My week kicks off with a 7.30am valuation of a three-bedroom flat in Chelsea’s Cadogan Gardens, where the owners are away skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland. Many of our clients are City types who leave early for work and get home late, and go on holiday to far-flung locations. Recently a vendor was husky sledding in Iceland when I called him. It amazed me that he could take the call.
The pre-election slowdown means that much of our time is spent trawling a database of potential sellers and phoning people to drum up valuations.
We’ve just had our office completely refurbished, so my attention is occasionally distracted by the local characters who have no interest in selling, but who regularly have their faces pressed against the window. Today it’s the “mad cat lady”.
It feels like everyone is waiting in the lead-up to the May 7 election and there’s trepidation over Labour’s proposed mansion tax. The speculation is driving owners mad. They probably wouldn’t even mind paying more tax — they just want to know.
All the estate agents will probably be out on the streets canvassing for the Tories to get in again. The champagne corks will be popping throughout Chelsea if they do.
I find myself having to exit a flat via a drainpipe — not my finest hour. I go to South Kensington to value an apartment in a period building that has been converted into flats. The porter lets me in, then locks the door and vanishes.
He doesn’t answer his mobile phone, so I descend the drainpipe on to the portico balcony and jump off.
Fortunately it’s only a first-floor flat and, as I’m wearing a suit, I assume I won’t arouse too much suspicion.
While out and about on valuations, I realise how many of the properties I see are starting to look the same around here. Many former estate agents are now property developers who share a similar view of what sells — lamps from OKA, ground-floor windows and shower screens that turn misty when you want privacy.
They’re selling a lifestyle and it surprises me that buyers will often pay over the odds for the space and the address, then totally refurbish the place when they move in.
There is a real feeling of spring in the air, and lots of happy clients today.
We sell a one-bedroom flat for £650,000, which is well over the asking price after sealed bids, so there’s one happy vendor.
I then return from a valuation to find a case of champagne from a delighted client after a successful sale. It bodes well for my next valuation — a five-bedroom house in Markham Square. Properties like that will always sell easily.
Lots of agents around here have started taking their dogs to valuations. It’s a good talking point with clients and all the local residents know the office dogs. I’m thinking of taking a horse. There’s a full working stable in Elvaston Mews, so that would be handy. It would make me stand out.
That is the trouble when the market slows down — it gives us too much time to think.
- Christian de Wolff is manager of Cluttons Chelsea and Belgravia (020 7584 1771).