An audience with estate agent David Bentley of Bidwells

21 Jul


David Bentley, of Bidwells estate agent, speaks to Harriet Meyer about the perfect day in his Cambridge patch.

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Name: David Bentley

Company Name: Bidwells

Twitter Handle: @bidwells

Which area do you cover? East Anglia is our core area, covering Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk but with our other regional offices in London, Chelmsford, St Albans, Milton Keynes our geographical coverage is ever expanding.

How did you start out as an estate agent? I was lured away from my job at John Lewis by the bright lights of a Ford Capri. A chap I knew from college was an agent and had just taken delivery of a Ford Capri, and at the time I was struggling to maintain my Mini 1000 – sad, but true.  As a young man at the time nothing was more important than my independence and the glamour of a nice set of wheels. I soon left my career in retail.

21.07.14 Bidwells 2What would you do if you weren’t an estate agent? No idea…I seem to have been in the housing industry for years. I would probably have continued in retail as I tend to stick with something once I’ve started, although I have absolutely no regrets.

What was the first property you sold in your area, when did you sell it and for how much? What’s it worth now? I joined Bidwells in Cambridge in 2001 heading up the new homes department, and my first sale was with Laing Homes. It was a two bedroom flat sold for £180,000 in 2003. It is now worth around £350,000. My very first house sale was when I joined an agency in 1988. It was a traditional two-up two-down sold for £40,000 and is probably worth around £250,000 now.

If money was no object, which house or street would you most like to live in on your patch? Bentley Road would be the obvious choice as it’s a prime residential location, a stone’s throw from the office and biking distance from everything you might want in Cambridge. However, as a new build guru, the recent release of the Mansions at Aura by Countryside Properties will take some beating.  These are contemporary detached villas that will undoubtedly raise a few Cambridge eyebrows as they look, on paper, absolutely stunning.

Any streets or zones on your patch that are particularly hot at the moment? Any hidden gems? In Cambridge the hotspots are spread all over the city with the usual suspects of Newnham, Grantchester, Romsey, Kite and the core central areas boiling over with activity. This is mainly fuelled by the lack of available stock, and competitive bidding is common in those prime locations.

What are your top tips for buying, selling or letting property in the area?
Buying: Be bold and don’t delay.
Selling: Consider your options, don’t rush and be thorough with your marketing.
Letting: Be selective and realistic.

How would you spend the perfect day off in your area? 
Sitting on the river bank fishing, in an area with poor mobile reception.

What’s your favourite place for dinner in your area? There are so many fantastic choices around Cambridge, but if I had the choice I’d stick local at the renowned Phoenix Restaurant in Histon. This is biking distance from my home, and has first class food.

If you could change one thing to make your working life better what would it be? Resolve the traffic issues and strains that Cambridge suffers.

What will dominate the news in your market in 2014? The continuation of the Cambridge phenomena! There are no signs of the market slowing even if stock levels are replenished. The city’s global appeal will continue to fuel local headlines, and I expect growth to be strong in the year ahead.

Converted railway cottages are on the right track

18 Jul

Converted railway ticket offices have become a popular option for those looking for a unique home. Here, PrimeLocation looks at former railway offices that have been either converted or are in need of updating.

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1. The Old Station House Privett in Hampshire was constructed as a station with attached living accommodation for the Station Master in 1903. The line was withdrawn from service and the station closed in 1955. The four bedroom property is on the market for £925,000.

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2. This Grade II listed detached house in Stoke-On-Trent offers good potential for further modernisation at £180,000.

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3. This impressive conversion of a former railway station in Brough, near Hull, boasts five bedrooms, outbuildings and stables - all in seven acres of land. It has an asking price of £695,000.

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4. This detached house in Tewkesbury, Worcestershire, stands alongside a former railway that closed to passengers in 1963. It dates back to the Victorian era but has subsequently been extended to create a spacious five bedroom home, which has an asking price of £500,000.

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5. This three bedroom former station house in Luckett, Cornwall, has been converted to include an indoor swimming pool and formal gardens. It boasts 180 degree views across farmland and is on the market for £695,000.

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6. This period former railway cottage in Heanor, near Nottingham, is believed to date back to 1890 and offers the new owners scope for modernisation. It has an asking price of £385,000.

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7. The Station House in Wells, Somerset, was built in 1894 and located on the Somerset and Dorset railway until its closure in 1966. The property has been restored and is now on the market for £399,950.

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What does a London property buy elsewhere in Britain?

16 Jul

What do you get for your money? Cheryl Markosky compares prices in the capital with the rest of Britain.

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Strutt & Parker’s currency exchange rate shows the value of the ‘London £’ across the country

With homes in London now £200,000 more than the UK average, the gulf in the housing market is the widest it’s ever been.

The average of value of a house in the capital has now hit £400,000 for the first time following a record 25.8 per cent increase, according to the Nationwide.

It’s not surprising then to find some Londoners are taking advantage of the price gap and exiting to the Home Counties and beyond.

Johnny Morris, of estate agents Hamptons International, says the country market is heating up.

“Londoners moving out believe the gap between London and the rest of the UK has reached its peak,” he comments.

So, how do values compare between the overheated capital and South East with the rest of Britain?

Estate agent Strutt & Parker has created a currency exchange rate showing the true value of the ‘London pound’ across the country.

It found the London pound is worth anything from £3 in the Cotswolds to £5 in the West Country, to £9 in the Highlands.

James Mackenzie, from Strutt & Parker, said: “We sold more properties over £2m in the Cotswolds than anywhere else in the country last year – and those were mostly to Londoners moving out.”

Here’s what London money buys elsewhere in Britain…


1. London: A one bedroom £150,000 end of terrace in Thamesmead, which is chain-free with double-glazed windows, electric radiators and a loft. DIY boffins, take note: this starter homes’s in need of a bit of TLC.


Birmingham: An extended semi-detached property with three bedrooms in Erdington for offers over £150,000.

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2. Surrey: Two double bedroom maisonette for £250,000, which is close to Guildford centre with a garden and potential for off-road parking for two cars at the front.


Wiltshire: Thatched, white-washed cottage for £245,000 with heaps of character in the village of Netheravon, near Salisbury. You get three double bedrooms, two wood-burners, an authentic bread oven and a garden with a decked area for your hard-earned cash.

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3. London: Refurbished, two bedroom, two bathroom £500,000 flat in E14 with a balcony – the perfect spot to take in terrific views of the Thames and Greenwich.


North Yorkshire: King Olav of Norway was a guest in this fine £500,000 stone house in the heart of Richmond. Goodies include four roomy bedrooms, Aga, cellar, conservatory, annex and walled gardens.

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4. London: It doesn’t get much better than a two bedroom £2.5m apartment stretching over the entire top floor of a Georgian building in fashionable Marylebone. Other pluses include a vaulted reception room, mezzanine floor and lift access.


Scotland: For the price of a flat in central London you can buy your own £2.5m private island of Eilean Righ on the Argyll coastline in Loch Craignish. Over two houses, you’ll get seven bedrooms, five bathrooms and three reception rooms and can easily expand further. Other benefits include private beaches, sea fishing, boathouse, two slipways, jetty, moorings, helicopter hangar, mains electricity, hi-speed broadband and 260 acres of land.

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5. London Super-luxe three bedroom, three bathroom £5.75m apartment in swanky new St Edward scheme, 190 Strand. Every possible extra, including 24-hour concierge service, private pool and spa, fitness studio with personal training and virtual golf, bespoke cinema room and parking.


Suffolk Suffering from Downton fever? Here’s your chance to fashion your own £5.75m Georgian estate in Norfolk. For the price of a three bedroom flat in the capital you get a bit more for your money, with six-bedroom converted stables, two more properties, agricultural buildings and 458 acres of land.

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Refurbished Kensington home with a Royal history

15 Jul

A terrace house within a stone’s throw of Kensington Palace has put on the market for only the second time in more than 50 years.

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Dating back to 1760, the Dukes Lane property is understood to have once been owned by the Royal Family and was formerly used as servants’ quarters.

When it was first built, it was the last in a row of servant accommodation, and was surround by orchards and pastures.

The former owners kept livestock on the neighbouring heathland that stretched to the then small hamlet of Shepherd’s Bush, with cows led to the rear of the property for milking.

The current owners bought the four bedroom home in 1994 and carried out a full restoration while retaining many of the original features.

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During the refurbishment, the house revealed plenty of history – including a 500 gallon vaulted chamber in which previous owners stored their fresh water in the days of the last mini ice-age when the Thames froze over.

Today, the property has almost 1,500 sq ft of living space, including an impressive lower ground floor kitchen and breakfast room, with doors opening onto a south-facing garden. There is also a south-facing terrace accessed from the dinning room.

Rupert Wiggin, of Strutt & Parker estate agents – which is handling the sale – said: “It is incredibly rare for a house with such depth of history and character to come to the market. This charming home offers a unique opportunity to acquire a very special slice of British royal history – with a good dollop of mystical intrigue thrown in for good measure.”

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Knightsbridge flat is ‘fit for a princess’ at £1.7m

15 Jul

With its pink poster bed, pink curtains and furniture, and pink garden flowers, it is every little princess’s dream home.

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The two-bedroom ‘fairytale’ flat is a short skip and a hop from Harrods in London’s prestigious Knightbridge and has been put on the market with a price tag of £1.7m.

There are plenty of pink walls and ceilings. Even the brickwork in the patio garden has been painted the current owner’s favourite colour, with flowers to match.

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The property’s price is lower than expected for its Lennox Gardens location as the lease only has 36 years remaining. The average property in the area is almost £2m, having risen almost £250,000 in the past year.

The flat includes a drawing room, dining room, kitchen and a store room – covering a total of 1,300 sq ft.

The prime London address is one of the most sought after garden squares in Knightsbridge, and is close to Knightsbridge, Sloane Square and South Kensington underground stations.

The flat is in a well maintained building, with ground rent and service charges.

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Edward Thomson of Strutt & Parker in Chelsea – the estate agent handling the sale – told PrimeLocation: “This beautiful garden flat has a magical atmosphere that is certainly fit for a princess. The interiors are splendidly opulent  – just like a fairy tale – including ornate gold framed mirrors, picture frames and candle sticks, sumptuous fabrics like velvet and satin and a decadent four poster bed.”

He added: “The delightful terrace is just like a secret garden – with hand painted wall murals of exotic birds, furniture painted in delicate pink, pretty hanging lanterns and pots and plants filled with overflowing flowers. Situated in one of the most sought after garden squares in Knightsbridge, just a stone’s throw from Harrods and Harvey Nichols, this flat would make the perfect home for anyone with a fabulous sense of style.”

Singer Adele’s former Sussex mansion for sale

14 Jul

With its 13 bedrooms, tennis court, indoor swimming pool and 25 acres, it was the home that said singer Adele had arrived.

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Following the success of her ‘19’ and ‘21’ albums, the global superstar moved into the luxury Sussex mansion with her Etonian partner Simon Konecki.

But the sprawling estate in Sussex was only ever rented by the Someone Like You singer – albeit at a reported £15,000 a month – and the owners have now put it on the market for sale for £6m.

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Lock House was built at the end of the nineteenth century, having originally been designed as an aristocratic family home with its own ballroom.

It has been extensively refurbished and the ballroom is now a 56 ft modern kitchen.

In all, the house is nearly 20,000 sq ft and includes a hallway with a Jacobean style carved staircase and an elegant drawing room with a marble firepace.

There is also a games room, separate staff accommodation and electric gates at the entrance.

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The house is a far cry from Adele’s upbringing by a single Mum in London, where they moved from tiny flat to tiny flat, with Adele attending 10 schools.

At 14, Adele finally found her way after successfully auditioning for the Brit School in Croydon.

Her second album 21 – named after the age at which she wrote it – has sold almost seven million copies.

The singer has been recognized worldwide for her vocal achievements, receiving numerous awards – including six Grammy Awards.

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Nicola Craddock, of Strutt & Parker – the estate agent handling the sale – said: “Hidden away in 25 acres of beautiful gardens and grounds, the property offers complete seclusion and privacy in an incredibly peaceful part of Sussex. There is about 20,000 sq ft of accommodation – with fabulous proportions and views – which retains much of the Art Deco features.”

Vendor spotlight: South Kensington flat with outdoor terrace

14 Jul

Would a bright and airy flat situated on a beautiful square in a prime London location with access to communal gardens suit you? Lazy days and barbeques on the outdoor terrace are among the best memories of life here for Chris and Raquel Ellis, writes Harriet Meyer.

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Names: Chris and Raquel Ellis

Occupation(s): Managing director of a media company and ex-city worker, now full-time mother.

Property description: A rare gem on a popular garden square in South Kensington. This immaculate two bedroom, two bathroom flat on the raised ground floor comes with its own front door, 3.8 metre high ceilings, a 25 ft terrace, access to the communal gardens and a 122 year lease.

Asking price: £2,950,000

Thinking of selling your home?

Visit to find an agent near you.

Estate agent handling the sale: Edward Thomson, of Strutt & Parker, Chelsea.

Why are you moving? We’ve decided to move to Australia to be closer to Raquel’s parents before our children start school.

Have you found somewhere to move to? Sydney. However, while Raquel is Australian she has lived in London for 15 years and we have never lived in Australia, so we’ll rent before deciding where to buy.

What do you like most about the property? There are so many things! We’ve made the most of all the natural light, so there’s a lot of glass, emphasising space, wonderfully high ceilings, and a calming atmosphere. This is helped by the view from every window overlooking Queen’s Gate Gardens or our grassed terrace.

What is your happiest memory in the property and when did it happen?  We have had very little time, as the flat renovation was only finished in May. Our best day, so far, was a recent sunny Sunday on the terrace, cooking a barbeque and relaxing.

When did you buy the property and how much was it worth? We bought it in April 2012 for £1,760,000.  I can see why this flat was a developer’s dream – it hadn’t been touched for about 40 years, so was in dire need of complete refurbishment, but the risks were high for those who knew how difficult navigating the planning process can be to make major changes to a Grade II listed building. I had no experience and in that respect, I was an ignorant buyer – but I fell in love with the high ceilings, and the idea of how much I could do. It took us two years to complete. I obsessed about every detail, from the electrical plans to the lights and wardrobe measurements.

Do you know your neighbours? Yes – they are very friendly.

What do you like about the local schools? They are world class.

What is the traffic and transport like in the area? We are a two-minute walk from Gloucester Road tube. Hyde Park is a short walk away. Queen’s Gate Gardens is also a one-way square, so the road is very quiet.

What’s your favourite place for dinner in your area?  L’Etranger offers delicious French-Japanese fusion. We also love Bumpkin for a modern twist on great British pub food.

How would you spend the perfect day off in your area? Breakfast on the terrace, then onto the Natural History Museum, as our three-year-old never gets bored of seeing the dinosaurs. Raquel would shop, then we’d have lunch at Bumpkin, and spend the afternoon in Queen’s Gate Gardens – once Rupert and Lincoln were in bed, we’d dine at L’Etranger.

What local secret is there in the area that would take a new resident a while to discover?  The Gloucester Road area of South Kensington. The little shops towards Kensington Gardens have a little village feel.

If you could change one thing about the house what would it be?  Anything we wanted to change, we changed.

What items are included in the sale of the property (eg. white goods in the kitchen)? We are happy to include all the essential items, including the white goods.

Who would be your ideal buyer? Ideally, we would like a no-nonsense buyer who recognises the flat’s rarity.

What do you most fear about the house selling process? Timing, and certainty. We are not even starting to plan our move to Australia until we have sold the flat.

Agent’s advice on tackling these fears? Edward Thomson, of Strutt & Parker in Chelsea, says:Relax. The property is ‘best in class’ and the market will respond in kind.”

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