My brush with the law in Constable country
As I drive to my first valuation along the winding Suffolk lanes, narrowly avoiding a large cock pheasant, I reflect on my time as a London agent during the Nineties. I miss the buzz of the capital and a steady flow of affluent buyers. I do not, however, miss the traffic and the parking tickets.
The house I'm off to see is in a wonderful setting on the Essex/Suffolk borders with views across the Stour Valley, made famous by John Constable. The owner is a judge and the meeting seems to go well.
As I leave, I comment that he must get some interesting characters up in front of him. He looks at me wryly and says: "Yes, but I haven't seen YOU yet." I leave rapidly and make a mental note to check that our money laundering procedures are up to date...
An elderly client whose sale is due to complete shortly rings and asks if I can help her negotiate a price for central heating oil and garden machinery which weren't included in the deal. It is a magnificent house set in about 20 acres with estuary views and sold off-market to a London buyer. I am, of course, delighted to assist and wonder how on earth one puts a value on second-hand garden equipment.
The afternoon is spent in the office ringing buyers to inform them about an old rectory with 10 acres and a cottage at a guide price of £1.65 million. Compared to a similar house in the Home Counties it is an absolute steal, although the commute into Liverpool Street is longer.
We have just been instructed on the most fabulous Grade II-listed house on the Suffolk Heritage Coast, close to Southwold. It is in Walberswick, a village highly sought-after by celebrities and media types.
Minutes from the beach, the house has five bedrooms and an amazing three-bedroom annexe in the garden. The owners moved from London and have done an outstanding job extending and refurbishing it.
Time to get on the phone to our marketing department in Mayfair, as this one is perfect for an editorial feature and my clients are happy to talk to property journalists.
Off to the Shotley peninsula and time to don my Antiques Roadshow hat, alas without the same allure as Fiona Bruce. Not that I am an expert in garden machinery, particularly antiquated lawn mowers dating from the Sixties and garden tools that look as if they could have been used by Capability Brown. However, I can at least work out roughly how much the oil is worth and for a 5,000sq ft house with a separate boiler for the swimming pool you need pretty large tanks. Not that I imagine the buyer minds — he's an investment banker.
The phones haven't stopped ringing today, as is often the case on Fridays with people wanting to fix up viewings for the weekend. Walberswick, in particular, has had lots of enquiries. I am not surprised, I would love to live near the beach and the idea of an annexe to offload your children/guests is rather appealing.
In the afternoon I agree a sale on the old rectory following a surge in viewings. The owners are delighted as it means they can head down to the West Country where they have found the house of their dreams. A good end to the week and we finish the day popping over the road to the local bar for a celebratory drink.
Carl Eastwood is head of Strutt & Parker's country house department in Ipswich (01473 220 444)