Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Relocation, relocation, relocation….
When it’s time for the big move, families and business professionals are seeking expert help, says Max Davidson
‘Help, I’ve got a toddler, I’m pregnant again, I want to move to the country, but I barely have time to open a newspaper, never mind find the property section. How can I begin to look for the right home for my family?’
That, in a nutshell is the SOS that Kerrin Milmo sent out in 2008. She and her husband, Marc, were looking to move from London to the country but, like thousands before them, found the moving process demoralising and time-consuming.
They had been looking for months, tried and failed to buy a property under the sealed-bids system, and were at their wit’s end. They needed professional help – and found it in Sharon Hewitt, a relocation specialist based in Buckinghamshire. Within weeks Hewitt had cracked the problem, locating a handsome, red-brick property in Beaconsfield, which, once extended, offered all the accommodation they needed.
“We couldn’t be happier”, says Milmo. “Beaconsfield is just 25 minutes from Marylebone by train, which is perfect for Marc’s commuting. We have a great house on a well-located street, and the children are loving their primary school. It is everything we wanted and achieved with the minimum of stress along the way.”
Hewitt’s company, Chiltern Relocation (chilternrelocation.com) is one of hundreds of such companies in the UK, many affiliated with the Association of Relocation Professionals (arp-relocation.com). Most are located in the South East, where demand is greatest.
It is not just a few pampered Russian billionaires who need help moving house. There are many cash-rich, time-poor professionals who are happy to avail themselves of the services of Hewitt and others.
High-end clients moving into central London, usually from abroad, can take their pick of buying agents. Both Savills and Knight Frank have buying arms that operate independently of their selling arms, tracking down properties for wealthy buyers.
But for those moving out of central London a small company such as Chiltern Relocation offers not only the personal touch, but also local expertise. Buckinghamshire is much harder to get to know than Mayfair. Driving through, it looks so pretty, but which are the best villages and why? What re the hidden snags?
Hewitt’s clients pay an upfront fee of £1,500 then a commission amounting to 1.5 per cent of any property they buy. “Don’t forget that because of my local contacts, I am often able to find suitable properties before they come on the market, which avoids estate agent’s fees,” say Hewitt. There is a separate fee structure for clients – many relocating to the UK from overseas – who are looking for properties to rent.
Hewitt clearly loves the thrill of the chase and that no two clients are the same. “I had some American clients from Michigan who could not stand the thought of having a gravel drive. I was baffled – until they explained that, in Michigan, gravel drives are a nightmare after heavy snowfalls. Another client was obsessed with finding the kind of house he had grown up in, surrounded by open playing fields in which his children could play safely.”
Then there was the client considering buying a house next door to rock star Ozzy Osbourne. While Hewitt was weighing about whether to tell the client the identity of his future neighbour, Osbourne bought the house himself, ending her dilemma.
Finding the right property can be time-consuming, particularly if you have small children in tow, as many of Hewitt’s clients do.
You only have to look at train timetables to realise that moving from central London to the commuter belt can be a logistical challenge to test a mathematics professor. Town A is 10 miles closer to London than Town B, but takes twice as long by train. Even before you have finished checking out the local schools, your head is in a spin.
So someone who can draw up a shortlist of properties and take you around six or more in a day is a godsend. It helps house-hunters clear their minds and focus on the essentials – assuming they know what the essentials are.
“I often find there is a significant discrepancy between what clients say they want and what they actually want, “ says Hewitt. “Some of my male clients are quite impractical when it comes to property. Nine times out of 10, it will be the woman who makes the final decision, when she has ticked all of the boxes she has to.
Perhaps the real value of good relocation specialists – and a good reason to consider employing one – lies in the fact that, unlike estate agents, they act for the buyer, not the seller. Michael Edwardes, who worked as an estate agent in London for many years, but has recently started a relocation business City to Country (www.propertyforsalecountryside.co.uk), in Bath, sees a clear distinction between the two roles.
“When I was an estate agent showing a client around a house, I instinctively focused on its good points. Now I am much more likely to focus on its bad points, little subtleties that may be missed on a first viewing. I am not interested in striking a quick deal, I want my clients to be satisfied that they have got the property they want. “
The Bath property market is significantly different from the Buckinghamshire one. Not many residents commute to London every day. But there is no shortage of overseas buyers – Edwardes has had clients from Spain and Singapore on his books – and weekly commuters with small families who need advice about the best local schools for example.
“We’re a one-stop shop, committed to taking away the pressure, the stress and the time-consuming choices,” he says. Edwardes offers a bespoke service, with no risk of conflict of interest. On a point of professional principle, he will not – as estate agents notoriously do – show two clients the same property, with the idea of playing them off against each other.
No relocation professional can promise to find a client their ideal home. But the best do offer genuine independence – not to mention the willingness to put in the long hours of footslogging on their client’s behalf.
Telegraph’s property relocation articleRead a copy of the