Prime Crummy London.

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A current search of mine is for a ‘do-up’ in prime central London. Lick of paint, add a white shiny kitchen, do a Kelly Hoppen greige on it and flog it on for a few more pennies. You know the score, I want crummy..  Gotta be easy eh?
Err. No.
It seems everything in London has already been ‘greiged’. Prime London is a sea of wide boarded light oak flooring and grey velvet sofas with grey velvet cushions. Everywhere is dressed with ‘stupid silver stuff’ (I don’t call it stuff). Silver lamps, silver objets, glass and silver tables. Silver antelope heads, silver sunburst mirrors. Every kitchen has white Corian worktops a Prosecco cooler and a three foot high tap that sprays your crotch. Hi-tech everything is de rigeur- you need a masterclass with Stephen Hawking to switch on the lights.

With price per square foot the Holy Grail of London property, every square inch has been eeked out. Meedja rooms are hewn from the subsoil. There are ‘sort of’ kitchens squashed into corners of living rooms.  Mezzanines scraping your head to provide a curtained master bedroom (no sex please, I have a mezzanine) and bathrooms so small you can brush your teeth and shower your bum at the same time.

But they do come with a new and rather desirable upside now hitting my in-box- a price reduction. This is because little of the money sloshing around prime central London (and there is plenty) wants them. What this cash really, really wants is a doer-upper, with a chance to make a swift buck and to greige it themselves. And they will pay for the privilege. Really pay.

Each day I call Agents and scour properties for tell tale signs of ‘tiredness’. Any opportunity to dig down, build up or plonk on a side return is pounced on by me… I am closely followed by the jangling coins and the quivering jaws of every Tamsin, Dicky and Henri with a trust fund, bonus or a dodgy accountant.

The zenith of property finds is the ‘old lady dowager just died’ property. No mourning in London. Pink bathrooms, an old electric ring cooker in the kitchen and a smell of wee are guaranteed to send buying hearts across London pounding. At one of these rare occurrences recently I was milling with a throng of unshaven geezers with steel toe caps peeling off ‘monkeys’ to the cabbie. Long tressed Chelsea housewives with iced expressions and City boys arriving courtesy of their Addison Lee corporate account. All eyeing each other up venomously and all with a determination to pay whatever it takes to get it. It’s crummy, so it’s very yummy. The get rich quick crowd and the Chelsea Sarah Beeny’s fight to the best bid death.

And, you know what? They will pay too much. They will add a mezzanine, pay £500pw to rent velvet sofas and they will greige it. They will whack it on the market at an outlandish sum and find that it sits – and sits, because almost everyone is looking for a ‘do-er-upper’ just like them. Then they will reduce the price (because they have borrowed up to the hilt) until they just about claw back what they spent on it.

If you want a home and a deal in Prime Central London- don’t dismiss something fully blinged and horribly over-spent on with the oft heard words ‘I’m not paying for someone else’s profit’, because you probably aren’t.

Instead, why not kick off your Tods on the underfloor heating and enjoy the spoils of someone else’s pricey re-plastering, re-wiring, re-plumbing. Take their Miele appliances, the latest Megaflow system and the expensive flooring. You don’t like the mortuary style kitchen? then replace it. You don’t like the sanatorium white walls, paint them.. buy right and you’ll probably still be in credit. And best of all leave them with their months and months of negotiating with planners, screaming at labourers and sleepless nights as their overdraft facilities slipped away, along with any profit. In the fiercely competitive London market the ‘done ups’ are often a much better deal than the ‘do-ups’.

Crummy is currently far too yummy for my taste. Perhaps the cleverest thing to do in the raging price seas of London is to un-do it up?

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Knightsbridge Naffness

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Horns:
You heard it hear first. Horns everywhere you turn. Stuck on walls protruding from some decapitated beast. Pointing up from chairs.  Lone horns polished and silver plated to cover where it was ripped from some (I hope) lop-sided wildebeest and of course the 666 stuff.

Arco Lights
Arco lights, generally positioned for guaranteed head banging. No London bachelor flat is without one of those. Size is a direct correlation to owners testosterone level. Always in the way and flaming useless unless your goal is a little spot of light illuminating the rug.

White leather furniture.
Cold, uncomfortable, clinical and makes quite impolite noises if you readjust your bottom. Add some synthetic shag pile rug (most do) for a DIY Austin Powers pad.

Bogs of bling.
There has been a strange proliferation of fancy bogs too. Ones which provide services that I trust no one has experienced since nappy days. They involve buttons, warm air, warm water, warm bums and warnings of the dangers of misuse. Ablutions shouldn’t require that degree of intellectual input.

Wallpaper.
Interior Designers are always going on about ‘texture’ and it seems they have hit pay dirt and are running with it with the emergence of the sandpaper wallpaper. It is actually cork with spangly bits and it seems to be Knightsbridge’s latest answer to the B & Q feature wall. I almost prefer peonys.

Bijoux Bakerys
The Hummingbird bakery. So what if you can feed an African village and dig a well for what fits into a little bijoux box. I feel like whispering to the ladies who prance out with their offerings.
“it’s just fat, sugar and carbs luv”.

Orla Kiely
Eurgh. We still have Cath Kidston lurking malevolently but it’s Orla who is splashing herself on everything these days. You can’t walk into John Lewis without the depressive sensory overload of drab ugly faux-fifties kitsch pattern on everything. Did I mention it was ugly?

Technology.
Gone are the days when you pulled the curtains, whacked a CD into a ‘player’, flicked a light switch and a dimmer was state of the art. No more tranny’s in the bathroom (don’t titter) you’re nowt without an in-built telly and mood lighting. In fact you’re nowt if your entire home isn’t controlled from an iPad.  You will of course need to pop down to Imperial College and borrow a geek with a PhD every time you want to close the curtains.

Chandeliers.
In the kitchen, I’m not joking. Where you find kitchen chandeliers you will be sure to find an oven with cardboard inside and the freezer will only have vodka. Less style over substance, more style over subsistence.

I have visions of interior designers giggling together in their coven as they plot the latest abomination to inflict on the unsuspecting purse of a millionaire. Almost makes you nostalgic for last years cow skin rug. What? You’ve only just got one? Sorry but it has to be zebra this year.

Buying Agent sells her house. Part 3. The marketing

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2nd week of August 2011

Photography done and it looks lovely.  Not sure about the words on the brochure but I figure no one reads them anyway, I don’t. All I need is a postcode, as many photo’s as possible and a floorplan, then I can make my decision to view.

Starting to get a bit frazzled. Dreading having people through my house. I am not Mrs Tidy and keeping the place ‘right’ will be a bore. Also I really find the thought of people viewing my house as quite upsetting. A home is not a commodity, no matter how hard you try to pretend it’s just a ‘transaction’.

Third week of August

With the brochure ready I suggest to the Agents that they call their ‘hot-box’ buyers. No, they say, we would rather give it a proper launch to maximise the excitement. I hope they know what they’re doing. D Day is set for 6th September. Schools are back and hopefully the buyers are hitting Rightmove, checking their emails and planning on getting into somewhere new before Xmas. I know full well that I have a 6 week marketing window before the buyers go into hibernation and the economy probably implodes. Fingers crossed.

First week of September

First phone call comes in- Can I bring someone around on Thursday 8th September? Then another call- I have two first viewings. More phone calls, and more viewings are booked in for the following week. I find myself interrogating the receptionist making the bookings. Are they in a chain? What LTV mortgage do they need? Do you know them? When I started asking if ‘they are nice?’  I decided to shut up. I was developing into one of those ‘hands on’  sellers that I despair of.

Thursday morning.. lot’s of Febreze, cat litter box cleaned and hidden. Bed’s made, which is a first. Cut flowers plucked from garden and I even start thinking about brewing coffee, I allow myself a wry smile and stop right there on principle. If it’s going to sell, then the smell of cookies and a cynical attempt at ‘you too can live my pretend lifestyle’ ain’t going to be the reason. I then get the hell out of there.

When I get back – they are still viewing so I hide down the lane. I watch them leave and pathetically leap on the young Estate Agent James for feedback. ‘The first one said over-priced- although his wife disagreed’ My hackles rise. Over-priced? Over-priced, I hear myself getting shrill and all the advice I give people about ‘listening carefully to feedback’ get’s dumped as I explain to the patient young James why they are WRONG!

What about the second couple? I ask

‘They seemed to like it’ he says. The Agent then has to endure my picking away at his statement. How d’you know? What’s their position? What about price? I am even annoying myself.

The next morning James calls with feedback- I am impressed. He recounts that he met the ‘might be interested’ couple in the pub last night and they were poring over the brochure, which he felt was a good sign. The first couple were ‘still thinking’ and he had yet to talk to the second couple. He tells me that this second couple were despondent about ever finding a long term family home, so they had reduced their price and search to an in-between’ townhouse which they would stay in for a couple of years. James had called them to say ‘Hey! I think I might have that dream house you really want’. Clever James- creative thinking and knowing your applicant list well is how good agents do deals.

Two hours later James calls again. He has an offer. £25k below asking- at the level I actually think it is technically ‘worth’. They are in rented. 60% LTV mortgage agreed.

I ask James ‘how much they liked it’ James tells me ‘she’ walked through the door and said ‘it’s perfect’ and didn’t stop beaming. That is what I want to hear, because that is what my reaction was. I want the buyer to have complete emotional buy in- if they have that then they are far more likely to breach the undoubted hurdles that crop up during the buying process. If they are buying on a practical basis they are far more likely to be swayed by the forthcoming economic maelstrom or by any crappy legal woes.

‘Go back and tell them I am very keen to do a deal but they were the first through the door and I have four more viewings booked already. I would be foolish to take such a hit straightaway. However, I make it clear to James to not lose them. I tell him that I would be prepared to look at less than asking but when pushed for a figure I say £5k more than I would actually take- gotta be careful, because if I told him my actual bottom line- trust me, that’s all I will get.

Phone rings ten minutes later with a higher offer. This is a very good sign. These buyers mean business, no messing around, it shows they really want it. This offer is £10k more than before- another good sign, they aren’t playing silly beggars with £1k increments. I want to close this. The thought of no more people coming around is delicious. I go back with a split the difference offer of a couple of K, 28 days to exchange and 28 days to completion thereafter and the deal is done. This has taken 22 hours. The viewings booked for next week are cancelled and the listing goes straight onto Rightmove with a big ‘under offer’ across it. Even in this market, with decent property, decently priced, ‘you snooze, you lose’.

My head is spinning. I need to find somewhere to live. I am going to move into rented. That will be straightforward, won’t it…?!

part 4 soon- sales progressing and finding a rental.

By the way.. I am rather excited at being nominated for Primelocation Blog of the Year again. A quick vote would be everso appreciated 🙂 VOTE

Vendors, this is your two week warning! Take the blo*dy offer.

I wrote the post below back in February 2011 when frankly I could see the writing on the wall. I could see the emergence of over-inflated asking prices and Vendors who’s price expectations were way and beyond what they should have been. This was partly the fault of Estate Agents, with available listings at the lowest levels for decades the easiest and quickest way to be successful in a pitch to prospective Vendors was to price high. But Vendors are not blameless, inherent greed allowed them to ignore common sense and allow their properties to sit on the market getting no offers, dismiss low offers and ignore suggestions of price reductions. This year both Vendor’s and Estate Agent’s have come un-stuck as a result. Transaction levels are through the floor. Estate Agent’s have not been able to sell their over-priced stock (and each one of these costs them money) and Vendors have often ended up taking a much lower offer 6 months down the line as their property sat around becoming stale and thus unattractive to the market. Vendor’s and Estate Agents, today is the 23rd October 2011- here is your 2 week warning;
If you don’t do something very fast, a price reduction or taking that offer you think is too low, you will be whistling until February at the earliest and I guarantee now that you will be getting a lower price than any offer on the table today….

Dear Vendors,

Working on the premise that you are a Vendor who really needs to sell, as opposed to a ‘let’s see what can I get’ tyre-kicker, here is my blunt advice:

You have put your property on the market and one of two things has happened.

Nothing.
or
An offer straightaway.

Why is nothing happening?

As there is a lack of good quality stock at the moment, chances are your property is over-priced or there is something wrong with it. Either way, it is over-priced.

An offer straightaway? Great, but I bet if it’s not the asking price you don’t take it. And if it is, I bet you’re screaming that the Estate Agent under-valued it.

Firstly for the lucky Vendors with a quick offer. You may think this is the beginning of a huge influx of ever increasing offers and therefore think you will sit back and await more pennies from heaven. Well don’t. From long experience the very first offers you get will almost always be the highest and the best. Buyers, when they are first to view on a good property will very often make excellent offers to stave off other bidders. Fresh to the market properties are sexy. If that property has been hanging around they don’t feel the need to and worry why no one else has bought it. The longer it is on the market, the worse buyers concerns about it being a turkey, will get and so will the offers. Don’t mess around with that offer, squeeze as much as you can quickly but remember it will probably be the best you get.

So your house has been sitting around for 6 weeks now, dribs and drabs of buyers no offers until one day up pops what you call a ‘derisory’ offer. Ask yourself how derisory it really is. Is it only derisory in relation to the over-inflated asking price? If it really is bad then rent the place out for three years. If you can’t do that then you are going to have to consider it, because the fact is, unless your house is in prime London or worthy of RIBA house of the year, your chances of getting more will only get worse as the weeks go by.

I am being so blunt on the basis that the market is surprisingly buoyant at the moment for Vendors but only due to lack of supply and low interest rates. It won’t last. This lack of supply is very likely to change as the year progresses due to un-employment, rising interest rates and general economic woes. When more properties come onto the market and the demand doesn’t rise, the chances of you getting the price you are offered today will decrease faster than a spider down a plughole.

If my house was going on the market tomorrow and I needed to sell this year, I would be pricing it very realistically, perhaps even under-pricing to create interest. (buyers love what they perceive as an under-priced property). If I had no offers after 3 weeks full marketing with a good Agent I would be dropping the price and I would be looking lovingly at any offer from a buyer with cash or a low LTV mortgage.

To heck with price indices and ‘what it’s worth’. A property’s ‘value’ is only ever what someone is willing to pay for it. And shortly, there will be fewer people who want to pay anything and more for them to choose from. So don’t puff out your chest and allow your ego to run negotiations.

Grasp the nettle and take that decent or even half decent offer… indecently fast.

Buying Agent, the Royal Wedding and a London flat…

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‘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?

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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.

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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

Buying Agent’s walk on the vile side…

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Everyone who knows me can assure you of my deep interest in all things Interior design. My home is a haven for all the latest trends. I can hardly move for cupcake appliqued cushions and distressed Farrow and Ball dressers. My walls are now plastered with great big chrome letters spelling L.O.V.E and Orla Kiely knick-knacks. Sadly, not everyone has my inherent good taste, so the time has come to name and shame.

What about the chap who has been watching Austin Powers a tad too much. The arrow in this shag-pile-pad creating a delicious focal point- my designer friends say all rooms should have one.

One thing I have learned very recently is that metallic wallpapers are very ‘in’. Might I suggest that they are ‘out’ again very soon.

resonant of blue skies and sunshine?

Of course tiling is still terribly popular. Not sure who gave this chap a tile cutter for Xmas but practice hasn’t made perfect. The reclaimed cast-iron drainpipe is very now though and delightfully co-ordinated with accent colours in the shower cubicle.. clever.

And of course I have told you before that Antlers are ‘so in’. However, I fear this chap has lingered a little too long in the hallowed halls of Liberty’s. A little appliqued deer head on an accent cushion really would have been enough to set the theme.

This example combines the twin trends of Antlers and stone feature walls.. double trendy.

Another trend taking hold is the practice of Burlesque dancing, well stripping to be fair. Think this example might turn Dita Von Teese a little green.

Lighting of course is sooo important. It should of course be on three levels but at least this chap made a feature of it.

Accent rugs are very in vogue…

…for that current Asian feel beloved of TK Maxx discount shelves department.

…and finally, for the vilest trend of all we have to end with John Lewis

Vendors! Take the blo*dy offer.

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Dear Vendors,

Working on the premise that you are a Vendor who really needs to sell, as opposed to a ‘let’s see what can I get’ tyre-kicker, here is my blunt advice:

You have put your property on the market and one of two things has happened.

Nothing.
or
An offer straightaway.

Why is nothing happening?

As there is a lack of good quality stock at the moment, chances are your property is over-priced or there is something wrong with it. Either way, it is over-priced.

An offer straightaway? Great, but I bet if it’s not the asking price you don’t take it. And if it is, I bet you’re screaming that the Estate Agent under-valued it.

Firstly for the lucky Vendors with a quick offer. You may think this is the beginning of a huge influx of ever increasing offers and therefore think you will sit back and await more pennies from heaven. Well don’t. From long experience the very first offers you get will almost always be the highest and the best. Buyers, when they are first to view on a good property will very often make excellent offers to stave off other bidders. Fresh to the market properties are sexy. If that property has been hanging around they don’t feel the need to and worry why no one else has bought it. The longer it is on the market, the worse buyers concerns about it being a turkey, will get and so will the offers. Don’t mess around with that offer, squeeze as much as you can quickly but remember it will probably be the best you get.

So your house has been sitting around for 6 weeks now, dribs and drabs of buyers no offers until one day up pops what you call a ‘derisory’ offer. Ask yourself how derisory it really is. Is it only derisory in relation to the over-inflated asking price? If it really is bad then rent the place out for three years. If you can’t do that then you are going to have to consider it, because the fact is, unless your house is in prime London or worthy of RIBA house of the year, your chances of getting more will only get worse as the weeks go by.

I am being so blunt on the basis that the market is surprisingly buoyant at the moment for Vendors but only due to lack of supply and low interest rates. It won’t last. This lack of supply is very likely to change as the year progresses due to un-employment, rising interest rates and general economic woes. When more properties come onto the market and the demand doesn’t rise, the chances of you getting the price you are offered today will decrease faster than a spider down a plughole.

If my house was going on the market tomorrow and I needed to sell this year, I would be pricing it very realistically, perhaps even under-pricing to create interest. (buyers love what they perceive as an under-priced property). If I had no offers after 3 weeks full marketing with a good Agent I would be dropping the price and I would be looking lovingly at any offer from a buyer with cash or a low LTV mortgage.

To heck with price indices and ‘what it’s worth’. A property’s ‘value’ is only ever what someone is willing to pay for it. And shortly, there will be fewer people who want to pay anything and more for them to choose from. So don’t puff out your chest and allow your ego to run negotiations.

Grasp the nettle and take that decent or even half decent offer… indecently fast.

The day I went to buy an island

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Hey Trace’, starts the call. ‘Know anything about islands?’ It’s the Manager of a pro-golfer I work with and he’s found a possible golf course site in Scotland.

It is no coincidence that the manager was a Scot. Even less of a coincidence that the island was next to where he grew up. I had a sneaky suspicion that the Managers sentimentality was driving this, but what the heck.

‘Leave it with me’ I tell him and start leafing through the Filofax for anyone with a Scottish sounding name.

I’d like to say it was difficult to find a chartered surveyor who specialises in Islands but it was strangely straightforward. Serious smugdom. I booked him to meet us on the island.

With trip booked, the Golfer,  takes a look in the meantime.  In a plane. More fly-by’s than drive-by’s when Slebs are involved.

It’s a few years back and without the benefit of Google Earth and with Street View not even embryonic, I have very little idea what I will find. I am told there is a mansion for Golfer to ‘chill’ in, a lighthouse and a caretakers cottage. My role in all this is to verify value and to check out the ‘big house’ and see how it could work as a country retreat for Golfer. A watery pied de terre away from the pressures of Slebdom.

There are three of us at Glasgow airport. Mark the Manager, Ben the golf course designer and me. Now I’m not quite so stupid as to have worn normal garb, I am wearing jeans and a pair of biker boots. My only nod to vanity being a pricey blow dry and a full face of slap. More than can be said for the other two who are suited and booted. Ben is a portly chap with ruddy cheeks. They are going to get ruddier.

Hire car picked up and quick stop at a petrol station where ‘the boys’ buy up a trolley load of sweets. Off to the coast, it’s spitting and I’m wondering how much frizz-ease the hairdresser used.

We arrive at a sailing club and we can spy the island across the water. Quick professional assessment. Yep, it’s an island.

Brawny men approach us dressed up in black and red survival gear and bobble hats. ‘Ye lot gooin ovah too the wee island then?’ head brawny man asks.

I hadn’t quite thought through how we were actually getting over to this island, think I imagined a bridge or something but the ‘rib’ , rigid inflatable boat, had not crossed my mind, I’m quite sure of that. What came next hadn’t either.

‘Ye all need to wayer these’ (he’s Scottish).

Flaming Nora. Survival suits, one size fits all. If you’re a Yeti. They have also provided me with a bobble hat for extra stupidness.

Clambering onto the boat, Captain brawny directs me to behind him. ‘Yee’ll get leess wet’, he says. Less??!.. Less??!. And off we go. No warning, full throttle, nose in air. Thorpe Park white water ride without the safety belt and the photo at the bottom. Nails embedded in the bench, wind whistling up my bobble hat and a sea water facial.

Ben the portly golf course designer winks at me, bully for him, he’s not got eyes awash with  ‘waterproof’ mascara.

The islands caretakers are waiting for us. A couple in their thirties who are keen to please,  in their minds, we could be their new boss. We peel off our survival suits and our bobble hats. Bad hair day doesn’t do it justice. Dundee cake and mugs of builders most welcome in their rather cosy little hut turned bungalow.

The surveyor turns up on a boat from his base in Mull. Introductions made we head off to view the ‘big house’.

Damn, those photographers were good. Hadn’t sussed it was a 1950‘s build. Did wonder about no interior shots though.

Hallway big and bright. Antlers on wall.. check.

Reception room, electric fire and tartan carpet.. check.

Kitchens… industrial deep fat fryers… check.

And onto the bedrooms down woodchip papered, gloss painted corridors.. Lots of bedrooms. Lots of bunk beds. Lots of bathrooms with mouldy shower curtains and vacant/engaged on the doors.

It’s a bloody youth hostel.

Mark looks sheepish. ‘How much would it cost to get it up to spec?’ he asks me. Get it up to spec? Is he having a laugh. Entirely depends on what DemolitionsRus charge these days.

Drawing a polyester veil over the house, the next step is to ‘walk’ the island. Over the top we go, heading for the lighthouse the other side.  I’m given ownership of the sweets as I have a fetching Peter Storm with deep pockets. Men in suits don’t. Not sure what the eating protocol is here but I tuck in anyway.

I notice seagulls as we trundle up the hill. I notice more seagulls the further we get. They are really quite noisy and getting noisier. They don’t seem amused to see us. In fact they are bloody livid. Swathes of them start swooping at us. Dive-bombing.  It’s tricky waving your arms in a scary way whilst trying to protect your head. And seagulls are bloody big. It’s a cheap analogy but we are living the Alfred Hitchcock sequel.

Ben is getting pinker. Mark is striding purposely with the expression of a man who’s idea all this was. Determined only to see the positive.

‘What’s the score on culling them’ I yell at both them. Ben doesn’t answer, he’s concentrating on swinging his arms and breathing. Mark shouts ‘protected’. Well, this is going to make a golf course with a flaming difference.

We make it to the lighthouse. Mark is quite excited and starts ascending, but poor Ben, poor ruddy, nay, crimson Ben just plonks himself on the grass.

Mark wistfully explores the lighthouse and picks the surveyors brains for a costing on refurb. Even I know the surveyors blagging it. He may live on Mull but he’s from Esher.

We take the circuitous route around the island back to where the boat is. None of us want to experience the seagull blitzkrieg again.

Back at the caretakers cottage, I take in the view. I notice something, don’t know how the hell I missed it.  It’s gargantuan.  Grey and glistening across the water. Not so much glistening as radiating. It’s Scotlands answer to Sellafield.

Even Mark had to throw the towel in on this one now. Much merriment was had discussing warm waters for paddling and fish with two heads.

Back into the survival suits, back into the boat. ‘D’ya fancy having a bit of foon?’ asks Captain Brawny. (He’s Scottish). This fun involved throwing the rib over wakes and seeing what angle he could tip the rib to before it dumped us. Think banana boat in radioactive waters.

Oh how we laughed.