Tuesday, 26 March 2013

I bet it's not like this over at Candy & Candy.

On returning from India, our first project, the cute little flat in one of SW3's smartest enclaves, was looking bigger, brighter, better.

I couldn't believe how fast the builders had transformed it, or what a clever chappie I'd been to buy it.

I should have known not to expect the self congratulation to last. Not when there are builders involved.

Since that short-lived moment of pleasure when all looked to be going to plan, things have gone just a little pear-shaped.

I am now over budget, over-wrought and definitely over the honeymoon period when it comes to property.

The builders somehow managed to construct a bathroom smaller than on the plans, and now want a silly amount to correct their own mistake.

The services for the kitchen are all in the wrong place because our kitchen design has changed. (Hands up, that's my fault, no question.)

The windows turn out to be a hugely complex old design that means they require not just a light sanding, but completely rebuilding - God alone knows how much that will cost.

And the wall of wardrobes I thought were included in the builders quote turn out to be extra. A big extra, because they're being made offsite by bloody 'craftsmen' and spray painted by artists armed with gallons of Farrow & Ball Pavilion Grey.

I could go on. And on. But I think you get the picture.

It's not pretty. Especially when you look at the budget. We're already looking at going £30k over.

While this may be little more than the price of a few titanium taps to the chaps down the road at One Hyde Park, to me that's a large chunk of any potential profit. (If there's any profit it all, that is.)

With this in mind, I've turned my attention to how we're going to 'dress' the flat for sale, who we're eventually going to market it to and, more importantly perhaps, how we're going to value it.

All these questions are, of course, interlinked. And I don't have the answer to any of them.

Like everybody I've ever met, I see myself as a bit of an interior designer. How foolish is that.

Any properties we've done up in the past have been been for us. Our taste. I didn't have to think about appealing to anyone else.

Now that I'm faced with 'dressing' a flat for sale, however, I simply don't know where to start.

The research I've done seems to point to this postcode having two extremes. At one end there's the Candy & Candy school of interiors - a glossy, glitzy, hotel-like world where taste seems to be less important than expense. At the other end there's the Bland & Bland school - so neutral, so generic, so characterless it's almost invisible.

Frankly, neither is really me.

The trouble is there's only two or three places in the world that I want a 'home' to look like.

One is the bleached driftwood, pale blue table cloths and plump white outdoor sofas of Le Club 55 in Saint Tropez. Another is the wonderful Colombe d'Or hotel in Saint Paul with its Picassos, Calders, old stone walls and dark tiled pool. And finally there's J&J's extraordinary houses in Holland Park and France, which I won't try to describe because I simply don't have enough superlatives.

Suffice to say, none of these inspirations quite suit a very small red-brick mansion flat just off the Brompton Road. I suspect, more relevantly perhaps, that they wouldn't suit potential buyers either.

But who is the target buyer for this smaller than it looks one (mezzanine) bedroom flat?

I suppose it could be a senior executive tired of staying in hotel rooms on his/her frequent London visits.

Or, as with the buyer of our old flat in Paris, a rather naughty and wealthy provincial man wanting a discreet place in town to bed his misstress.

Or a young city type more interested in location than square footage.

Or a retired couple wanting a base in town for cultural visits (whatever they are).

Or.......well, anyone who wants to live in one of SW3's most exclusive streets without paying top dollar.

Which, rather neatly, brings me to valuing the place. I've spent hours on Zoopla looking at recently completed sales and current offerings in what's officially called The South Kensington Estate (my parents would rather innocently have assumed that signified a council estate).

Leaving aside those properties on the Lower Ground Floor (or basement, to you and I), there's still a wide price spectrum. It goes from little more than £1500 a square foot right up to well over £3000. Across the road, houses can fetch a staggering £4400 a square foot.

The idea, therefore, that London prices are now increasingly priced by their size doesn't actually hold too much water (if you see what I mean).

We could of course just get a few agents round to value it. But do I trust them? Do I think they've done more research than me? Not really.

By way of example, the flat next door just sold at the asking price to the first viewer on the first day it went on sale. Something tells me that agent didn't get his pricing quite right!

So, to all these questions, I've concluded there is only one answer:

There is no answer.

Instead of science and maths, therefore, we will create a flat that I'd like to live in, price it as high as I think we can get away with and market it to anyone and everyone.

Simple, really. (Well, I'll let you know on that one.)


  1. excuse my ignorance but who is J&J....

    "And finally there's J&J's extraordinary houses in Holland Park and France, which I won't try to describe because I simply don't have enough superlatives."

    1. Sorry Guy but I was being discreet. I don't suppose your father is Alex Wengraf?