It’s been a funny old year in the prime central London property market. I signed up new clients in December for a search. Clients with simple but classy tastes. One is a lawyer and one a cosmetic surgeon to the rich and famous – very disconcerting for a lady buying agent of a certain age. Two bedrooms, outside space in South Kensington, 1000 square feet for our £1.5m budget, easy! I left for my Christmas holidays smug in the belief that I’d be kicking my heels up at their house warming in Spring.
In January I hit what I imagined would be a sleepy market. However, I find the prices of new stock surprisingly high and I am definitely not alone walking the South Ken streets clutching a wad of cash to splash.
I console myself with the belief that these prices are simply Agents trying it on and that buyers won’t bite. I’m wrong. They aren’t just biting, they are fighting tooth and claw for anything half decent, whatever the price.
As the weeks pass, I view a lot:
I see common areas that would have crack dealers reaching for the Cillit Bang.
Outside spaces where you’d sip your Cosmopolitans next to the bins.
Bitumen ‘roof gardens’ scented by curry house extractors and second bedrooms where you’d struggle to swing a hamster.
Not to mention the 635 square foot reception rooms, mezzanined and paper partitioned into nothing more than a collection of cupboards.
As for the client’s desired Cornwall Gardens, that was only achievable with a basement flat so damp you could forage your own Girolles.
Everything was unashamedly ripping the Michael out of the words “two bedroom flat”.
It seemed that overnight South Ken had become the Pippa’s bottom of London real estate, royally desirable but royally untouchable. So I throw in some creative thinking, ‘I am going to look in Notting Hill’ I tell my losing patience clients ‘You’ll love it!’.
But in Notting Hill I find Bridget Jones flats. Deconstructed kitchens with curtains for cupboard doors. Walls covered in ethnic hangings, CND posters and ponging of joss sticks. The elusive 1000 square feet remained a forlorn dream. I even ventured into Queensway wondering if I could keep a straight face calling it Connaught Village. I couldn’t.
Something had to give, I decide it will have to be the tube and they’ll just have to get an Add Lee account. So I start looking in an area where old money trims their Wisteria at weekends, where mansion flats jostle with Arts and Craft houses and corner shops stock Gentleman’s relish but no scratch cards.
Bingo, I was right, this little corner of London was yielding far more bang for our tortured buck. I find the first flat in four months that warrants me demanding my client hot foots it from some sagging pop star’s brow.
It’s got the lot, it’s spacious, has a proper little patio garden (client mentions hot tub but I blank him) and you can swing a whole litter of Bagpusses in the kitchen. Above all it has the most elusive quality of all.. Class.
Client is wide eyed, he wants it badly but it’s a bit over budget. He turns exuberantly to the 30-something male Agent and against this Buying Agents strict instructions, makes him an offer. Not one this Agent has had before.
” If the Vendor takes £XXX I’ll give her free Botox for life.. and you too!”
My client looks at me bashfully and says “Sorry Tracy, I wasn’t thinking, I had a bottom lift in mind for you”.
We did eventually get the flat but if you spot a little pop star spinning around London a tad lop-sided, I’m to blame. But perhaps therein lies a lesson?
In today’s London property market, sometimes you have to think outside the Botox.
Written for my column in http://www.primeresi.com – the journal for the prime central London property market.