Diary of an estate agent
Our London estate agent is sent to the tower - but the view alone is worth the rent
I am on top of the world. Or at least, that’s how it feels. I’m on the roof terrace of a converted church tower in Crystal Palace, the highest point in south London. The views from here are incredible. It’s one thing to have a city view, but take a step back — indeed up — and London’s entire expanse is laid at your feet. It’s wonderful.
The original Victorian church burned down in the Eighties, leaving just the tower. It’s now a six-storey house, with one room on each floor and — thankfully — a lift. But how to value it? Regular three-bedroom fodder would be £500 a week, but this “heavenly” place soars above and beyond that. We’re trying £1,200. But we will have to wait and see what happens.
A loft, or not a loft? That is the question. As London’s original loft agency, we’re asked it all the time. Today’s first appointment is a loft. A former Victorian school in Battersea with high ceilings, exposed brick, huge windows, chunky beams and all the gubbins — lovely.
The second appointment is converted from a well-known office block. Despite the developer adding “lofts” to the building name, any evidence of previous interest or character was removed to create a strikingly normal, modern apartment with a laminate floor. There’s nothing wrong with it — but there’s nothing New York with it. It’s not a loft, and not for us.
Today I’m showing a converted artist’s studio in north London to a secretive pop star. This particular celeb is so concerned with privacy that to disguise any sign of his visit he arrives in a convoy of six black Range Rovers. The cars burp out various assistants — all clad in black — with Apple products aplenty.
Pads, Macs and phones are pushed to their limits while the “i” at the centre of the storm barks instructions and dictates missives. My presence goes completely unacknowledged. The hurricane whirls through and 10 minutes later, it’s over. As they return to the cars, a drone is despatched with a message: “£3.5 million? We’ll take it”.
I should be in east London. No really, I should. I’ve got an open day at some live/work units that are all being sold as shells — four walls, a front door, nothing else — and these really are the preserve of the east London set. So it is a little surprising that I am in Fulham. Five viewings in a row brings in a varied bunch including a sculptor, graphic designer, aspiring musician (complete with famous rock star dad in tow), and… a vet. Watching people discuss and enthuse over how they’d stamp their mark on an empty space is never-endingly fascinating, but the prize must surely go straight to the sculptor. He wants to string up a hammock to “find his chi”, with just a loo, shower and gas hob for company. The things one does for one’s art.
A week of memories relived. I’ve returned to a number of the rare spaces and lofts we’ve sold over the last 17 years, though not for a leisurely cruise through time. The regular strong demand for summer short lets has stepped up a gear this year thanks to the Olympics.
Anything east of Covent Garden is on the radar of the visiting masses; spectators, media, PR agencies and any other organisation covering the event. We’ve been back in touch with the people who bought these wonderful spaces to ask if they can be persuaded to rent out their homes over the Games and take an extended holiday. Seemingly, they can. It’s been great catching up with so many people and their lives, and seeing what changes they’ve made since moving in.
Solly Strickland is the residential manager in the London office of the Unique Property Company (020 7830 9776; www.uniquepropertycompany.co.uk)
Britain's most unusual, wacky and wonderful homes: water towers, windmills, castles and church conversions