One of the hazards of being a 6ft 3in estate agent in this part of Surrey is the large number of 16th-century low-beamed cottages. As “special awareness” is not my strong point, it was only a matter of time before I collided with one of these beams, and I do so today with such force that the elderly client looks horrified at the prospect of having to catch me as I fall. By the time I return to the office I have very little recollection of the house, let alone how much I valued it at!
Today I see a real gem of a house. It’s a Jacobean Grade II-listed manor house that my client has painstakingly restored over five years. We’ve met several times and he is now ready to test the market. In common with many clients this year, he does not want to fully market the house but is happy for us to offer it discreetly to the best suitable prospects. This really goes to show that talking to agents is where you get the great tip-offs, not websites, as some of the best stock never reaches the public domain.
The hardest part of our job can be progressing a sale from the initial excitement of an offer to that elusive exchange of contracts. This often involves lengthy and tortuous negotiations between seller and buyer over the most minor of details. In this instance I spend several phone calls and a two-hour return visit to a property with an overseas buyer, explaining that it is not normal for the agreed price in the UK to include pretty much everything in the house! We get there in the end, with my client showing a large degree of goodwill and understanding.
Finally the sun breaks through and the daffodils are nodding. It’s the ideal morning to look over a fabulous Georgian rectory set amid 12 acres of picture-perfect grounds. It is hard to believe that this is within 20 miles of the West End. The afternoon takes me back to Tuesday’s Jacobean manor with a gentleman who is not only as keen as mustard on the place, but is selling his home through one of our Kent offices. He could not be more effusive in his praise of the manor and is already planning where to put his furniture. We arrange to come back with his wife and children on Sunday so, fingers crossed, the most discreet of discreet sales could be done within the week.
The week ends well with two sales exchanging contracts before lunchtime, almost unheard of on a Friday. The solicitors must have booked early tee-off times! I head off to London for the afternoon to meet up with our Fulham and Chelsea offices. The A3 is such a well-worn route for those migrating to the country from London that our relationship with our colleagues in the capital is vital to our business.
I have lost count of the number of times we have been passed a client from these offices, although on occasion I do feel like a travelling salesman, hawking my brochures around the London offices and expounding the joys of Surrey life. Still, the capital looks quite good, too, on a spring evening, which is why people like our patch — then they can enjoy both great places.
Louis Winterbourne is an associate partner at Strutt & Parker’s Guildford office (01483 306565).