Monday, 5 August 2013

The latest Ups and Downs of a Doer-Upper.

Having avoided the issue for some time with posts on Corfu, St Tropez and Planning, it's time to take stock of where we are with our own doer-upper properties.

The truth is, not much further on than we were 2 months ago.

Our first project in Egerton Gardens went on the market in May and still hasn't sold.

It all looked so good as we hit the market at a very 'toppy' asking price (toppy - agentspeak for outrageously silly price). But it seems that we, and more importantly our agents, may have overestimated just how much even this supposedly frenzied PCL market is prepared to pay for a studio flat.

I had hoped to sell before external works to the building cast a scaffolding shadow over the flat's main feature - a light filled room. But that hasn't happened. And we now face 10 weeks of less than ideal selling conditions.

Still, I say to myself, when it's finished the building will look fantastic (as it should, given the residents of this small property are paying Knight Frank £99k for the external refurb!).

The big decision we need to make is whether or not to withdraw the property from the market while this work takes place, and then re-launch in the early autumn. Perhaps with a new, or enlarged, set of agents.

I like both agents we are working with, but it took a threat to withdraw our property to get one of them to start communicating with us properly. And the other one hasn't quite lived up to its efficient, approachable, communicative image.

On the plus side, I'm still proud of the work we've done to the flat. It's a great space, and I feel sure that it will eventually sell at a very good price.

It's just irritating to still have our money tied up. I'd be much happier if we were out scouting our next project.

After much indecision, we actually turned down one offer as too low. We would still have made decent money on our investment, but I just didn't like the constant bid and counter bid situation.

Still, I absolutely hated saying no to close on a million.

Over in W8 our little end of terrace house still sits waiting for work to begin.

If the Royal Borough has anything to do with it, we'll be waiting for another few months yet.

The borough has introduced a 'scam' called the Pre-App. Basically you pay £440 to have a planning officer do what they used to do free - give you a quick, professional, but non-binding opinion on your plans.

This takes about a month. Add that to the two, three or four months to get through the planning stage proper and you're really looking at up to five months to get the council to agree that you can extend the back of your property. In our case, the extension we have applied for is a legal right under Permitted Development. (Technically we don't even have to ask for permission, but I'm advised we would be ill-advised to go this route.)

If you want a new basement or anything more complex, you're looking at six months or more. Sometimes a lot more. How does anything ever get done, I wonder? (I wish I had a monopoly on the supply of 'red tape'.)

Because I'm the most impatient person I know, we've resorted to seeing if we can sell the house now at a decent profit. The answer is, maybe.

We bought at a discount because there was only a short lease officially for sale, plus the potential to negotiate the purchase of the freehold from someone else. Not many, as I've said before, were prepared to take this risk. We did, and now we own the freehold it's a much easier 'sell'.

I haven't put it on the market, but asked one of Notting Hill's coolest, youngish agents (no names, no recriminations) whether they know anyone who'd pay enough to make it worth us selling.

Their enthusiasm, energy and optimism is infectious. I just hope it 'infects' the buyer they showed round sufficiently to unlock her bank account. We'll see.