Diary of an estate agent: Cambridge

House hunters don't mind the resident ghost.
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You could be forgiven for thinking the property market slows over the winter months but the last six weeks of last year showed a high level of sales, in fact the second strongest period in the whole year. Today starts with the usual analysis of the week’s sales, viewing numbers, web hits and new applicants. Spotting trends and patterns is what enables us to give honest, up-to-date advice — not always what people want to hear, but always appreciated at the end of the process. 

Once the figures have been submitted it’s time to follow up the viewings from the weekend. With a new house recently launched in Barrow Road, one of the premier streets in Cambridge, it’s going to be a busy day.

The Barrow Road sale has really kicked into gear, with all interested parties jostling into position and trying to gain a competitive edge. The market in Cambridge is incredibly active and when opportunities like this come up, the safest and fairest way to bring this kind of sale to a close is a “best and final bids” process. The date has now been set for Friday at 5pm. 

I turn to focus on a few other agreed deals which seem to be stalling. Access issues on one sale are causing some concern, as the plot is being split. This is where knowledge of the title and the previous planning applications is invaluable and we manage to agree a plan of action which satisfies seller, buyer and lender, and explain the  scenario to the team. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers: “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”

We are taking on a house today that’s well known — and not for its exemplary architecture. Strange goings-on have been reported at Queens House over a number of years and I know the sceptics among you would dismiss the idea of a haunted house out of hand. However, for these stories to hold no truth would have involved an elaborate prank between an entire family, numerous professors from one of the world’s greatest universities and more than 100 historical figures from the locality over a period of 20 years.  Not surprisingly, there is no rush of volunteers to carry out viewings here. That said, a good house in the right location at the right price will always sell, and Queens House should prove no exception. Photographs have been taken — examined carefully by us for orbs and unexpected figures in the windows — a short, sharp factual text has been written for the brochure, and the details are ready in time for tomorrow’s ad in the local paper. 

The Cambridge News is out, and a strong showing from Strutt & Parker confirms that we are securing great instructions in good areas in the city. Queens House has captured the imagination, with a number of viewings now booked in. 

One of the more challenging sales we have agreed is nearing exchange, but we have been hit with a downvalued survey. This isn’t uncommon in a  market growing this quickly — it can be challenging for surveyors to keep up with recent sales. I call the purchaser to reassure her that all is not lost, but her confidence has been knocked. Then I call the seller, who concedes that the offer was considerably above the asking price. The house is a one-off and it could be six months before we see another one anything like it. Six months in this market could mean eight per cent growth, and the survey has not highlighted any major structural issues — so with some further comparable sales provided and a small agreed reduction, we manage to exchange.

To say I’m excited about the best and final bids on the Barrow Road house is an understatement. The phones soon start ringing with hopeful buyers trying to work out where their offers might need to be to secure the house. All I can do is tell them to put their best foot forward and make sure they have no regrets. As 5pm passes, there are eight bids on the table. The first envelope is opened and I do a double take at the size of the figure. Whatever the next seven envelopes contain, I am going to have a happy client. Delivering the news is immensely satisfying, not just because of the price achieved but because selling this family home has been an emotional experience for the vendors.

Now it’s 7pm, the viewing schedule for the weekend is confirmed, the doors are locked and I’ve my own  family to go home to.

Cameron Ewer is the head of Strutt & Parker's Cambridge office (01223 459501)

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