In the dog­house … with the dog

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - Inside Story -


Much con­fu­sion — and en­su­ing hi­lar­ity — start my week as my new­est ven­dor calls to ask why a stray dog has taken up res­i­dence in their house over the week­end. I scratch my head and turn an un­sightly shade of puce as I re­alise the friendly dog run­ning around their front lawn on Satur­day af­ter­noon might not have been theirs. Maybe I shouldn’t have made use of the house keys while they were away for the week­end, af­ter all…

For­tu­nately there is only min­i­mal dam­age to the hall car­pet, which I of­fer to pay for, and af­ter much panic the neigh­bours have been re­united with their beloved pooch. Seem­ingly I can recog­nise a client at 50 paces, but dogs re­main in­dis­tin­guish­able.


Proof of funds dom­i­nates my morn­ing as I help a Bri­tish client liv­ing over­seas to make an of­fer on a prop­erty just out­side New­bury town cen­tre. While domi­cil­iary Brits are at lib­erty to of­fer on a prop­erty with lit­tle more than proof of iden­tity, when it comes to bring­ing money into the UK we have to be much more dili­gent be­fore we can rec­om­mend an of­fer.

My mind wan­ders and I con­sider a re­al­ity in which we’ll be asked to show ID when pay­ing for our weekly shop at Waitrose. For­tu­nately the buyer is con­firmed as le­git­i­mate and we can fi­nally make an of­fer on a gem of a West Berk­shire cot­tage.

We bat­ten down the hatches this af­ter­noon as it’s re­ported across the agent grapevine that a no­to­ri­ous lo­cal time­waster is on the prowl. She has made two of­fers pre­vi­ously, only to pull out on the day of ex­change, and my con­tem­po­raries have re­ported sim­i­lar trans­gres­sions.

As she breaches our thresh­old, we take down her de­tails while dis­creetly brief­ing col­leagues to ex­er­cise cau­tion. The prob­lem with mar­ket towns is that agents tend to stay in the area for life and like ele­phants, we never for­get.


It’s the day of the down­sizer as I have three ap­point­ments with po­ten­tial ven­dors who are con­sid­er­ing mov­ing some­where more man­age­able. One in par­tic­u­lar is a spritely oc­to­ge­nar­ian who has lived in a ram­bling five-bed­room prop­erty for over 40 years. It is filled with happy mem­o­ries but she is feel­ing lonely and needs more day-to­day sup­port.

She os­cil­lates be­tween whether to go through with a move; she is up for a change but is gen­uinely fright­ened and can’t quite fathom how to or­gan­ise it all. This is where the agent’s role as a coun­sel­lor kicks in. We are there as sound­ing boards and it’s par for the course that ev­ery sale comes with an el­e­ment of hand-hold­ing. Our lady in ques­tion de­cides she needs a fur­ther round of talks with her chil­dren, but I leave as­sured that I have just the fam­ily who would snap up her prop­erty should it come to mar­ket.


Ed­u­ca­tion is one of West Berk­shire’s big­gest draws and we reg­u­larly find fam­i­lies com­pet­ing to move into New­bury and its neigh­bour­ing vil­lages. To­day we have a fam­ily mov­ing down from the Mid­lands specif­i­cally for our ex­cel­lent lo­cal state and gram­mar schools. They are due to col­lect their new house keys at mid­day. I rush out to buy them a bot­tle of cham­pagne and af­ter bat­tling the queue in the lo­cal of­fli­cence, I make it back just in time to catch them be­fore they head on to their new home.

From sec­ond step­pers to first-time buy­ers — I rush out for a view­ing at a new de­vel­op­ment in Pad­worth, just on the edge of the North Wes­sex Downs. The de­vel­oper has se­cured a pro­por­tion

If there is one thing I’ve learnt about this week, it’s bore­holes. For ru­ral prop­er­ties with­out a mains water sup­ply, a bore­hole is a means to ex­tract water out of the ground, al­beit sub­ject to var­i­ous foren­sic tests. A pre­vi­ous owner has rather ne­glected their bore­hole, putting a ques­tion mark over the qual­ity of the water. This has spooked our buyer, who has only ever lived in Lon­don and to whom this is a brave new world.

We build a rap­port with the lo­cal water com­pany and they as­sure us that or­der is re­stored. The buyer heaves a sigh of re­lief. I, on the other hand, con­sider pen­ning a guide for city buy­ers on what it means to move to the coun­try — and why bore­holes, sump pumps and sep­tic tanks are a walk in the park.

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