The Journo and the Oligarch

Featured

I called up a terribly upmarket Estate Agent I know. Average sale £7m, he doesn’t sell flats, he sells ‘residences’. In fact he doesn’t ‘sell’ at all, he merely gives hand-picked potential buyers an opportunity to buy. I needed a favour, a very serious journalist wanted a potted tour of the super-rich lifestyle in London. Could we have a poke around some of his fancier listings? We will be terribly well behaved, I promised.

Hmm, he mused, my clients are terribly discreet people, they wouldn’t want a journalist poking around. However he offers me a couple of South Ken basements that were empty. Oh please! I exclaimed, we need some serious bling, not an Arab students damp homework pad.

Well, I suppose if the journalist didn’t speak, didn’t write specifics and you pretended they were a colleague, I may be able to show you a £30m Oligarchs den… Bingo, I feel clever!.

We met on a Knightsbridge street corner. Agent suited, booted and silk handkerchiefed. Journalist in duffle coat, Clarks shoes and carrying a practical shopping bag.

We rock up at a very swanky building. The immaculate porters are Gucci clad and muscles bulge through the perfect cut. These are no ordinary porters, there are no smiles. They wear the look of men who can kill with one Mr Spock hand movement. Our Agent answers security questions and then takes us to the centre of the cavernous marbled foyer and whispers ‘I shouldn’t be doing this’, there is sweat on his upper lip, ‘ there are some things you need to know… when we get into the lift there is video and audio surveillance. When you are in the apartment, ditto. Everywhere you go you will be on camera and on audio. YOU SAY NOTHING!’

‘AND’ he flushes ‘I have just been told the owner will be in’ – he turns to me. ‘You will probably be interrogated’. He then briefed me on what I would say. Apparently I have a very wealthy client, I am to be as vague as possible because this particular Oligarch has far more enemies than friends. If he gets the slightest hint that my ‘client’ is from the wrong group of Oligarchs, THERE WILL BE TROUBLE.  On the bright side, he chirps, they have switched off the retinal scanning entry thingy.

He turns to the journalist and says ‘What is your name? she squeaks ‘can I be Mrs Smith?’. That’ll do, he says.

I try to wipe thoughts of container ships headed to Murmansk out of my mind but Journo and I look at each other, now not feeling at all clever and both wondering if we should leg it.

Nevertheless, we enter the lift. Not a sound is uttered and we all stare at our feet and I wonder how the hell I got myself into this.

Lift opens and we sink our way through carpet two inches deep to double mahogany doors. The retinal scanning apparatus blinks at us but the doors are opened by a wizened old Babushka who ushers us in. The owner is waiting for us. Piercing eyes and a charmless demeanour. The words ‘never smile at a crocodile’ pop into my head.

I am introduced, as is ‘Mrs Smith’. Oligarch wastes no time on pleasantries. ‘Who is your client?’ Oops, wasn’t expecting quite such a closed question, major wriggling is called for. I inform him that my client is a young Muscovite but for discretion’s sake I must withhold their name at this stage. WRONG ANSWER. His eyes narrow and he turns to the Agent. ‘You know I insist on the names of all potential Russian buyers – I am disappointed’. Ooh blimey, you really don’t want to disappoint this chap and the thought of him twigging I am poking around his residence with a national newspaper journalist makes me feel faint. The Agent visibly colours and I wonder if they make Tena’s for men but he suggests they discuss later and could we have a look around. Gruffly he concedes and we start our tour.

Frankly, neither the Journo or I gave a toss about a tour at this stage but we went through the motions. Black silk bedding. Tick. Half naked pics of the latest wife. Tick. Personal spa with massage tables and white robes. Tick. And so on. However, Journo and I just shuffled through each room miserably, concentrating on saying absolutely nothing and avoiding even the most furtive of glances under the Big Brother spotlight.

Having allowed the minimum polite amount of time, I say with faux cheerfulness, ‘We mustn’t inconvenience you anymore than we have already’, but as we all stand uncomfortably in the mortuary like kitchen, the Russian isn’t having any of that. Mr Oligarch wants to chat. Oh God.

He wants my name, my company name, where’s your card? where do you live? Journo’s eyes are wide with a semblance of terror.

Sod it, I think, ‘I have another appointment, must dash’, I say in a rather pleading manner to the Agent. Finally we are ushered out through whence we came.

Remember Michael, says Oligarch with wagging finger, I want names.

We reach the lift rather faster than on arrival, in fact I contemplated taking the fire escape for speed.

We stifled our giggles of relief until past the Stasi porters and out of terror firma.

I turn to the Journo. ‘I like to see my name in print as much as the next media tart but never again, NEVER BLOODY AGAIN’… She nods furiously.

I loathe Vendor Viewings


Heart sinks, there is an audible sigh and an under the breath ‘bugger’ when the Estate Agent utters the line “The Vendor will show you around”.
Now I can forgive the odd vendor viewing at weekends or evenings but this is a focus on those Vendors who ‘insist’ on doing them all.. Some truisms:

They regard the Estate Agent with disdain and know they can ‘sell’ their house better.
*that’s why it’s been on market 12 months at 25% too high*

They WILL follow you around with a look that says ‘you’re going to pinch something’.
*thanks luv but your Capo de Monte is safe*

You will hear the line ‘We have been so happy here’.
* A rare outing for my cocked head and faux ‘Aww, how sweet’ face*

If it’s a divorce you’ll no doubt get the one who doesn’t want to sell.
*Awkward*

It is made very clear that the hot tub is NOT STAYING
*Phew bloody phew, they just don’t make Civit Bang strong enough*

We built the annexe for my Mother.
*An effort not to ask ‘Erm, did she die in hospital?’ while you scan for stains.*

‘This is the kitchen, my wife’s domain’ followed by loud guffaws.
*It’s how he tells ’em, sigh*

The loo is now a WC, the lounge is a ‘main reception where they like to entertain’ and there is a ‘master suite’ because it has a corner shower and fitted louvred wardrobes.

You must view the eaves storage and the attic where he laid the floorboards himself – there will be a train set.
*15 go’s at pulling down a half tonne ladder and just missing the kids heads*

‘We’re leaving the sauna, we’ve had hours of fun with it’.
* It’s an airing cupboard*

‘We don’t have to sell’
*Don’t tell me!.. ‘You’ll move for the right price’*

‘I’ve been on Mouseprice, the house over the road sold last year for £50k more’
*yes love but that’s twice the size, doesn’t have swirly carpets or a gummed up avocado jacuzzi*

My clients and I wander the property in abject silence, arms clamped to our sides taking turns to say ‘lovely’ – as the Vendor stares at us like a cardigan clad Norman from Psycho.

These are the people who take the stair carpet, every shrub over a fiver and leave wires where the B & Q wall lights were.
So yes Mr and Mrs Vendor, I know your type and whilst I may be saying ‘Lovely’…  I’m fibbing.

UK House Price Predictions 2012

Featured

Prime Central London will remain buoyant due to lack of supply. Overseas buyers who are driving this market will not be any less keen in 2012, the European crisis will have no effect. However this market bears no relation to the rest of the Uk there is no ripple effect that is tangible, it is it’s own micro economy.
I predict a 5% rise in 2012 as supply will remain low.

The UK market as a whole will be a case of increasing North South divide, with the further you travel from London the worse the price falls and difficulty in selling will be.
However I do not see the UK market ‘crashing’ even though logically it should. Low interest rates mean relatively few repossessions and distressed sales (although more than 2011), as existing mortgages remain very affordable. Supply will remain low and with renting becoming outrageously expensive people will still want to buy, if they can get finance. Supply and demand will thus create an artificially stable market. Of course when interest rates rise this will all change but that is not likely to be until 2013. I suspect that prices will drop overall about 5% in the South East. However this this average is made up of desirable properties not dropping at all and compromised properties dropping significantly, as buyers will be extremely cautious and discerning.

The UK as a whole will consist of hotspots and areas severely hit by economic woes. I believe that UK house prices as a whole will fall 6% in 2012 . Average house prices of course should be taken with a pinch of salt, there is no such animal. As a visual roadmap, I see price falls rippling out from London suburbs in concentric circles, getting worse as they spread. There will be hots spots of stable economy towns and these along with very desirable properties will be somewhat protected.

Along with PCL the only other positive area of the market will be the continued rise in rents, the continued difficulty in getting mortgages will mean even more people will be forced renters and not just potential first time buyers. I predict rents will rise another 5% minimum in 2012 simply due to supply and great demand. However a caveat to Landlords: rents are becoming unaffordable and a large swathe of tenants are paying their rents on credit cards and worse. Non payment will become far more common due to pure unaffordability.
A fair, reliable income is far more profitable than the cost of evictions for non payment. As for the moral argument… Another time.

A Buying Agent’s sad tale of a ground floor London apartment

 

Click here to nominate.. please 🙂 Primelocation best blog

I really, really wanted to like this flat, with £2m burning a hole in my pocket my fingers are crossed. It’s over-priced but I’ll address that later, if I like it.

It’s in one of my favourite blocks in Chelsea, where I have just completed on a second floor flat. It has gardens emulating a mini-Hampstead Heath and a really nice ‘feel’, an unquantifiable but essential ingredient. Short walk to a tube and to the Kings Road makes it a spot on choice for my clients. But there are two problems I know I will have to overcome. Firstly it’s ground floor, secondly my client has no vision and can’t see past the wrong colour sofa let alone bigger issues needing creative thinking. However, I enter with hope in my luke warm heart.

It has been ‘done up like a kipper’. A beautiful Gleneagles breakfast kipper rather than an Iceland boil in the bag version.

Corded wool carpet everywhere. White shiny kitchen. Quality dark wood doors. Zebra print accessories and stupid flat sinks that hold a centimetre of water. All very predictable Chelsea 2011 but it’s what my client wants- a walk in, drop your suitcase, Harrods take-out and shake your cocktails pad.

The developers have really gone to town, spent a fortune and have done it almost perfectly. Almost.

It’s a ground floor flat and as such at least 50% of your possible viewers have disappeared at Rightmove stage. It’s a big issue. Oversea’s clients will worry about it as a secure lock-up-and-leave. Women will be worried about security and all will be concerned about people peeking in. Starting with the beautifully dressed bedrooms. They all have lovely big sash windows and no curtains. This indeed lets light pour in but also gives unadulterated views which I struggle to tear myself away from. All the bedrooms look onto a light well with what appears to be a pebble dashed, moss encrusted WW11 bunker housing boilers. At eye level. Great. Breakfast in bed watching the plumes of CO2 waft gently into Chelsea skies…. but you won’t be alone, your neighbours in all those other windows will be watching you, watching them, watching it. ‘Humph’ I think.

Then the sitting room, a lovely room but through the un-dressed windows, through the railings I stare as the neighbourhood strolls past. Almost at touching distance but most certainly at ‘locking-eyes’ distance.

‘I was hoping the ground floor issue wouldn’t be such ‘an issue’ I say to the Estate Agent. ‘My client won’t be able to see past it, whatever I say – if only they had put voile at the windows or plantation shutters that actually closed, it might have worked’.

Such a shame. There is only one thing patently wrong with this place, it’s ground floor but it seems the developers have tried to mitigate that by throwing money at everything else and hoping people won’t notice. It’s stuffed to the gunnels with glittery objets, fancy rain showers and potted orchids but all I have burnt into my retina’s is the builder walking past the window and winking at me.

This flat is not going to sell anytime soon and certainly not at anything like what they seem to be hoping for, all for the sake of a bit of John Lewis voile.

‘Actually’ says the Estate Agent, ‘the Developers, the actual money men, wanted to do something like that with the windows but their Interior Decorator said it wouldn’t go with the ‘theme’.

‘That’ll be the style over substance theme, will it?’

Silly as it seems, many buyers really don’t have vision and really won’t see past solvable negatives, so it’s crazy to freely hand those negatives to them- even on a silver salver.

The irony is, this flat was all about window dressing, except where it was needed.

…and if you would like to discuss me working on your home search .. there’s more information at www.bdihomefinders.co.uk or call me for a chat on 0845 603 6110

Buying Agent, the Royal Wedding and a London flat…

Featured

‘We’ve got a new flat coming on, only allowing Buying Agents in for the first week, do you want to come to special viewing?’ said the uber smooth Chelsea Estate Agent.  Seems another London Vendor wants to try and avoid hoards of the un-washed rampaging through their pad. No doubt they also think they can create a fierce bidding war amongst the gaggle of Buying Agents, ironic and wrong when you consider that our clients measure us on getting the best price. However, there remains there an impression amongst sellers that Buying Agent’s clients have more money than sense. Still, can’t hurt I think, will pop along and see just how over-primped and over-priced it is.

It’s a hot day and my standard black suit uniform was not a good choice. Parking down a Belgravia back Street I took a leisurely stroll to the red brick flat tucked behind the Alice band mecca of Peter Jones. The Sloane Square shops and street cafes are palpably excited by the imminent nuptials of Prince William, regarded by many of the hair-tossing blondes quaffing espresso’s as ‘the one that got away’.

Outside the flat, the literally less cooler side-kick of Mr Uber-Smooth is waiting on the pavement, suited, booted and sweaty, rather like me. He is there to usher ‘us’ in.

I can spot an Estate Agent in a sea of suits, likewise, your standard London buying agent sticks out like a ham sandwich at a Barmitzvah. There he is, helping his client out of the Addison Lee mini-van. Eww. Tall, slim, foppish blonde hair and an air of superiority not picked up at a free school. As my Mother might have said, this chap really fancies himself. He catches my gaze and promptly dismisses me. Middle aged women aren’t on his radar of who to suck up to, unless they are Hermes toting clients. The suited client is a banker, tanned and glued to his mobile. ‘Should have come to me love’, I think, I don’t do mini-vans.

I get a special welcome at the door, a reward reserved for someone who is currently buying something from them. Talk turns to that purchase.’We need to exchange soon on that’ he says. I point out the obvious, ‘Your client shouldn’t have such a crap solicitor then’. He agrees and shuts up.

Entering the hallway, like most of these red brick mansion blocks it is dark. Really dark. The common area’s have been nicely done and the velvety carpet with brass stair rods feels inches deep. ‘Take the lift’ he says. Nope, I always take the stairs to check it doesn’t turn to glossy woodchip paper on the first landing. At the flat’s front door I am greeted with piles of Church’s brogues and the alternative choice of blue plastic bag covers for my shoes. Don’t really like the mortuary technician look so I opt for bare feet but amuse myself with the thought that as my new shoes have leeched dye onto my feet, the shoes are probably cleaner.

Peering into the hallway, I have to smile and find myself uttering to the buying agent un-doing his laces ‘Elephant Breath’. He blanks me.(Never trust a buying agent who doesn’t know his Farrow and Ball’s).

With trusty camera phone at the ready, I launch forth to take discreet piccies for this blog. Bugger, the bloody Vendor is seated at a desk. Blonde and scary looking, we nod acknowledgement and she get’s back to her lap top, surfing net-a-porter as I suspected. She is seated under the one thing I wanted a snap of, a great big Banksy style painting with the inspirational words “SHIT HAPPENS’. Graffiti is now clearly middle class.

The flat is carpeted in grey corded wool, the sort of grey that we used to only use for undercoat on drainpipes or battleships. Walls are predictably from the Farrow & Ball palette. The grey palette. Walls not painted are clothed in modern dark wood panels, with the odd Plasma TV inset. To use a technical term, this flat is done up like a kipper. It feels like an army of stylists, designers and purveyors of ‘objets chers’ to gullible buyers have spent a month titivating with their Chelsea price tagged magic wands. Nursery in Designers Guild? Tick. Orchids in pots? Tick. Alessi in the kitchen? Tick. Blanket in accent colour draped across bottom of bed? Tick. All very expensive, all very ‘yawn’.

The art work was vibrant and copied by the two accent colours scattered around the place. A shocking pink and purple theme was carried through the flat with cushions, vases, throws creating a zingy design equivalent of ice lollies against a thundery grey canvas. I am seeing purple used a lot recently, especially with hot pink. Reminded me of my favourite two felt tips when growing up in the seventies.. and my leg warmers.

Frankly, it is all far too obviously styled for my liking, the family and baby photo’s look incongruous in the very un-homely setting. For a family home it’s a  bit sad looking really. The sofa’s never been sat on and the beds have never been romped in.

Wandering down to the pavement, as usual I throw an ‘it’s a bit over-priced’ at my friendly Estate Agent as we eye incredulously the latest in customised Mini’s. Zebra skins are on so many London floors these days, now they are being parked outside. Daktari meets Chelsea.

‘No love’, he says, ‘one next door went for £250 sq ft more than this last month… And it’s not as good’. Bloody Hell, I think, thats 500 quid a square foot more than this time last year.  ‘Oversea’s dosh’, he says.

This sort of over-primping tends to put off us ordinary Brits (even one’s with £3m to spend). My Brit client’s would look at it and think, how much of this am I paying through the nose for? And frankly I come from the same ‘hackles up’ school of thought. However, the oversea’s client who thinks London is the safest place to buy, thinks prices will continue to rise and can also buy the furniture, (designed especially for the flat), thinks differently. He gets an off the shelf, no hassle, fancy pants ‘lock up and leave’. Sod the premium.

The Vendor may have got the Zeitgeist spot on by surfing Net-a-porter. For an oversea’s buyer, this flat is exactly what they want – Pret-a-Porter.

Buying Agent visits The Lancasters. Do they bomb?

Featured

The Lancasters and their cute pencil hoardings have been looming over Bayswater Road for what seems like ‘donkey’s years’. A huge project, hewn from a massive, down-market hotel, with only the facade retained. I have been offered them on and off for the past few years.

To be honest, I haven’t taken much notice of them for clients as I had an in-built assumption, (prejudice), that they were just another over-priced, over-hyped development for those with more money than sense. Worse still, they were dumped in the slightly dodgy no-mans-land of Bayswater/Queensway. However, times change and with the much hyped launch of One Hyde Park there seems to be a a sea-change in attitudes to luxury London property. A change fuelled by oversea’s buyers who are less interested in doing deals and more interested in owning the right sort of place with the right sort of people. The ‘right sort of price’ is no longer the over-riding driver, for many it seems it just has to be the right address and that address now more than ever is in London.

This being Spring and my Arab clients about to board their jets to London, the timing was perfect to check them out. With potentially about £15m of clients money in my back pocket, the launch was an opportunity to gen up on availability, price per square foot and as much information as I could glean in order to pass on to my clients. I surprised myself by thinking I might actually be in the market for one but I would be fibbing if I didn’t admit I would be directly comparing it to One Hyde Park, like everyone else.

With inverted snobbery firmly in place I headed down the Bayswater Road. The whiteness of the stucco, gleams in comparison to the tired and in some cases decaying neighbourhood of cheapish hotels and kebab houses.

Meeting up with my colleague ‘the tall blonde’, who I oft introduce with the line ‘if you think I’m tough’ we head to the queue for security. Hmm, I don’t like queues, hackles start to rise but men in top hats lurch forward and usher us through. Good start. Lots of smiles and nods from top hatted concierge’s is a welcome contrast to the hard-faced greeting I had from One Hyde Park’s PR Annabel’s.

The frontage and gardens are very pretty, but I keep in mind that no residents will see it as they waft from underground car park to apartment.

Into the inviting reception area, we are again greeted warmly and with dark colours, slate flooring inlaid with wood the overall feel is sumptuous but not intimidating. Gentlemens clubby feel but with Ladies welcome.

I have been told that the guests will include industry peeps, agents, private bankers and journalists so I am looking forward to a bit of networking but above all I want information. The launch party spans two apartments. We start in the first smaller apartment. A large model of the development and an interactive screen, (can anyone work these out?) are displayed but I can’t see any ‘sales people’. Then on through to the show flat. Clearly the poshest of the lot. This does not have a lounge, nor a reception room, this one without doubt has a ‘state room’. Very, very high ceilings, very, very big windows overlooking Hyde Park, very, very full of suits. Well, not just suits, there are girls in the Lady Rupert uniform du jour. Black opaque tights, leopard print shoes, itsy bitsy Chanel handbags and whichever generation, size six. Age group only differentiated by Botox usage. We decide to investigate and inspect before subjecting ourselves to the sales pitch.

A nice Lalique-esque plaster feature wall in the kitchen/diner pleases the middle-aged inner me.

Boffi dark wood units, matt white surfaces, Gaggenau appliances, glass splash backs and big wine fridge – all as expected including the zinc topped table and the square stubby glass vases of truncated roses beloved of all show house stagers. And my, has this been staged.

The central lobby has an enormous gilded cage suspended from the ceiling thirty feet above, with three T K Maxx-ish golden parrots perched. I muse on whether the stagers were amusing themselves with a not so subtle socio-economic gilded cage statement.

The master bedroom is rather nice, in shades of what I call blue but which the tall blonde insists is ‘eau de nil’. The fur throw at a jaunty angle the only predictable staging cliche. It certainly scored points against One Hyde Park, where the master I saw was quite small and under-whelming.

The en-suite, although a little too open plan for anyone with a whiff of cellulite, was pretty sexy. Again, marble takes centre stage but here, more subtly than the red Tuscan slabs of One Hyde Park.

I am starting to get a slight liking for these stagers as we investigate the other bedrooms. They have created boudoirs with character and blimey, a little humour. Corsets in frames just one quirky addition.

This is how to do a boudoir, although I will be pleased when the fashion for mirrored furniture finally  shatters.

and another off-piste choice in the study. Old Arabian carpets patch-worked together rustically, giving a cosy worn in feel. Very rare in new developments but rather appealing.

We go in search of a selling agent to drill down into the nitty gritty. Weaving through swathes of middle aged portly white men, packs of 25 year old guffawing Ruperts knocking back fizz and giggles of leopard print shod girls. We circuit the big apartment and the smaller apartment again and again, eventually cornering a canape toting Henrietta to request help. ‘They will be around’ is the vacant response. But they aren’t. We can spot Agents everywhere but are they the selling agents? Quite a contrast to One Hyde Park where Lucien trailed like a helpful puppy.

In this sea of two hundred of the ‘very well-connected’ we eventually find one name badge talking in a corner. Tall blonde interrupts her, seems she is ‘only talking to a colleague’ yet he wears no name badge. Why? Bluntly we explain we want a low down. She points to the model and the interactive screen.

Do you have price lists ‘No’.

Do you have a brochure? ‘You will get one when you leave’

Square footage price? ‘Err, that depends’.

Perfectly polite, but information was something we were clearly not going to get but was the reason we were here.

So how does it compare to One Hyde Park? and for those who think it doesn’t matter, it does.

On a frivolous level, a high five for not having to wear CSI over-shoes or hotel slippers.

The finish, well, truth be told you can tell the difference but mainly down to the quality of decoration which is easily remedied. The kitchens and bathrooms were comparable.

Location, let’s face it is not currently great. It may overlook Hyde Park from one side but you are in the heart of Queensway and will need to avert your eyes from the plethora of kebab shops around the back. Having said that, the front of One Hyde Park is blighted by the honking of bendy buses and midnight hoardes decamping noisily from the local Lebanese.

Ambiance is where it really shone through. From the friendliness of the concierge staff to the careful replication of the original cornicing and the innovative warmth of the styling, it felt like it could be home.

And best of all? Whilst still blowing most of prime London comparables, they come in at about half the price of One Hyde Park.

It’s not often I believe the hype that one development can upgrade a slightly down at heel area, but I did get that feel here.

On departure we receive the goodie bag. Overlooking the bon-bons, pad and pencils (a sweetly branded theme), I inspect the promised brochure for detailed information. It amounts to one paragraph on concierge services and two floor-plans. Great.

On balance, no I don’t think these Lancasters are going to bomb, the developers Northacre are to be congratulated on producing a classy, desirable place to live and not just an icy trophy pad.

To be perfectly honest, I think my clients and I would be quite happy nesting in this gilded cage.

For more information on our bespoke London property search click

Buying Agent’s guide to decorating with colour.

Featured

Colour is so important to our ability to express ourselves and where better to make our mark than with our homes. Kelly Hoppen may say greige, taupe or elephant breath. The middle classes may fawn, (pun intended), over Farrow and Ball’s downpipe. The Notting Hill set may worry that Nigella’s duck egg blue clashes with Jamies new pink range. But it doesn’t rattle these people…

Just think how delighted the neighbours must be with these splashes of colour in the neighbourhood.

it is of course the blending of complimentary colours that is so important.

To be really up to date one needs to blend neons and ice cream colours seamlessly

But back in the 1970’s that was less important – easy access from the kitchen to your horse was the pressing matter.

Oh, and we’re back again to that ‘ice-cream palette’.. or possibly the ‘macaroon palette’. I’m getting pistachio with palm of violets and a frisson of lime. Note lovely storage units for fast access to Alka Seltzer.

Patterns must not be underestimated when unleashing the power of colour, especially when mixing and matching with textured floor coverings.

and textures are so important. There is nothing quite like satin for bringing deep jewel colours to life. Particularly liking the contrasting orange table cloth.

Also, don’t be afraid of using window dressing. I grant you that stick on stained glass is ‘a little out there’ but nothing ventured…

and when decorating childrens rooms, it’s OK to stick to primary colours but do make sure that the wall mounted guns and ammunition work together.

…and finally, bang up to date, this London home encompasses the grasping of the eclectic design nettle. Tricia Guild must be kicking herself she didn’t come up with this Designers look… Oh.

…. loving the attention to detail of different curtain panels and the subtle introduction of gilt. Wow, just WOW

So, there you have it, my guide to enhancing your life and in these examples, mine, with colour.
For help with finding your dream property (for properties like above, we can recommend interior designers with paint brushes) find out more here

The Death of The High Street Estate Agent…

Featured

The last few years have been a roller coaster for the Estate Agency industry. It’s not house prices per se that effect an Estate Agent’s bottom line, it’s transaction levels and those have gone through the floor. Coupled with that has been the rise in technology as a marketing tool and an explosion in geeky competition and low cost rivals to the traditional Estate Agents model. The death of the High Street Estate Agent has gleefully been on everyone’s lips.

Let’s take a look at all of the things which have ‘signalled the death knell’ in the past few years.

Google maps enters property search.

‘It’s the death of anyone who doesn’t sign up’

They gave it eight months and threw in the towel. Rumour has it that the data being submitted was simply too erroneous, nay, inaccurate for Google’s reputation to risk hosting. Some may even say the adage often attributed to free databases is prescient.. ‘sh*t in sh*t out’. The fact they couldn’t work out how to make money out of it was the key factor I suspect.

Self sale sites such as Tepilo.

‘revolutionises selling your property, with an easy to use consumer site’.

With the greatest respect to Sarah Beeny and others, this has been a damp squib.  Although certainly not helped by a very nervous housing market erring towards a more certain selling solution.

Tesco’s and Spicer Haart’s fixed price agency.

It has spawned many a witticism including ‘buy one get one free’ but that seems about all and it seems to have bogof’d itself now. Along with many similar.

So why are all these new competitors not really denting Rupert and Darren on the High Street, when it makes perfect sense to sell your house for free on Sarah Beenys site or pay £1000 to one of the new guys?

The dire state of the market is one reason. Vendors coming to market are generally doing so because they need to. They don’t want to mess around with creative models they want the property sold. Note the rise in popularity of auctions as another example of this.

The main reason however is that Vendors seem to recognise, particularly in difficult times,  that there is more to selling a house than whacking pictures and floorplans on the worldwideweb. Getting a viewer through the door is relatively easy, getting that house to exchange is not.

There really is a chasm between what is marketing a property and the actual selling of it.

I am by no means in the thrall of Estate Agents nor am I a Luddite and when I talk of High Street Estate Agents, I of course mean good ones, which is a whole different blog. The fact is that buying and selling in the UK (excluding Scotland) is a flaming nightmare.

Truth is, that when I buy and when I sell I want to use a good traditional, knows his stuff Estate Agent. I and every buyer I know does not want to be escorted around a home by the Vendor extolling the virtues of his hot tub. And as a seller I don’t want to see people traipsing through my house inspecting my cupboards.

I don’t want to have to negotiate with the Vendor on his main asset, it gets emotional. And as a Vendor I know it’s a darn sight easier for the Estate Agent to say ‘I have loads of interest’ and get the best price, than me trying it on with a sheepish expression.

But that’s the easy bit.

The tricky stuff comes when the mortgage companies, surveyors and solicitors get involved. These days their role can most often be described as ‘problem finders’. Someone in this sticky mix has to be the ‘problem solver’ and that is the Estate Agent ( and buyers representatives when used).

What happens when the mortgage company insists on a piece of paper from 1977 which doesn’t exist and they won’t accept an indemnity policy?

When the survey says there is a 20k damp problem and buyer and seller are diametrically opposed.

When the chain starts to break at the bottom, who is trying to put it back together?

Vendors threatening to pull out if we don’t exchange tomorrow and mortgage funds aren’t ready.

Just some real examples of deals of mine in the past 12 months where without the Estate Agent sweating bricks, and managing the issues delicately, the deal would have died.

Before everyone starts throwing their toys out of the pram, I know there are exceptions and I know a bad Estate Agent is worse than dry rot. I also don’t think they have to be on the High Street, there are some excellent ones based in local trading estates. But the key is that they need to be on the ground, know the property business and manage the sale like a hawk. When they do, the process of buying and selling generally works.

It costs money to manage a 3 months sales progression professionally. I don’t see how a fixed £1000 or £2000 fee can cover a business to do this properly.

Until we have a conveyancing process whereby all issues have been ironed out before the offer and it really is a simple transaction, it is a people and relationship driven process. And when you have people you also have the words emotional, irrational, selfish, greedy and many others. These things have to be managed by people who know what they’re doing and quite simply, you get what you pay for.

The failure of more creative models to break the mould seems to say clearly that Vendors think the same way.

The death of the High Street Estate Agent has been rather exaggerated…

 

Primelocation property blog of the year award 2010

Featured

From hundreds of entries I have just heard that I am a nominee with five others for the Primelocation property blog of the year award. ‘Bit chuffed’ is an understatement.

Writing is not my day job but I started all of this because I was a bit hacked off with all the obsequious postings from those in the property world writing with agenda’s. Estate Agents bigging up the market. Other Buying Agents flogging their wares and pundits doing excel spreadsheets with wholly meaningless statistics. Nowhere was anyone looking at the the stresses, strains and bullsh*t of property and addressing it with any humour. Heaven knows there is a bundle of laughs ripe for the picking in the property world.

I fibbed a bit back there. I do have an agenda. I wanted man in the street to understand that not all Buying Agent’s talk whilst chewing plums and have black labradors. I also think that by pointing out the ironies of the property market, it might knock some of the pretentiousness out of it and help the ordinary buyer see through some of the clap trap.

So, may I unashamedly ask for your vote if I have raised even a little titter? Voting closes February 6th 2011 and truth be told, having spent many years as an Estate Agent to glean this knowledge, don’t I deserve just a little sympathy vote? 😉

 

Ten good reasons why NOT to use me as your Buying Agent

Featured

Bullet If you’re younger, slimmer and prettier than me, you may find I spend our days out with a pinched expression.

Bullet If you like laminate flooring I may have to stay in the car.

Bullet If you think you can buy something good at 40% below market value I may laugh quite loud and quite long.

Bullet If you want me to tell the Agent that you’ll pull out of the deal if you don’t get the dishwasher, I may go into spanking mode.

Bullet If you want a house 30 minutes from London with no noise I will present you with earplugs.

Bullet If there is even the suggestion of Feng Shui I will turn into Ninja Buying Agent.

Bullet If you look like you knit your own yoghurt I may suggest you call Kirstie Allsop instead.

Bullet If the amateur surveyor friend you bring on viewings says ANYTHING, I will stiletto him into the lino.

Bullet If you and your husband have a 50% disparity in budget, be aware that my relationship skills are wholly restricted to being smarmy to Estate Agents.

Bullet I don’t have a double-barrelled name, a signet ring on my pinkie and I have been known to wear Clarks sandals.