The weird world of X Factor houses
This is a legacy post from the findaproperty.com blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.
Great excitement among X-Factor fans this week after the address of the contestant house was revealed as a ‘Spanish style’ mansion in Hyver Hill near Borehamwood, Hertfordshire (pictured, above).
The property, which is up a private road and among thick woods, is a world away from previous X Factor contestant houses, which are usually in suburban areas of North London.
But one thing millions will be wondering is – what’s it like to be in the house when the show is in full swing? Earlier this year I had a rare peek into this high octane world of TV stardom, tabloid headlines and dormitory living when the owner of last year’s house gave me a tour of the property.
It was, at the time, on the market for £5.65 million after being rented out to X-Factor for £50,000 a week.
That house (pictured above), which is a starkly modern new-build on West Heath Avenue, Hampstead, was famously mobbed by local school children day and night as the X-Factor final loomed and neighbours including the Chinese ambassador looked on in horror at the fans’ antics, which included writing lewd graffiti on its perimeter wall.
But aside from the hysteria that the contestants attract, what’s the property story behind these houses? Simon Cowell’s production company usually approaches owners through local agents and in the Hampstead property’s case owner (and developer) Matthew Frayne was asked if X Factor could rent the house for 16 weeks.
The production company’s usual strategy is to find large and upmarket homes that are for sale and then offer to rent them out at fairly inflated prices. And given that owners can make around £600,000 in rent from the deal, no wonder they are happy to take their properties off the market and submit them to the X-Factor hysteria.
In reality these houses are not ‘homes’ but a boarding school crossed with a TV studio. The contestants, however glamorous, sleep in bunk beds in ‘dormitories’ and the rest of the house is used to film interviews for each week’s show and as a photographic studio for publicity stills. Only the really young or vulnerable contestants get their owns room, I was told.
The latest X-Factor house is a sprawling, seven-bedroom villa in Borehamwood, Herts that until Simon Cowell’s henchmen turned up, was on the market for £3.5 million. Then the owner, lawyer Stephen Goldberg, “decided to rent it out” and make a fortune from renting it out to X-Factor. It had been listed by agent Stattons at £2,500 a week but X Factor will probably be paying a lot more than that.
One thing I would warn Mr Goldberg – the house will be trashed by the end of the show if last year’s house is anything to go by. But on the other hand the exposure might help sell it; the 2009 X-Factor house in Hampstead now has a new owner.
UPDATE: The house is now on the market, according to the Daily Mail, for the same asking price early on in 2010.