Diary of an estate agent

Our Chelsea agent is suddenly fighting off foreign buyers as luxury London begins to look cheap. But the British are fighting for places, too
The off-market property market


What a difference a year makes. I woke feeling hugely enthusiastic about it being a Monday with the prospect of a busy week. We have gone from having no buyers and a world in financial free fall to having no property left because everything has been snapped up by purchasers buying as though possessed: bricks and mortar have returned convincingly as the investment of choice.

After a morning spent with a hilarious Egyptian who wants to buy a flat up to £2 million by next Friday, we have found a perfect über-cool bachelor pad that has his name all over it, but he and I are like traders in a souk, fighting over the last dinar. I want him to pay a bit more; he wants to pay less.

Over a quick lunch with an investor I explain how property websites only tell 70 per cent of the story. We are selling lots of property "off market" because high-profile vendors shy away from their "sale" being the subject of idle internet chitter chatter. For example (and like most other people he was surprised to hear this), with so many converted into flats, there are only nine houses left in Eaton Square - and five of them are currently on the market.


Of the five houses for sale in Eaton Square the most expensive is on at a staggering £50 million and by 10am this morning we already had interest from two potential buyers: as rich people leave Britain, so new ones arrive.

At the other end of the Chelsea scale, I was cruelly gazumped by one of my colleagues on a little house that had come on to the market at £2.75 million only five days ago. Terms have been agreed at £2.8 million, so my underbidder is very cross.


We may be going to sealed bids on an unmodernised Chelsea house with a garage. We have six bidders, ranging from the sharpest property developer in town to a family doctor from Weybridge; all are cash purchasers and not one of them is from overseas.

So, while wealthy people from all over the world are buying the most expensive slices of the borough - we have just sold two houses, one for £8.25 million and the other for £12 million - British buyers are keeping the flag flying, perhaps not at the very top end of the market, but fighting and buying with impressive purpose and determination.


I spent today with an American who flew in from New York this morning with her interior designer. She wants to see everything in Chelsea, Belgravia and Knightsbridge with a price tag of between £5 million and £20 million. She has been viewing for eight months and this morning I showed her the 62nd property. Both my shoes and my patience are wearing thin.

Bad news on three fronts: we have had a few deals fall out of bed for reasons beyond our control. One purchaser buying a flat in Cadogan Gardens got stuck in the lift with one of my colleagues for 40 minutes and fainted; understandably she no longer loves the flat. Another purchaser's wife ran off with his best friend so he is filing for divorce rather than exchanging contracts on what was to be their dream marital home. Another purchaser died just before signing.


To cap quite a week we sold a house that came to the market on Monday. It was sold for £5 million to a South African buying for his 21-year-old daughter.

Only our City buyers remain filled with gloom. They keep talking about Y-, V- and W-shaped recessions. I tell them to stop the alphabet-talk and to look at the facts. I am selling in an area that, at the very most, covers about half a square mile. But it is half a square mile of the most expensive real estate in the world.

They think I am "talking my book up" but my view is that London is actually looking pretty inexpensive at the moment. Mark my words: they should buy now, while they can still afford it.

Lulu Egerton is a partner at Strutt & Parker, Chelsea (020 7225 3866)

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