House Doctor Turns Property Professor to Tackle North East’s Thousands of Empty Homes

A Country Durham House Doctor has launched her own training academy for budding property developers to help bring the region’s thousands of empty homes back into use.

There are almost 40,000 vacant properties across the North East. But with a splash of passion and will power they could be happy family homes again, says Violet Harrison.

The experienced interior designer and her team of local tradesmen have already transformed hundreds of rundown properties that were blighting neighbourhoods across the country.

Now Violet is turning “Property Professor” and is training up more people to do the same, while spreading the message that the region’s empty homes should not be written off.

“Thousands of houses are sitting empty and I think it’s tragic,” explains Violet, who runs County Durham business Quick House Sales.

“There may be cosmetic details to correct, or the property may need a major update, but the ‘shells’ of these properties are usually good.

“An elderly relative may have died and the family can’t sell the house, or someone may have moved from the area. Occasionally landlords neglect a property and it gets into a state of disrepair.

“An empty home can bring an area down quite quickly; rubbish will be dumped in the garden, windows broken etc., which can be unpleasant for neighbours.

“But even if the house is a wreck, I have a team of guys, and we just blitz the place.”

Despite 1.4 million people on waiting lists for council houses and homelessness rising, there are 218,000 homes in England alone that have been unoccupied for more than six months, according to think tank IPPR North.

Violet, who also helps people stage their homes to help them appeal to buyers, believes reviving empty homes is also a way of boosting the local economy and creating jobs.

“I’ve employed a team of tradesmen to carry out the work. And then there are the supplies that we have to source, so that helps local suppliers.

“But there are so many empty homes I can’t do it all on my own and so I’m offering people the benefit of my years of experience by training them so other people can do the same.

One such trainee is ex Carlisle United footballer, Jason Blackburn (18,) from Hartlepool.

“I’ve always been interested in property development and Violet has taught me how to identify the right buildings for renovation and aspects of financing the building work. In such a short time, I’ve learnt such a lot.”

The property professor is acutely aware of the task ahead of her.

“The Government keeps talking about building all these new homes – but what about the ones we already have?

“With a bit of enthusiasm and passion we can get these homes back into shape and get families moved back in.”

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