Diary of an estate agent: London W1

We find clients a new HQ to put their company in pole position.
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Our new advertising wall is up and it’s already attracting lots of interest on social media and from local residents and business owners. We have the whole side of a newsagents to showcase our homes. We decided to highlight that it’s Charlotte Street, not Wall Street, and emphasise the alfresco coffee shop/restaurant culture that makes this part of the West End so different to Manhattan. People have played around with areas of central London and tried to tie them in with New York, for example calling Holborn “Midtown” and Fitzrovia “Noho” but London is unique and we do not need Americanisms to promote it.
The summer months can be quieter for sales but lettings have reported a huge surge in activity recently, as overseas students descend on London ahead of the new university year. We have enough stock for now but at the rate we are agreeing lets we will soon need to replenish stock levels from landlords. At this time of year, landlords can get upwards of 20 per cent more rent for their homes compared to the quieter months of December and January. We tell them to be aware of any break clause requests around this time, as it could lead to a void period when there are fewer tenants looking and rents are reduced.
My colleague Will is out with some clients looking at an office space. This quirky animation agency is a breath of fresh air with so much youthful energy. After searching for many months it seems we have found them somewhere. The questions clients normally ask are: “Where do we put the servers, the meetings rooms, the coffee machine?” But the group from this company ask: “Where do you think the zip wire and the fireman’s pole should go?” Cue an initial blank face from Will and then a smile as he realises that they aren’t joking.
I receive an email asking us to sign up to the London Rental Standard, a charter of how to act with consideration towards tenants and landlords, which is being championed by Mayor Boris Johnson and handled by the Association of Residential Lettings Agents. This is great news, except being members of the association means we are a licensed agent, which already makes us accountable and ensures our past dealings with customers and their money — deposits, for example — have been handled without a fault. Hudsons pays a considerable amount to ensure our clients’ money is protected but too many landlords and tenants still lose thousands of pounds through unlicensed agents. It seems the problem is lack of awareness by the people these schemes are meant to protect. I am starting to feel a little disillusioned with yet another scheme. I need to know how well-publicised this will be before I sign up.
After being gazumped on my own property purchase last month, I am starting to look again. The market has slowed a little since my previous offer so it’s nice to feel I can take a bit more time without fearing it will either shoot up, or that I will miss out on a property. Many buyers put their purchases on hold when confidence in the market drops, or talk of a bubble hits the news. It’s funny how people often just follow the crowd and buy in an upward market when prices are rising monthly and decisions are rushed. Surely it’s better to buy when the market is quieter? That’s my tip for the month.
  • Jonathan Hudson is director of Hudsons Property, based in Charlotte Street, W1 (020 7323 2277).

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