There appears to be a flutter in the market, a sense that now may be the time to buy. My City of London clients, who had sat firmly on their hands throughout last year, are calling me again and asking my opinion. My feeling is that we’re bottoming out now; there may be another six months to go but I think we’ve reached a time when it’s safe to buy at the right price.
Interestingly, we’ve had two viewings of the mega-house in the last week. I had almost given up hope of securing the mammoth commission we would make on that deal, a sum that would enable us to glide into 2010 on a wave of complacency, surfing through bank bail-outs and job redundancies with unaffected smiles on our faces. The owner, too, has agreed to come down in price a little. He had previously been unreceptive to any offer below his £30m target but it now appears there is some, though not much, flexibility.
There are certain properties that get under your skin. I don’t know if it’s because I imagine myself living there or I’m just drawn to a specific type. For me, it’s about natural light, room volumes, location and aspect. I’ve got two such properties with which I’m conducting wistful love affairs.
They are contrasting in style. The first is immaculate and decorated with superb flair. It’s a penthouse in a celebrated art deco building in Kensington owned by a man of great taste. It has the best roof terrace I have seen in London, extending to some 1,500 sq ft, encircling the flat and creating a space for the best summer parties. The property has four bedrooms and bathrooms, an underground parking space and comes with a ground-floor flat for guests or staff. The main reception room has superb windows like huge picture frames, which border the ever-changing cloud formation and shifting light outside. Every time I visit the flat, I want to stay there and, if I had £7m, that’s just what I would do.
The second flat needs the new owners to put their own stamp on it. It’s owned by a friend’s father and he has asked me to find a buyer for him. I know the property well having spent much time there as an adolescent and through my university years. It’s in Mayfair on what has become the most fashionable street of that area, Mount Street, with neighbours including boutiques – Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs and Christian Louboutin – the restaurants Scott’s and The George Club.
At 3,000 sq ft, it’s a large flat and has wonderful Victorian proportions with high ceilings and grand, elegant rooms. Added to that, the main rooms face south overlooking a small park. My friend’s relatives have lived there for more than 30 years and it has that indelible sense of being a family home.
As I make my way to the top floor, explaining the convenience of living in such a central location to the couple I’m showing around, I’m transported back to my teenage years. The top floor is where all the children slept and resembles a girls’ dormitory from the early 1990s. The posters reflect that era with Take That in their first incarnation of celebrity featuring heavily and a postcard of Mark Owen still stuck on the window of the bathroom. We used to crawl out from that window on to the roof and smoke illicit cigarettes.
I remember one of the sisters had the most pretentious boyfriend, a self-styled “poet” with floppy hair, always lanky and unwashed. He maintained that he was a communist and would sit and strum on his guitar, uttering the most trite observations about the world and thinking himself the reincarnation of Bob Dylan. It used to aggravate me how the swooning girls would take him so seriously. (Of course they wouldn’t have been so enamoured if he hadn’t been so good-looking.) I’d think to myself: “What’s a communist doing sitting here in Mayfair, drinking rather good wine belonging to my friend’s father? It’s hardly front-line liberation.”
But back to this decade and capitalism and the possibility of selling the flat to my clients. “So as you can see, this floor would benefit from some redecoration but, structurally, it’s a superb lay-out. And, considering you could secure it for £3.5m, it’s a comparative bargain.”
It’s all true. Unfortunately I don’t have £3.5m either.
Some details have been changed.