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Big names are down-to-earth about property

Many people have said to me that being a surveyor must be a lonely existence and they are right, but the chance of a sparkling social life is not what attracted me to the job in the first place.

In fact, for me the joy is being out all day on my own with nobody pestering me for a contribution to the office lottery or asking who I think will win this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Of course, before the advent of the dreaded mobile phone life was even better for surveyors because you could disappear for hours on end and nobody knew where you were. In those days I never left the house without my golf clubs.

But of course it’s not all glamour. Many surveyors are car drivers, which in this country means they are criminals-in-waiting who at some stage will drive at 31mph in a 30mph zone and be required to contribute to the local nick’s Christmas party fund by way of a 100 fine.

Meeting celebrities is always interesting and I regard it as one of the perks of the job.

This is not because you meet them face-to-face but rather because you do so on a level playing field and can engage in topics of conversation which you would not be able to otherwise.

The reason for this is that they are relaxed in their own homes and are not at some ghastly function shaking hands with complete strangers.

One such celebrity is Peter, now Lord, Mandelson. I valued the house he famously bought in Notting Hill with the assistance of an undeclared loan. As a consequence of the affair he had resigned from the Cabinet by the time I met him.

I found him to be a charming and engaging character who freely talked about his then recent problems and at one point asked me what I thought were the immediate prospects for the London property market.

This gave me the collywobbles because only a few weeks earlier he had been sitting at the heart of government and there he was, asking little old me about economic trends.

Although I never met Robbie Williams (pictured), I carried out a survey of his house in Holland Park when he moved to the US. I had to agree not to talk to the press and to have a representative of Williams’ record company accompany me at all times.

The contract stipulated there were to be no photographs taken at all, and this was non-negotiable.

Fine, I said, and met the aforementioned representative at the appointed hour. It was a big old house and when I told him it would require a full building survey that would take all day his response was unprintable.

In fact, the diligent rep promptly disappeared, telling me to ring him when I was done.

Nowadays I only value properties in central London and leave my car at home. After 40 years I’ve rediscovered one of life’s great pleasures – travelling around eating your sandwiches in the front seat on the top deck of a double decker bus. Oh happy days.


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