Diary of an estate agent

A client of our Berkeley Square valuer is gazumped on a £20m house, while a homeowner hides two hairless cats and a colleague gets a dunking

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This week gets off to a flying start as diaries are full with some urgent valuations required for purchasers who are desperate to secure a deal, or borrowers anxious to refinance. I'm to value a beautiful period house in Kensington, just off Kensington Gardens - purchase price more than £20 million. Comparable sales support the price and, not surprisingly, the house has attracted good interest.

Back at the office there's a message from the lender that the job has been cancelled. The purchaser has been gazumped and contracts were exchanged 20 minutes ago at a "significantly" higher price. There doesn't seem to be enough well-priced product in these exceptional prime locations for cash-rich buyers.




Kilburn... it's not quite the same as Kensington, but equally interesting and as challenging. My diary for the day is filled with inspections of a long-established private investment portfolio. At the first property I'm met by a nervous tenant in her two-room, top-floor flat off Kilburn High Road.

All is revealed when she has to beat back the bull mastiff as we cram into the hallway. The lady explains that the dog was a gift as a puppy from the tenant below. Would we please not mention it to the landlord, nor two Sphynx hairless cats. It's well-located stock, close to transport and with potential to enhance rental income and capital value. We anticipate there will be interest when it comes to auction.






Mayfair, and residents walking their bull mastiffs in these parts are a rare sight. Some owners are often only resident for a few weeks of the year. I visit a classic Georgian townhouse refurbished to an exceptional standard. This is a party house: cocktail bar in the first-floor reception room, minstrel's gallery and industrial kitchen. The property is owned by an offshore trust and I am not convinced we can support the lofty level of value it anticipates.

I then go straight into a meeting with an investment fund to discuss a residential portfolio. The growth in demand for rented accommodation, upward pressure on rents and lacklustre returns elsewhere have brought this back to the fore. It's then time for an evening reception at our Mayfair offices. What a turnout - 175 guests have braved torrential rainfall to chat. Champagne is clearly a draw, but the opportunity to make new contacts and catch up with old ones is also appreciated.






Today I'm off to review values of a proposed mixed-use regeneration scheme east of Canary Wharf. Projections for employment growth in the financial and business sector and forthcoming local supply will be key. The afternoon task is an appraisal of a development site in EC1 - a large former post office is to be developed into flats and offices. It's vacant with no power... but we go prepared.

As we descend to the vaults my colleague, James, takes the lead armed with a torch. Suddenly, he disappears down a hole filled with muddy water. Feeling our way out of the cellar, we progress upstairs to find it open to the elements - a des res for EC1's pigeon community. After poring over the plans we think it will prove to be a great development.






Finally, a day in the office. I am interrupted by a series of calls from banks wanting guidance on property prices and demand. The state of the market is causing concern. Press reports are contradictory - good-quality accommodation at the right price and in the best location seems to be selling well, but overpriced or compromised property is struggling to attract interest. Able buyers are those with a chunk of cash, and they want to see value for their money. It's been a busy week.

Patricia Luck-Hille is head of London residential valuation at Strutt & Parker in Berkeley Square, W1 (020 7318 4651)



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