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London is now the biggest market in the world for top-end homes. So who buys them?

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As one of the most expensive residential property purchases ever made public, it was inevitable that Telis Mistakidis would hit the headlines when he bought his £46.1million London apartment.

The Greek tycoon’s 7,900-square-foot Belgravia duplex was one of six built by Candy & Candy in the capital’s former BT telephone exchange. 

From the extravagant staff quarters to the hefty £3.2 million stamp duty bill, every decadent detail of the sale was pored over in 2015.

Every detail, that is, apart from the name of the woman who brokered the deal.

In the background, guiding negotiations at every stage, was property agent Becky Fatemi, whose exclusive firm the retired mining mogul Mistakidis, 58, had enlisted.

‘He wanted something extremely “trophy” and unique,’ recalls sharply dressed Londoner Becky, 44, who says a small development was also paramount to protect his privacy.

‘He didn’t want to get in the lift and see a fellow billionaire every time.’

Guiding negotiations at every stage, was property agent Becky Fatemi (pictured), whose exclusive firm the retired mining mogul Mistakidis, 58

Guiding negotiations at every stage, was property agent Becky Fatemi (pictured), whose exclusive firm the retired mining mogul Mistakidis, 58

She closed the deal in just 48 hours. But in order for high-stakes property sales to happen at such breakneck speed, they require an army of staff. 

‘You walk into a boardroom to have these negotiations, working with six or seven lawyers,’ she explains. 

‘The team that works around this type of buyer and their spending power is huge.’

This week, it was revealed that the super-rich bought more homes in London than in any city in the world last year, spending around £3 billion on ‘super-prime’ properties — those costing more than £10 million.

And on Thursday it emerged that Nick Candy, one half of Candy & Candy, had put his own apartment in One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, on the market for £175 million. Astonishingly, he is already said to have offers.

Little wonder, then, that the services of prime property agents such as Becky, who source and sell homes for the world’s wealthiest people, are more sought after than ever.

This week, it was revealed that the super-rich bought more homes in London than in any city in the world last year. Pictured: Heathfield House UK Sotheby's International Realty

This week, it was revealed that the super-rich bought more homes in London than in any city in the world last year. Pictured: Heathfield House UK Sotheby’s International Realty

Their roles have come under the spotlight thanks to Selling Sunset, the popular Netflix reality television series documenting the roller coaster careers of glamorous agents at Los Angeles brokerage firm the Oppenheim Group, who bicker and scheme as they bag commissions on some of the most fabulous real estate imaginable.

So how does the lot of their London counterparts compare? And what is it really like scouring the capital’s most breathtaking homes and brokering multi-million-pound deals for a living?

From hiring private jets for whirlwind viewings to having a rapper client who believed Buckingham Palace ‘beneath him’ and selling a £40 million property whose master bedroom was the size of an ordinary house, Becky has seen it all.

‘I think we make it look glamorous,’ says Becky, whose prime estate agency, Rokstone, has made more than £1.4 billion of sales in ten years. 

‘We’re working in a glamorous environment — but we’re hustlers at the end of the day. It’s highly volatile.’

Gazumpings and bidding wars are just the beginning of the stresses these prime agents face.

But money certainly helps, as Mathew Walters, 35, (pictured) and Stuart Aikman, 42, founders of boutique prime property agency Story of Home

But money certainly helps, as Mathew Walters, 35, (pictured) and Stuart Aikman, 42, founders of boutique prime property agency Story of Home

‘Once, a very successful banker who missed out on a sealed bid for a £5 million home turned up to my office foaming at the mouth and asking how he was going to explain to his wife that he’d lost the house. 

‘It was frightening. We had to lock the door,’ says Becky, who was forced to call the police.

A post-Brexit price drop, low interest rates and lack of supply have led to the current ‘crazy’ market, she says, with three buyers competing for her most recent sale, an £18 million, 4,300-square-foot Knightsbridge home with four bedrooms, two kitchens and the ‘most unbelievable’ decor.

The sellers were a British couple who had outgrown the house after their children moved out, and the buyers were British too, something Becky sees a lot more of these days: ‘When I started I was working with a lot of Greeks and Iranians. Now I work a lot more with domestic UK buyers.’

Prohibited by an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) from revealing to whom she sold her most expensive home, which cost ‘in excess’ of £100 million, she has clients in entertainment and law, finance and technology.

She’s housed a former prime minister and searched for properties for singers Rihanna, Beyonce and Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy.

‘Puffy wanted to be surrounded by acres of land in the middle of London,’ smiles Becky. ‘We actually drove past Buckingham Palace and he said, “I love that, but everyone can see inside.” ’

Sellers and buyers come to her via her 65,000-strong contact database. ‘Everything we do is referral work,’ says Becky, who started her career at Foxtons, where she became the highest banking agent in the company’s history — a title she still holds.

The super rich are estimated to have spent around £3 billion on ¿super-prime¿ properties last year¿ those costing more than £10 million. Pictured: Anchor Brewhouse UK Sotheby's Realty

The super rich are estimated to have spent around £3 billion on ‘super-prime’ properties last year— those costing more than £10 million. Pictured: Anchor Brewhouse UK Sotheby’s Realty

‘She has a staff of six female agents at Rokstone, which she founded in 2011. ‘I don’t advertise. I don’t send touting letters.’

Once she’s found a potential buyer, she assesses whether their money is ‘clean or dirty’. 

Around 10 per cent are vetoed on account of not being able to prove where they made their money.

‘Understanding where the money comes from is a big issue for us. If you can’t provide a paper trail to show the source of your wealth, you can’t buy a property.’

Becky brings many prospective buyers who live abroad to Britain on a private jet.

‘I work closely with a private jet company and have all the hotels on speed dial — [clients] usually stay in the Connaught, Lanesborough or Berkeley,’ she says, adding that most bring a security team to viewings to assess ‘fire exits, points of entry, to see if a panic room can be installed, before the offer is put in’.

While her twentysomething technology entrepreneurs and YouTuber star clients seek new-builds on the River Thames — ‘they all want the same thing: river views, underground parking, balconies’ — some of her sales, such as the converted Knightsbridge church that sold for £40 million to a ‘high-profile Middle Eastern’ client, beggar belief.

‘It had a glass cylinder hydraulic lift, three kitchens, a swimming pool and a 2,500-square-foot master bedroom — the equivalent size of a three-bedroom flat,’ she says.

¿Their privacy is so key that they only want one point of contact ¿ me,¿ says buying agent Hannah Aykroyd, (pictured) managing director of Aykroyd & Co, who advises high net-worth individuals on prime London properties.

‘Their privacy is so key that they only want one point of contact — me,’ says buying agent Hannah Aykroyd, (pictured) managing director of Aykroyd & Co, who advises high net-worth individuals on prime London properties.

She earns around 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent commission per sale — so £140,000 on a £7 million deal — but if it doesn’t go through, she doesn’t get paid a penny.

It’s stressful, she admits, ‘especially when you spend four years trying to sell and then the owner changes their mind’.

Her own home is a relatively modest two-bedroom flat in Marylebone, North West London, which she shares with her seven-year-old son.

‘I would love to move to a house with a garden, but can’t afford it because of the stamp duty,’ she says. Not that she envies her billionaire clients. 

‘They usually feel displaced. There is no simplicity to their lives.’ True. 

But money certainly helps, as Mathew Walters, 35, and Stuart Aikman, 42, founders of boutique prime property agency Story of Home discovered recently, when a Swiss banker flew by private jet to see a £5 million, eight-bedroom Georgian property they were selling — with a swimming pool and off-street parking — before buying it and flying home the same afternoon.

With demand so strong, they recently brokered a bidding war on a house ‘over £6 million’ between international clients who had only seen the property via video link.

Stuart once agreed a £9.35 million offer from a Middle Eastern princess for a Georgian townhouse in Marylebone, before flying to Las Vegas for a wedding and handing over the sale to Mathew to complete.

‘When I landed, I asked how it was going,’ recalls Stuart. ‘He said contracts had been exchanged — but not with my buyer.’

On Thursday it emerged that Nick Candy, one half of Candy & Candy, had put his own apartment in One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, on the market for £175 million. Pictured: Stuart Aikman property Belsize Park Firehouse

On Thursday it emerged that Nick Candy, one half of Candy & Candy, had put his own apartment in One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, on the market for £175 million. Pictured: Stuart Aikman property Belsize Park Firehouse

In the space of Stuart’s ten-hour flight, Mathew took a call from a representative of a San Francisco technology entrepreneur: ‘He said, “I hear this building is under offer. My guy wants it.” He told me to ask the owner what he needed to do to acquire it,’ says Mathew.

‘The owner said if the second buyer paid the asking price of £10 million and exchanged contracts today, he’d swap buyers.’ And so he did.

While pools and off-street parking are de rigueur, some properties come with unexpected quirks, such as a fish tank built into the floor of one client’s bedroom and en-suite, ‘so the fish were swimming round the bath,’ says Stuart.

Even the most stylish designer finishes are subject to the whim of the buyer. ‘You’d be amazed how many people spend £10 million on an amazing property then rip it out completely,’ says Mathew.

Given concerns around their privacy and the cut-throat nature of the market, increasing numbers of wealthy clients hire buying agents to act in their interests, scout out the best homes and secure viewings.

‘Their privacy is so key that they only want one point of contact — me,’ says buying agent Hannah Aykroyd, managing director of Aykroyd & Co, who advises high net-worth individuals on prime London properties.

‘People don’t want the entire world looking at the internals of their property. An incredible art collection can be worth far more than the property itself, so there’s no way that sellers are going to allow pieces of art to be photographed,’ says Hannah, 35, who lives in West London with her husband and two small children.

From hiring private jets for whirlwind viewings to having a rapper client who believed Buckingham Palace ¿beneath him¿ and selling a £40 million property whose master bedroom was the size of an ordinary house, Becky has seen it all. Pictured: Ovington Square UK Sotheby's International Realty

From hiring private jets for whirlwind viewings to having a rapper client who believed Buckingham Palace ‘beneath him’ and selling a £40 million property whose master bedroom was the size of an ordinary house, Becky has seen it all. Pictured: Ovington Square UK Sotheby’s International Realty

She adds that she often doesn’t reveal the names of celebrity buyers to agents until they put an offer in — and then ‘we can make it a condition of sale that it’s not to be talked about’.

Pre-Covid, Hannah, whose clients’ £2,500 retainer fee is deducted from the 2 per cent ‘success’ fee she receives from the purchase price, says 70 per cent of her buyers were from abroad. But post-Covid, 70 per cent are British, most in their 40s and entrepreneurs or working in finance, law, or technology, and looking for bigger family homes.

‘To get a really cracking family house with off-street parking, you’re looking at the £15 million to £20 million mark,’ she says. ‘Most of these houses have a separate flat for a housekeeper or nanny.’

Hannah says she sometimes sees herself as ‘marriage counsellor’ with buying couples — ‘you’ve got slightly different briefs you have to merge together’.

If a buyer is ‘focused’, she hopes to find them a home within four months. Is she ever intimidated by their wealth?

‘Definitely not. You can’t advise your client if you’re intimidated.’

In any case, she says: ‘Ninety-nine per cent of our clients are wonderful and happy to have us on board during what is a stressful part of their lives.’

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Facebook admits high-profile users are treated differently

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Facebook’s oversight board said the social media company hadn’t been “fully forthcoming” about internal rules that allowed some high-profile users to be exempt from content restrictions and said it will make recommendations on how to change the system.

In the first of its quarterly transparency reports published Thursday, the board said that on some occasions, Facebook “failed to provide relevant information to the board,” and in other instances the information it did provide was incomplete.

For example, when Facebook referred the case involving former US president Donald Trump to the board, it didn’t mention its internal “cross-check system” that allowed for a different set of rules for high-profile users.

Facebook only mentioned cross-check, or XCheck, to the board when asked whether Trump’s page or account had been subject to ordinary content moderation processes.

The cross-check system was disclosed in recent reporting by the Wall Street Journal, based in part on documents from a whistle-blower.

The journal described how the cross-check system, originally intended to be a quality-control measure for a select few high-profile users and designed to avoid public relations backlash over famous people who mistakenly have their posts taken down, had ballooned to include millions of accounts.

The oversight board said it will undertake a review of the cross-check system and make suggestions on how to improve it.

As part of the process, Facebook has agreed to share with the board relevant documents about the cross-check system as reported in the Wall Street Journal. – Bloomberg

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Green mortgages may leave owners of older homes unable to sell

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Estate agents warn owners of older homes, rural houses and listed properties could struggle to sell under green mortgage plans

  • Boris Johnson has unveiled his plans for turning Britain green by 2050 
  • The plans include proposals on how to make the housing stock greener 
  • The plans would see lenders disclose the energy performance of properties










Homeowners living in older, rural and even listed properties risk being unable to sell if strict green finance targets are introduced, estate agents have warned.

The warning comes after Boris Johnson unveiled his plan for turning Britain green by 2050 this week, with mortgage lenders having targets for the energy performance of properties in their portfolio.

A body that represents estate agents across Britain claimed that the property market could be distorted as a result of the measures and called for Britain’s historic housing stock to be taken into account.

Boris Johnson revealed proposals on how to make the housing stock greener this week

Boris Johnson revealed proposals on how to make the housing stock greener this week

Timothy Douglas, of Propertymark, said: ‘Incentivising green improvements to properties via lending creates risks of trapping homeowners with older properties, those who live in rural areas, listed buildings or conservation areas, making their homes difficult to sell and therefore reducing the value.’

Propertymark said that those living in older properties could be left with homes that they could not sell if buyers were unable to secure finance on them due to their lower energy efficiencies.

The effect would be likely to be felt more by less wealthy owners, as deep-pocketed buyers would be more able to overlook mortgage restrictions and high-end older homes would continue to be desirable.

Mr Douglas said: ‘The use of targets could distort the market and sway lenders towards preferential, newer homes in order to improve the rating of their portfolio.

‘Stopping a large portion of housing stock from being able to enter the market could cause havoc for home buying and selling as well as the wider economy.’ 

He added that improving the energy efficiency of homes should be reliant on consumer choice and not something enforced by mortgage lenders, with all the knock-on effects this could entail.

He said: ‘We would be concerned if lenders raise rates and limit products because fundamentally, improving the energy performance of a property is reliant on consumer choice and it is not the core business of mortgage lenders.’

Mark Harris, of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: ‘The green agenda is not new but there is increasing impetus behind it. There are more green mortgage products aimed at those purchasing more energy-efficient properties – A-C rated, and not just from specialist lenders but the high street banks too.

‘However, there is a real danger that green initiatives could create the next round of mortgage prisoners if homeowners are trapped in older homes that can’t be improved, so they can’t move because they can’t sell them on.

‘Without changes or improvements, lenders may restrict lending to lower loan-to-values, higher pricing, or not lend at all. This could penalise those who are unable to adapt to or adopt new efficient technologies economically.’

A UK Finance spokesperson said: ‘Greening our housing stock is vital if we are to meet our climate change obligations and banks and finance providers are committed to helping achieve this goal and making sure consumers are not left behind.’

Ways to boost energy efficiency  

Propertymark recommends three measures to improve the energy efficiency of homes without negatively impacting the housing market.

1. Improvements linked to an EPC

These include linking a plan for energy efficiency improvements to the recommendations on a property’s Energy Performance Certificate.

It could demonstrate the ‘most suitable route’ to a warmer home, regulatory compliance and zero carbon, according to Propertymark.

2. Tax breaks

It also recommends using tax breaks to incentivise homeowners to finance energy efficiency improvements.

For example, these could include making energy improvements exempt from VAT or offering lower rates of council tax for homes that have been made more energy efficient.

3. Adjustable tax rates

An adjustable rate of property tax that is tied to energy performance is also being recommended by Propertymark.

This could be done in two ways, it suggested. First, by applying the adjustment as a reduction on more energy-efficient properties. And second by offering rebates to buyers if energy efficiency improvements are made to less efficient properties within a certain time period after purchase.

Propertymark said that by linking energy performance with property taxes, this could help introduce increased saleability for more energy-efficient properties. In addition, it suggested that improvements would become standard for homeowners seeking costs and improve the desirability of their homes.

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Johnson rules out face masks as UK’s daily Covid cases rise above 50,000

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Daily coronavirus cases in Britain have risen above 50,000 for the first time since July, but Boris Johnson said he will not bring back compulsory face coverings or introduce vaccine passports.

Speaking in Northern Ireland, the prime minister said his government was holding firm to its policy of no legal restrictions introduced in July, but was watching the numbers carefully.

“The numbers of infections are high but we are within the parameters of what the predictions were,” he said. “We are sticking with our plan.”

Mr Johnson acknowledged the “patchiness” of Britain’s vaccination programme, urging people to come forward for their booster jabs as soon as they are invited to do so. But Labour leader Keir Starmer said the government should beef up the programme, ensure that more children were vaccinated and aim to deliver half a million jabs a day.

“The government said that the vaccine would be the security wall against the virus and now the government is letting that wall crumble,” he said.

“We’ve seen those that most need it not able to get the jab they need. Only, I think, 17 per cent of children have got the vaccine. And the booster programme has slowed down so much that at this rate we’re not going to complete it until spring of next year. So the government needs to change these, it needs to get a grip. I think it needs to drive those numbers up to at least 500,000 vaccines a day.”

Vaccine passports

The British Medical Association (BMA) accused the government of “wilful negligence” in not bringing back some restrictions, and of failing to learn the lessons of a parliamentary report last week about its handling of the pandemic. The association’s chairman, Chaand Nagpaul, said doctors could say categorically that it was time to bring back compulsory face masks and to introduce vaccine passports.

“By the health secretary’s own admission we could soon see 100,000 cases a day, and we now have the same number of weekly Covid deaths as we had during March, when the country was in lockdown,” he said.

“It is, therefore, incredibly concerning that he is not willing to take immediate action to save lives and protect the NHS. ”

Health secretary Sajid Javid warned this week that some restrictions could be introduced if the public failed to exercise caution and to take up vaccination offers. He acknowledged that Conservative MPs could show an example by wearing masks in the House of Commons, but house leader Jacob Rees-Mogg on Thursday rejected the suggestion.

Crowded spaces

“There is no advice to wear face masks in workplaces. The advice on crowded spaces is with crowded spaces with people that you don’t know. We on this side know each other,” he told the SNP’s Pete Wishart.

“Now, it may be that he doesn’t like mixing with his own side, wants to keep himself in his personal bubble. He may find the other members of the SNP – who I normally find extraordinarily charming…but we on this side have a more convivial fraternal spirit, and for our calling the guidance of her majesty’s government.”

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