Comedian Mark Watson looks for a home, gets egg on face

Most of us have at least one slightly bizarre story about finding a new home and comedian, TV presenter and author Mark Watson is no different.

The Mock the Week regular says he’s always had “a good experience of estate agents”, although his experience of viewing homes hasn’t always run so smoothly.

Watson, who was the host of this week’s Negotiator Awards, which celebrate the nation’s best estate agents and property professionals, told his own quirky “home” story to a 600-strong audience at London’s Hilton Hotel.

“My wife and I were looking for a flat and we viewed this place, but it really stunk of eggs,” he said. “We walked through the house until we came to the living room where there was a plate of eggs just lying there.”

Watson says the oddest thing about the experience wasn’t the eggs themselves, but that the estate agent could sense the eggs had not gone down too well with Watson or his wife.

“After a few minutes silence, he turned to us and said: you do realise that if you bought this property the eggs will be moved.”

We can only assume Watson decided not buy the flat (with or without the eggs) after all.


November 11, 2011 at 11:57 AM 1 comment

Zoopla Purple Plaques – has someone famous lived in your home?

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Today we’ve launched a very exciting initiative called Purple Plaques – a scheme where we identify and recognise properties across the country where a celebrity/famous person has lived in the past.

First to be honoured under the scheme are the former homes of David Cameron (West London), Gary Barlow (Northwich), Liz Hurley (Basingstoke), Lewis Hamilton (Stevenage) and Chris Evans (Warrington) – you can see them here.

Zoopla Purple Plaques will be an ongoing scheme and one where we want you, the general public, to help us identify these homes where you know a former celebrity once lived – you can tell us here.

Inspiration for the scheme was taken from the Blue Plaques presented by English Heritage to properties associated with notable figures of the past – providing they have been dead for at least 20 years. The Zoopla Purple Plaque scheme will honour living celebrities and pay homage to the council flats, terraces, suburban semis and picturesque pads where they have lived across the UK…and unlike Blue Plaques, celebs don’t have to be dead for 20 years to qualify.

Today’s household names come from all walks of life and many are proud of their humble property beginnings compared to their penthouse suites and gated mansions of today. Cheryl Cole‘s childhood home in Heaton, Newcastle, where the average property value is £145,671 according to is a far cry from Hurtmore House in Oxshott where she lived with Ashley Cole and valued at £3.5m.

Our hunger for anything celebrity-related has as much impact on the property market as it does fashion, food or anything else. A property is more than just bricks and mortar and a unique history can improve a home’s marketability. Where Blue Plaques honour names of the past such as Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Edward Elgar and Lord Byron today’s buyers are just if not more interested in where Sir Elton John, Katie Price and Stephen Fry once lived.

We will be awarding many more plaques in coming months and years and would encourage homeowners treading the same boards that a star of stage once did or kicking a ball in what was the garden of a Premier League superstar are invited go to to apply for a Purple Plaque.

Here are the former homes of…

Chris Evans…

Former Warrington home of Chris Evans honoured by property website with a Purple Plaque

Former Warrington home of Chris Evans honoured by property website with a Purple Plaque

David Cameron…

Former London home of David Cameron honoured by property website with a Purple Plaque

Former London home of David Cameron honoured by property website with a Purple Plaque

Gary Barlow…

Former Cheshire home of Gary Barlow honoured by property website with a Purple Plaque

Former Cheshire home of Gary Barlow honoured by property website with a Purple Plaque

Lewis Hamilton…

Former Stevenage home of Lewis Hamilton honoured by property website with a Purple Plaque

Former Stevenage home of Lewis Hamilton honoured by property website with a Purple Plaque

Liz Hurley…

Former Basingstoke home of Liz Hurley honoured by property website with a Purple Plaque

Former Basingstoke home of Liz Hurley honoured by property website with a Purple Plaques

November 11, 2011 at 9:05 AM 7 comments

Give your home a name: Willow and behold, nature tops the list

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.

Nature, and trees in particular, are the single biggest inspiration when it comes to naming our country homes, according to new research, and they might even help you sell your house.

See how your favourite tree performs in the home-naming stakes

As our thoughts turn to autumn country walks, new research by Hamptons International has found that one in seven of all “named” homes allude to the natural world, with trees (including 19 different types from the Oak to the Bay) topping the list.

The survey of 1,000 country homes found most of us would rather live in a home called The Granary, which topped the list for the most popular name for a country home, than any other. The Cottage came in as second most popular name followed by The Coach House, while Yew Tree, The Manor House, The White House, Tudor Cottage, Little Orchard, Farthings and Corner Cottage made up the rest of the top ten.

But some home owners prefer to take their own inspiration for home-naming rights and the research revealed some distinctly individual names, including Laissez-Faire, Casa Mimosa, October Cottage, Dangerfield House and the decidely bizare Walter the Abbott.

Would you rather live at October Cottage, or No. 23? October Cottage, in Chalfont St Giles, Bucks is for sale for £649,999

A home’s name can bring alive the history of a property and bring it to life for prospective buyers, says Andrew Marshall, of Hamptons International.

“House names, particularly those associated with nature, are particularly popular with city buyers moving to the country as they can epitomise the good life and its ideals.  When moving to the country, the majority of home buyers would much prefer to live in Yew Tree Cottage than at Number 23.”

Yew have been warned.

November 3, 2011 at 10:05 AM Leave a comment

Sell your home with social media: how one couple are showing us how it’s done

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.

Watch out Kirstie and Phil. Martin and Mary Wells from Doulting, Somerset could well give Britain’s favourite TV property couple a run for their money after coming up with an entertaining and unique way to sell their family home.

Meet Martin and Mary Wells, Somerset’s answer to Kirstie and Phil (scroll down to watch the video)

Martin, a consultant media lecturer and Mary, an art technician at a local school, put their home on the market 14 weeks ago through estate agent Charles Barnard. Frustrated with the lack of solid interest in their five bedroom home, the couple – who have two teenage children –  slashed its price from £295,000 to £289,950.

But they didn’t stop there. The couple sat down and brainstormed for creative ways to promote the home to a wider audience and the result is a full campaign that includes social media in the form of YouTube, facebook and twitter, as well as a massive 2ft by 8ft For Sale banner on the side of their home.

The videos are great fun. In the first one Martin and Mary imitate Kirstie and Phil while giving a tour of their local village. In the other two videos you get more Martin and Mary being themselves and having a great old time showing us why they love their family home – bloopers and all.

“We didn’t want to be staid and boring we wanted to have some fun in it,” Martin, who has a background in film editing, explained. “We just thought we could say it differently, we could say it with video, we could use the web to our advantage and create something that is completely different.”

“Stop it with the dog, we’re not selling the dog”

And they have. While YouTube is cluttered with boring video tours of properties, the Wells’ efforts – all shot on an iPhone camera – stand alone as authentic, a bit rough around the edges, but also really very funny at times. They have other videos planned too, including a QVC shopping channel-inspired film, one based on a dog cam (the dog is featured in the film titled Annexe) and a double-glazing-style ‘buy the house and get a car thrown in’ video.

But what does their estate agent think of all this extra marketing? “Steve, our estate agent is right behind us,” Martin says. “He’s doing what he can, they have the brochures we’ve produced in their office, but he obviously has limitations about what they can do from a legal perspective.”

In the meantime, the Wells – who plan to downsize, but stay local once they’ve sold – seem to have inadvertently taught us all a lesson about selling a home in a challenging property market. You can see the property on facebook, interact with Martin via twitter (@houseforsale55) or watch the YouTube films to get a feel for the home’s family credentials. There’s a definite viral element to the films too, which encourages sharing.

“As you can tell, we both get really excited about these things,” says Martin. “We’re both really creative and we just want to do it differently.”

And they’ve certainly done that.

“We both like having fun we enjoy ourselves and we approached our estate agent with this and said: look we know you’ve tried the normal way of selling and while we’ve had loads of people through the door it’s not happened so what’s up.”

November 2, 2011 at 1:23 PM Leave a comment

Renting with pets: How to bark up the right tree when it comes to a new home

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.

One of the consequences of our hot rental market is that it’s making things even more difficult for those whose households include a four-legged friend.

Lets with Pets – how to find you (and Fido) a new home

Dogs Trust, who run a scheme called Lets with Pets – which aims to help pet owners find private homes to rent - has noticed the issue too: they’ve recorded a 56% increase in the number of people taking their dogs to the pound because of housing problems.

They’ve also been talking directly to people about their experiences of renting a home and found 1 in 3 of the 5,695 pet owners surveyed said they were unable to find a suitable property. Those without a Fido or Kitty spend an average 50 days looking for a rental property, but the Dogs Trust research shows that over half of all pet owners spend from two months to a year searching for a home to let.

Despite their dog’s extreme cuteness, one in three pet owners say they could not find a home to rent with their pet

Clare Kivlehan, who runs Lets with Pets, says she’s working with agents and landlords to encourage them to consider allowing pets in their properties as well as giving both parties practical advice about how to make this happen.

Man’s best friend: often unwanted by private landlords

“Since we launched Lets with Pets we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of people contacting us for advice,” Kivlehan says. “We’re campaigning for lettings agents and landlords to take a ‘Pets Considered approach rather than rejecting all pets. We’d like pet owners to be able to search easily on property websites for suitable options rather than having to make individual enquiries.”

For a nation of pet lovers, the Dogs Trust research highlights a very real issue which is only going to be drawn further into focus as the weather gets colder and Christmas approaches. Unwanted pets are one thing – but having to give up your best friend because you can’t find a rental home where you’re welcome is agonizing.

Let’s hope this scheme can help sort this problem out so our furry friends can get back to doing what they do best – long walks, playing fetch and bounding about with exuberance.

November 1, 2011 at 1:48 PM Leave a comment

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