All posts by davisbrown

The Cream of the (coffee bean) Crop!

Being hard working Estate Agents in the heart of W1 – the need for caffeine in our office is above average!    Hence we are well versed in the area’s growing number of coffee shops and of course have our favourites.  But unassumingly nestled in the heart of Soho there is a coffee shop which opened it’s doors no less than 128 years ago and has evolved to become one of the world’s best known suppliers of coffee (and tea!).  As Chartered Surveyors we love all sorts of buildings – modern and old, and this one piqued our interest as it still retains some of its original features such as the wooden shelving along the walls, as well as the original wooden counter and display case, all dating back to 1887 – this is not your generic coffee shop!  Come and visit us – your friendly Estate Agents  in Fitzrovia, then go grab yourself a coffee at the easy-on-the-wallet  Algerian Coffee  Store – a spot of history for locals and tourists alike.

Coffee

Bloomsbury – Snippets of history from the world’s greatest capital city!

Bloomsbury – an area the estate agents at Davis Brown know only too well – is a rectangular area bound by Tottenham Court Road to the West and Gray’s Inn Road to the East.   It was developed from the late seventeenth century and has long been associated with the Bloomsbury Group – a bohemian set of twentieth century artists, writers and intellectuals.   With this in mind those little blue plaques were always going to be aplenty around these parts!  In Denmark Street – AKA Tin Pan Alley for its association with the music industry – lived Augustus Siebe and he resided at number 5 from 1828 til 1872.  Unless you have the knowledge of someone from University Challenge you will be unlikely to know that Augustus was the pioneer of the diving helmet – random I know, but extremely important for those divers none the less!

In Great Russell Street lived Thomas Henry Wyatt; he was a designer of country houses, notably the church at Wilton in Wiltshire which was built in the Romanesque Basilica style (and of great interest to our Chartered Surveyors).  It was the largest Anglican church to be built for one hundred years.   He lived here from the 1840s until his death around 30 years later.

There are 8 plaques in Bedford Square; Henry Cavendish lived at number 11 (aswell as another residence in Clapham Common) from 1784 until his death.  He was a natural philosopher and the most experimental physicist of his time.  He lived here with three servants and usually only communicated by written notes!

Charles Darwin (who needs no introduction) has his plaque at the site of number 110 Gower Street which is now the modern Biological Sciences Building of University College London.  Some of the workings of this great man’s mind I hope are being passed on to the students who now study in the spot where he once studied.  He moved here in 1838 until he became ill and moved in with his family elsewhere in Kent in 1842.

Plaque

Plenty more writers, painters, philosophers, artists and the like lived here.   Feel free to pop in to us at Davis Brown for a coffee and a chat about an area we know so well.

 

 

Monday morning pick-me-up – Fabulous flatties!

Flat lining at work on a Monday morning?  Then drag those tired bones of yours to Flat White coffee shop on Berwick Street, Soho – a hop and a skip from Davis Brown Estate Agents – for a “flattie” (this is an Antipodean establishmentso let’s join in with the lingo here).  FYI, the Flat White was apparently invented in Auckland, New Zealand in 1984 and is prepared by pouring a velvety microfoam (google it) over a single or double espresso.Berwick Street

Flat White was established in 2005; it’s a cosy little place situated at the cobbled end of Berwick Street.  Nothing too exciting about its interior (except for the magic that happens at the hands of the barista), and there is no wi-fi, so close your laptop and park yourself – coffee in hand, on one of their benches placed outside the front and  watch the world go by on this great historical road in Soho and imagine what once was. The southern end of the street was bombed in the blitz during WW2, but several of the remaining buildings date from the 1730s.   The antique lighting shop W Stitch & Co is indeed the oldest shop in Soho, and the Green Man pub occupies a site that has been a tavern since 1738.  For commercial agents like us, our fascination for the area can leave us wide-eyed and in awe, so it’s not unusual after a viewing to find one of our estate agents pounding the cobbled pavements, flattie in hand, soaking up the history. We strongly suggest you do the same!

Soho – Snippets of history from the world’s greatest capital city!

The name Soho is believed to have originated from the hunting cry of the huntsmen who went out with the King from Whitehall to St James Park to hunt deer.  When a deer was spotted, up went the cry of “Soho!”

Being Estate Agents who have served the area of Soho since 1901 we have seen many changes, but Soho had been through many changes way before our time.  First developed in the late seventeenth century it became a desirable place for successful residents, including Sir Isaac Newton and William Hogarth – both of whose houses have sadly since been demolished.   However by the mid-1700s these people had moved to grander houses in other areas, and many more people flooded in from the continent and by the mid-19th century Soho had become one of the most overcrowded areas in the capital.   Now Soho is dominated by commercial premises and Davis Brown commercial agents know this only too well!

Let’s start with Dean Street –it was once home to Communist Karl Marx who lived at number 28 from 1851 until 1856.  He moved to London from his homeland of Prussia where he was expelled, shortly before the publication of his Communist Manifesto in 1848. He lived here in relative poverty and two of his young children died here, but his daughter Eleanor who was born here later became an important socialist campaigner.

Samuel Morse – the American painter and the inventor of the Morse Code lived at 141 Cleveland St from 1812 to 1815.  Massachusetts born, he came to London in 1811 studied at the Royal Academy and became friends with many other creative types including Wordsworth, Turner and Coleridge.  We later lost this great who returned to America where he became the renowned as the scientist who founded the Morse Code.

John Hunter the influential Scottish surgeon resided at 31 Golden Square from 1765 to 1768. Whilst living here he began the anatomical research and lecturing which earned him election as a fellow of the Royal Society in 1767.   Following Hunter’s death, his natural history collection was presented to what was soon to become the Royal College of Surgeons and in 1813 the Hunterian Museum was opened at the college where it can still be found today.

Other famous folk who graced Soho with their presence include William Hazlitt the essayist, Arthur Onslow – Speaker of the House of Commons, Thomas Sheraton the furniture designer.  So as you can see – steeped in history Soho is definitely a fascinating place to visit and if you ever need a guide to point you in the right direction feel free to pop in to Davis Brown Estate Agents at Margaret Street.

 

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Investing in Commercial Property – The Davis Brown Guide

Considering investing in a property?  Davis Brown – a firm of Chartered Surveyors and Estate Agents in W1 are here to help you with the process.  We are regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors so you can take full advantage of our professional expertise.  Here are a few criteria that you should consider first of all:

  • Property Price
  • Lease Length
  • Tenant Covenants
  • Yield
  • Re-Letting Opportunities

Investor’s Considerations:

As all commercial agents know, one of the first things you need to look into are the terms of the current tenant’s leases.  Make sure you have been sent full documentation of all of the leases including “side letters” or “Schedules of Condition” which may be attached to the leases as this could diminish their liability on keeping the premises in good repair and condition or may limit their responsibility in contributing financially in any future works that are undertaken.

When checking any leases, check the expiry dates and any break options (whether landlord or tenant), ensure these dates and terms have been adhered to.

Ask to see the current tenant’s company accounts and check if there are any outstanding rent demands etc, are all the tenants up to date on rent?  The agents acting on behalf of the vendor should be able to supply you with this information.

Find out when the last works to the property were undertaken; are they overdue, do all works that have been undertaken meet current Health and Safety Regulations as well as Building Regulations.

Submitting your Offer:

Commercial Investment Property in London can be marketed in various ways.  Some properties will be put to the “open market” and have no time scale for submitting an offer.  Others will have a “deadline date” where all offers must be made by a certain time/date and will be either by “Informal Tender” or “Sealed Bids”, Davis Brown will be happy to help.

Offers must be made in writing.  Advise the estate agent if there are any conditions to your offer (i.e. your offer is unconditional, subject to any lease renewals or submitted subject to survey).  Supply proof of funding to the vendor together with your solicitor details and a realistic time scale when you can exchange and complete on the purchase.  On some purchases, the vendor may have set the exchange and completion dates, check with your solicitor that you can meet with this time scale.  Try to supply as much information as possible to the vendor supporting your offer.  As commercial agents based in W1, Davis Brown can guide you through this process.

 

Accepted Offer:

Once your offer has been accepted, the vendor or their agent will send Heads of Terms out to all relevant parties, including your solicitor.  Once these have been agreed and solicitors instructed, make sure the property is then put “Under Offer” and ask for the property to be taken off the market and no further viewings will take place.  The vendor’s solicitors will then send a “legal pack” to your solicitor, which will include a draft contract and Report on Title.  This will then allow your solicitor to apply for local searches and raise any enquiries with the vendor’s solicitor.

Exchange of Contracts:

An exchange of contracts happen when both parties have agreed and signed the contract and the deposit monies have been transferred to the vendor’s solicitors (this is normally 10% of the purchase price).  As a general guide, allow 4 weeks from receipt of all legal documentation to your solicitor and exchange of contracts.  Check with your solicitor with regard to any insurance that may be required on the property between the exchange and completion date.  This is also a good time to look into the management of the tenanted property.  At our office in W1, we have a commercial property management team who will be happy to offer their expertise.

Completion:

Completion happens when all remaining monies have been transferred to the vendor’s solicitors.  As a general guide, from exchange to completion allow 2 to 6 weeks.  Your solicitor will inform you when completion has taken place as it is at this time that the vendor will release the keys to you.

Once completed – make sure that you have adequate insurance in place, pay any outstanding Stamp Duty Land Tax (if applicable), and register your ownership with Land Registry. Finally, ensure that any meter readings that you’re responsible for are taken when the keys are handed over to you.

You also need to ensure that your tenants are aware of the new ownership and give them your full company and bank details so that the next payment date is a smooth transition for both landlord and tenant.

 

For more information, please contact Davis Brown – your Estate Agents and Chartered Surveyors based in W1 – who will be happy to help you every step of the way.

Snippets of history from the world’s greatest capital city!

You may have noticed during your jaunts around the streets of London that there are little blue plaques affixed to random buildings, and you may have wondered what on earth these might be…well here’s a little explanation for you..

These little round, blue snippets of history – otherwise known as London’s Blue Plaque scheme, was founded in 1886 and is the oldest of its kind in the world.  Its popularity here in London has meant that it’s since been imitated in many other countries.   It is currently run by the English Heritage who took over the scheme in 1986 from the Greater London Council.

The blue plaque system aims to commemorate the link between famous names of the past – bringing together the human element with the historical environment.  Showing where the great and the good have lived, worked and died enriches our knowledge of an area, but perhaps most importantly – it has saved many an historic building from demolition.

So whether you’re a tourist or a local – next time you’re out and about in London be sure to look out for these little gems and you might just raise an eyebrow at who might have lived in your favourite part of town!

Blue Placque

 

Fitzrovia

Let’s start in Fitzrovia – Davis Brown Estate Agents has its office based here in the heart of the West End.  We have been established since 1901 so we have great knowledge of our surroundings, as well as being part of its history.

Fitzrovia was named so by a journalist around 1940, deriving from the Fitzroy Tavern in Charlotte Street.  It replaced “North Soho” and covers the area between Oxford Street and Euston Road.  Fitzrovia is steeped in history, you’ll notice this by walking the streets close to Davis Brown Estate Agents in Margaret Street – just look up and you will see several blue plaques fixed to the buildings detailing who lived where, and when.   No.15 Percy Street was home to Charles Laughton, an actor best known for his portrayal of Captain William Bligh in the film Mutiny on the Bounty.   If you head to 29 Fitzroy Square you will find George Bernard Shaw commemorated, the playwright and polemicist lived here in the top two stories with his mother and later on with his wife.  The next occupant lived here on a 5 year lease from 1907, she was a leader in the Bloomsbury Set of writers, artists and thinkers – Virginia Stephen, better known by her married name of Virginia Woolf.

Other famous names who resided in the area include the Prime Minister – Robert Gascoyne Cecil, Sir Charles Eastlake – the painter and first Director of the National Gallery, Francisco de Miranda, described as the “Precursor of Latin American Independence” and the list goes on!

If you want to know where they lived and find out more about the history of the area, then why not visit us at Davis Brown Estate Agents in W1, then take a look around Fitzrovia and find out for yourselves!

Stay tuned for the next week’s snippet of history!

 

Considering Purchasing A Commercial Property? Here’s Our Guide!

Considering purchasing a commercial property?  Davis Brown – a firm of Chartered Surveyors and Estate Agents in W1 are here to help you with the process.  We are regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors so you can take full advantage of our professional expertise.  Here are a few criteria that you should consider to help you on your way:

Commercial Properties are divided into 4 main areas:

  • Retail – shops, supermarkets, hairdressers etc
  • Offices – self contained office suites, serviced offices, office blocks
  • Industrial – warehouses, industrial units, trade counter units etc
  • Leisure – restaurants, cinemas, public houses etc

These are again sub-divided but your commercial agent at Davis Brown will be able to advise you on the correct User Clause which is suitable for your requirements.

 

Purchaser’s Considerations:

If you decide on purchasing a commercial property you’ll need to consider either Freehold or Leasehold.

 

Freehold is when you purchase the property outright.  The owner of a freehold generally owns the land and the buildings/structures on it.

 

Leasehold is when you purchase the property but not the land that the building/structure is on.  A leasehold interest can vary from a few years to 999 years.   At Davis Brown, W1  can help and advise on the value of a leasehold interest as the lease length will be of significant importance in the value of the property.  It is worth speaking to your agent to discuss the lease length in detail as it is sometimes possible to “purchase” a longer leasehold interest from the “head lessee”.

 

Find out when the last works to the property were undertaken; are they overdue?  Do all works that have been undertaken meet current Heath and Safety regulations as well as Building Regulations?  It may give you some leverage in “chipping” the asking price of the subject property.

 

Submitting your Offer:

Commercial Property in London can be marketed in various different ways.  Some properties will be put to the “open market” and have no time scale for submitting an offer.  Others will have a “deadline date” where all offers must be made by a certain time/date and will either be by “Informal Tender” or “Sealed Bids”, and again Davis Brown Estate Agents will be happy to assist you.

 

All offers must be made in writing.  Be clear with regard to any conditions that your offer is subject to (i.e. your offer is unconditional or submitted subject to survey).  Supply proof of funding to the vendor together with your solicitor details and a realistic time scale when you can exchange and complete on the purchase.  Please note that on some purchases, the vendor may have set the exchange and completion dates.  If this is the case, check with your solicitor that you are able to meet with this time scale.  Try to supply as much information as possible to the vendor supporting your offer.

 

Accepted Offer:

Once your offer has been accepted, the vendor or their agent will send Heads of Terms out to all relevant parties and their solicitors.  Once Heads of Terms have been agreed and solicitors instructed, the property will then be put “Under Offer” and you should ask for the property to be taken off the market and for no further viewings to take place.  The vendor’s solicitors will then send a “legal pack” to your solicitor, which will include a draft contract and Report on Title.  This will then allow your solicitor to apply for local searches and raise any enquiries with the vendor’s solicitor.

 

Exchange of Contracts:

An exchange of contracts takes place once both parties have agreed and signed the contract and the deposit monies have been transferred to the vendor’s solicitors (this is normally 10% of the purchase price).  As a general guide, allow 4 weeks from receipt of all legal documentation to your solicitor and exchange of contracts.  Check with your solicitor with regard to any insurance that may be required on the property between the exchange and completion date.

 

Completion:

Completion will take place once all remaining monies have been transferred to the vendor’s solicitors.  As a general guide, from exchange to completion allow 2 to 6 weeks.  Your solicitor will inform you when completion has taken place and it is at this time that the vendor will release the keys to you.  When you collect the keys, request that meter readings are taken at this time.

Once you have completed, ensure that you have adequate insurance in place, pay any outstanding Stamp Duty Land Tax (if applicable), Register your ownership with Land Registry and finally contact the local authority with regard to any business rates which may be applicable.

 

For more information, please contact Davis Brown – your Estate Agents and Chartered Surveyors based in W1 – who will be happy to help you every step of the way.

Students: Finding Your Perfect Property

At Davis Brown Estate Agents, our offices in Fitzrovia are always busy in the summer helping students find the right property.  Whether it’s a four bedroom maisonette close to UCL or a stylish studio in Covent Garden we have got it covered.

As estate agents in W1, we know how daunting a task finding your first property can be, so we have prepared a short guide to take you from deciding who to live with through to signing the contract.

 

  1. Choosing who you should live with

 

Deciding who you want to live with whilst at university can be tough but it’s vital that you make the right choice.   As estate agents in W1, we have seen many friends move in together and it’s a fantastic way to split the bills whilst having fun! It is important though to choose like-minded people – if you are keen to study hard and head for a First, you don’t want to be sharing with the party animal of your year! For those of you that like your own space and are looking for a cosy little flat to work in, go for a studio with stylish storage solutions.

 

  1. When to start looking

 

Early! Hunting for your first flat is going to be fun, but probably a bit stressful too! As all estate agents in Covent Garden and Fitzrovia will tell you, rental property disappears fast – especially over summer and in the run up to September.  Get your exams out of the way and start looking in early July.  Register with some local estate agents in W1 and let them know what you are looking for.  Keep an eye on websites such as Rigthmove and OnTheMarket as well.

 

  1. Be realistic about what you can afford to spend

 

That swanky apartment by Fitzroy Place may only be £10 a week over budget, but will all add up! Sit down with your new house mates and work out how much you can afford a month, what your bills will be, and how you want to pay for things.

 

  1. Get your paperwork in order

 

When renting a property, most estate agents will require a copy of your passport, visa if applicable, a proof of current address and university acceptance letter.  Get organised and scan this all in so you have copies on your computer and print out a few spares.  You may also need a guarantor – make sure you have someone lined up if needs be, and get the same identification for them.  If you’re prepared, it will make it much easier to secure a property quickly.

 

  1. Viewing properties

 

You have found lots of suitable properties but now you’ve got to take a look at them.  If there are four of you moving in together the likelihood is it’s going to be almost impossible to get you all together at the same time to view all of your options.  The best idea is to send whoever is free so that you can view the properties as soon as possible and report back to your friends. As estate agents in W1, we know that rental properties don’t stay on the market for long in summer! You can take lots of videos and photos and discuss as a group and if you like it, you can arrange for all of you to go back together.

 

  1. Secure that property!

If you have found the perfect property, get your offer in and transfer your holding fee or deposit.  It is a good idea to get these monies available and ready nice and early, so that when you do find your property, you can secure it quickly.  As estate agents, Davis Brown have a tenants guide which provides you with information about this process, and it is essential that all of the prospective tenants know their obligations and rights before any money is transferred – pop into our offices in Fitzrovia if you have any questions!

 

  1. Move in

Once all of the administrative work is finalised and the agreement has been signed; it’s time to get moved in.  Normally, an inventory will take place and it’s a good idea to check through this after the report has been produced, so that you can add any comments.

 

  1. Enjoy

All that’s left to do now is enjoy your property! Davis Brown estate agents recommend that you work out a cleaning schedule amongst yourselves to keep the property in good order, and can recommend a company who works in central areas such as Fitzrovia and Covent Garden.

 

If you would like to find out more about rentals from September or have any questions about the process from offer to let, contact Emma or Sarah-Jane at Davis Brown Estate Agents, Fitzrovia.

 

Commercial Property Agents in London Look Forward!

The prime residential market in London is said to have received a major boost as a result of the recent general election result, but is the news as positive for the commercial real estate sector?

It seems so, as commercial property agents in London, along with other experts in the field, are confident that continued economic growth, low interest rates, strong employment, booming inward investment and low inflation mark a bright immediate future for the commercial market.

This should only add to the success seen in the first quarter of 2015 – the strongest ever over the past 15 years. Quarter one saw investment in the country reach more than £17 billion.

Central London saw a turnover of £3.1 billion, a rise of 28 per cent on the previous year, and a little over 60 per cent of this figure came from those classed as non-domestic buyers. The first third of the year saw £5.4 billion of purchases by non-domestic buyers outside London, not counting the billions spent in the capital.

Other data just released suggests that the commercial property investment activity in Central London reached a total of £4.26 billion in the first quarter of the year – an impressive start.

The £3.4 billion volume figure, meanwhile, was a massive 42 per cent above the average over a five-year period. Volumes in the City were equal to the first quarter of 2014, but volumes in the West End were seven per cent down as a result of a few huge investments in the area last year and some lack of stock. Nevertheless, the start of this year did see three West End transactions involving figures of more than £100 million – compared to zero in the same period last year.

Any uncertainty felt before the election is now being pushed aside, leading many commercial property agents in London and beyond to think that the UK’s economic recovery will continue apace, spelling good news for the commercial investment and leasing markets.

If this post-election period is making you feel that the time is right to make your next commercial property move, get in contact with commercial property agents in London at Davis Brown today.

Top tips for getting your deposit back in full at the end of your tenancy

As Estate Agents in W1, we are often asked by Tenants how they can get back their rental deposit.  When you move into a rented property, you can expect to pay between one or two month’s rent as a deposit. This is a large sum of money and we have put together some tips to help make sure you get deposit back at the end of your tenancy.

The protection of deposits on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy has greatly improved since 2007 where new legislation came into effect for a Landlord or their agent to place the deposit in a government authorised tenancy deposit scheme.  The Landlord or Agent must write to you within 30 days from receiving the deposit to confirm which deposit scheme the deposit has been registered to.  If the deposit has not been protected, the Landlord could pay you between one and three times the value of your deposit.

We asked our ARLA qualified estate agents in Fitzrovia what Tenants should do to ensure the return of their deposit in full.  There are three simple steps:

 

  1. Do not break the terms of your tenancy agreement

At the start of your tenancy, carefully check the agreement before you sign it, ensure you fully understand the terms and what is required from you as a Tenant.  Check the deposit clause within the tenancy agreement and identify the Tenancy Deposit Prescribed Information (TDPI) – the Landlord cannot serve a valid Section 21 Notice for possession if the TDPI has not been signed.

If you need to make any amendments to agreement during the tenancy, contact your Landlord or Agent immediately. There might be a small charge involved, but it is better than breaking the terms of the agreement and suffering a greater loss later on.

 

  1. Leave the property in good condition

It is advisable to have an inventory and schedule of condition prepared at the start of the tenancy.  It is therefore important to check you are happy with the contents of the inventory and to note any discrepancies to the Landlord or Agent.  Put any correspondence in writing so that you have a paper trail in case there is any dispute at a later date.

During your tenancy, inform the Landlord or Agent if any part of the property or its contents becomes broken or damaged.  It is better to be upfront if the damage has been caused by you. Trying to repair it could cause more damage and cost you more in the long term.

At the end of the tenancy, read through the tenancy agreement and the inventory to remind yourself of your responsibilities.  If you are required to have the property professionally cleaned, ask the Landlord or Agent if they have a preferred contact they would like you to use.   Keep the receipts as evidence but also make sure the property is cleaned to the standard it was found.

The property should be left in the same condition as when you moved in, allowing for ‘fair wear and tear’.  What doesn’t count as fair wear and tear?  Examples include a build-up of lime-scale in the bathroom, mould that has formed as a result of a room not being ventilated properly and general dirt and grime as these are things that should be maintained during your tenancy.  Remove all rubbish and belongings, even if you do not want them (e.g. crockery and cutlery) as you may be charged for removal costs.

 

  1. Pay your rent and bills

The inventory and check-in will usually record the meter readings and it is your responsibility to register your name with the utility companies and pay the bills on time and in full up until the end of the tenancy.  The Landlord can recover non-payment of utilities from the deposit.

 

At the end of the tenancy, the Landlord or Agent has a certain time period to write to you confirming whether they plan to make any deductions.  Make sure they contact you within this time frame.  Read through the deposit clauses in your tenancy agreement as the timescales can vary.   If you cannot come to an agreement, it is time to refer to the case onto an Independent Case Examiner of the Tenancy Protection Scheme.  We hope that most cases won’t have to be referred, however our useful points above provided by our Agent Estates in W1 should give you some guidance for your next property adventure.

 

Contact Davis Brown Estate Agents in the West End for more information.