Simon Harris, our managing director, has been responsible for selling properties in every single London Borough and most postcodes, selling a loft apartment in 1994 in Peckham for £85,000 to an astonishing contemporary house in Central London for £23.5m. “When I started marketing these kinds of properties in 1994, I called the company ‘Cityscope’ in line with what at the time, was a very urban market – rather scraggy factory conversions in East London, a few rather basic artist studios on Gunter Grove near Fulham and some converted stables in Mortlake”.
It is always a dangerous exercise trying to portray market conditions, especially in the current climate. So many opinions, based on so many varied predictions, results, bank rates, media articles etc, without many of them , if any, proving to be reliable. From where we sit, we can only relay the information we see every day with our enquiries from potential buyers and how those enquiries are moving onto a successful sale – and at what price.
Since the beginning of May 2009, there has been a very significant rise of new enquiries – at all price levels. In comparison to March and April 2009, May enquiries are up by 300% and compared to May 2008, they are double.
There is a general feeling from these new enquiries that people feel in many cases, prices have probably gone as low as they are likely to go – from those willing to sell and whilst there still be some downward movement in some areas of the UK, well located, interesting, quality properties are bottomed out.
This may or may not be the case and we are certainly not going to attempt to predict anything, but all we know is that we agreed sales on 13 properties during May 2009 (we agreed sales on 8 properties in May 2008 and 17 in May 2007) but only 6 in March 2009 and 8 in April 2009.
In some cases, we even had to go to sealed bids, but only on the basis of being in receipt of several offers and in those cases, below the asking prices. There were several properties that had been on the market for 4-5 months, a few of which had been reduced in price during that time and interested parties revisiting them several months after initial viewing the property – and finally making an offer.
This activity has also been partly driven by a severe lack of new properties coming to the market – again at all price levels. Add the revitalised demand the the real lack of new (interesting) housing stock and whilst we are by no means back to any kind of a rising market, supply and demand are not even remotely closely related and the appearence is that of a bullish market. In this case, the bulls are the buyers (we have several cases that can only be described as mild stalking – from several buyers calling our Valuer, Simon, 2-3 times a day to ask about forthcoming valuations and potential offerings!).
In fairness, it is an excellent time to buy as well as sell. If the seller is realistic about the potential sale price, then without any shadow of a doubt, a sale can be arranged relatively quickly or at the very least, enquiries and viewings are hugely up on 3 months ago. As an example, we posted the details of an interesting Live/Work duplex loft in E2 at £330,000 yesterday, and within 24 hours, we received 9 email enquiries – and we have not even had a chance to email the details out to our registered buyers. At the same time, we emailed 16 existing registered buyers with pre-view details of a Penthouse coming on the market in Islington at £1.625m and received 10 replies of interest to view the property as soon as possible. Of course, these enquiries may not result in any sale, but it confirms the renewed level of interest shown over the last 6+ weeks.
Lending and reasonable mortgages are still a huge problem for many and we know of many 100’s of potential buyers who would dearly love to buy something now but are still finding it extremely difficult to source reasonable lending.
The result of this increased activity can only be endorsed by the fact that several of our staff have changed their holiday plans for this summer – one of them changing their cycling holiday in the Lake District to 10 days in Vancouver and another from a holiday cottage in Lille to 2 weeks in Corsica! A reliable endorsement of a stonger market? Perhaps not, but increased holiday plans from colleagues who can only be described as wall flowers when it comes to buying their round at our end of weekly get together, then perhaps the signs are encouraging.
From time to time, we are going to relay some of the experiences that we all go through here. Being specialists in such an interesting part of the property industry, we come across some remarkable and off the wall properties as well as owners and buyers.
One of the best aspects of what we do here at Unique is the hugely varied experiences we encounter on a daily basis.
A day in the life of our valuer, Simon Harris can include (as of a day last week) seeing a nearly completed converted Nuclear Bunker in North London, a Loft in Chiswick, an Artist Studio House in Holland Park, a Penthouse in Islington and a river-front warehouse conversion in Limehouse.
So look out for these ‘diary stories’. An insight outside of conventional Estate Agency that is rarely seen.
It is the great American Dream to own a single-family house. The house on its own defined piece of land servces as moated castle, the place with withdraw fom the world. And house ownership is the emblem of success, proof of having made it. For most Americans, the requisite house is located in the suburbs, and for most, its look is predictable. Despite the stated ideal of individuality, the true desire of most people is confirmity: in the east, the coveted house, tiny or large, is likely to be Colonial: and in the west, California ranch.
But in a small percentage of cases, the house becomes a vehicle of personal expression for both the clients and the architect. For the clients, the drive to create and possess a house truly of their own is both Eros and Thanatos: to craft a nest were one can live and live out one’s life, both stimulated and sheltered by trhe houses’s embrace. For the architect, the house is both talisman and testing ground.
The house as design laboratory for the architect is not only a truism, it’s a fact. Despite changes in family structure, leisure time, and household technology, the basic diagram remains essentially unaltered in two hundred years of American architectural history. Because the program is so thoroughly known, architects are free to give full range to their creativity. The nearly sacred simplicity of the house also makes it the last building type for which an architect can sometimes exercise almost complete design control, free of the often permicious influence of developers, cost managers, hydra-hdeaded client committees and government bureaucrats.
The house, then, is the repository and fulfillment of dreams and fantasies on both sides – architect and client. its cultural importance in America cannot be overstated: in a nation that emphasises choice and individual expression, prizes originality and exhibits an intense interest in psychoanalysis, the house is the final apotheosis of personality.
At the same time, many architects have concluded that individual expression in architecture must be merged with collective cultural myths and memories. Antoine Predock, for example, goes well beyond pragmatic responses to the environment to incorporate spiritually satisfying myths about the special qualities of the land. He designs buildings that responds physically to the environment of the American Southwest and aesthetically to the need for spiritual ties to the earth: the White Residence reminds us of a simple abode structure but is far more sophisticated.
Machado and Silvetti, in their Concord House, assemble a number of room types, that, while abstracted, remind us of the traditional architecture. The overall composition manages not only to recount the architectural history of the semi-rural site, but to create a psychological portrait of their knowledgeable clients and their extensvie architectural experiences.
Steven Holl, both in the Berkowitz-Odgis Hosue and the Makuhari Housing, finds literary constructs that he weaves into the expression of his buildings.
And in California, the firms of RoTo and Morphosis base their designs on highly cerebral themes, among them the myth of mathematical perfection. Whilst these architects in no way preresent a common school of architecture, their work betrays a series of shared preoccupations that are fundamentally “modern” if not “modernist”. Dynamism, spatial energy, complexity in plan and instability are teh means by which some, such as Zapata, Roto and Morphosis, express what is signifies to live at the end of the Twentieth Century, into the Twenty First. Other architects, such as W G Clark and Stanley Saitowitz, seek not to reflect comtemporary life but to provide a refuge from it. There is in many of these designs the desire to test limites of gravity, of material and of composition and the urge to create a building that is felt as much as seen. Finally, these architects seek not to solve universal problems but to focus instead on the personal, the idiosyncratic, the particular needs of a given client, the specific possibilities of a given place.
Reflection of Mineral is a 480-square-foot (about 45 square meters) residence located in downtown Tokyo’s Nakano ward. Designed by architect Yasuhiro Yamashita Reflection of Mineral has received wide architecture and design media attention and numerous international awards.
Also beautiful is the way in which the interior appointments the lines of the bathtub, the curves of the waste bins, the wavy length of the utilitarian shelves respond to the lines of the building. This makes the interior seem larger and much less boxy than one would assume from the outside.
Depending on viewpoint, the house looks like a bulky camper van about to take off. Or it seems to be the result of a giant`s frustrated attempt to fashion a house from a square box. Realizing that the site is too small and the wrong shape for his house, the giant just stuffed the house into the site by force. The whimsy of this beautiful residence is a big part of its charm. At the same time, the house is also an elegant expression of modern Japanese minimalism, and an example of brilliant use of a sparse site, a requirement in the tight space of downtown Tokyo.