Diary of an estate agent: a sixties time warp in Kensington

Avoiding traffic wardens is a daily peril and one viewing is like stepping into a Sixties time capsule as the flat has been untouched for the past 50 years...
Jumping on to my moped I make an early start, weaving through the traffic in Kensington Church Street to reach the office in time for my third week at Strutt & Parker.
Kensington is a familiar area to me, as I spent plenty of time here when I was growing up. I want to explore the side streets and quirky parts in greater detail, so I’m making plans to be shown around by new friends from other agents.
After a day out and about, I meet up with my new team, who tell me about the instructions awaiting us in this traditionally frantic autumn market.
Today I visit one of the most exciting and exclusive addresses I have ever been to. It’s in a prestigious street in Kensington, a stone’s throw from Kensington Palace Gardens.
The flat, which belongs to a client’s grandfather, has remained untouched for many years.
As I walk through the front door, it’s like stepping back in time. Newspapers yellowed with age lie strewn over a coffee table with the headlines dating back to when England beat West Germany in the 1966 football World Cup.
Lamp shades featuring images of the Beatles are in a child’s bedroom, and a collection of Kinks albums sits next to a gramophone. I realise that I must be one of only a handful of people to walk through the doors within the past 50 years. A fascinating experience.
At our weekly team meeting we discuss the “time capsule” apartment with regard to the options available to our client, the owner’s granddaughter, who has received four very strong separate bids on the property.
Through the window I can see a parking warden noting down my car registration number so I make a dash for it. Traffic wardens are a daily peril for an estate agent.
After several viewings during the morning, I make my way to our Hill Street office in Mayfair, where I have been invited to have lunch with some solicitors. A good relationship with solicitors is very valuable for the smooth progress of a sale to completion. Later, back at my desk, I learn we have been instructed by the client with the time capsule flat to sell two other flats her grandfather owns.
A second viewing is booked in my diary for a flat we have in Gloucester Walk. It’s crunch time for the potential buyer, Sebastian, as his mother has yet to see the property — a common occurrence that can be unnerving.
I meet her there at 11am and we spend an hour running through all the questions she has put together. Within 30 minutes of leaving I see Sebastian’s name flashing up on my mobile. He offers the asking price with a five-day exchange. I telephone our client, who is delighted — they can now start planning the next stage of their lives around a small farm in Wiltshire.

Earlier in the week, one of my solicitor contacts gave instructions for us to market a house as an executor’s sale.
Today I visit the house, which has huge scope, but looks — as we estate agents say — “tired”. Not only that, there isn’t a stick of furniture in the place.
As I inspect the house I am startled to find it smells strongly of fresh lilies. There are no flowers to be seen, no windows open and, anyway, it is the wrong time of year.
I have a niggling feeling that the house may be haunted. On a later visit, I discover an air freshener hidden away on the top of a fitted bookshelf. It’s easy for the imagination to run riot.
  • Charles Colville is a sales negotiator with Strutt & Parker in Kensington (020 7938 3666).

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