Diary of an estate agent: Chelsea

Our Chelsea agent starts the week by lowering the price of several rental properties due to the slow summer months and finds a nice excuse for a glass of wine in the sun
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Diary of an estate agent
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While everyone is away on holiday it gives us a chance to ensure all paperwork is in order — my least favourite job. I start the day dreading calling various landlords with properties we need to cut the price on.

Unfortunately quite a few of these landlords have been following their friends’ advice rather than the advice of agents, and are being a bit too punchy on values. It’s a good market, but rental properties must be presented beautifully and, most importantly, must be on at the right price level.

Thankfully the phone calls all go smoothly and I am able to provide landlords with enough market research to agree reductions with them — in the confidence that their properties will soon start generating more interest from potential tenants. In some cases it starts paying off almost immediately: this afternoon we receive a number of enquiries through online property portals.

We have just taken on the most beautiful flat in Onslow Square, one of those properties that, even as an agent, grabs me and makes me wish it was mine. The owner has presented it so beautifully that my team will undoubtedly be falling over themselves to do viewings because it’s so stunning. It is so important at the moment that properties look incredible, as we are in a slightly slower month with everybody away on holiday.

This afternoon I have an interesting discussion with a gentleman who is hoping to purchase a very large house locally and do a full refurbishment throughout. He wants my opinion as to potential rental value, without my having seen the house or the quality of finish he hopes for. A blind valuation is always an interesting challenge and it is thrilling to see how close you come once you reassess the valuation upon presentation of the finished project. I hugely look forward to this one but it will probably be nine months away.

We’re having a drinks party for the local letting negotiators from other agencies at our head office. We bump into each other buzzing about to valuations and viewings, and race into one another’s offices to grab keys on multi-agent properties, but we rarely get to sit down for a relaxed chat and see how everyone is finding the market. So this is an informal way to make sure everyone is advising landlords and tenants correctly. And it’s a nice excuse for a glass of wine in the sun.

One of my negotiators is away sunning herself so I do a couple of viewings for her today. It’s lovely to get out and about in the sunshine and see the flats looking so bright and airy. It is definitely nicer being an agent in the summer. The afternoon is quite quiet on the phones so I take the opportunity to follow up on some renewals, which mainly involves being the go-between for landlords and tenants, trying to negotiate rent increases and agree works to be done.

It’s mostly successful and while the majority of the increases are going for RPI or slightly above, we achieve one of 19.5 per cent, as the current rent is still so far beneath market value after years of renewals with no increase.

We often have a rush on a Friday, but it seems most people have packed up and left town, for the weekend at least. King’s Road is eerily quiet. One bit of good news though — a flat which has been on multi-agent has serious interest from the occupant below.

He is due to do some major work on his flat and would like to rent the one we are marketing for 12 months while it’s going on. In our eyes this is an absolute win-win situation. It would be tough to let the place with big works downstairs, and we know he will look after the flat.

With two second viewings today on a house that is due for a price reduction on Monday, it looks like an asking price offer will come forward over the weekend. Happy days.

Alice Unfreville is head of lettings in the Chelsea office of Strutt & Parker (020 7589 9966).

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