Diary of an estate agent: Swiss Cottage

Our Swiss Cottage agent has to break it to a desperate leaseholder that her tape measure doesn't lie
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The morning kicks off with our weekly team meeting, which overruns by 25 minutes, leaving me to make a dash to my first valuation. Thankfully, the property is close to the office and I arrive, slightly windswept, in time to meet with the other valuer, who is acting on behalf of the landlord.

The property is a commercial one with flats above it and the leaseholders have applied to enfranchise their leases - ie force the freeholder to sell them the freehold.

This is particularly important to one of the leaseholders, who has only owned the flat for six months so wouldn't be able to qualify for a lease extension for another 18 months, by which time it will be £30,000 more expensive.

For the leaseholders to be successful, the residential element of the building has to cover at least 75 per cent of the property's floorspace but unfortunately, after we have finished measuring up, we find it is 85sq ft too small.


Spend the morning measuring a flat in Westminster with the owner. As we are going round the place he lets slip that although he has owned the flat for 10 years, he has only just become the registered owner, meaning that he doesn't actually qualify for an extension on the lease for another two years - a wait which will probably cost him £20,000 more, as the lease will drop from 80 years to 78.

On my way back to the office, I get a call from a harassed-sounding sales negotiator at our Islington branch who is having trouble convincing one of his vendor clients that he needs professional advice to determine the potential cost of a lease extension. He is eventually persuaded when I warn him that purchasers will be deterred or make low offers if there is no advice available as to the cost.


I am woken up before my alarm by a call from the desperate leaseholder at the property I measured on Monday, who disagrees with my calculations and wants a further independent assessment.

Although barely awake, I can understand his concern, seeing that the 85sq ft difference will cost him around £30,000. Unfortunately for him, my tape measure does not lie and there is nothing I can do to make the residential parts of the building any bigger, so he will have to wait.

My afternoon's work of calculating the cost of a lease extension for a client is cut short when the opposing valuer, acting for the freeholder, accidentally forwards me their figures (with no "without prejudice" header).

Their figures turn out to be the same as mine and I am able to save my client time and money by taking his instructions and making an offer which I feel will be acceptable.


I'm off to value a flat in W2 which is let, but the owner has arranged access with the tenants. When I arrive, I am let into the property by the two female tenants who are wearing loose gowns and have to keep answering the entry phone and telling visitors to come back in 10 minutes.

They ask me to be as quick as possible - I am clearly holding up business. I return to the office to prepare a submission for a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal.


My last valuation of the week is for a rather eccentric aristocrat applying for a lease extension for his Kensington flat. When I walk in, I am hit by an awful stench and look around in horror at the state of the place but I put on a brave face as I get on with the job. Measuring up is made slightly more difficult as I am forced to try to avoid piles of rotting food, dog mess and dirty dishes which are hiding a threadbare carpet that I guarantee hasn't been cleaned in my lifetime.

Thankfully, the torture is over within an hour and I call in at our Kensington office on the pretence of discussing comparable sales of long-lease flats, but really I just want to decontaminate myself. What a delightful way to finish the week.

Janet Fearn is an associate director in the professional department at Chesterton Humberts' branch in Swiss Cottage (020 3040 8506)

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