Downing Street
Summer is coming, so it’s time to head to the polling station: hurrah! It’s our third opportunity in three years to have a real say in the future of our nation – how lucky we are.

This time, though, it’s different. While it’ll doubtless be as exciting as every other election campaign with all the political parties offering us free cake if we vote for them, there is one issue that 2017’s election will most certainly not be about: property.

Normal procedure upon the calling of a General Election is for instant panic to set in around the property market, driven by newspaper scaremongering and the uncertainty of who may come to power. Well, whether or not you’re a fan of the current Government, there seems to be little doubt over who’ll be first past the post on June 8th.

In theory, that would signal a gold rush. For as long as we can remember, the story around property and politics has effectively been Conservative good, Labour bad. If you’re at all commercially minded or have aspirations in the property area – whether as landlord or homeowner – then the Conservative party will look after you and Labour will not.

Today, that story looks somewhat different.

Thousands of landlords have been thrust into a higher tax bracket this month by no longer being allowed to claim mortgage interest payments as an expense. That has shed doubt on whether many may continue as landlords, shedding further doubt on whether their tenants will keep their homes.

Homeowners, too, have felt the impact of considerable changes to the Stamp Duty system which have slaughtered the top end of the market: many people have chosen to stay put, heavily reducing the number of transactions (along with the income to the Treasury) and further restricting the supply chain causing yet more affordability problems. If you do move, spending £2million in London – not a lot these days – means getting a Stamp Duty bill not far off the cost of buying a one bedroom flat.

So the old accepted tale of Blue vs Red is, for this General Election as least, obsolete: if you want to buy a home or be a landlord, politics is no longer a factor. And perhaps, as a general state of affairs, that’s a good thing. Why take a deep intake of breath and wait it out, when the supposed benefit of one party over the other has disappeared?

So while we can look forward to a campaign centred on Brexit, nuclear button pushing and media headlines of “Who do you want? Countess Dracula, or Chairman Mau?”, we can at least rest easy in the knowledge that nobody is going to do anything for the property market.

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There’s nothing like a high ceiling to lift the weight off your shoulders, and nothing like some chunky beams, roof voids and mezzanines to take a room to new heights.

We’re quite partial to a bit of double height, so we’ve put together a capacious collection of lofty, err, lofts to share the peak of perfection when it comes to these voluminous spaces. Call it touching the void, call it ceiling the deal, call it the enheightenment… however you prefer it, here’s a short story, about tall storeys.
 
 
The Paragon, Searles Road SE1
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This classic loft on the fourth floor of a Victorian school conversion in Bermondsey has two mezzanine bedrooms with lovely parquet floors that overlook the double-height living room with a gorgeous pair of magnificent schoolhouse windows that flood the space with light and look out towards the City. For sale at £699,995 – click here for details
 
 
Port East, Hertsmere Road E14
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One of the first developments from Manhattan Loft Corporation is home to this warm, inviting and achingly authentic one-bedroom apartment on the top floor of a converted spice warehouse in one of the best locations in Canary Wharf, right on West India Quay with a waterside strip of restaurants and bars on the ground floor. For sale at £725,000 – click here for details
 
 
Kirkwood Road SE15
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This former hosepipe factory in Peckham is now one of the most extraordinary houses we’ve seen with incredible beam work and vaulted ceilings inset with plentiful skylights to produce an arresting and quite beautiful property. There’s almost 3,000ft2 of living space along with a detached office/studio of 400ft2 at the end of the private garden. For sale at £2,295,000 – click here for details
 
 
Henry Tate Mews SW16
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Tucked away in Streatham in the grounds of Henry Tate’s former personal home is a disarmingly charming collection of town houses set in 6 acres. This three-bedroom property has a double height living space on its first floor and a mezzanine master bedroom above it with a timber vaulted ceiling. For rent at £575 per week – click here for details
 
 
These are four of our current favourites but the list of lofts, factory and warehouse apartments, schoolhouse conversions and other alternative living spaces for sale and for rent is a forever changing one. Do drop us a line if you are looking to buy, sell or rent an interesting, unusual or unique property.

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Hiding things
Most people wait until the run up to moving day to start clearing out the belongings they don’t want to take to their new home. It’s our view that that process should begin the minute you think about putting your property on the market. Tidying up is usually the garnish word for “moving things around” or “putting things in piles” or “hiding things” which doesn’t really constitute tidying up at all, and isn’t particularly attractive. So here are some tips from us on how to do it right.

Get rid of your piles
Mountains of files, magazines, unopened post and household paperwork – no matter how neatly piled on top of each other – do not constitute tidying up: they need to go. Our experience is that most things in piles hang around for months or years, meaning they’re effectively obsolete. Just get rid of the lot in one go. Anything that really was that urgent will very likely come through the letterbox again. Just make sure to deal with it properly next time to avoid future pileups.

Stay out of sight
As well as making sure you’re not at home whenever your estate agent brings someone round to see your home, it’s also a good idea to remove any excess of ornamentation from the property. That doesn’t mean removing all personality from your home, but too many nick-nacks are overwhelming for buyers and are utter dust traps. If you have countless pictures of yourself grinning from out of frames dotted around shelves, fireplaces, bedside tables, sideboards, etc. then we’d recommend a purge: they draw buyers’ attention away from your property.

Clean up your act
While your home is on the market, we strongly advise having it professionally cleaned every week. It really is a very sound investment. Unless you’re super human or super interested in domestic chores, we find that cleaners do a better job of making everything sparkle. They also tend not to miss the things we do our best to forget – dusting bookshelves, vacuuming behind the TV, etc. And get them to clean your windows at the start and then monthly thereafter – it really does make a huge difference.

Take away temptation
The easiest way of staying tidy is to have less stuff to tidy up. So rather than stuffing your cupboards with stuff, get rid of it. All the advice on de-cluttering and de-personalising makes the day-to-day job of keeping your home tidy much easier. The less you have, the less there is to tidy and the less mess you can make. Which means less work whenever you get a viewing.

Get over it
All this advice is simply to give you the best chance of getting your property sold. Don’t take it to heart when you’re asked to remove some personal items. The job of your estate agent is multi-faceted and includes giving you the best advice they can on how to present your home to maximum effect, minimise wasted viewings and achieve the best possible price in the shortest possible time.

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Once upon a time, not so very long ago, people hunted for a home very differently. While their choice would certainly centre around their core criteria (number of rooms, overall size, access to work or schools, etc), the final decision would ultimately come down to a single defining question: do I like it?

Yes, we know it sounds crazy, but it really used to happen. People would actually base their decision to buy a property on whether or not they got a good feeling from it, and whether they thought they’d like to live there. At dinner parties everywhere, people would say: “It just felt right” and “We knew we wanted it the moment we walked in the door”. Madness.

Today, the picture is very different. Today it’s all about future market value, realising untapped potential and locating the next area to go big. It’s an interesting sign of the times that, when showing someone around a property, we rarely hear anyone exclaim the immortal words: “Oh my god, I love it.”

Perhaps it’s fear of being drawn into the evil estate agent’s web of skilled negotiation tactics and devilish mind control: keep your emotions hidden and you’ll be safe from their charms; avoid enthusiasm at all costs, or it’ll cost you; and don’t be fooled by their smiles and pleasantries… once they’ve got you in their claws, there’ll be no escape and you’ll end up – oh horror of horrors! – in a home you adore.

So what’s going on?

First, the rise and continued popularity of TV interiors programmes has heightened people’s awareness of design and had them realise that, in some instances, a property can be transformed with not a lot of work and lifted from a bit depressing, to really rather nice. That’s a good thing, particularly where busy people are concerned. The word “potential” used to be lost on city types because they were simply too busy to think about the idea of living in a building site and coming home to dust central after a very long day at work. So to demonstrate how a reasonably small effort can transform a property that is otherwise a perfect match is a wholly positive thing.

But it’s the change in affordability that’s had the most dramatic effect on the way people relate to property. Particularly in London, where really the only people who can afford to get themselves onto the property ladder are those earning good money in the city (whether legal, financial or otherwise), perhaps it’s no wonder that hardcore rational analysis has replaced feelings and emotions as the driving force behind decisions.

And we are in a time of mass information, and of mass information being the order of the day. Everyone is armed to the teeth with mass information. New train lines, future regeneration, infrastructure improvements, historic house prices and projected growth areas – often delivered with dramatic headlines and anxiety inducing predictions – all form part of a decision that, let’s be honest, is a really big deal.

None of this is wrong, and we’ve absolutely no objection to people getting maximum financial benefit from their property making decision. But we hope it’s not at the expense of one of the best feelings there is: the joy of moving in to a home you truly love.

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Green-shoots-of-social-media-success
So… we’ve really been going at our social media in the second half of 2016 to see how far we could get. And we are beginning to see some real signs of quality and positive engagement along with an ever-increasing number of followers.

As we write this piece, we have just passed 3,600 followers on our Instagram account and 2,500 likes on our Facebook page. It’s a particularly incredible and somewhat unbelievable result for us; until June we’d been lingering around 200 followers on our Instagram account for some time, but putting in the effort has brought in the rewards and people are clearly enjoying it.

And, of course, that is the key. Is our page providing enjoyment? As sales people, our natural instinct is to sell, but people who want to buy a property would probably already be registered with us. Realising that social media is entirely about being social (duh!) has been a real breakthrough for us and demonstrates that our business has another side to it.

One of the things about being an estate agent is that, at its core, it’s a really enjoyable job. It’s a privilege when someone chooses you to act for him or her in the sale or letting of their property: the buzz you get when they tell you is a really wonderful feeling. It’s not about beating other estate agents; it’s about the show of faith and trust that is being displayed.

It is extremely easy to look at every expense of time or money as needing to have a specific measurable return on investment. The whole “show me the money” thing is, we think, what presents the main obstacle to estate agents with their social media activity. Their view is that if it can’t be shown to have a specific monetary return, then it’s an unnecessary expense. While that does somewhat miss the point of being social, we suspect their struggle with social media may also come from feeling they have nothing to say that anyone would be interested in.

The thing is, if there is any country in the world where property is a nationwide discussion, it’s the UK. They say “an Englishman’s home is his castle” and that is very true. We love our homes; we love making them great; we love talking about them. And we are unmatched in Europe over how much we aspire to own a property. It’s a subject that couldn’t be more social if it tried.

So our view is that estate agents are genuinely missing a trick if they are not engaging heavily with social media. It is a completely and radically different model of communication with which to engage with your audience in a way never before possible. It’s a wonderful opportunity to show the world exactly what we do, why we do it and why we love it so much.

For an industry that struggles so much with its public image, it’s a total no-brainer.

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