Family Home – Case Study

The Clients, a French family were moving from Paris to London and were considering a number of areas in which to live when we first met them.  

Monsieur was planning on working three days a week in Paris and one or two days in Canary Wharf so proximity to both Kings Cross and Canary Wharf was important.  Madame is an artist so was keen to be near Hackney, Shoreditch or Woolwich or Deptford where there are large artistic communities.  They wanted their children to be educated at good British schools and for these schools to be walking distance from home.  They also wanted to be within easy reach of central London.

They were considering Islington, Fulham, South Kensington and Greenwich and Blackheath at our first meeting so we showed them the types of property their budget would afford in each area.  They were also considering sending their children to state schools and so we briefly discussed the schooling options in each area and we helped them narrow their search to Blackheath. 

We advised them that there wasn’t a great deal of stock on the market in the area as people tend to stay there for twenty years or more and few large family houses come onto the market at a sensible price.  We informed them that the best results would be gained by conducting an off-market search and agreed to commence the search immediately and also keep them up to date with properties on the market.

With three children and a full-time live-in nanny plus a requirement for an art room and a study for Monsieur, they wanted a large family house with at least 5 bedrooms plus a study and ideally nanny quarters. They were also nervous about the market and wanted a property to which they could add value, and which would hold its value in a downturn. They were clearly looking for their dream home, on a quiet road and with good views and so we felt that a property on the heath would be ideal.

We started the school search immediately and provided the Clients with a report on local and independent schools in the area.  Simultaneously we started the property search by doing an immediate letter drop to suitable properties and we also viewed all relevant properties on the market, sending our links to video footage and particulars of all the properties and our comments on each plus distances to the schools.

The children were educated privately in Paris, and following our school search and recommendations, our Clients decided they wanted to send the children to independent schools locally which meant we didn’t need to worry about catchment areas but the race was on to secure places for them in schools they could walk to easily.

From the beginning we felt that there was one property which would truly fulfil the brief in all respects.  It was a large detached house, which we knew would be big enough to provide the desired accommodation and it also had a huge and beautiful mature garden.

The house was situated on the heath and consequently on one of the best roads in the area and with fabulous views.  The size of the garden and road frontage plus the premium location meant that the property was a developers dream.  We were able to use our development feasibility tools to work out the Gross Development Value of the property and we spent time speaking to the planners and working out the risk and reward factors with various development schemes.  This enabled us to provide an informed view on the development value of the land.

In all it took us over three months to persuade the owners to let us look inside and offer it to our Clients.  They decided to use an Agent, to give another view on valuation.  When we showed the house to our Clients, Madame fell in love with it immediately. 

Predictably, the vendors wanted much more than we felt it was worth, however we put together a good offer and highlighted my Clients willingness to exchange quickly and complete slowly in order to put the vendors into the position of cash buyers and give them time to pack up and find something else.  However our Clients reasonable offer was rejected and all went quiet.  We continued with our search and a few weeks later when I had made very clear that we would not be increasing the offer, the Agent called me and told me that they had decided to put the property on the open market, at the inflated price they had discussed with me.  By this time it was the end of October and I knew that although there weren’t many properties on the market, there weren’t many serious buyers in the area either.

We reiterated our Clients original offer and provided more justifications but again they fell on deaf ears.  During this period we had continued our search fortunately able to show our Clients more properties, most of which were off-market.  We also conducted school visits and interviews, gently explaining what would be required and preparing our Clients and their children so that they were all accepted with no problems at all. 

Meanwhile the vendors of the house our Clients liked received a further offer, £150,000 higher than our Clients had offered however with a little research, we ascertained that they were not in a position to proceed.  By early November we decided to throw down the gauntlet.  Our Client visited once again and we showed him yet more off-market houses, sourced just for him, many of which were never offered on the open market.  We make everyone who meets our Clients sign confidentiality clauses but we insisted vendors of properties my Clients were interested in do the same prior to making any offers.   We planned to make a series of offers and tell all parties what we were doing.  We made clear to the agent and vendors of the preferred house what we planned to do and offered them a further £50,000 but promised to go with them if we heard within a certain timeframe.  Our Clients were prepared to increase their offer but we advised them not to do so.  Finally the vendors agreed the sale and our Clients exchanged within two weeks of receipt of the full legal pack.

Between exchange and completion we conducted various appointments with the Clients and three building companies whom we recommended and had used before.  This meant that we were able to complete the tender process and instruct the builders well in advance of completion so the builders were able to start work the day after completion.  We were also able to recommend three gardeners and organise for the most suitable ones to meet the Client. 

We took possession on the day of completion and read meters, changed the details to the new owners names, applied for council tax and negotiated a discount during refurbishment works, put the owners onto the electoral role, found the previous owners jewellery beside the safe (!) and returned it to her, disabled the alarm and handed the keys to the project manager.  During the next few months we were on hand to help our Clients as required, including pay for the permit for their removal van when their French credit cards were routinely declined by the local authority!  We were delighted to be invited to tea shortly after our Clients moved in and then to the official move in party a few months later.

The Clients have been delighted with their purchase.  They were concerned about how easily the children would settle in but their fears were allayed a little when on the second day, the children asked them why on earth they hadn’t moved years ago!

The family have also received a substantial unsolicited offer for part of the garden which confirms our belief in the development value of the land.

The house is a one-in-a-million family home with a fabulous situation and a spectacular garden.  It took three months of gentle persuasion for the owners to consider moving and three months to negotiate the deal at a reasonable price but the family are delighted with their property purchase and are likely to live there for many happy years to come, secure in the knowledge that whatever happens in the property market, the gross development value of the land will provide a nest-egg for the future.