There's more to property than selling
PUBLISHED: 14:00 04 November 2014 | UPDATED: 17:31 13 May 2015
A day in the life of a Property Consultancy office - from tax to tractors.
Monday always starts with a bang – today, the boiler in one of the tenant farms has decided to cease functioning (not with a bang so much as a small “pop”). The property management department spend the first hour of the day tracking down our heating engineer, and reassuring both tenant and landlord that someone will be on site today, without fail! A 2 minute conversation becomes 20 minutes as the tenant has been ill, is somewhat lonely and wanted to let us know what they’ve got on the stove cooking for later. Being an agony aunt, or uncle, is all part of the job.
The Sales Team have been to a house to draft the particulars for a property that will come onto the market next year. As the property hadn’t been let or sold in the last 10 years, there is no Energy Performance Certificate in place and the vendor wants to know how to go about it – a question we are often asked by potential sellers. As we now get all EPCs done when we do the floor-plans and the photographs, the vendor is hugely relieved.
Our Head of Lettings visited a potential property in Nantwich this afternoon. After her tour around the house and gardens, she was in the kitchen talking through the services we offer, when she realised the owner wasn’t entirely paying attention to her pitch! The owner was moving to South Africa and thought that she (and Strutt & Parker) would be ideal customers for his excess stock of surveillance equipment: she managed to resist coming back with over 100 CCTV cameras… though she did come back with the instruction.
We have to create an invoice for an elderly housekeeper, who has been with one of our clients for years, so that we can sort out her wages. She eschews all technology and produces very small pieces of paper with hours scribbled on in pencil. We also have to referee some adjoining tenants who, to put it mildly, are not getting along at the moment. Each is accusing the other of not maintaining a piece of track that runs between their houses – even though the track belongs to someone else entirely!
Meanwhile, one of our clients has decided that as he’s approaching his eighth decade, he’d like us to find him a daily help. He wants us to take care of all the details, but has decided that the main criterion is that they have to be very “jolly”.
A huge report to get in the post to a landowner and his family, with 8 copies needed and 12 appendices to collate. Property passing from one generation to another needs in-depth Inheritance Tax Planning. The poor printer sounds like it is half way through the Chester Marathon!
One of our team didn’t make it to work this morning: she was mortified to find out after a site visit to some stables to discuss a planning application that she is very allergic to horses… not the best allergy to have working in a rural firm. But she can celebrate tonight as she has heard she has been successful in getting planning consent for some barn conversions for a new client.
We’ve had an approach made by outdoor extreme event company to run an event on one of our estates. Whilst the first reaction is that it sounds fantastic, we have to bear in mind the mess it could make of the tracks, gardens and farmland. More work to do on this one.
The building surveying team have been on the Welsh Coast all day, advising on the refurbishment scheme for a holiday cottage business. Phase 1 of the project is signed off, and all parties (builders, electricians, plumbers, interior designer) were there to discuss Phase 2. It’s come on a long way from the first visit: the surveyors came back looking distinctly scruffy. Having gone to inspect a barn that was to be converted, they noticed it had a suspended floor. The only way to get access was through tiny hole in said floor – Colleague One hauled Colleague Two through the hole, doing major damage to his clothes – resulting in him having to throw away his tie - and his trousers!
Lots of paperwork being churned out by the Resources and Energy expert – there has been a flurry of enquiries about biomass boilers (something to do with the thought of the heating bills steadily creeping up?)
There are some references to be done for potential lettings’ tenants. These days, hardly anyone comes back “clean” so healthy dose of common sense and further investigation is usually necessary: we use everything from company websites to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook! We have been successful in weeding out a fraudster using social media: a couple of years ago, a potential tenant had come through all formal referencing, with good ID and excellent personal references. During the days leading up to signing the lease, further research revealed some anomalies – suffice it to say that, as he was signing the documents, the police arrived to arrest him in our Boardroom. One very grateful Landlord!
Filming has wrapped at two of the properties we manage – one for a Welsh children’s TV programme, and one involving a very large American corporation making a mini-series. Not sure it tops having a Coronation Street wedding filmed at one of our North Cheshire estate houses! On top of that, we’ve had two properties filmed for Escape to the Country this year. Having film crews on site is fascinating, hard work, disruptive – but ultimately, very entertaining! Now we’re all waiting on tenterhooks for the series to start, popcorn at the ready.
The Lettings team have seen 8 properties to day – rent reviews for large landowner accounting for 6, and another 2 potential properties. The day ended with the last house owner’s puppy taking a shine to our Lettings Administrator, and racing down the drive after her in her car. Luckily, she caught the movement of sprinting spaniel in her wing-mirror, and the stowaway was returned safe and well to a grateful owner.
Really terrible weather today, one of the Valuations team rung in from a very remote farm on a Welsh headland, mildly concerned that having got her vehicle down the under-used track, she might not get back up again. The property hasn’t been lived in for years – half the stairs are missing, not to mention large parts of the floor upstairs. There is, at least, a phone signal…
The Sales Team are dealing with a large property valuations as the owner has decided that after 34 years in the same house, and recently becoming a widower, it’s time to move on. But with 3 children to consider, at this stage they are just after information as it’s a huge step to take. That kind of job is very emotional for all concerned as the value of the property isn’t all about bricks and mortar.
The weather change inevitably means falling branches: we’ve had a tree survey ordered by the local Council as a branch overhanging a main road was deemed to be possibly unsafe. Though the survey said the tree was safe, we took the view that we should deal with it now anyway, so the originally named “chain-saw-man” will be the next call on the list.
The valuer called in from the afore-mentioned headland: not only can she not move her car from the track, but it is now surrounded by inquisitive cattle! Luckily, help is on the way in the form of a local farmer complete with tractor – and feed to lure the cows away…
The Building Surveying team saw one of their clients yesterday, who is converting, repairing and refurbishing their entire property portfolio. The team have done all the drawings according to the current building regulation specifications – including making sure the potential Landlord has everything (insulation, electrics, plumbing etc) as it should be. They worked with our Planning Department to get the relevant permissions (and Planning are now helping to sort out the building regs with the local authority – a headache the client gladly handed over)! The Tender Pack with all the budget estimates from various different contractors was a pretty weighty document. As is completely normal, once the client saw everything on paper, they wanted changes! Building Surveying will be attached to the CAD programme on their computers today…
Two years ago, the decision was made to fell an unsafe tree next to a tenant’s cottage; however, just as the contractor was booked in, the tenant suddenly announced that we couldn’t do this as she was absolutely sure there were bats roosting in said tree. So we organised for an Ecologist to inspect the tree; as he reported that there was “bat roost potential” (though no bats at present) we now need a licence. There are a lot of forms to fill out to make sure that bats are safe – and many witty comments about Bat Licences, as you can imagine!
The Admin team are collating all old and new leases for all our managed estate properties. There is an organised attack on the archiving, but however “irrelevant” they might see, we cannot bring ourselves to get rid of the maps dating back to 1800.
It’s a complete privilege to be involved with land and property from 19th Century, and to watch the progress of the houses, their incumbents and their business 2 centuries later. Long may it continue.
Strutt & Parker, 37 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RS 01244 354888