Diary of an estate agent: Knightsbridge

A Knightsbridge estate agent takes on a £15 million townhouse that was "lost" by the owner in the Seventies - along with the resident butler who hasn't worked for 40 years
Diary of an estate agent cartoon

Monday


Parts of the nation, including ours, are finally drying out, but thanks to “the floods” at home I have 29 Strutt & Parker umbrellas, three pairs of work shoes soaked to the sole and four suits smelling distinctly of wet dog.

With weeks of frayed nerves and plans of emigration a hot topic in the office, the brief heatwave could not have come soon enough. However, the horrific rain has not dampened buyers’ spirits, and there’s a final flurry of activity before the summer lull.

There’s good reason to celebrate as we sell a flat at One Hyde Park for a record price — proving to sceptics that these prestige properties do sell, and very well at that!

Tuesday


I am delighted to be instructed to sell an elegant (on the outside) but totally knackered £15  million townhouse in Knightsbridge. It turns out that the house was “lost” by the owner back in the Seventies when he was reorganising his family trust. So now it has been “found”. Found! Like I would find 50p down the back of the sofa.

We have some initial problems with “Jeeves”, the resident butler who has been happy as Larry occupying the basement staff suite (probably about 1,000sq ft), undisturbed and totally unworked, yet fully remunerated, for 40 years...

Wednesday


The office is delighted as we exchange contracts on a big flat in the neighbourhood. The buyer tells us he originally called our competitors to arrange a viewing but no one answered the phone, so we got the job. Sometimes it is that easy.

Today we also see the biggest lateral apartment in central London — picture a 10,000sq ft mansion in Eaton Square, all on one floor. The flat is vast and a circuit of it takes at least five minutes, but it needs interior designing which, says an expert, could cost between £5 million and £10 million, depending on the buyer’s specification. Sorry, £5 million? If I had that money I’d be retiring, not redecorating.

Thursday


Some interesting stats in from our research department: last year, 75 per cent of our buyers were foreign, but in the past six months, British people have bought the majority of our properties priced over £10 million in Knightsbridge and Belgravia.

These buyers — generally expats — are outbidding their international competition and breaking price records across the board. This is good news, keeping London cosmopolitan but equally, British, too.

Friday


The office is on tenterhooks as it is D-Day for exchange on a mega-deal that has been going on for months. The sale is a share-purchase agreement, meaning that the buyer acquires the holding company rather than the property, and the matter couldn’t have been more complicated.

The company is incorporated in Timbuktu or God knows where, and is ridden with more nasties than you could shake a stick at. Directors are in the habit of vanishing, accounts are never filed, and no one in their right mind would touch it with a bargepole — except our buyer.

He has diligently sifted through all these issues, and we’re finally there. Everyone is agreed contracts will exchange at 5.30pm. Months in the making — gazillions of pounds — grey hairs emerging and not a single fingernail left. We get the call: “I’m afraid this one is going to have to wait until Monday.” Aaaargh!

Not a cloud in the sky. It is 30C in the shade at 6pm. London is gripped by Olympic fever. The roads are utter chaos. But it’s summer in the city and time for a pint...

James Gilbert Green is an associate partner at Strutt & Parker's Knightsbridge office (020 7235 9959)

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