Sarah Beeny: how to make sure your property sells fast for the best price
From historic castles to stately homes, millionaires’ mansions to high-tech penthouses, Britain is home to some of the most expensive homes in the world. And discerning buyers willing to spend seven- or eight-figure sums hope for the best. “People who deal with exceptional things want exceptional service,” says John Fisher, one of the estate agents featured in a new Channel 4 documentary, Britain’s Most Expensive Houses.
The Amberwood House was owned by Margo Fonteyn (Image: Channel 4)
£ 30M: MODERN HAND HOUSE Harford Manor, set on 40 acres of polo field in Windsor (Image: Channel 4)
Billed as the UK equivalent of Selling Sunset, Netflix’s California-based real estate porn series follows prospective buyers as they view and buy insanely expensive homes. Tonight’s first episode takes viewers through the gates of historic properties in Berkshire and Wales, a striking London apartment owned by a celebrity and the party of a famous prima ballerina.
The show begins with John and his colleague Mary Roberton viewing £ 30 million from Harford Manor on behalf of a French-Moroccan millionaire. The client is based in Dubai and cannot travel to the UK due to Covid travel restrictions, so John and Mary act as agents.
Set on 40 acres of excellent polo field on the outskirts of Windsor, Harford Manor is a 21st century version of the classic English country house, 22 times the size of the average UK house. It has four rooms, a dining room with capacity for 32 comfortably, a gym, a swimming pool, stables, a cellar and rooms for all the personnel necessary for its operation.
Many of the most prestigious and expensive homes in the country never appear on the open market and sales are facilitated through agents like John, who is part of the property brokerage firm Sotheby’s International Realty. He discovered that Harford was available for purchase after his owner invited him to a party there.
£ 3M: MAD JACK’S CASTLE Otterburn Castle, Northumberland, was owned by Mad Jack Hall (Image: Channel 4)
“You are not going to wander Rightmove or Zoopla and you will find it lurking,” says John. But, of course, he is not the one who buys it: John must convince potential owners to make an offer. You have your eye on the hefty commission you’ll earn if you get the deal on the line, but will you get it before the seller loses their patience? “We have had the interest, but closing it is another matter,” admits John.
Meanwhile, Sotheby’s agent Shereen Malik-Akhtar shows clients an apartment in St Pancras Chambers, London’s iconic Grade I listed building, formerly the Midland Grand Hotel. Located on the second floor of the clock tower, the £ 4.6 million apartment is currently owned by model and actress Lily Cole. The Spice Girls filmed the video for their 1996 hit Wannabe on the building’s old central staircase.
Looking around is Anastasia, originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, but now based in London, where she owns a Harley Street clinic specializing in dermal fillers and Botox. With a budget of up to £ 5 million, he wants to sell in Russia and buy in London.
“I have some properties in St. Petersburg and Moscow, and I plan to sell some of them because I plan to stay in London permanently,” he explains. St Pancras Chambers is not for her and eventually she buys a £ 4.1 million off plan apartment in the new Battersea Power Station development.
Back at Sotheby’s office, Managing Director Guy Bradshaw has a meeting with Kam Babaee, CEO of residential property developer K10 Group, about Plas Glynllifon. It is one of the most expensive properties on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales and is where Guy used to spend his childhood summer holidays.
Plas Glynllifon, an exquisite Grade I listed neoclassical mansion built in 1836, has 102 rooms and was once the site of the official ball to celebrate the investiture of Prince Charles at nearby Caernarfon Castle. It was last released on the open market two years ago at a starting price of £ 2 million, which may sound like a good deal but needs some serious structural work to restore it.
There are few people in the world capable of undertaking such a project, and Guy needs to find them quickly before the mansion falls into a state of irreversible disrepair. Enter Kam, a London-based real estate developer with a track record in restoring historic buildings. He knows that a £ 20 million budget is needed to restore the property, but he makes an offer.
In the world of subprime properties, networking and networking are key, and a broker’s little black book is your best asset. Demand doubled last summer as the international super-rich gradually returned to the UK and brokers need all the advantages in the competitive superprime market.
This £ 4.6m apartment in St Pancras Chambers, listed as Grade I, belongs to actress Lily Cole (Image: Channel 4)
The head of the country office, Jason Corbett, has a personal connection to Otterburn Castle, Northumberland, because it was once an owl owned by his ancestor, “Mad Jack Hall”, who lost his lands after the rebellion. Jacobite. Jason tries his best to get the £ 3 million listing, including using his mother to try to convince the owner Elena that he is the broker for the job.
Meanwhile, Shereen is trying to sell a £ 12 million penthouse on the 42nd floor of Southbank Tower in London and has attracted the interest of a young entrepreneur. The problem is that it is being sold ‘shell and core’, which means it is a large space with no internal walls, and it will take another £ 1.8 million to make it a home.
A stark contrast to SouthbankTower is Jelleys Hollow in the heart of the Surrey Hills. This impressive £ 2.65 million property in Cranleigh was a filming location for Star Wars and the remake of Beauty and the Beast.
“Jelleys Hollow is named after a 17th century highwayman,” says John. “A bit of the Dick Turpin character. It’s what I would call a Hansel and Gretel cabin. Um, a bit of a gingerbread place.” Another property on his books is a £ 3.6 million Arts and Crafts mansion in the unlikely location of Bognor Regis, built in the 1920s for a Rolls-Royce director. This beachside beauty has five bedrooms and six bathrooms and comes with game and movie rooms, and its own beachside guesthouse.
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It has an indoor pool, spa center and a spectacular coastal setting with direct access to the beach. But it costs more than 11 times the average property in Bognor, which is also home to a holiday camp in Butlins, so John is looking for a buyer in London.
BUT its £ 3.6 million price tag is a small change compared to the £ 75 million being sought for Amberwood House in Knightsbridge, the former west London home of prima ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn. The Royal Ballet star threw glamorous parties there for the likes of Princess Margaret, Peter Sellers, Rudolf Nureyev, Yves Saint Laurent, JohnWayne and JFK.
Built in 1928, it was extended four years ago with a £ 28 million renovation. The Portland Stone staircase cost £ 580,000. It has eight bedrooms and a triple basement. But to secure the huge commission on this award, Sotheby’s has to persuade the owner to allow them to sell Amberwood. Ultimately, John says, it’s about trust. “You are dealing with people’s lives. People will allow you to sell their house if they trust you to do what they want.”
Britain’s most expensive houses starts on Channel 4 at 9pm tonight