Where do you find your properties?

Saul Empson, Director at Haringtons explains his property finding sources

People often ask where we find our properties and, without wanting to sound evasive, the straight answer is anywhere and everywhere we can; towards the lower end of the market price-wise, a high proportion will be on the market via selling agents, and the principle tasks will be those of qualification (vetting the property for flaws or disadvantages) and filtration (trying to reduce the Herculean task of viewing literally hundreds of properties, to a short hit-list of the best of the best which are able to be bought on competitive terms). The further up the market you go, the more esoteric the source of the properties can be.

An example of this was a search that we had in 2006, where the client wanted to live in a house on one of three streets.

A quick call around the agents turned up nothing, with the depressing further news that none of them had been called in to value anything either. With the market rising fast (history now tells us that 2006 saw a 25% rise in prices, and 30% in 2007) it was time to pull out the stops.

A letter popped through the letter-box of every door on the target streets, asking if anyone was considering selling, garnered a couple of crank calls, and nothing more.

We then called the agents who had been marketing anything that had failed to sell over the last 5 years, who then called their clients to see if they might change their mind for a one-off buyer. Still no nibbles.

I then went and viewed everything that was on the market to rent and asked the agents to enquire as to whether their clients might consider a sale, and all but one said no. The one to which we got no reply was impossible to pursue as the agent (a one-man-band, no longer trading) had gone on holiday, and was un-contactable. In frustration, we wrote to the owner at the address in France that came up on land-registry and – two days later – got a call from him to say that he was unaware of our offer and was considering selling.

To cut a long story short, we bought the house at a price that was as much as anyone had ever paid, so no-one could have accused us of buying something cheap on the day, but the price we paid was 25% off what the house would have cost 12 months later. More critically, the cost of sitting back and just passively waiting for something to be advertised on the open market would have been the difference between finding something that the client could have afforded to buy, and something that he couldn’t. A case of ‘Carpe domus’, as the Romans might have said.

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