Scotland’s Most Innovative Property Developer for over 35 Years

Insider View: Behnam Afshar in conversation with The Scotsman

Group Marketing & Sales Director, Behnam Afshar, was interviewed by Kirsty McLuckie for The Scotsman newspaper’s Lifestyle section recently. Here’s a transcript of the resulting article:

The company was founded by my two older brothers, Ali and Mike Afshar, and together with my third brother Behzad we have been in property development for over 38 years. We are based in Edinburgh at Coates Crescent.

How did you get started? I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran and came to Scotland to go to school. While at university in the 1980s, I worked with Ryden’s Residential. Edinburgh has a variety of accommodation, some good and some not so good. In the mid-1980s there were a lot of traditional Georgian blocks being sold. Some were converted to offices but at the other end, small developers bought large townhouses and converted them to city centre apartments. My love for property started then and it has never wavered.

What is your typical day like? It starts at 7:30am with a short drive to the office. Mornings are mostly dedicated to answering emails and mail. There is not really a typical day. We are all pretty hands-on, visiting sites, dealing with meetings and coordinating efforts to best market our stock to potential clients.

What is the most memorable client or job? I have dealt with almost all our clients over the years at AMA. It is very important to listen to the requirements and match their needs to a property that will be a home. I learnt early on to be empathetic and not at all judgemental!
For me Succoth Heights in Succoth Avenue, Murrayfield, was our best development ever. This magnificent contemporary development was the impetus Edinburgh needed in designing and building decent residential apartments. To this day, I still get a thrill when I go and see one of the flats there.

What is your favourite type of property? Pure architecture is beautiful whichever era it is from. The secret is to design buildings that engage with their surroundings and leave a legacy. Land is a scarce resource and we must do all we can to design the best for that site.

Where do you live? On the South side of Edinburgh in The Grange in a Georgian cottage. It has been big enough for my family when we needed the space and small enough just for the two of us.

What was your first home? The first flat which I bought with my wife was on Torphichen Street. Back in 1989 this was not such a salubrious location. But this drawing room apartment featured all the magnificent detailing you would find in the New Town but cost half the price. We worked on our DIY skills, building, painting and tiling. It was up for sale two years ago and I couldn’t believe that it was still exactly the same as how we had left it.

Does your job affect your social life? I have always worked weekends on and off. My clients become acquaintances and a good deal are now very good friends.

What advice would you give someone wanting to work in the industry? Be adaptable – developers are, housebuilders are usually not so. Be accessible and passionate for your brand. And be as kind as you can, it never pays to be arrogant.

How is the market in 2021? As a small developer our activities are about 30 apartments per year. Covid hampered this we managed to make sales off-plan. Our market is Edinburgh and our clients are well aware of our products and the high quality and specification we offer.

Life file

Born and raised Born in Tehran, Iran, but I lived most of my formative years in Edinburgh.

Education Rannoch School in Perthshire and then the Scottish College of Textiles and Aberdeen and Napier universities. Post-graduate diploma in industrial administration, Masters in property investment. FRICS

Family Married to Amanda, a former intensive care nurse and domestic goddess, now volunteering at the Royal Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh. Our children are Natasha, 29, and Sam, 27.

CV First jobs were with Richard Demarco in his gallery in the High Street and at a bar, Clarinda’s – today, the site of a Howie’s restaurant – at Waterloo Place, Edinburgh.

Plans for retirement We would travel a bit more, but really I will carry on working until it is no longer pleasurable.

Personal motto Try and do at least one good deed for someone every day. Giving is the greatest love.

Read more