I think the biggest change has been in facilities management to facilities maintenance. We’ve expanded into the charity sector to provide an in-house team on site to deal with planned and reactive maintenance.”

There are still plans for further expansion. The company is in talks with another firm that could add around 700 more tenants to its current portfolio, which would add to the four acquisitions it has made in the last 18 months.

It would take the number of units they manage to around 3,000.

Jason took over the reins from his own father, Malcolm, in November 2007, with his dad retiring the following month. Prior to that he had worked in London for 15 years.

He said: “Since then, we’ve re-branded and moved offices, and pretty much the whole staff have changed over that period. We’ve opened offices in Sheffield and Greater Manchester – we’ve expanded massively over that period.

“We have moved from being a local business in Doncaster to being a national business, through organic growth and acquisitions.”

Growth has been fast. In 2015-16, the firm saw its turnover rise seven per cent. Then in 2016-17 it grew 37 per cent. The following two years have seen growth of 30 and 32 per cent respectively.

The average fees that the firm receives have also risen, as it takes on bigger and more complicated work.

They also value around 350 properties a year for loan security purposes for banks.

Jason said: “About 12 years ago we would have been described as an estate agent. Now we’re chartered surveyors, property consultants, facility management and auctioneers.

“We used to be four partners and lots of support staff. Now we have a flatter structure with lots of directors and associate directors with their own profit and loss accounts, and go out and run those sections of the business as a team.”

James Vandenbrook, who heads to auctions section, carries out sales at the Keepmoat Stadium.

He feels he has seen pretty much every type of property during his time at Barnsdales.

“We've sold public toilets, and we’ve sold a nuclear bunker,” he said: “The bunker went for £35,000.”

The company has also valued all sorts of assets. In addition to regular houses, it has put prices on lakes, golf courses and world heritage sites.

“In terms of next year, I expect it will be a year of consolidation in 2020,” said Jason. “I think we will also try to expand our block management. We have some big blocks, and in Doncaster we run blocks of flats including Warmsworth Mews and the Old Boat Yard in Thorne.”

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