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There’s the adrenaline of the deal, the thrill of putting something together – knowing it’s a good match and that you’ve done a good job. GG (my business partner) and I have been at various stages of the cycle with various clients over the past week.
In no particular order – we’ve potentially found something perfect for a newly signed client. The deal (not yet struck) has involved long-distance phone calls and flights being booked for two-hour visits to London – a car on standby to take said client to and from Heathrow, half an hour in the flat and a 15-minute debrief with me. It’s the only time that can be squeezed in before the client’s business trip to Asia and it’s the only flat we’ve shown him. And so the responsibility of this rests on my shoulders, which brings with it it’s own kind of tension.
I have a friend – rather mischievous by nature – who rubs his hands with glee when he witnesses an awkward situation and exclaims, “Delicious tension”. The tension, I decided, will be delicious if the client likes the flat. The tension will then be transferred to the negotiation process which inevitably comes with its own strife, particularly in these uncertain markets. For every pundit who claims prime central London prices must readjust I can offer another who insists prices will rise as such properties are a safe haven and there’s nowhere else for people to put their money as they’ve lost faith in the precarious stock markets.
With another client the haggling is over – to our and, I hope, her satisfaction – and we’re at the stage of calling the lawyer on a daily basis to have all the paperwork signed and sealed so the property is secured and we can move on to an exchange.
And then there’s the house. There are times in my job when entering a property just lifts the spirits. For me it’s not about glitz or pomp, plasmas or neutron lighting; it’s about proportions, light, the feeling created by the people who live there and the rooms they inhabit.
This house – in London’s fashionable Notting Hill – has all these attributes and is the house of a family, replete with a glorious drawing room with windows on both sides, a great kitchen and dining room that opens directly on to a garden which, in turn, leads on to communal gardens behind.
I feel myself on the set of the film Notting Hill and understand why this is one of the streets that families flock to: the urban idyll of being able to leave your back doors open and let your children roam freely. It’s enough to make one broody or, if with children already, beg, borrow or steal to obtain such a house.
GG and I have been charged with selling it, discreetly, and at the right price, for it will have to be something to lure the owners. We had the excitement that comes with an instruction that we both love and then the buzz of brainstorming, calculating who we approach and how, then hitting the phones.
With such excitements at work, I went for dinner and the escapism of a film with an Italian friend. The negotiations, the potential ones to come, the closing, all whirred through my mind as I strode into the Curzon Mayfair cinema. I was aware of some sort of erected barrier but so lost in my own thought I didn’t really register it. Only when I got to the door and witnessed a phalanx of cameras, then found myself standing next to someone looking remarkably like Justin Timberlake but taller while simultaneously feeling a hand on my shoulder did I compute. It was Justin Timberlake and I had waltzed into the premier of his latest film, unwanted and uninvited. I departed swiftly amid exploding flashbulbs.
Later that evening we saw We Need To Talk About Kevin . Intense, beautifully shot, hard to watch and an advert for contraception if ever there was one. And there was I, with this perfect family house to sell, a house that encapsulated harmonious living – one that sang to my soul. I understood then that a property can enhance a family’s life, help nourish it, though it is the people within it that really make life work. The house is just the bonus.
More columns at www.ft.com/secretagent
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