Tell us your Happy Place: meet our winner

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

A Stoke-on-Trent student who is saving for her first home is the winner of our Tell us your Happy Place competition and the proud owner of a new iPad2.

Charlotte Mountford, 22, is studying accountancy and marketing and also works part time as bar manager. She entered’s Tell Us Your Happy Place draw after stumbling on the competition while browsing the website.

“An iPad2 is something I’ve always wanted, but when you’re saving up for a house, it’s a bit of an extravagant expense,” says Mountford who wants to get on the property ladder by the end of the year with her boyfriend. “It’s going to be really great and help us so much. We can write an online diary and it’s really going to help with scheduling everything in.” had almost 900 entries in its Tell us your Happy Place competition.

The winning entry, which was drawn at random, said: “My happy place is my squidgy bed with a good magazine and a mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows on top…all snug listening to the rain and howling wind outside.”

Mountford is now firmly focused on realising her dream of buying a home.

“I’m still at home, I’m currently saving up for a house with my boyfriend. We’re sort of trying to scrape a deposit together between us and have a little look at the housing market and try to gauge what it’s doing.

“My happy place in terms of my living situation is definitely buying a home. It’s what I’m looking to do. It’s okay to live at home with my mum and dad, but I’ve got to the age where I think I’d quite like to have my own space.”

October 12, 2011 at 12:01 PM Leave a comment

Britney Spears’ home for sale – and there’s nothing Toxic about it

Britney Spears may have filmed her latest music video in London property hotspot Dalston, but her home life is firmly planted on the other side of the Atlantic.

As fans of Spears might remember – she’s had more than her fair share of tough times – which in 2009 led to her quitting Beverly Hills (and the gaze of the paparazzi) for more than two years in the decidedly calmer surrounds of celeb-friendly, but chilled out, Calabasas where she rented out an estate called Chateau Sueños.

Even though it was a rental, Spears reportedly spent £449,000 improving the French chateau-style home (we imagine on big gates and possibly zebra skin rugs). She moved out earlier this year and current owner Jose “Pancho” Leon put the property on the market for £6.9 million, according to Forbes, but no buyer was forthcoming.

In an effort to sell the home, Leon has now instructed Sotheby’s International Realty in conjunction with Premiere Estates Auction Company to auction the Calabasas gaff. The opening bid is set at a massively discounted £2.8 million, which Forbes helpfully points out, constitutes a of 58% discount. “I know that I’ll be selling at a loss but I want to move on,” Leon, who’s already seen two offers fall through, told Forbes.

It must be said that Spears’ old home is impressive. It’s got some lovely features including a suitably glamorous state of the art theatre, wine cellar, elevator, pool, car lift and infinity spa. There’s also a rather lovely interior courtyard which does actually make one gaze off into the distance and think of of a French chateau.

Oh, and the clever clogs at Sotheby’s International Reality have even put together a YouTube version of the property details which you can watch below.

But before you start pestering the great and the good for a donation to your Calabasas home fund (you could be neighbours with Lady Gaga, Cameron Diaz, Tori Spelling, Meat Loaf and the Kardashians) be advised that only vetted bidders can take part in the auction, which is set for November 11, 2011. I’m sure Ms Spears would approve – you never know she might turn up herself and say Hit Me Baby One More Time.

October 12, 2011 at 10:40 AM Leave a comment

We’ll pay your mortgage or rent for one month – enter our competition now

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

Things can be a little tough at the moment, which is why we’ve just launched a new competition that gives you the chance to have your mortgage or rent paid for by us for a month.

It’s easy to enter – all you have to do is click through to the Happy Place and register. All the terms and conditions are there for you too.

Enter now and don’t forget to spread the word and tell your friends.

October 10, 2011 at 12:57 PM Leave a comment

First-time buyer blog: It’s time to take a break from the home hunt

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

Recently, things were looking up with our house hunting. We made the big decision of offering on a lovely house which was over the stamp duty threshold.  It was bigger than we needed, but has a lot of potential and could last us for a long time. The property had been on the market for eight weeks, had recently dropped in price and was being marketed through two agents. This vendor really wants to sell, we thought.

We were not discouraged when our first offer was rejected, as the vendor wanted to meet with us direct to negotiate a price. This was a new one for us, usually we are making offers direct through the agent and have never met the vendors.

On this occasion the vendor showed us around the house too, I got the impression the vendor liked the “hands on” approach to selling their house. We liked the vendor, the vendor liked us. We met the vendor a few days later, who put forward their price.  We went away and thought about it, went back to the mortgage advisor and was all set to make another offer, which would see us move up in price a lot more than the vendor would have to drop.

We booked another viewing, not the dreaded “third” viewing, but our second. It’s an awful lot of money we would be investing into this house so we wanted to be sure. We kept the agent up to speed and he knew how keen we were on the house.

The day before our second viewing the vendor took the house of the market. I was disappointed at the time, but now I’m relieved that it wasn’t further down the line and we didn’t end up being victims of the new menace facing potential home buyers – gazanging (where the vendor drops out of the sale after an offer has been accepted).

We have decided to stop looking for a house, for the time being. We’ll most probably start again in the new year. I was really hoping to finish this blog on a happy note, but it got to the point where it had consumed us as a couple. I’m quite a determined person, and after four months house-hunting I sometimes think I have failed a little bit.

We have learnt a lot, and that experience will hopefully hold us in good stead when we begin our search again. Fingers crossed….!

You can follow Emma via twitter at @polkadotcherry

October 7, 2011 at 2:09 PM 1 comment

X Factor: who owns the latest house?

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

The X Factor ‘house’ is fast becoming a national institution as every year another enormous home in North London is revealed as the contestants’ base for the TV talent spotting show.

The latest property to join this illustrious list is Connaught House, a white, six-bedroom detached property to rent in Hertford Heath, just south of Hertford, pictured below.

The house was bought for £5.5 million in 2006 by David and Karina Rickards, at the time both serial entrepreneurs featured in the Sunday Times Rich List after selling their broadband firm Pipex for £55m in 2003. You may remember its rather odd adverts featuring David Hasselhoff.

But the couple, who have disappeared from public view somewhat recently, have been trying to rent the property out since April this year for £12,000 a month.

They may get more than they bargain for. Renting a property out to X Factor can be on the one hand very lucrative (ITV often pay up to £120,000 to get exclusive access to a property during the programme’s four-month run) but there’s downsides too.

That’s because the properties often need heavy modifications to house the wannabe pop stars on the programme and, for example, master bedrooms are turned into dormitories while dining rooms become recording or photographic studios. Also, each property hired out to the programme usually gets heavy wear-and-tear and several of the ‘houses’ – including one in Hampstead two years ago – have had to be expensively refurbished once the programme is over – at the expense of the TV production company.

October 3, 2011 at 12:41 PM 1 comment

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