My drive to the office is through the leafy lanes of Sussex; it is a glorious day, with a brilliantly blue sky. We must have the best patch in England: Chichester is a walled city with a harbour, a beach and the South Downs for a backdrop — perfect.
We begin a review of our weekend activity and the property register but the phones begin to ring so we move quickly on to the day’s business. I’m on a final draft of a brochure when I receive two offers on a dear little “do up” cottage we have for sale. This will go to sealed bids and net a great sale price for our client. I then set off to see a stunning house on the shores of Chichester harbour with gorgeous views over the water. Great competition between agents will ensue on this one and, knowing we have several hot buyers registered, I hope to win the instruction.
It's a 5am start as I dictate a report on the harbourside property and go to the gym in a (failing!) effort to roll back the years and shape up. At a meeting with our South-East region partners we agree the market has become price sensitive and houses offered for sale at what looks like too high a figure are just not seeing activity. We discuss solutions, budgets and forecasts.
Then I meet a photographer at a beautiful period house on the Downs. Our client is a designer and the interior is so lovely in its style and quality that I think of my own rather scruffy interior and feel despair, then resolve to improve it. We are marketing this house “quietly”, so phone several would be purchasers.
Lastly, I show a young couple a house that has all the boxes ticked on their wish list. It is period, has enchanting gardens, a cottage, land, tennis court and swimming pool. They adore it and go off to do their sums, whilst I set off to answer all my e-mails.
Divorce is the reason for a house sale today. It is always sad and a tricky balancing act to ensure fairness to both clients, especially if they are not talking. This sale has been going on for what seems to be forever and the buyer has threatened to pull out if we do not exchange contracts today.
The husband, who is reluctant to sell, has not signed the contract and is now uncontactable. After a little detective work, I discover he has gone sailing. So I tear down to the sailing club and leave messages asking him to contact his solicitor immediately he comes ashore. I race back and await events. By the end of the day the husband has agreed to sign - we have success. Our clients can move on and the buyer is not homeless. Hooray!
I have two similar houses to see today. About four miles apart, each has beach frontage and fabulous sea views, but one is likely to sell for about three times as much as the other because of its location. Bracklesham Bay is a bit of a tip for the future as the old railway carriages and timber beach houses lining the shore are being snapped up for redevelopment and a line of stunning, contemporary houses is emerging. Definitely an opportunity for those in the know to invest on the beach.
I visit clients today and discuss the general slowdown in the market. I suggest they take their property off the market and relaunch in September, when everyone is back from their holidays. I go on to a see a house under construction and am reluctant to climb a ladder to the first floor in my skirts and heels. I rather fear I will be providing the afternoon's entertainment for the assembled builders on their tea break. But with relief I successfully negotiate the ladders and return to the office with my dignity intact - and instructions to sell.
Felicity Chetwood is a partner at Strutt & Parker in Chichester (01243 832600)