Festive Feasting

Who doesn’t love to feel the spirit of Christmas wherever we go at this time of year? Our homes, the office, the streets of London – literally everywhere is sparkling and twinkling with all things pretty and festive!   In recent years, restaurants have got in on the festive cheer action too, with some going the whole hog and converting their feasting space into something magical and Christmas-themed.  One such example is the Coq D’Argent restaurant near Tower Bridge. For 3 months each year this restaurant turns into the Lodge D’Argent, transforming its wonderful terrace in a stunning apres-ski lodge themed bar, with sheepskin rugs, vintage ski paraphernalia and snowy mountain scenes.  So if you’re longing for a vin chaud and tartiflette on the snowy slopes of Mirabel, this could be the next best thing!

A little closer to us at Davis Brown estate agents in Fitzrovia, is the Churchill Bar & Terrace at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Portman Square. It has also undergone its annual winter makeover –transforming into an enchanting Narnia-inspired hide away to bring out the inner child in you.  Enter through a wardrobe door (of course!), and snuggle up under a cashmere throw, while indulging in a beverage from the hot chocolate inspired cocktails list!  Could it be more cosy?!

Other bars who have made the effort to be seasonal are the South Pole Saloon in Brixton, with Christmas-themed sharing cocktails and winter warming grub. The Grotto Outre – is a very different type of experience.  Hidden down the alleyways of Shoreditch is a secret and very much adult wonderland – experience it if you dare!  Several Christmas markets are dotted around the capital at this time of the year – South Bank being my most favourite with it’s wonderful backdrop of London iconic buildings.  Happy festive feasting!

London Area Identities: Our Favourites!

London is one of the world’s largest cities, as well as the most populated city in the European Union.  Although it is one big city, London can be broken down into different areas, each with their own identity and personality.  In total London is made up of 33 boroughs which spread over 35 miles.  As estate agents in W1, we know that there is something for everyone – whether you want to be in the heart of the theatres in Covent Garden, or the quiet streets of Bayswater, there’s an area to suit you.  Having been estate agents in W1 for many years, we have got to know all of the different areas pretty well, and so we thought we would put together a brief profile of our favourites.

Bayswater

A quiet and residential area of London, key to the identity of Bayswater is the long residential streets with white stucco fronted Georgian terraced houses. As estate agents in W1, whenever we think of Bayswater, these beautiful roads are the first thing that comes to mind.  With a large variety of schools, parks and property on offer, Bayswater is the epitome of central London living for families.

Soho

Situated just South of Oxford Street, the area of Soho covers approximately one square mile.  With our offices in Fitzrovia, we are often in Soho and it is one of our favourites.  Characterised by old converted buildings, and market stalls galore, it is one of London’s more unique areas.  Residents are spoilt by variety, with upmarket shops like Liberty, to vintage shops such as Bang Bang. In short, Soho is a diverse, eclectic and exciting area, with a strong community feel.

Covent Garden

Artsy and utterly charming, Covent Garden is one of the most famous areas of London.  Tourists flock here to see the huge selection of shows on offer including the street artists in Covent Garden Square.  St Martin’s Theatre for example shows the world’s longest-running production, The Mousetrap. There is also the stunning Royal Opera House, which has been entertaining people for over 200 years, and is also home to the Royal Ballet Company.  Full of energy and life, as estate agents in Fitzrovia, we know how popular Covent Garden is to live in.  For those that want to be at the forefront of all things West End, Covent Garden is the area for you.

Marylebone

With its epicentre, Marylebone Village, voted ‘London’s Favourite Street’, it is impossible not to fall in love with Marylebone.  Lots of estate agents have their offices in Marylebone, as there is a wealth of stunning properties on offer from traditional terraced houses to big, period mansion blocks.  Identifiable by its luxurious brands, boutiques and cafes, this wonderful area is the place for those looking for a small community feel in the heart of the city.

Fitzrovia

Our home! As estate agents in Fitzrovia, with roots dating back to 1901, this area has to be our favourite.  With over 6,500 residents today, Fitzrovia has finally been recognised as an area in itself, as opposed to simply an extension of the West End.  Artists and writers alike fell in love with the area, and residents such as Virginia Woolf, John Constable and George Orwell helped to establish the area as a creative and bohemian hub.  Characterised by its diverse mixture of new and old, Fitzrovia features quintessentially British establishments such as Pollock’s Toy Museum and the BBC.  Streets such as Goodge Street and Charlotte Street are some of the most famous locations within Fitzrovia, and are steeped in history and intrigue, with Blue Plaques dotted everywhere.  As estate agents in Fitzrovia, we take a keen interest in the heritage of our home area and we can promise you that there is far more than meets the eye!

For more information about property in Bayswater, Soho, Covent Garden, Marylebone or Fitzrovia, contact Davis Brown Estate Agents in W1.

 

The Queen of the Forest – Christmas in Trafalgar Square

Each Christmas everyone seems to have the dilemma of when is appropriate to put up their tree.   We here at Davis Brown Chartered Surveyors and Estate Agents in Fitzrovia got in the Christmas spirit early and our tree was up and looking pretty at the end of November – I know, I know…    However delightful our little tree is, the most celebrated of all the Christmas trees in London – without argument, is the soaring Norwegian spruce in Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar_Square_Christmas_Carols_-_Dec_2006

Ever thought about the origins of this magnificent tree? Well if you didn’t know, let me enlighten you – the story behind it is a story of friendship and solidarity between two countries.  A yearly gift from the city of Oslo to the city of Westminster, it was first given in 1947 to commemorate the British support for Norway during the Second World War.

The ceremony during the felling of the tree has also been a tradition for many a year.  A few English school children join several groups of Norwegian school children in a silent forest just outside Oslo.  Everyone is drinking and eating, holding hands and singing while the tree is felled.   The tree is a “she” and she’s usually around 45 years old and 30 feet tall. She’s is not left to fall but respectfully lifted skywards by a crane, and the journey to London begins.  Erected on 1st December, the Queen of the Forest (as she is known) comes to life again as the hundreds of white lights adorning it are switched on.   Well worth a visit over the Christmas period.

(I know we’re still in November But…) The Magic of Christmas Starts Now!

“We several Estate Agents from Davis Brown W1 are” (meant to be sung in the style of “We 3 Kings of Orient are” – I won’t give up my day job…) are very much in the Christmas spirit, having just put up our very pretty office Christmas tree. But Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a carol or 2 to be sung somewhere spectacular, and being estate agents in Fitzrovia we are lucky enough to have a plethora of carol services practically on our doorstep.

All Saints Church, our neighbour on Margaret Street has a few carol services to choose from, starting on Tuesday 15th December, then Friday 18th December at lunchtime, and on Monday 21st the 9 lessons in carols. If you pop along on one of those dates you will be likely to hear the dulcet tones of some of us at Davis Brown estate agents (oh what a treat!). On Tuesday, 1st December we have “Carol Singing through Mayfair”, with the Grosvenor Chapel Choir and local residents, starting at the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square at 6pm.

All Saints church

Services are also taking place at Trafalgar Square, which is very well known for it’s magnificent tree, beneath which the carols are sung; singing starts here on 11th December until the 22nd. The Royal Albert Hall hosts an annual singalong service from 13th Dec to 24th, and if you fancy a bit of celebrity spotting head to St Pauls Cathedral from now until Christmas Eve. You couldn’t really ask for places with a more Christmassy atmosphere, so get ready to clear your throats and join in with the festive cheer, and in some of the capitals most stunning buildings.

Royal Albert Hall

 

Places for Pooches

24 percent of households in the UK own a dog, and the number of dog owners in London is most definitely growing.  Several of us at Davis Brown estate agents in have pooches, and so not wanting to leave out our four-legged friends let me share with you a few of their finds around the West End.

Dog Blog map

 

SusanAs the official Davis Brown office dog, at lunchtime Bertie likes a stomp around Fitzrovia with his owner, office manager and head of residential and commercial property management, Susan.    He loves the welcome he gets at The Crown and 2 Chairmen 31-32 Dean Street.  This old school boozer in Dean Street in the heart of Soho welcomes our dogs with a stroke and a lovely big bowl of water – just what’s needed after a hard day at the office!

 

LisaA bit closer to us at Davis Brown estate agents is the Newman Street Tavern.  Described by some as having a rural atmosphere, but being in the centre of town.   Hungry hounds and owners alike can settle in for the evening in this cosy pub, everyone’s welcome! Lisa our property manager enjoys taking Ruby there after a walk.

 

 

Sarah-JaneThe Society Club in Ingestre Place, Soho is for the more cultured canines.  A little gem which combines books, art gallery and a members club.  You can also get your paws on signed first copy editions too. Sarah-Jane, our residential negotiator loves to take her book loving pooch Tara for a read on a Saturday afternoon.

 

 

EmmaDuring the festive season, it’s fun to be preened and pampered, but let’s not forget that our pets love a good pamper session too!  Pet grooming parlours are few and far between in the West End so the closest to us is Primrose Hill Pets at 132 Regents Park Road. Emma our residential sales and lettings manager is looking forward to taking her man Sebastian down there for a trim before the Christmas Holidays!

 

So thank you to all our local establishments who open up their doors to our dogs.  And if you want to come and meet Bertie, or indeed would like to chat to one of our agents here at Davis Brown, please feel free to pop in and see us at 1 Margaret Street, Fitzrovia.

 

Anything could happen in the APC Final Assessment

October has passed and another wave of eager graduate surveyors have walked the gauntlet of the APC final assessment to come out as RICS qualified chartered surveyors. As I continue to gather my experience in order to become a qualified commercial chartered surveyor in London I always listen out to what has happened to others who have already been through final interview, picking up unique advice that you wouldn’t expect to hear in a training lecture.

This is based on the assumption that I am prepared, and not doomed to failure as soon as I walk through the door; however, as always, there is the potential of several scenarios cropping up that are outside of your own control.

  1. If you are asked about an event within your competencies that you have mentioned make sure you can remember what you actually did! If for example you valued an office unit within Fitzrovia and can’t remember what happened clearly, there is a good chance you could be interpreted as not having a clue, and you no longer look like you have the capability to be a chartered surveyor based in London.
  2. Remember that panel members do not specialise in every part of the property industry. Try not to be patronising, however if someone looks confused make sure they follow what you mean – you may need to use different wording for an agent in W1 than you would for another surveyor in Bournemouth.
  3. If your CRIT has an error in it be prepared to fend off some tough questions which may start along the lines of “you have either done this because you are incompetent, your PA did it because you are lazy, or you are hiding something” – as happened to a friend of mine, but don’t worry there is an answer for everything as he still managed to get out alive and pass!

Some other titbits of advice my fellow APC colleagues have given me are below – yet the main thing they have reminded me of is: ‘You have no control of your panel, they could do anything… especially if they have had to spend hours in the same room all day’. Baring this in mind, I am preparing myself for:

  • Randomly being asked questions completely unrelated to any of your experience (that guy who just loves talking about sustainable buildings or dry rot)
  • Being asked repetitively ‘are you sure about that?’ The likelihood is they are tired, stressed, bored, and desperate for a coffee – don’t think of it as a reflection of your work.
  • Suddenly being presented with a pile of foliage (or photos of foliage) – this genuinely did happen.

Even though the above may seem like an attack on the panel, I must keep in mind that sometimes your nerves can get the better of you. So when asked a question totally out of the blue – such as ‘what is the price of a brick?’ it is advised not to respond as this recently qualified London based chartered surveyor did with ‘**** if I know.’ Remarkably the panel found it hilarious and appreciated that even estate agents in W1 are not expected to know the price of an individual brick.

Despite the above events, my friends and colleagues have succeeded in qualifying. This proves to me that, as long as I am prepared on the day, fortune is in my favour, no matter what random question on bricks or foliage is fired my way!

 

(Written by John Eden – Graduate Surveyor at Davis Brown)

Illuminating Oxford Street!

I can’t believe I’m about to use the “C” word already but here goes nothing…  the tradition of lights at Christmas time came about in the 17th century.  This was way before we had electricity, so the only way to do this back then was to use real candles which were attached to dried out Christmas trees – very pretty, but elf (ha!) and safety wouldn’t be too happy about that these days!

Nowadays, with the use of electricity and the health and safety people hot on our heels we have come on leaps and bounds with our festive decorations.  As we have seen in more recent years not only our houses, but our streets have also been adorned with illuminations, and the turning on of the Christmas lights is a sure sign that Christmas is on its merry way!   Our beloved Oxford Street – just around the corner from Davis Brown estate agents in W1, had its lights turned on 2 weeks ago by Kylie Minogue no less.  Christmas lights first adorned Oxford Street in 1959; 5 years after Regent Street’s light went on.  Due to recession they were turned off between 1967-78, and since 1981 celebrities have been invited to join in the annual ceremony. The first celebrity to turn on the lights was in fact the Venezuelan born Miss World Pilin Leon, and since then other (sometimes questionable) celebs have been involved.  Richard Branson in 1993, Anita Dobson in ‘86 (Den and Ange storyline was big at the time..),  Jessie J in 2013, Spice Girls in 1996 and old crooner Cliff Richard in 1990.  And just to make you feel old, 10 years ago it was those fresh faced boys from the Green Isle – Westlife.

Davis Brown Estate Agents and Commercial Agents will be adding to the festivities of W1 with our very own decorations, so feel free to pop along to 1 Margaret Street for some Christmas cheer!

Christmas Ox Street

 

A history of London’s iconic mansions blocks from Davis Brown Estate Agents in W1

Period mansions blocks in central London define period block living at its best and in honour of these stunning apartment blocks, Davis Brown Estate Agents in W1 look at some of these beautiful mansion blocks and their rather intriguing histories.

The majority of mansions blocks were built during the Victorian era to service the high demand of the rich wanting to live in London. They were practical and compact, whilst providing luxury and grandeur in the city centre. As all estate agents should know, these blocks were traditionally red brick Victorian or neo-Georgian in style, these mansions blocks brought a new breed of housing to areas such as Marylebone and Fitzrovia. The industrial revolution, urbanisation and a dramatic increase in the population meant that town houses were harder to come by. Therefore apartments that were typically associated with the poor were built to target the middle and upper classes and provide a solution to the housing shortage. The need for efficient space meant that architects, developers and chartered surveyors in W1 were forced to think about building property in a new way. Logistical issues such as water supply, drainage and housing of servants were new problems, previously not associated with the accommodation of the wealthy. However, generous funding and investments solved many of the problems and the first mansion block, Albert Hall Mansions, was built in 1876 to the design of Norman Shaw. The red brick, detailed stone frontage and iron railed balconies became the template for mansion blocks in London all the way through until the First World War when building was halted.

Chenies Street Chambers was built in 1889, and its sister building, York Street Chambers in 1891.  Revolutionary for their time, Agnes Garrett and her sister Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson were directors of the Ladies Dwellings Company which aimed at accommodating professional women at an affordable price.  The building comprised flats of two to four rooms, designed to be self-contained, however there were communal areas for cooking, cleaning and washing.  This was the first time that accommodation had been created for the sole purpose of housing educated, working women and marked a turn in the feminist movement.  Previous famous residents include Ethel and Bessie Charles, the first female members of the Royal Institute of British Architects who actually ran their business from York Street Chambers.  The success of the Ladies Dwellings Company inspired campaigns such as the Married Woman’s Property Act which pushed to secure property rights for middle class women.  Who knew that Chenies Street and York Street Chambers were so steeped in feminist history?!

ext

Bickenhall Mansions was built in 1869 by W.H.Scrymgeour and is characterised by its red brick exterior and tall gables. As estate agents in W1, we have a wealth of experience in both selling and renting within Bickenhall Mansions. The beautiful property was once the home of the British Special Operations Executive, an arm of the intelligence services during World War II. Originally based in Baker Street, the Special Operations Executive grew to such an extent, that Winston Churchill took over Bickenhall Mansions, along with many other mansion blocks to provide space for the ever growing intelligence team.

So what is available to modern day buyers or renters? We are currently marketing a stunning three bedroom apartment in Bickenhall Mansions.  Its double reception room is designed for entertaining…a substantial difference to its use in World War II!  For more details on the property, click here.

At Davis Brown, we have also had many flats in period mansion buildings in Marylebone, W1 and Fitzrovia.  We recently let a stunning apartment in Melcombe Regis Court, just off Marylebone High Street which was full of character and period features. To get in touch about renting a property in a period mansion block, speak to either Emma or Sarah-Jane in the Residential team.

Davis Brown’s summary of the UK’s Residential property market in September/ October 2015

Davis Brown are a firm of qualified chartered surveyors in the heart of London; we take great pride in having our fingers on the pulse of the latest news from the UK residential property market. As such please find below our brief summary of the Residential Market Outlook 2015 from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

As per our last update (August/ September) the shortage of stock in the residential property market is still prevalent, with the lowest number of new instructions received in the period for three decades. This imbalance in supply and demand, continues to drive the residential house prices up. However, 68% of the nationwide surveyors interviewed, felt that the prices were at a fair or below fair value point, which would suggest that on a national scale the market still has ample room to grow. The residential property market in London was the only area to buck this trend, with 59% of those surveyed stating that properties were overvalued.

The number of agreed residential sales has grown at the fastest rate since May 2014 and is mirrored by an eighteen month high in terms of nationwide mortgage approvals. Despite these statistics the RICS has re-evaluated its transactions forecast from 1.25 m to 1.2m to take into account the lack of stock on the residential property market.

There are a number of explanations for the decline in new instructions; with the continued lack of financial stability, perhaps, being the most endemic. Another factor over the course of the year was the difficulty that many buyers had when trying to secure mortgages. The South East has seen the least number of new instructions, with many home owners opting to renovate or extend their existing properties in a bid to avoid the growing cost involved with selling and buying properties. The RICS has also put forward the interesting theory, that the stock shortage problem is self-perpetuating. In that people are opting not to put their properties up for sale, as there is a distinct lack of choice for them in terms of purchasing their next property. It would be safe to assume that is it a combination of these factors that explain the situation. To move forward and encourage new instructions, the market and economy need to offer sellers a sense of security and the ability to generate a return on their investments.

For more information about residential properties in London, contact Davis Brown – qualified chartered surveyors and estate agents in Fitzrovia.

Guy Fawkes & Gunpowder!

The Palace of Westminster – or the Houses of Parliament as we know it, is one of the most glorious buildings in London. With a pretty impressive history too. It spans 900 years from the Anglo Saxons to the present.  Westminster Hall is the oldest building on the parliamentary estate dating back to the 11th century.  It was built by William II between 1097 – 1099 and was the largest hall in England at the time. Decisions made in its corridors of power have shaped Britain’s history.

GUYFAWKES

The Palace was remodelled and extended by various royal residents up until the 1500s when a fire struck and gutted the chambers of King Henry VIII who lived there at the time, after this the royals moved out the lawyers moved in! Naturally, this became the place for anyone with an axe to grind to come and stage their protests here, in more recent times these include flour-bombing Tony Blair and rooftop sit ins dressed as super heroes.   And (as we at Davis Brown estate agents in W1 like to be relevant) this is what Guy Fawkes and his cronies tried to do.  In a nutshell here’s what happened…. when Protestant King James I came to power laws were made against Catholics and they could only practise their religion in secret.  A group of Catholic men found these laws rather unfair and in revenge plotted to assassinate the King.  Guy however was not the main man but a chap called Robert Catesby was.  They hatched a plan which involved leasing an unused room beneath the House of Lords where they were to lay gunpowder and blow up parliament and the King.  Mr Fawkes’ job was to keep watch over the barrels of gunpowder and to light the fuse, but the plan was foiled when he was discovered by soldiers; he was arrested and executed along with his gang.  In celebration of his survival King James ordered that the people of England should have a big bonfire on November 5th, and as we all know this tradition holds to this day.  So when you’re ooo-ing and ahhh-ing this evening at all the pretty fireworks you will now know the history of why we celebrate November 5th!