Diary of an estate agent

Our valuations agent spots an unauthorized alteration to a Mayfair flat, uses a sewing kit to measure up and celebrates with a book-launch party


I’m an early bird, up at 6am every day and in the office by 7am. Being a man of habit, the routine rarely changes. The first hours of the day are the most productive, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on reports to be dispatched later in the day.

First inspection at 9am, a two-bedroom flat in SW1, where a claim for a new lease has been made. I am the landlord’s man on this case, so I am not welcomed with open arms. After a brief lecture from the tenant on how to do my job, coupled with the current economic uncertainty and our newly formed coalition government, the new lease premium will be but small beer won’t it, Mr Wilson. My eye is drawn to an unauthorised alteration, which I have no doubt the landlord will be interested to hear about.

I return to the office for the weekly department meeting and to learn that my Leasehold Valuation Tribunal hearing scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday has not settled — the rest of the day is taken up reviewing my proof of evidence and the bundle.


With the hearing pending, the day is off to a bad start when I realise the claimant is attending as a litigant in person. At 9.30am I arrive at the tribunal and learn the identity of the panel members — the good news is we have both a lawyer and a valuer who “understand” the complex area of leasehold reform. The tribunal concludes at 4pm, and I return to the office to catch up on the backlog of emails and enquiries. Finally I have a meeting with Mary (my PA) and Mrs W to discuss the arrangements and guest list for the party to launch Leasehold Enfranchisement Explained, a book which I co-author.


First inspection 7am in SE1, as the tenant works in the City, he needs to be at his desk by 8am at the latest. Paranoid about being late, I arrive at Borough underground station in good time for a bacon sarnie. On arrival at the flat, I learn that my colleague (who has the file, day book, pencil and tape measure) has overslept and will not make the appointment. I end up borrowing a paper and pencil, and the tenant’s wife’s one metre tape measure from the sewing basket.

Back to the office by 9am, and on for joint inspections with the tribunal. Mid-morning at my desk to check the post, fend off a few chasing calls and emails on outstanding reports, and meet with my partners for preliminary year-end discussions and budgets.

The afternoon is spent trying to settle three cases listed for the tribunal hearings next week and signing off the final proof on Leasehold Enfranchisement Explained.


At 7am my partners and I meet to discuss the budgets and staff issues — a necessary evil, ever-conscious that as an independent firm my partners and I are responsible for our 45 staff.

I open the post at 9am to read that my landlord client is very interested to learn of the unauthorised alterations reported earlier in the week — and my advice on serving the counter-notice has been accepted in full, instructions given. The remainder of the day is taken up with various emails, review of valuations and negotiations to settle the three cases listed for next week.


Got to the office at the usual time and manage to conclude two reports to be dispatched later in the day. The post reveals my assistant has become a Chartered Surveyor — major cause for celebration within the valuation department. At 12pm our senior partner and I are hosted on a tour of new offices taken by a well known local firm of solicitors, followed by lunch at the Builders Arms. The afternoon is spent signing off letters and reports, and loading my briefcase with files and laptop to tackle reports and valuations over the weekend so they are ready for dispatch on Monday.

James Wilson is a partner in the valuations department at WA Ellis in Knightsbridge (020 7581 7654)

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