The Evening Standard Homes & Property section runs a regular feature called “Diary of an Estate Agent” seeing life through the lens of those selling residential properties. But I had to spend a day with some real life commercial property agents last week to gain a bit more insight into the firm E A Shaw with whom I work on a regular basis.
My day started at the alarmingly early time of 8am when they have their weekly team meeting to go through all the work projects they have running both in their two key territories – Southbank and Covent Garden/Holborn (Midtown). Happily, they had provided coffee, croissants and pastries from the local coffee shop to ease the shock of such an early start.
Meeting promptly over and I was off out with one of the partners and a young surveyor. We took a taxi over the river to meet with an asset manager from one of their development clients to take a peek at four small offices on one of the floors above a rather prominent pub not far from London Bridge station in the shadow of the rapidly growing Shard. The asset manager was keen to hear the views on what rents might be possible depending on the extent of some planned modernisation works and to assess whether to keep the units separate or forge ahead with more substantial works to remove some non structural walls to create one large office space. Interesting discussion.
We returned in a taxi back to the office in the heart of Covent Garden. After a few minutes to catch my breath (and an extremely fast cup of coffee) I was out with an associate and another young surveyor (conveniently sharing the same name as the one who had come with us to the South Bank) as we walked briskly down towards Red Lion Square where nearby, in New North Street, was a self contained and rather lovely split level office that is likely to come onto the market in a few months. After a quick tour we spent a little time thinking about where best to place the letting board so that it could be easily seen.
And then we were off again, striding across the roads to reach Great Queen Street where there is an impressive marketing suite for New Brook Buildings. The newly refurbished reception area was really impressive and the large floor plates of the available space were light filled and super modern.
I didn’t make it back to the office as I was handed over to another agent – this time a woman – who had just collected the keys to show me around one of the firm’s most impressive developments – St Martin’s Courtyard. Whilst I have walked up and down Long Acre about a zillion times, I was struck by how different Slingsby Place now looks. The newly pedestrianised pavement sits between the freshly cleaned façade of Banana Republic on one side and another impressive retail outlet on the other.
Whilst there is still some construction works here it is clear that this will be a beautiful area – similar in style to St Christopher’s Square over in the West End. There is an incredible blue and silver design on the front of what will be a restaurant which overlooks a small square of what will be some rather select retail outlets. The extensive development (a joint venture between Shaftsbury Estates and The Mercer’s Company) includes some commercial office space as well at number 10. There are achingly new bright modern floors with those really attractive skylight windows which shout “media company headquarters”. Oh to work in offices like these!
Dragging ourselves away from such a lovely environment, we returned to the office. At this point we parted company as I had agreed to meet with a colleague at nearby Holborn to talk about her new business venture. The agents were heads down in deep conversation on the phone or tapping information into their PC screens. But I returned again towards the end of the afternoon for a full meeting of partners where numerous firm-wide initiatives were discussed. It was buzzy.
The office agents were still running in and out of the building and talking non stop on the phones to clients, solicitors and other agents as I slipped away around 530pm to get to an evening meeting on the other side of town. How do they maintain such energy levels? Mind you, I can think of a lot less appealing ways to earn a living than walking around the amazing properties in Covent Garden, the West End and South Bank. If only I would be happy to part with my high heels on a permanent basis…