X Factor: who owns the latest house?

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.

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

Secret Celebrity Salon in Surrey For Sale

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.

You probably have never heard of this property, and that’s kind of the idea, according to Jon Paul Clark, the owner of High View in Gomshall in Surrey.

Clark is selling a unique four-bedroom property – it’s his family home that also happens to include a secret hair salon in the garden favoured by an exclusive, yet discrete, clientele that includes celebrities, dancers, and ladies who lunch.

Clark can’t tell us whose tresses he tends in the glamorous garden shed from which he works, but with neighbours like Strictly Come Dancing’s Flavia Cacace and actor Bonnie Langford living nearby, one can only guess.

Whether they’re famous or not, Clark aims to create a luxury experience for clients, which includes glasses of Champagne before leading them out to the garden (complete with koi carp pond) where they can sit and take in the scenery while their colour sets.

Clark is also a property developer and although he lives in High View with his partner John, the couple have decided to sell up and move onto the next challenge after investing five years into the home, which included building the garden salon. It’s fully plumbed and already includes a loo and could easily be converted into an office or granny annexe (there’s room to install a shower and kitchenette).

“I love leaving home and walking across the garden to work. I enjoy my day in another world and then I lock up and leave it all behind me and go back into the house,” Clark says. “It’s important to separate home life and work life”.

The next owners don’t need to be hairdressers, or property developers – it’s completely ready to move into, says Clark.

“It is now screaming out for a young family to move in and enjoy life in the country but where nothing is too far away,” he says. “It’s equal distance to Heathrow and Gatwick airports, near to great pubs and restaurants and commutable to London and all that the capital has to offer.”

Clark loves the well-heeled area and says he has “the best neighbours in the world”. But Clark’s devoted clients shouldn’t fret too much as he’s already eyeing his next project and hopes to continue his secret salon not too far away.

High View is on the market for £735,000 through Hamptons International.

September 30, 2011 at 5:26 PM Leave a comment

Estate Agents Viral Marketing Campaign Exposed!

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.

Douglas & Gordon director Ed Mead started our chat about his firm’s now infamous viral video with an apology that he couldn’t respond to our calls for comment earlier because “I just couldn’t put my head above the parapet, but I think you can understand why”.

And by now we certainly do.

Alex Bartram and Beatrice Curnew the actors (not estate agents) who starred in UnderOffer2011

For those who’ve missed it, UnderOffer2011 was released last Tuesday  under the guise of a real fly-on-the-wall documentary which followed a day in the life of a West London estate agents, but ended up portraying them in a deeply unflattering light.

So far so uninteresting until it was revealed that the film had actually been commissioned by the estate agents Douglas & Gordon and apparently even featured a real-life negotiator called “James”. What followed was a week of buzz about the video with various industry commentators (including this one) trying to work out what this really quite funny mockumentary was actually all about.

“It was a risky strategy and impossible to do if we weren’t absolutely confident in the quality of our staff and our business.” says Ivor Dickinson, Managing Director of Douglas & Gordon

Today, Douglas & Gordon issued a press release fessing up to their role in the film and deliciously setting the record straight about a couple of points. “James” the star negotiator is not actually an estate agent at all, but an actor called Alex Bartram. The film had been made as a “hideous parody” to draw attention to the very worst perceptions of estate agents and to highlight that D&G is the opposite to this.

Now that the third episode of the film has been released (scroll down to watch), which comes clean about the viral aims of the series, Ed Mead felt he could explain a bit more about what UnderOffer2011 was all about.

“The aim fairly obviously was to increase market awareness of our name and to get more inquiries and it’s certainly done that. We hope in a positive way,” he says.

Mead says there’s been little to no backlash about the film, which cost around £30,000 to produce.

“The majority of people pretty much saw straight through it and saw it was a bit of a laugh. They were a little bit, ‘hang on a minute’, but in general they thought it was very funny,” Mead says.

Douglas & Gordon are well known for their progressive take on PR and marketing and Mead says the films objective was to use a medium that no one in the estate agents business had used so far – viral videos on YouTube.

“When you’re talking about property issues the only way you can get any sort of publicity really is to be contentious,” Mead explains. “So the objective then was to work out how brave we could be in terms of where we went with and in the end we ended up being a bit braver than we thought we would be.

“And I’m sorry I do think it’s very funny. I think it’s been brilliantly produced. It’s been very well done and I think the reveal shows very clearly – with Ivor [Ivor Dickinson, Douglas & Gordon managing director]  talking about it and the people in the company – that from a D&G perspective it was a very D&G thing to do.”

Make up your own mind by watching what Mead calls “the big reveal” here. Fascinating and fun stuff.

September 30, 2011 at 10:45 AM Leave a comment

Buying now cheaper than renting across 90% of Britain

Average renter pays 13% more than an owner with a mortgage at 5% p.a

With house prices down, low interest rates and sky high demand in the private rental sector, buying has never been a better option for those able to secure a mortgage. Couple this with owners reducing prices further in order to achieve a sale before Christmas, there may well not have been a better time to buy in recent times.

Falling house prices and increasing rental demand has made it cheaper to buy a property than to rent one in 45 of the 50 largest towns across Britain. The cost of renting is now 13% higher on average than the cost of owning, according to our latest Rent v Buy Index.

We analysed the asking prices and rents for all two-bedroom flats currently on the market, comparing the rental cost to the cost of ownership based on servicing an interest-only mortgage at 5% p.a (see methodolgy below).

Milton Keynes topped the list of locations where buying beats renting with current rents more than 39% higher than the cost of owning, leaving renters on average £2,544 per year worse off. At the other end of the scale, renting remains more cost-effective in Aberdeen, where it costs 9% more to own compared to rent, leaving owners on average £936 worse off.

In London, where the average asking price for 2-bedroom flats currently stands at £430,608, buying still beats renting by a significant margin. The average monthly rent in the capital today is 28% higher than the cost of ownership, leaving renters paying an extra £5,964 annually compared to owners.

Please note: the research looks at the asking prices of two-bedroom flats currently for sale and to rent in the 50 largest cities and towns around the country and mortgage payments are calculated assuming an interest-only mortgage at 5% p.a. to provide an effective comparison to renting.

Full list of the top 50  Zoopla.co.uk places to rent or buy

Top 5 locations where renting beats buying

Rank Location Avg. Monthly Rent* Avg. Asking Price* Rental Discount**
1 Aberdeen £809 £212,941 -8.8%
2 Swansea
£669 £167,234 -4.0%
3 Cambridge
£992 £246,551 -3.0%
4 Plymouth
£626 £155,353 -3.3%
5 Oldham £507 £125,012 -2.6%

Source: Zoopla.co.uk

* Based on 2 bedroom flats on the market in August 2011

** % variance between monthly rent and interest-only mortgage payment at 5% pa

Top 5 locations where buying beats renting

Rank Location Avg. Monthly Rent* Avg. Asking Price* Rental Premium**
1 Milton Keynes £760 £131,630 39%
2 Birmingham
£731 £131,118 34%
3 Northampton
£586 £105,996 33%
4 Warrington
£577 £104,996 32%
5 York
£871 £161,769 29%

Source: Zoopla.co.uk

* Based on 2 bedroom flats on the market in August 2011

** % variance between monthly rent and interest-only mortgage payment at 5% pa

As always, please feel free to share and use this information, all we ask is that you credit the source as Zoopla.co.uk and link to either Zoopla.co.uk/rentbuy or blog.zoopla.co.uk. Thank you.


• Mortgage payments are calculated assuming a conservative mortgage rate of 5% p.a. to provide an effective comparison to renting.

• We use an interest-only mortgage rate in the comparison as the interest on a mortgage is the effective cost of financing living in that home.

• We assume a 100% LTV ratio to do a fair and simple comparison of the cost of financing versus the cost of rent.

September 28, 2011 at 10:56 AM 6 comments

Lakshmi Mittal’s extra Kensington Palace Garden mansion for sale – and it’s a bargain

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.

Here at FindaProperty.com we’ve been keeping you abreast of  the various goings on in the über high-end property enclave that is London’s Kensington Palace Gardens.

Lakshmi Mittal’s mansion for sale is just across the road from the actual Kensington Palace Gardens

As regular readers will know, there’s been a lot to keep up to date with in billionaire’s row: we broke the story recently about Roman Abramovich buying a £90 million ex-spy house there.

But now comes the news, reported by the Daily Mail today, that Britain’s wealthiest man, the steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, is keen to sell off one of his homes (yes, he actually has more than one) on Kensington Palace Gardens.

Mittal lives in another property on the same street, which he bought from Bernie Ecclestone in 2004.

Now, the steel magnate is reportedly so keen to sell the extra home he bought for £117 million from hedge fund millionaire Noam Gottesman in 2008 that he will consider any offer in excess of £100 million.

Oh, and no need to worry too much about wear and tear, the home has stood empty since Mittal bought it.

September 27, 2011 at 1:17 PM Leave a comment

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