Sunday, 20 December 2015

All I want for Christmas is....

Dear Santa,

I like to think that I am one of your most undemanding customers. Not only have I been reasonably good all year (considering the turmoil in the property market), but I really don't ask for much at Christmas.

You can re-allocate the cashmere V-necks, the Aqua di Parma smellies and even the swanky new MacBook Air that I covet. I'd forgo almost anything if you could deliver on just one or two of the following:

1: A Sense of Humour.  My family would probably tell you that I've never had one. But in the current property market I feel it's now an essential. I'm not sure that anything can help me see the funny side of a Conservative Chancellor's tax raids on property that have so far cost me at least £250k. But with your help, Santa, I can try.

2: A Time Machine.  I just need one little journey back to Summer 2013 when an agent promised he'd get me over £2m for our then unmodernised little terraced house...and greed got the better of me. I wasted months on offers via this agent that never went anywhere, and that's why I'm now stuck with a modernised house that won't sell for much more! I promise, Mr Claus, not to make the same mistake again, if you just let me go back in time and change things.

3: A Crystal Ball. I don't know about you Santa, but I don't rate the highly paid teams of analysts and forecasters that work for the top estate agents. Their crystal balls seem just that - balls. So could I have a proper, real, working crystal ball so that I can find out whether or not to take the offer that's currently on the table for our house. Knowing my luck, without your crystal ball, I'll sell at a low price just before the market turns upwards.

4: A Few Quid. I am feeling poorer than at any time since I was in my 20s. So a modest lottery win wouldn't go amiss - anything with seven or, preferably, eight figures in it will do. This sudden wealth would not, I promise, ruin my life. Far from it.

It's a short list, Santa. And although perhaps not entirely typical of the requests you receive, I think it's all well within your gift. I certainly hope so. Especially since I'm having the fireplace reinstated just so you can drop in.

Happy Christmas.
The Doer-Upper

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

My latest visit to a parallel universe: The free property magazine.

A hefty thud on the doormat signalled the arrival of yet another glossy, free property mag.

This one was the 'original' London Magazine. But it could have been The Resident (countless area versions) or Absolutely Kensington (also available in endless slightly different versions).

Flicking through the December issue is the usual bizarre experience. Like entering a parallel universe where everyone's a Euromillions rollover winner.

The first property advertised is in Highgate and £14m. There's something hideous south of the river for north of £8m. And then Phillimore Gardens (£17m), Chelsea Square (£18.995m), a W14 flat (£13.5m), Lyall Street (£15.95m).

By now I'm only halfway through the magazine.

I've skipped over the 'low-end' £5m houses, and some pretty boring looking £7-8m ones. Hardly worth the bother when just over the page there's a £16m mansion in W11. Or a £12m house virtually next door to the office where I had my own ad agency in Weymouth St, W1.

After a while, I can take no more of this extreme property porn and flick back to the editorial for a break.

Interior designers you've never heard of show us their homes, the super-rich show us their wine cellars, there are children's toys for Christmas priced at up to £20,000, and a guide to dumping your bonus in St James' get the picture.

As the person once responsible for re-launching Harvey Nichols, I am not averse to luxury goods and spending money.

But this world of ultra-excess is just unreal.  Who are all these people that can afford £10m or more on a house? OK, I've met a few people who've made serious amounts of money. Some could certainly afford something like this. Not many, however.

Yet London is awash with homes at these astronomical prices.

Even more ridiculous is the idea that someone is sitting around somewhere searching through magazines for a £17m house.

Anyone with that kind of money is far too busy to waste time studying The London Magazine, or indeed waste time looking for a house themselves. They'd have people looking for them.

Just like they have people walking their dog, picking up their kids from school, reserving a table at Sexy Fish or keeping the Range Rover ticking over outside.

So why are all these agents wasting their money on glossy ads in these waste-bin mags?

They'll tell you that it's really about marketing themselves to potential sellers. You or I see they have homes like ours to we think they'd be right for us.

Well, maybe. But it still seems a pretty roundabout and expensive way to go about it.

Especially when they're also wasting their money by putting properties on OTM ( where virtually nobody will see them.

Hey, ho. What do I know? It's all a parallel universe to me.


nb: I've just been reminded that in fact The London Magazine is owned by a group of agents who are therefore contracted to advertise in it. Agents also, of course, own OnTheMarket. Perhaps they should stick to what they're good at - being agents.