Selling Glamoursmith and SheBu

A year in review and sales manager Martin Clements MNAEA’s predictions for 2021…

Before you read on, I must pause to acknowledge the knock-on effects the pandemic has had on our fellow independent businesses here in Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush. These unique, independent traders make our communities special places to live and I know that our wonderful neighbours will continue to shop local as soon as your doors are open again.

When lockdown was announced, property professionals – and every homeowner up and down the country - held their breath. In 13 years at the helm of our sales team, I’d never seen anything like it: a frozen market. Photography, floorplans and video tours created by a specialist team in ‘clean’ boiler suits. Was this the new normal?! We knew it wouldn’t be and could forecast this temporary stall as the calm before the storm… we were momentarily at peace in the eye of the hurricane.

An understanding of the basic macroeconomic principle of limited supply and an inevitable surge in demand meant my sales team braced for the madness to come: before the market restarted, the floodgates were already bulging with buyers and sellers chomping at the bit to get moving. Conversation after conversation was had with Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith locals desperate to move… buy, sell, upsize, downsize, remortgage, free up equity, home office, outside space, rattling around in a house that’s too big, wanting to move nearer to family… you name it, I had several conversations about it - all with the same question: “When can we start?”

The seven day working week swiftly followed with our already-busy sales team working around the clock to ensure our sellers and buyers were beautifully looked after and never in want of an update. This sterling standard of service meant our market share grew for the 13th year in a row in 2020, with Horton and Garton selling more houses in Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush than any other estate agency. How to best describe 2020? Our statistics tell the story of our team’s dedication:

hammersmith shepherd's bush sold houses

  • Our properties achieved an average of 98.7% of their initial asking price
  • 56% of our W6 portfolio and over a third of our W12 portfolio achieved 100% of the initial asking price or above
  • 85% of our W6 portfolio achieved 95% of the initial asking price or above
  • 17% of our sales in 2020 were agreed fully off-market
  • Our Askew Village sales were agreed in an average of 24 days – less than half the national average for time on the market in 2020 (50 days!)
  • If you sold in Ravenscourt Park, this average time on the market figure – from listing to under offer – drops to just 11 days!

time on the market house sold askew village ravenscourt park

What’s afoot for West London property in 2021? I believe more properties will come to market and forsee local Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush average house prices holding firm with the very best homes near desirable schools and amenities continuing to attract top notch buyers and extraordinary prices. In the first month of the new year, we’ve seen sealed bid scenarios and watched Lockdown 3.0 focussing buyers’ minds and intentions.

The motivation to move is there with the stamp duty deadline adding yet another layer of incentive. Time will tell how the market reacts as the year goes on – check back at the end of Quarter 2 for my overview and projections – but to reiterate, I forecast the family house market holding firm. Growing families will always want and need to upsize into these perennially popular forever homes; they act as a constant lure to our leafy patch of Prime West London.

Whilst I can’t invite you to pop by our King Street office for a cup of tea, I can certainly encourage you to call me and my team or email us any time. We’re even on WhatsApp – click here to connect with us. If you’re a Hammersmith or Shepherd’s Bush local and only the best will do, my dedicated team and I are at your service. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

Martin Clements MNAEA

Sales Manager

“As a seller I couldn’t recommend Horton and Garton more strongly. They have a great knowledge of the local market, road by road. I felt their advice was completely sound and definitely aimed at getting the best outcome and the whole process was totally stress free.”

                       -Jane, Brackenbury Village seller

“We chose this agency because it’s local and because we liked the selling strategy – you feel it straight away when you deal with professionals. Even with a four link chain, we managed to move into our new home within four months with no problems whatsoever. They’re professional, reliable, responsible and smart: definitely recommend.”

                       -Dina, Askew Village seller

“I cannot recommend the team at Horton and Garton highly enough. In the past we have had some bad experiences with estate agents however Martin, Phil and Charlie have restored our faith in the profession! We have found their honest, friendly but knowledgeable approach very refreshing.”

                       -Jenny, Ravenscourt Park seller  


Making the most out of virtual viewings

Prospective buyers are now taking their time to consider property details online, here we share our top tips to help make the most out of a virtual viewing.

What are virtual viewings?

A virtual viewing of a property is 3D imagery that is viewed in a virtual reality system – it seems as though you’re really there in the property.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced estate agents to stop conducting so many viewings and update the way they showcased properties online. Some agents chose to do virtual tours via video walkthroughs, others chose to do professional video tours.

virtual viewing estate agent chiswick

We believe that together with professional photographs and floorplans, a 3D virtual tour is the very best way to enable potential buyers to get the full measure of a property prior to arranging property viewings. In some instances, a pre-recorded video tour is also appropriate.

How to use a virtual viewing

The Horton and Garton Chiswick office use high quality technology to capture a property virtually. The Matterport cameras provide 3D imagery that feels like you’re in the property, it allows a buyer to see every aspect – good and bad.

 

matterport virtual viewing

Virtual tours

Buyers should take their time doing a virtual walk through as though they were in the property, there are several points to look out for which can be seen on a virtual tour:

· The age and condition of the kitchen, whether quality brand appliances are built in

· Is there adequate storage space?

· Is the central heating system gas or electric?

· The condition of bathrooms and quality of the fittings.

· Any visible cracks in the ceiling or walls beyond what is expected if it is a period property

· What does the property look out onto – from a 3D tour you can see the view from the windows

· Are the windows in good condition, are they double glazed?

From the virtual tour you might have questions to raise with the selling agent prior to viewing in person.

Measure up

The software we use enables buyers to mark out measurements of their furniture online within the 3D tour to make sure their belongings would fit.

If you want to clarify any measurements, such as the width of a door frame to get furniture in, sellers are usually happy to measure for you – just ask the agent.

If you’ve viewed the property thoroughly online and believe it to be a real contender there are certain questions that you might need the estate agent to answer and provide more information:

· Has there been any structural work completed on the property in the last 10 years?

· When were the kitchen, bathroom and boiler installed?

· Older properties can be susceptible to damp so perhaps ask if there has been any damp proofing and if there is a guarantee for the works.

· If the property is within a building confirm the charges applicable and whether there are any building works planned as this could incur cost and cause noise disturbance.

· You might even want to know who lives next door!

· If you’re new to the area you might like to know more about local schools and amenities

Whatever your query the estate agent will be able to help, or they’ll be able to ask the seller and come back to you.

Floor plans

Floor plans have been being used for estate agents for a very long time and remain to be incredibly important. If the property is one that you know you’ll want to improve or reconfigure the floorplan can be hugely useful.

floor plan horton and garton

The floorplan will also confirm where there are storage cupboards that might not have been obvious on the 3D tour such as those in the eaves.

For the purposes of valuing the property the total square footage is used to equate a price based on the price per square foot for comparable properties that have sold recently nearby.

Things to consider before viewing a property in person

Aside from looking around the property virtually make sure you’ve considered these factors before arranging a physical viewing. 

Location

The location of a property and the local transport connections are often easier to check online.

Look at a map to consider the exact location and take a look around at street level by using street view technology as this will give you a better idea of what’s right outside your front door and the outlook. Apps like Citymapper can prove useful to establish how well connected a property is and what modes of transport are nearby, offering an accurate commute time.

Price

The internet allows buyers to easily access sold prices in the area, officially all property sales are registered with the Land Registry. Property portals such as Rightmove will offer an idea of what’s available to buy and some also show recent sold prices of nearby properties.

It’s worth keeping in mind that a property’s value isn’t solely based on what the property next door sold for – there are a number of factors.

If you can’t understand why there’s a difference in the value of the property you’re considering, be it lower or higher than nearby homes, talk to the estate agent as they will have arrived at that guide price for good reason.

Physical viewings

Once you’re sure the property is what you’re looking for it’s appropriate to arrange to view in person. A physical viewing is now more about getting the fuzzy homely feeling when you’re there as you’ve already checked the other factors. Horton and Garton strictly adhere to the government’s Covid 19 guidelines including social distancing and wearing PPE.

paul cooney viewing covid-19

How sellers can make the most out of virtual viewings

We’ve highlighted how a buyer can make the most out of a virtual viewing but how can a seller ensure their property is showcased in its very best light when it is captured by the 3D cameras?

Matterport cameras take a full 360° scan of each individual room so think about the following:

· Declutter – tidying away unnecessary items can help buyers see the property more clearly

· Spring clean – give the house a good clean, wipe away any marks and scuffs and, touch up the paint

· Remove valuables – put them out of view

· Ideally pets should be out – having an animal running through a room when capturing the virtual tour can ruin the imagery

· Open all the doors and turn on all the lights – make sure the property is as light and bright as possible

· Freshen up the garden – give the lawn a mow and trim back any trees and bushes

For professional advice on the sale of your property please do get in touch or watch our recent video to find out how Horton and Garton can present your property online.

Buyers looking for property in Chiswick can find our latest listings here or contact us to discuss your property requirements.


The Lettings Landscape: an overview from local expert Ashley Clements MARLA MNAEA

West London’s year in review

Before I begin my quarterly analysis, I must pause to acknowledge the knock-on effects the pandemic has had on our fellow independent businesses here in Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush. I know the residents of West London continue to offer their support by shopping local. It is these unique, and often independent traders, that make our communities so special.

We can all agree that 2020 has been an unpredictable year for every industry. Back in March, when the first lockdown was announced, viewings were cancelled and the office doors were shut with no idea of when they would be able to reopen. When they did reopen, it signalled the start of a tumultuous period for my lettings team - unprecedented in the 13 years I’ve served as the head of Horton and Garton lettings. A palpable urgency from both tenants and landlords flooded our inboxes and phone lines when we returned to our desks in May. Priorities shifted and outside space coupled with home offices took centre stage with many tenants making the move to upsize and incorporate that all-important garden, terrace or balcony and an extra room.

There’s no other way to put it: with our matchmaking powers in overdrive, listings flew off the shelf and into the hands of discerning new tenants. Meanwhile, our managed landlords could rest easy, safe in the knowledge our capable property management team was working overtime to keep tenants happy and properties in tip top condition during a global pandemic (!).

As for our West London landlords? The phone has been glued to my ear at all hours of the day… advising clients living in the far corners of the world on various aspects of their portfolios. At this time in particular, we are setting in place measure to maximise their return on investment and keep them one step ahead of legislative curve balls.

lettings agent chiswick hammersmith shepherd's bush 2020

Despite ever-changing restrictions and market uncertainty, we quickly adapted to the 'new normal' and kept West London moving – cementing our position in the top 3 agencies for lets agreed across our Prime West London golden triangle of Hammersmith, Chiswick and Shepherd's Bush. In Hammersmith we excelled, agreeing more lets than any other agency. That means that out of the 438 properties let by the top 10 agencies in W6 last year, 1 in 5 were agreed by Horton and Garton. In Brackenbury Village, this lead gets even greater with my team agreeing over 20 more lets than our nearest competitor.*

Predictions for 2021

On to my predictions for this year’s market: I could never have foretold the urgency we’d experience coming out of the Christmas holidays and back to work this month. Relaxing cup of tea and easing into the year? Far from it…! We were floored from the first day with an influx of top quality tenants looking for the finest digs in Hammersmith, Chiswick and Shepherd’s Bush – knowing we’d be the team to help find Home. The hard graft has paid dividends for our landlords - we’re Number 1 for lets agreed in Chiswick, Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith thus far in 2021*. An excellent calibre of tenant remains available, however with more time than ever spent at home, properties must be presented in good decorative order.

Our in-house property managers are always available should you wish to have a conversation about their tips and recommendations which will help you to achieve the best price for your property with minimal investment.

Consulting my purple crystal ball, I forsee a considerable amount of market activity for our landlords in 2021 – spurred on by Lockdown 3.0 and then a return to normalcy, with further reasons to move, later in the year. For our West London tenants, 2021 brings moving goal posts and fortunately for our landlords, we’re at the top of the table – securing the highest market value for our listings in record time. We continue to fire on all cylinders through Quarter 1 and will update you again in Quarter 2.

shepherd's bush flat rental lettings askew village

Business is brisk but our sterling standard of service and commitment to our landlord clients and tenants remains the same, and throughout 2020 the 5* reviews kept coming. Whether you're a landlord thinking about letting your property, or a tenant looking for your new perfect home, I’m here for you. Call me any time on 020 8819 0511. My dedicated lettings professionals are at your service.

“I simply couldn't imagine any Hammersmith landlord using another agent.”

                       -Joseph, Central Hammersmith landlord

“I have worked with Horton and Garton for about 15 years and their service and performance have been impeccable throughout. I have no hesitation recommending them very strongly.”

                        -Alex, The Groves, W12 landlord

“After many years renting in London, I have never come across such a diligent, helpful and thoughtful team. As a tenant I have felt, respected, listened to and importantly understood and looked well after. The Team at Horton and Garton have been outstanding. I would highly recommend them for tenants and landlords alike.”

                       -Prudence, Bedford Park tenant 

*According to Rightmove statistics for January – December 2020


Outlook for the Chiswick property market 2021

As the new year begins Paul Cooney, Director of Horton and Garton Chiswick, has considered the outlook for the Chiswick property market in 2021 and shares his thoughts.

With over 11 years working in Chiswick and West London, Paul has sold hundreds of properties in the area and has weathered many a political and economic storm during his time working as an estate agent.

Based on historical trends and the appetite seen in the property market in recent months, Paul is able to share insight useful to those who are considering buying or selling in W4 in 2021.

Review of 2020

First, as a basis for any forecasts, a brief look at the events of 2020 and how the year concluded.

Following a decisive election result the Conservative party took the reins at the end of 2019 and the property market responded strongly at the beginning of 2020 with what was dubbed the ‘Boris Bounce’; property prices began to rise and the number of transactions increased.

The momentum of the market was abruptly halted by the coronavirus as the UK was placed into a national lockdown and the property market effectively closed for business for many weeks. Though some transactions were able to continue, for those that had already been agreed activity was paused.

Upon reopening in mid-May 2020, the property market generally picked up where it left off as pent-up demand increased the activity in the market. This busyness in the market propelled even further by the announcement of a stamp duty holiday in July 2020.

High levels of activity continued throughout the remainder of the year, the property market remaining open through the second national lockdown in November 2020.

Testament to the high levels of activity, we sold 98% of all the properties that we listed for sale in 2020.

properties sold 2020 Chiswick

Outlook for 2021

The UK property market predictions for 2021 from economic forecasters and industry experts are varied. Though there is a general consensus that there will be a marginal average price increase of a few per cent over the year.

In agreement with these forecasters, we believe that in 2021 we will see market stabilisation, adjustment and a steady rate of price growth.

The strongest demand is likely to continue to be for larger properties and those with outside space. There was a distinct lack of family homes available for sale in 2020 – those priced correctly would sell in a matter of days, we expect this to continue.

Throughout 2020 we sold properties of all shapes and sizes though there was clearly a stronger demand for homes valued at £750,000 or more with 72% of all the sales completed by Horton and Garton Chiswick in 2020 being at these values.

properties sold 2020 Chiswick sales agreed

Though the stamp duty holiday will be coming to an end in March we expect this to only have a limited impact as the majority of homes in Chiswick are in a higher price bracket than those who benefit most from the temporary reduction in rates. Though the stamp duty holiday is a welcome saving to anyone able to buy before the deadline.

To this end it is still possible to buy or sell before the end of March when the reduced rates will end. If you’re hoping to complete a transaction before the 31st March 2021, we strongly recommend you find the best possible team to help the purchase or sale conclude in a timely manner. Engaging with the best local estate agent, a reputable solicitor and an efficient mortgage broker will enable you to complete a transaction swiftly.

Contact Horton and Garton about your plans to move in 2021.


25 Christmas cracker jokes🎅

This festive season, many of us might be struggling to find something to laugh about. And with many parts of the country under the toughest government restrictions and facing Christmases without their families, the sales of Christmas crackers have hit a historic low.

That's why we decided that West London was in dire need of a cheesy cracker joke injection and, since the start of December, we've been posting a Christmas cracker-worthy joke everyday.

We hope you enjoy them, and be sure to share your favourites around the table to ensure LOLs a-plenty on the 25th.

  1. Why does Donald Trump have his Christmas dinner on a plastic plate? Answer: Because he doesn't like China!
  2. What did Santa do to the underperforming elves? Answer: He gave them the sack.
  3. Why did the children start to eat their new jigsaw puzzle on Christmas day? Answer: Their mum said it would be a piece of cake.
  4. Why did Rudolph log on to Amazon when his tail fell off? Answer: Because they're the biggest online re-tailers.
  5. Why did the mum buy her son a fridge for Christmas? Answer: Because she wanted to see his face light up when he opened it.
  6. How do you know that Santa is an expert in Karate? Answer: Because he has a black belt.
  7. What do composers write in December? Answer: Their Christmas Chopin lists.
  8. What do you call a child who doesn't believe in Santa? Answer: A rebel without a Claus.
  9. How much did Father Christmas pay for his sleigh? Answer: Nothing, it was on the house.
  10. Why is Father Christmas trying to go down fewer sooty chimneys this year? Answer: He wants to reduce his carbon footprint.
  11. What did West Londoners do during Tier 3 lockdown to amuse themselves? Answer: They made inside jokes.
  12. What did the detective say when asked if Joe Exotic was guilty? Answer: I don't know, let me mullet over...
  13. What do you call the panic buying of sausages in Germany? Answer: The wurst case scenario.
  14. Why wont Santa lose any of his presents this year? Answer: He's downloaded Sack and Trace.
  15. Why couldn't Mary and Joseph join their work conference call? Answer: There was no Zoom at the inn.
  16. Why are Christmas trees so bad at sewing? Answer: They're always dropping their needles.
  17. Why did the pirates have to go into lockdown? Answer: Because the "ARR!" rate had risen.
  18. Why is it best to think of 2020 like a panto? Answer: Because soon, it's behind you.
  19. Why didn't Mary and Joseph make it to Bethlehem? Answer: Because all Virgin flights had been cancelled.
  20. Which government scheme supports Christmas dinner? Answer: Eat Sprout to Help Out.
  21. Which athlete is warmest in winter? Answer: Long jumpers.
  22. What are the best Christmas jumpers made from? Answer: Fleece Navidad.
  23. Who is a Christmas tree's favorite singer? Answer: Spruce Springsteen
  24. What's the difference between the Christmas alphabet and the ordinary alphabet? Answer: The Christmas alphabet has noel.
  25. What is Dominic Cummings’ favourite Christmas song? Answer:  Driving Home for Christmas.

We hope these put a smile on your face and encourage you tell some turkeys of your own!

On behalf of everyone at Horton and Garton, we wish all of our West London clients a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! 


Paying it forward in 2020 and beyond

A Christmas message on charity from our founder John Horton

"To put it mildly, 2020 has been a tough year. For independent businesses, for those working in hospitality or the arts, and the many charities that are working harder than ever to provide support during this time.

That's why, in a year when many have cut back and reduced their charity outreach spends, we decided to lean in and give back as much as we could to the communities that have helped us to thrive over the past 12 months. In total, we supported 19 community organisations, charities and local events in 2021.

As Jacob Marley so succinctly summarised in A Christmas Carol, ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’ As market leaders in our respective neighbourhoods, our Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush office and Chiswick office are extremely fortunate to be in a position to help:

Community and charity events

Back in February (when events didn't involve a computer screen), we supported RNLI Chiswick in organising their annual comedy night and in 2021, pandemic permitting, we hope to do the same again. From February 2020 on, all the community events we support turned virtual- but that didn't stop the community spirit.

There were the West London artists that took the annual 'Artists at Home' event online, not only uploading their work onto 'virtual galleries', but sending off the year in style raising over £11,000 for local charity The Upper Room with their Christmas online auction.

In Shepherd's Bush, we further supported The Upper Room as they tried to salvage their yearly 'Open Gardens Day' which sees local homeowners allow members of the public to take a tour of their gorgeous gardens. This day is one of the Upper Room's most popular fundraising events of the year, so having to cancel it was a major blow to the organisation. Fortunately, friend of the charity Emma Benton had the great idea of creating a 'Gardens of Stamford Brook 2021 calendar' instead which we took great pleasure in designing and printing. The result is an inside peek into the beautiful backyards hidden around the area, and can be bought here for just £10 plus postage. 

In Hammersmith, we worked closely with the Brackenbury Residents Association supporting the lighting of the Brackenbury Village Christmas tree and their annual quiz. Then back in W4, our Chiswick branch brought the festive fun supporting the Southfield PTA's Christmas jumper hunt in Bedford Park.

Competitions

Christmas is a time for giving, and a time for a giveaway. And for West London residents, the giveaways kept coming as we provided wonderful prizes for the Brackenbury Village Christmas Scarecrow competition, and Director of Chiswick sales Paul Cooney MNAEA organised his own Christmas Tree decorating competition.

Then with the Hogarth 500 – organised by the fantastic people at West London’s finest private members’ club The Hogarth, we brought the competition into the office as our 'In-Office' team and our 'Work From Home' team were pitted against each other (and the rest of Chiswick, Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush!) in a race to reach 500 miles through running, rowing, walking or cycling. Sadly, neither team took home first prize, but we did help to raise over £3,500 for the Sport in Mind charity.

The year ahead

2021 will see the rollout of the Ravenscourt Park Tree Trail that we helped the Friends of Ravenscourt Park to produce earlier this year. We were delighted to be involved in the creation of this map and hope that 2021 will bring more opportunities to support community projects like this. If you're part of a community group or organisation and think we can lend a hand next year, don't hesitate to reach out to us.

We look forward to (hopefully!) seeing you all again in the new year and wish you a happy and healthy 2021."

John Horton MNAEA MARLA, Founder and Director, Horton and Garton


A Very 2020 West London Nativity

Mary was sitting in her garden with a cup of tea and a slice of buttered homemade sourdough. Despite Nazareth’s Tier 3 restrictions, she was feeling smug as she’d finished her chores and even squeezed in a Joe Wicks PE session so she had a moment of free time before her Teams meeting at 11.  

Just as she was dozing off into a reverie about owning her own exotic tiger park in Oklahoma, an angel appeared from a socially distanced 2 metres away (but he didn’t have a mask on as they were outside). The angel told her she was to have a baby. He would be God’s son – a light for all the people of the world – and she was to call him Jesus. Mary was a little confused at first, “but then again everything is a bit confusing at the moment” she thought. She wondered if this was fake news, but with a bit of Googling and a lot of praying she realized that this really was God’s plan. And so she said “Yes.” 

She told her fiancé Joseph, “A miracle has happened” to which he replied, “Have the pubs reopened?!” “No” said Mary,“I’m pregnant.” Joseph wasn’t convinced… at least not until the angel paid him a visit, too. “Don’t worry,” Joseph said to Mary, “we can bring the wedding forward. We’ll need to cut down the guest list but we can livestream the service to everyone else on Facebook.” 

A few months went by, lockdown was eased a little and then tightened again, and it was almost time for the baby to be born. The Prime Minister said that Mary and Joseph needed to go to Bethlehem to be counted (even though last week the PM had also said they shouldn’t make unnecessary journeys which confused them: Stay Home, Stay Safe, Get Counted?!). They wondered and wondered what to do… they knew if they weren’t counted they wouldn’t be able to get Universal Credit, and with the carpentry business struggling, they really needed help.

So they reluctantly agreed to go – even though Bethlehem was increasing to Tier 3They decided it would be safer if they avoided public transport so they went by donkey using the D9 donkey highway, newly installed by the council to encourage donkey travel. If anyone stopped them, they would say they were taking their daily exercise with the family pet. So they packed up their belongings, including their secret stash of plain flour and loo roll, and set off heading south. 

When they got to Bethlehem, it was busier than they expected for a little town on the brink of a Tier 3 lockdownNo wonder the R rate was increasing! They tried to find somewhere to stay but it was hopeless. The first inn they came to was closed with the staff on furlough; the second inn was open but only for takeaways which had to be ordered online and collected from the carpark. They knocked on the door of the final inn. “We’re travelling from Nazareth to be counted. My wife is heavily pregnant and we desperately need a place to stay.” 

“Travelling in the middle of lockdown?” the innkeeper thought“Leave it to the northerners to spoil it for everyone, he sighed quietly under his breath. “We’re open,” said the innkeeper to Mary and Joseph, “but we’re full of keyworkers who are away from their families.” Mary was close to tears and the innkeeper noticed her eyes welling up. “I can see how tired you are,” he continued. “The E-Type is in the shop for repair,” he pondered. “How about the garage at the back? It’s directly under the flight path but these days it’s very quiet and there’s a Banham security system so you’ll be safe for the night.” 

And so Mary and Joseph settled down to sleep, but in the middle of the night the baby was born – which meant that Joseph could be there, which was good. They wrapped baby Jesus in a blanket and placed him in an empty Fortnum & Mason hamper.  

There were shepherds in the fields nearby watching their sheep (after all, they couldn’t work from home, could they?). They’d been in a work bubble since the second lockdown began and were watching “Strictly Come Dancing" on their phones with a wry smile, hoping against hope that Hammersmith local Bill Bailey would win the 2020 Glitter Ball. All of a sudden, a heavenly host appeared, singing. Well, not quite a host and not actually singing – just humming – and behind full PPE, mask and visor! The shepherds were used to listening intently across the fields and so had no trouble making out what the angels were telling them: a baby had been born who would be their King, and they could ‘meet’ him on Zoom. After a tussle with an overloaded rural broadband, they managed to connect and meet the baby Jesus, though Mary couldn’t figure out how to unmute herself. 

Quite a long way away and not within the travel corridor were three kings. A star had told them about the king as the angels would have had to spend too long in quarantine if they’d gone to visit. They made the journey to Bethlehem walking at a safe distance from one another, only stopping for the occasional M&S sandwich.  

When they arrived in Bethlehem, they found the garage. They sanitized, scanned the test and trace QR code on their apps and one at a time were able to go and see the new baby who was safely tucked up behind a perspex screen. They texted Joseph the Hermes tracking code for their gifts which would need to be left for 72 hours before opening. The kings bowed down before the King of kings and said their goodbyes. Then they each whipped out a handy antibacterial wipe to sanitise the garage door handle for the next visitor. 

And the baby? He smiled, yawned and went back to sleep, like all babies do. 

The details of His birth would be different if Jesus was born in 2020 and not in the 1st century, but the truth of Christmas and the importance of Christmas is the same now, as it was then. A heavenly King, born into our earthly mess. A shepherd King – for kings and for shepherds. May the peace of Jesus be yours in Christmas 2020 and always. 

Written by John Horton, Founder and Director of Horton and Garton Estate Agency, with the help of Rector Rachel Dale, parish of Lapley and Wheaton Aston, Stafford CofE 


Chiswick’s Christmas tree decorating competition

Adding to the festive cheer in W4, the Horton and Garton Chiswick office has teamed up with Mummy Wine Club and is running a Christmas tree decorating competition this December.

They’re searching all of Chiswick in the hunt for the best decorated tree and have some exciting prizes available to be won.

The competition

Is your Christmas tree the best decorated in all of Chiswick?

The competition is running from Monday 7th to Wednesday 16th December and to enter the contest, W4 residents should head over to Instagram and follow these steps:

Step 1: Follow @paul.m.cooney and @mummywineclub on Instagram.

Step 2: Add the hashtag #bestctw4 to the photo of your own Christmas tree.

Paul Cooney, Director of Horton & Garton’s Chiswick office will be selecting the winner on Thursday 17th December.

Simply follow Paul and Mummy Wine Club, upload your photo to your stories or grid, #bestctw4 and wait eagerly for news on Thursday 17th December as to whether you’ve won 1 of the 3 prizes available!

Festive prizes

1st prize - a 12 bottle case of delicious wine from Mummy Wine Club including:

Marie Courtin, Efflorescence 2014 Champagne, France £69 

Charles Heidsieck Brut NV Champagne, France £50  

Recaredo, Corpinnat Brut Nature 2015 Catalunya, Spain £33

Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2014 Kent, England £68  

Tolpuddle Chardonnay 2019 Tasmania, Australia £60 

Gerard Fiou, Terroir Silex 2018 Sancerre, France £26  

Olivier Roten, Heida 2019 Valais, Switzerland £36

Chateau Musar Blanc 2012 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon £36 

Bodegas Ontañón, Queirón Mi Lugar 2017 Rioja, Spain £32  

Chateau de Chambert 2014 Cahors, France £26  

Cos Cerasuelo di Vittoria 2016 Sicily, Italy £26   

Wabi Sabi, Populis 2018 California, USA £34

2nd prize - large Christmas hamper made by 1990 Gluten Free Homemade worth £150.

3rd prize - a small Christmas hamper made by 1990 Gluten Free Homemade worth £75.

Paul will be delivering the prizes in person on Friday 18th December.

Rules of entry

All competition entries must live within the W4 postcode and be aged 25 or over.

The competition will run from Monday 7th to Wednesday 16th December inclusively – images must be shared no later than the 16th December 2020.

The competition is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Instagram.

By entering, entrants confirm that they are 25+ years old, relieve Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use. 

Mummy Wine Club

For those of you who haven’t heard about the wonderful Mummy Wine Club or haven’t seen Paul’s recent posts about local Chiswick resident Victoria and her growing business, here’s what you need to know.

Established in 2018 Mummy Wine Club is a locally run wine company that champions small, sustainable and organic producers and puts wine into context with food matching ideas. 

Mummy Wine Club is known for its monthly wine subscription which is available for delivery throughout mainland UK. Hand selected by Victoria; each month 4 delicious wines are delivered to the recipient together with food matching tips. The wine subscription can be purchased as a gift – perfect for Christmas!

Victoria also runs educational and fun virtual wine tastings which have seen a huge rise in popularity through 2020. 

The bottle shop on the Mummy Wine Club website serves as the perfect place to find hand selected wines including limited editions. Victoria includes wines at varying price points in the selection available on her website with prices starting from £11.

Supporting local this Christmas

We’re particularly passionate about supporting local businesses and Christmas is a time when it’s possible to choose to shop locally and make a difference to local businesses that have endured so much this year.

Paul is running a shop local series on his Instagram and a recently published blog on shopping locally in Chiswick shares lots of ideas for places to purchase gifts, decorations and food this year.

Please do share this competition with your friends in Chiswick, we can’t wait to see all the beautiful trees.

 


Christmas shopping in Chiswick – Support local independents in 2020

Retailers have had to think outside the box and change the way they sell items throughout 2020, there’s never been a more important time to support local businesses.

Here we highlight a few of the places you might want to stop by, arrange a click & collect or order online for delivery this December to purchase presents, festive food and decorations when Christmas shopping in Chiswick.

Wheelers

Local garden centre, Wheelers is nestled just next to Turnham Green tube station, and is a longstanding feature of Chiswick with several flower stands dotted along the High Road and of course the flower stand next to the station itself.

From November, they sell a wide selection of beautiful festive home decorations and Christmas trees both cut and potted. They also sell gorgeous festive arrangements.

If you’re looking to add an indoor plant to your collection, or purchase one as a gift this year, Wheeler’s recommends a Peace Lily, Snake Plant or Boston fern as all have excellent air purifying qualities.

Snapdragon

A truly independent toy store, Snap Dragon is a an exciting shop catering to children in Chiswick. The shelves are stacked from floor to ceiling with toys to suit all ages.

From Lego to Jellycat cuddly toys, board games, costumes, craft kits, puzzles and all the popular characters children go mad for – it’s the perfect place to shop for the younger people on your Christmas present list.

You can find Snap Dragon mid-way down Turnham Green Terrace at number 56.

Marmalade jewellery

Specialists in making truly unique items of jewellery and in particular magnificent engagement, wedding and eternity rings, Marmalade Jewellery brings sparkle and glamour to Turnham Green Terrace.

With certified gemmologists, jewellery valuers and even a GemLab on site, their team can give you their expert knowledge on finding the perfect gemstone to compliment you. As well as alongside the beautiful rings, is a gorgeous range of British-designer silver jewellery, cufflinks and gift items. Marmalade is the perfect place to stop when looking for a Christmas gift for someone special in your life.

Elias and Grandsons

For generations Elias and Grandsons has been making and repairing shoes and leather items from their shop on Chiswick Common Road, which is just off of Turnham Green Terrace, by the common, before the bus stop if you’re coming from Chiswick High Road.

Their tucked away premises are frequented by locals who rely on them for their excellent services and beautiful leather goods. From stocking fillers to larger gifts Elias and Sons is a ‘must visit’ when seeking Christmas gifts.

Wild Swans

Located at 14 Devonshire Road, Wild Swans sell Scandinavian fashion, beauty and homeware. With a constantly evolving selection of labels you can be sure to be purchasing something a little more special.

The collection includes both up and coming designers and more established ones, many of whom are exclusive to Wild Swans and not available in any other shops in the UK. As many of us move to make our homes emulate Scandi simplicity to instil calm, it’s highly likely you will be able to find a perfect gift here.

Borough Kitchen

Since Borough Kitchen opened their Chiswick store on the High Road they’ve been a firm favourite with locals known to sell only the very best kitchen products.

From pickling kits to egg coddlers, nutcrackers and spice infusers there’s an excellent selection of smaller items that will make the perfect stocking filler for any budding chef. There are also excellent larger gifts, all carefully curated, you can be sure you’ll only be purchasing the highest quality items that are designed for heavy use and set to last.

Mummy Wine Club

Not all local independent stores have a shop front –  Mummy Wine Club founded by long-time local Victoria Daskal, is a Chiswick-based wine company which offers a monthly wine subscription. Each month (or every other month if preferred) a selection of carefully chosen organic and sustainable wines sourced from small, quality producers is shipped to subscribers.

If you’re looking for something a little different, something special that gives the recipient not only delicious wine but tips on food matching and professional tasting notes, as well as monthly educational and entertaining virtual wine tastings then the Mummy Wine Club could be the perfect Christmas gift.

Postmark

Independent and award winning greeting card retailer Postmark has just four shops in south and west London, if you’re looking to wrap your Christmas gifts in something stand out or want to send cards that aren’t the standard styles found at the larger chain stores then Postmark is the perfect place to look.

They stock Christmas cards, wrap, bags and larger packs of cards together with a selection of diaries and smaller stationary gifts including Lamy pens. The Chiswick store has been open since 2014 but in case you don’t know where to find them, they’re at 53 Turnham Green Terrace.

Macken Brothers

If you live in Chiswick and enjoy eating good meat, it’s likely you’ve stood in the queue outside Macken’s on a Saturday at some point – their popularity is down to the incredibly high-quality meats on offer and of course the service with a smile. All the meat is produced from UK small farms with no additives or growth promoters, all naturally grass fed.

They also hand out excellent cooking tips if you need them!

Established in 1960 by brothers Jim and Peter Macken and now run by Jim's son Rodney, Macken Brothers Butchers is a long-standing feature of Turnham Green Terrace.

The last day for ordering a Christmas turkey for 2020 is Saturday 19th December, if you’d like a change this year Rodney recommends either a Judy Goodman Goose or a Packington Cockerel which comes in 3-6kg in weight!

Fudges

One of London’s oldest independent bicycle retailers, many in West London will only trust Fudges when making a purchase or for services and repairs.

Fudges have everything from the recreational kids and adults’ bikes to commuters and electric bikes. They sell well known brands such as Brompton and Raleigh along with lesser known brands, they’ll even help you source hard to find bicycles and parts.

Not limited to bikes Fudges also sell scooters, cargo bikes and child seats – a great place to shop local if you’re planning on buying a bike or scooter this Christmas.

Chiswick Pets

Year round Chiswick Pets is the local go to for natural and organic pet food, treat and toys. They also supply bedding, training aids and cleaning and other supplies for a wide range of animals.

If you’re planning on purchasing your pet a special Christmas treat or toy, Chiswick Pets can help – they’re located at 32-34 Devonshire Road

Zen Maitri

Health is well and truly at the forefront of minds, so a visit to Zen Maitri, Chiswick’s Natural Health Apothecary, could be ideal for gifting those you care about this Christmas.

They offer a range of natural products and delicious herbal teas if you’re looking for stocking fillers. For Christmas they’ve put together hampers such as the Immunity Care Collection, Sleep Better Gift Hamper and The Stay Healthy Hamper – to suit a variety of budgets. 

Zen Maitri can be found at 39 Turnham Green Terrace.

Supporting local independents in 2020

We’re hugely supporting of independent businesses that operate locally in Chiswick and hope that the community is able to find all they need within the W4 postcode.

To learn more about these wonderful businesses head over to Paul Cooney’s Instagram page - @paul.m.cooney - where we’ve interviewed a number of local stores in the run up to December.

You’ll find tips on all types of things from what flowers to add to a festive bouquet to what meat to try next for a Sunday roast.


Preparing your home for sale – 5 top tips from a seasoned estate agency

If you’re thinking about selling your property and want to make sure you achieve the best possible sale price, there are a few key steps you can take to ensure your property is not only showcased online in the best light, but that it also views well in person.

In a world of click bait its incredibly important to think about how your property will show online – getting a potential buyer to not only click on your property, but to view the details and arrange a viewing in person is a lot to do with marketing.

Whilst a selling agent can ensure they use the very best local property photographer and a professional writer to create an appealing listing, there are a number of things an owner can do to really boost a property’s saleability.

Following these top tips on preparing your house for sale could not only encourage your home to sell quickly, but may also push the price upwards.

1. Start with the front door

When a buyer is viewing a property, they're taking everything in from the moment they turn onto your road.

Whilst you can’t control what the neighbours have done to the front of their house or whether the road sweepers collected the leaves prior to the appointment, you can make sure your property makes the very best first impression.

Not limited to the front door, have you trimmed the bush or painted the wall or fence? Are the path tiles in good condition? Is it worth investing in replacements or simply giving them a clean?

Cleaning the windows is often overlooked, but again every detail contributes to making the best first impression.

Stand on the other side of the road and really take your home in, what would you think if you were a buyer and what could you do to make it better – it’s usually not very costly and most things can be done without professional help.

2. Declutter

Removing clutter from your home,or simply having better storage solutions so the clutter isn’t visible, should be one of the top priorities for those who are preparing their house for sale. This is especially important since buyers are choosing to study a property’s images and virtual tours online in advance of arranging a viewing in person – clutter does not make for good online viewing.

Rooms that are too busy often appear smaller and it can be incredibly difficult for a potential buyer to imagine their furniture fitting into space that is crammed filled with belongings. Buyers will also want to look inside built-in storage, so try not to just stuff your belongings behind doors. It’s important to demonstrate that your home has adequate storage.

Selling a house when you have children presents unique challenges especially when there are lots of toys to contend with, so it’s worth putting as many (as is reasonable) away in the loft or in a cupboard.

The effort of tidying these away temporarily won’t go unnoticed and might well contribute to a quicker sale. Furthermore, when they’re brought back out again it’ll be like Christmas morning!

3. Maintenance

Once you’ve cleared your property of clutter, you’re likely to notice more scuffs, bumps and scrapes. Buyers can become very critical and are often put off by the idea of any DIY.

Simple home maintenance, giving the property a fresh lick of paint, tightening door handles, replacing bulbs and generally going over the property to check everything is in working order is a good idea. Buyers are taking more time to study a property online; scuff marks and damaged cupboard doors can make your property stand out for all the wrong reasons and perhaps put a potential buyer off viewing.

Don’t overlook the garden either! No matter what season, the garden is always important when preparing your home for sale. Cut back trees and bushes, tidy plants and mow the lawn. If its spring or summer bring out the garden furniture (be sure to give it a clean!) to set the scene and, if possible, plant some colourful flowers

4. Deep clean

After you’ve decluttered and tackled any maintenance issues, the cobwebs in the corner of the ceiling and the limescale that’s mounted on the shower head are going to stand out.

From the oven to the carpets, giving your property a deep clean is an important step when preparing your house for sale. Depending on how much time you have or whether you enjoy cleaning you can usually give the property a deep clean yourself, or alternatively pay a professional cleaning company.

The difference in not only how clean and shiny everything is, but how your home will smell fresh and clean upon entering will make a huge difference to potential buyers.

Some people love animals and are thrilled to find the home is perfectly suited to their dog or cat as demonstrated by the current inhabitants. However, be mindful though that not everyone loves animals and might even be allergic so it can be a good idea to send your dog to the groomer and to wash his or her bedding too in advance of viewings beginning.

5. Set the scene

Whilst decluttering is important, try not to be too extreme-there’s a fine balance. Whilst you want to remove all the unnecessary items, removing all traces of personality can make a home seem cold and uninviting, and ultimately not a place a potential buyer could imagine living in.

Soft furnishings, splashes of colour, art and photographs can all add to the welcoming feel of a property so try not to eradicate all signs of life.

There’s a reason professional home staging companies are often employed by developers to make their properties ultra-saleable. Buyers will be looking for a lifestyle as well as a home and setting the scene to enable them to imagine living in your property can hugely boost saleability. Add fresh flowers before viewings if possible and open all the curtains to fill your home with light. If the weather is good, open windows to let fresh air in.

Having sold homes in West London for over a decade, we can competently advise sellers on what works and what doesn’t, what is needed to boost a property’s saleability, and what steps to take to achieve the best possible price in the current market.

Contact us for a no obligation discussion regarding your plans to sell your home.