We are back – and keeping you safe is our number one priority

It was fantastic to get back to work last week. Here is how we are proceeding safely, yet optimistically

We are open for business. And our first full week of work since late March was exciting and a big relief.

As we sat down for our Monday morning meeting, the excitement was palpable. Even better? It was music to my ears to hear the phones ringing and to feel the buzz back in the office. Fortunately, our very recent move to our new office at 172 King Street has allowed us ample space to work at a safe distance from each other.

While we were unable to conduct in-person viewings since March 23, it was no surprise that my Assistant Sales Manager Phil Coombes needed less than 24 hours to close his first post-lockdown deal.

However, please rest assured that while we have been itching to get back to work, we’re not doing so without caution.

We have adopted a new Covid-19 policy – you can read it here – and created new guidelines to keep both staff and clients safe. These guidelines are also clearly displayed in our office window and across our social media platforms.

We have had many questions about the precautions we’re taking to protect our staff and clients, and I very much hope you’re assured that we’re doing our utmost to proceed responsibly and safely as we return to work. Your safety is our number one priority.

Familiar faces

The great news for our customers and clients is that we have retained all our key team members. And we used our time wisely during lockdown to work remotely, speaking with as many of our clients as possible so we could hit the ground running when we could re-open.

Closing our office doors presented many challenges for the team. But it is fair to say that everyone has performed admirably under the circumstances.

It has not been easy to adjust but we have done it – and I have given my team a huge thanks for their sterling efforts. We hope that the worst is behind us and we will continue to be both professional and responsible in this strange new world.

Strength through adversity

Horton and Garton is no stranger to adversity. I launched the business in the depths of the banking crash in 2008. It was not auspicious timing, but it made us stronger and smarter.

We had to adapt, change, and react positively to events – and that is why we’ve been successful enough to expand our business, our team and our market share over the past 13 years.

Compared to many local businesses, Horton and Garton remains in a strong position. We are the market leading estate agent in W6 and W12, and our track record and database of loyal and motivated clients means that we are in a really good position to take the business forward.

At a time when many other agents have cut staff and standards, we remain committed to this extraordinary part of West London and we will continue to promote the incredible work we do in the community.

I know there will be challenging times ahead for us all at home, at work, with our family and friends and our business. But I hope to share more positive news with you all shortly.

Follow Phil Coombes on Instagram - @thehammersmithterrier


Work resumes to demolish ugly Hammersmith Town Hall extension

Plans to build a new ‘civic campus’ in Hammersmith are underway again 

Last week, we received great news - Hammersmith & Fulham Council has resumed the demolition of the ugly Hammersmith Town Hall extension.

The work restarted on Tuesday (26 May) with the contractors demolishing the bridge that links the Grade II-listed Hammersmith Town Hall and its brutalist concrete extension. This work is due to be completed by June 12.

Demolition work at the Hammersmith Town Hall extension itself will follow, with cranes being lifted to the roof of the building. The building will be taken down, floor by floor, and is expected to finish in mid-October.

For our neighbours on the Cromwell Road side of the site, they’ve been told by the council that the works to the former cinema won’t start until late September.

The new civic campus development will see the council build a new four-screen cinema, new shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as new affordable homes at the western end of King Street.

We sincerely hope that the scheme breathes new life into King Street. We’re following the progress of the works closely from our new office – and we’re loving the ringside seats!

Check out the full plans for the new civic campus in Hammersmith here and how we’ve previously covered it here.


How W12 charity The Upper Room is adapting to the coronavirus challenge

The Wendell Park charity has moved from feeding the masses to supporting its clients over the phone. Chief Executive Nicky Flynn explains how their world has changed since the outbreak 

Horton and Garton has always championed the valuable charitable work that The Upper Room in Wendell Park, Shepherds Bush, delivers to those in most need locally. Our support has ranged from helping with fundraising, sponsorships, promotions or even just donations, because we believe their work is an essential part of looking after our community. 

The outbreak of coronavirus has required Nicky Flynn, Chief Executive of the The Upper Room (pictured), to adjust to new challenges and change the way the charity can support local people through periods of homelessness, hunger, unemployment and financial distress.

"We were serving food to many of our rough sleepers and homeless clients until the impact of the coronavirus outbreak became fully evident," Nicky says. "We realised quickly that we wouldn't be able to continue providing any services that brought 60 to 80 people together in our headquarters at St Saviour's Church. It was an incredibly disappointing for us, but we knew it was the right thing to do."

Instead, The Upper Room scrambled to work with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to arrange for vulnerable people to get rooms in London hotels, encouraging them to stay off the streets and into isolation to help limit the spread of the virus.

Crisis

With their clients looked after, The Upper Room began focusing their efforts on services that help people get through this difficult period. “We’re trying to be as flexible as possible, and be there for people even though we are working remotely.”

With their food service now paused, and the space at the Wendell Park church now no longer able to serve as their base, the team is now providing support from afar. "Our team speak six different languages so we're helping over the phone," she said.

Another new challenge has been providing mobile phones and SIM cards. It's hard to imagine anyone navigating a time of self isolation without access to the internet or phone, so providing people with a means of communication is crucial to help people feel connected and access digital support.

Recovery

Nicky anticipates that demand for The Upper Room's services will only rise as lockdown is eased and the economic pressures increase. “We need to think about what services people are going to need. We are going to need to look at how we can increase our counselling service, because I think there will be a lot of people traumatised by the effects of losing friends or family members, or from the financial issues resulting from the outbreak."

Working with other agencies to help people get out of any debt they’ve entered during these months, as well as multilingual employment support, will also be important.

“An awful lot of people have lost their jobs," Nicky asked. "How can we support people to get back into work?”

Currently, The Upper Room is helping people with online Universal Credit applications and they also have the UR4Jobs project to help people seek employment.

If you'd like to learn more about The Upper Room or can volunteer or make a donation to help, please visit: www.theupperroom.org.uk


Diary of a frontline NHS worker - and Horton and Garton tenant

We've recently adopted new business procedures to keep our clients and staff safe. One keyworker that knows all about the importance of protecting his patients and himself is NHS trainee and Horton and Garton tenant Haseeb Quraishi

Last week the Government allowed UK estate agents to reopen offices and safely restart viewings.

With our updated Covid-19 policy and a ready supply of masks, gloves and other PPE, we're fortunate that we can continue to serve our customers without putting our staff (or clients) at risk.

Unfortunately, this cannot be said for every industry as thousands of frontline workers put their lives at risk when they go to work to serve the public.

Horton and Garton tenant Haseeb Quraishi is one such key worker. He's rented one of our managed homes in East Acton for more than a year while working as a trainee at Hillingdon Hospital. After contracting coronavirus last month, Haseeb has seen the effects of Covid-19 firsthand.

When did you first start noticing a change in patients being admitted?

About one month ago, we noticed an increase in people presenting with the same issue. Then, I remember in the space of a weekend that there were a lot of changes in how departments were being run in terms of infection control. For example, having staff tested for mask fittings and having designated areas for PPE to be put on and taken off.

Did this immediately impact your work?

Although I am personally not working in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), I saw how the increased numbers of patients requiring intubation and higher levels of support was putting pressure on the ICU and it’s staff members.

Across the hospital there has been in increase in the number of coronavirus patients. Although we are now seeing less volume of patients presenting to the hospital, we are seeing those with severe illness. Many times, this is coronavirus related and many times not, as we do still expect to see the normal life and/or limb threatening emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes.

I completely understand the fears and anxieties surrounding coronavirus, but it is important for the general public to know that if they require assistance for serious illnesses and injuries to seek urgent medical attention or call 999. If you feel genuinely unwell or sick, the NHS and staff will be there to help you.

How did your hospital adapt to this increased pressure?

In order to cope with the anticipated increased demand, doctors have also been rotated to work in acute medical wards and departments. There are now more doctors working in the hospital at any one time, and this has helped with coping with the increased pressure that the coronavirus has brought.

What have been your biggest concerns during the coronavirus pandemic?

The main worry I have personally is passing the virus on to my family, friends and colleagues at work. I developed symptoms, mainly fevers and muscle aches, and subsequently tested positive for the virus. I’m now nearing the end of my self-isolation period and looking forward to returning to work.

Working in higher risk environments where the use of higher flow oxygen is being used to treat patients is another concern. I have been fortunate that mostly appropriate PPE has been provided, although I am aware this has not always been the case across other hospitals and regions. I completely understand the anxiety and concerns of staff when PPE is not adequate, and this is always a concern for me.

How has the community spirit been in East Acton?

The neighbourhood has been very pleasant. I’m lucky to have a communal garden and park outside, which in this warm weather has provided an outlet to rest and recover. The neighbours have also been very supportive and understanding of the wider lockdown rules. It’s amazing to see and hear the support of the public during the weekly Clap for Carers.

Do you have any messages you’d like to pass on to the general public?

I’d like to thank everyone who is following the national guidance regarding staying at home and social distancing. After having spent more than a week at home after contracting the virus, I completely empathise with the wider public having to spend large amounts of time indoors. I’m also grateful for those members of the public who are continuing to work and providing essential services such as in the supermarkets, pharmacists and community volunteers.

It’s really important to maintain social distancing, and at the same time, as previously mentioned, if one is concerned that they are having symptoms of a serious illness to seek urgent medical attention.

If you or a member of your family is presenting symptoms of the virus, visit the NHS 111 online Coronavirus service.

Read our new Covid-19 policy or for more details contact Horton and Garton Branch Manager Ashley Clements.

 


Best Practice Policy - Coronavirus

Horton and Garton has adopted new business procedures to comply with Government and industry guidance. 

Staff, Office and Travel

We will ensure:

  • All staff will abide by 2metre social distancing rules when working (in and outside the office).
  • Any health concerns or symptoms to be reported to your Line Manager immediately.
  • We all understand our individual and collective responsibilities in terms of cleanliness, health, and hygiene. This includes the use of sanitising or anti-bacterial wipes to clean desks, keyboards, all work equipment, and other surfaces regularly.
  • That sanitising gel and wipes are available on all staff desks to promote regular use of, along with hand washing.
  • Staff do not share any equipment including phones and clean them with anti-bacterial surface wipes regularly.
  • That the cleaning of all workstations within 2m will be the individual responsibility of each staff member.
  • There will be a working rota for cleaning and wiping down all communal areas (AM & PM)
  • That diaries and personal stationary will be required to be put in plastic bags in your own locker at the end of every day.
  • There will be no communal cutlery and cups. All staff members are welcome to bring their own set, but these will need to be washed/dried up and put back into personal lockers straight away after use.
  • Coats and clothing are to be kept in suit bags / plastic wrapping in the coat cupboard
  • All toilet bins will have lids on with foot peddle opening. The contents of all bins will be emptied daily as part of the cleaning rota.

This list is not exhaustive and is open to suggestions.

Viewings

Now that viewing restrictions have been lifted and we are officially open for business – we must ensure viewings are conducted safely and responsibly for the benefit of staff members, clients and customers.

In line with the government guidance, below is our best practice guide for appointments:

-Prior to the confirming the appointment the Agent will ask whether any viewing party is showing symptoms or has been asked to self-isolate before proceeding with any viewing.

-To book a physical viewing – the viewer has got to meet the following criteria:

  • Has seen the brochure / virtual tour
  • Has filled in the buyer / tenant registration form
  • Has been qualified to be willing, able and motivated / able to proceed
  • Verbal confirmation that they have been made aware of our Covid-19 Best Practice Policy and will adhere to this on a viewing.
  • Until further notice, we will not travel together or accompany any clients on the journey to appointments. Viewers will meet the Agent directly at the property at an agreed specific date and time.
  • No more than one family household per viewing.
  • Upon arrival at the property before entering the Agent will ensure that viewers clearly understand how the viewing will be conducted safely and reminded of the time frame permitted for the appointment.
  • All parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water, or hand sanitiser if unavailable – HG will provide hand sanitiser. The Agent will advise the viewer not to touch any surface whilst in the property.
  • Social distancing rules will be applied 2m apart wherever possible and if the visit is within an enclosed space, all parties should consider wearing a face covering in line with government guidance.
  • The Agents will ensure that any keys are appropriately cleaned before and after the viewing.

How to list your Chiswick home for sale with Horton and Garton

A step-by-step guide to marketing your W4 home

The Government’s new guidelines provide the definitive road map for sellers. Our team will abide by these new regulations to the letter, ensuring we continue to secure the very best results for our clients whilst safeguarding all parties involved in the sales process. So how does a Chiswickian with a dream and itchy feet get moving in these new times?

Our step-by-step guide demystifies the way forward; our dedicated team is here to serve you every step of the way:

Step 1. Get in touch. Reach out to Paul Cooney, our Director, to arrange either a virtual or an in-home valuation. A multi-award winning property juggernaut, he’s taken home individual awards on every national stage and he’s also the friendliest and most honest estate agent you’ll ever meet. Email Paul or call him on the office line: 020 8996 5120. If he meets you for an in-house tour, he’ll greet you with his signature thumbs up (from 2 metres!) and don PPE before coming in for the full tour. If it’s a virtual valuation you’d prefer, use your smart phone, tablet or computer to take a DIY walk-through video and send it via email, WhatsApp or WeTransfer to Paul. He will then arrange a lengthy conversation to discuss every detail of your property so our team can be fluent in the language of your home when speaking to buyers.

Step 2. If you decide to list with our team, we’ll curate mouth-watering marketing particulars and organise your photography, virtual tour, floor plan and EPC. Our contractors wear full PPE to ensure the health and safety of all parties.

Step 3. Paperless paperwork? It’s a thing! We’ve been a paperless office since our first day of trading so we’ll ensure all documents are processed virtually and securely. If you’ve never completed virtual paperwork before, we’ll guide you through the process (it’s surprisingly simple). Getting your home sale-ready couldn’t be easier. Of course, we’re still providing our sterling service across our standard 7 day working week – from home and our Turnham Green Terrace office – so we’re here for you, any time.

Step 4. It’s time to launch your home. We utilise the bank of analytics provided by our property portals to ensure your home ‘goes live’ at the optimal time for traffic and views. We’ve already achieved our first fully virtual sale with 44 buyers registering their interest and multiple offers so we are confident in our ability to duplicate this success. Our client is thrilled – we tend to let them tell our story.

Step 5. We’ll arrange a virtual viewing of your home; check out this example. As per the new government guidelines, in-home viewings will only be arranged when buyers have been fully vetted and qualified and have expressed a strong interest in the property. Ice cream lickers need not apply!  We insist upon and will provide full PPE in the form of face masks, gloves, shoe covers and hand sanitiser for our buyers and they will be accompanied at every stage during the viewing.

Step 6. Once we’ve sourced your perfect buyer, the sales management process begins. We’ll navigate your sale, managing all professionals involved in the process, from agreed through to exchange and completion.


How Riverside Studios hopes to bounce back after lockdown

Local arts venues need our support more than ever. William Burdett-Coutts of Riverside Studios talks about how it's planning for its uncertain future

The outbreak of coronavirus has been a disaster for local theatres such as Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.

CEO and Artistic Director, William Burdett-Coutts, spoke to Horton and Garton about how they've been affected by COVID-19 and what plans they're making to recover - despite the timing. The theatre, cinema and TV studios had only just reopened following an ambitious and costly five-year redevelopment.

"We began opening the building last November and were due to be fully open by April,” William said. “We tried to keep the building open, keeping the restaurant open and the TV Studios running, but it got to a point where it was obvious that they couldn’t." 

With shows like Love, Loss and Chianti starring Robert Bathurst attracting great audiences in its first run and the routinely fully-booked Sam’s Riverside on the up, Riverside Studios were preparing for a great year. “We were really just starting to build our following again," he said.

Virtual Riverside

The Riverside has tried to stay active and relevant during the pandemic by going digital. Their new programme - called ‘Dive In’ - feature an online offering with a weekly yoga class, a dance class for children and a free classic film with accompanying discussions via Zoom. William also has plans for reviving past productions. ”I want to dig out all the shows we’ve done over the years and try get permission to share them. We’re trying to keep a community engagement going with people.”

Perhaps one of the biggest events they’ve planned during the lockdown is their upcoming series of virtual charity quiz nights. Each quiz lasts an hour and is hosted by a different celebrity, from Stephen Fry to Jo Brand, with 90% of the money raised going toward helping Riverside Studios re-open their doors when allowed, with the other 10% going to the Imperial Health Charity.

Life after lockdown

The sudden loss of revenue has been a devastating blow for the entire performing arts industry. And it's driving many to seek alternative methods of generating income. Bush Theatre in Uxbridge Road has launched its £30-a-month Star Supporters membership scheme with exclusive benefits, while the Chiswick Playhouse has introduced a buy a seat campaign.

At Riverside Studios, they're offering donors the opportunity to name a seat for a £1,000 donation. “It’s a bizarre time, and a terrible time for theatre," William said. "All the people producing shows everywhere have had to shut everything down and it has cost producers a lot of money. The challenge is getting to a point a where people are confident enough to start spending money again.

"We don’t know whether people will want to come out again or not. They might be cautious about going to theatres, restaurants and the cinema. But the minute we're able to open our cinema and our restaurant again, we will. The only thing we can do is judge it month by month - and then move as fast as we can when we’re up and running."

William hopes that their television studios will be one of the first parts of the building to reopen, as prior to the outbreak, several big name shows were customers. “We were meant to have Have I Got News For You recording in our studios - but they’re currently recording from their own homes," William said. As for the theatre he said, “We will revive Love, Loss and Chianti at some point - but I predict it wont be until next year."

For anyone that enjoys a trip to their local theatre, William is reassuring: “Keep positive and get back out as soon as you can and revive business as soon as you can."

To support Riverside Studios or to find out more about their digital offerings, visit: www.riversidestudios.co.uk

 


Horton and Garton: Covid-19 Policy

Due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, Horton and Garton has updated its policies to minimise the risk to both our customers, our staff and the public in line with current Government guidelines

Our office

For the duration of this crisis we are encouraging our customers to contact us remotely as opposed to visiting our office.

Many of our staff are working from home but are fully connected electronically. We are available by phone, email and video conference. Our preferred platform is Microsoft Teams, but we are happy to join a meeting on a platform of your choice.

We realise that many customers and clients visit to our office to sign contracts and provide documentation. To reduce the need for hard copy signatures we will be extending our use of electronic signatures to all our contracts. Should this be of concern please ask and we would be very happy to give more details and/or conduct a video demonstration to show you how this works.

Should you have to visit the office we will ask visitors to wash their hands using sanitising gel and we will maintain Government-recommended social distancing.

Travel to appointments

Due to the social distancing guidlelines, we can no longer provide transport to our customers to and between viewings. Horton and Garton is taking this opportunity to reduce our car use and our team is being encouraged to walk or cycle to all appointments.

Your home

Currently, in-person viewings are not permitted. When Government restrictions are relaxed, we propose to put the following procedures in place:

  • We will only accept one family household visiting one property at a time.
  • We will encourage the vendor/occupants not to be present at the property during the visit.
  • Before entering the property, we will clean our hands with sanitising gel and encourage the visitor to do likewise.
  • During the visit we will ask visitors not to touch any part of the property, such as door handles, light switches, cupboards, etc.
  • After the visit we will offer the visitors the use of sanitising gel to clean their hands.

Should you have any comments or concerns please contact Branch Manager Ashley Clements. Or for Chiswick W4 sales, please contact Director Paul Cooney.

 

 

 

 


Heart-warming tales of kindness make the job worthwhile

Boilers still break and locks still need changing, writes property manager Ashley Prowse. But it’s fantastic to help landlords and tenants look after each other

With lockdown now stretching into its sixth week, it’s strictly business as usual for the Horton and Garton property management team.

We continue to receive the steady stream of maintenance issues to address. But now there’s a whole new set of considerations about how we safely access properties to keep our tenants and contractors healthy. As members of industry body ARLA Propertymark, we’re constantly checking the government advice and guidelines that affect our industry.

As property managers, we need to assess the situation and determine if a maintenance issue requires prompt action or not. The challenge is to limit the number of contractors interacting with tenants when work needs to be done.

Keep it essential

Essential issues such as leaks, broken boilers, faulty appliances and security breaches are – at the moment – addressed as normal. However, we need to ensure properties are safe to enter and that contractors take the necessary precautions, including the correct PPE for visits.

Thankfully, we work with excellent contractors who have proven to reliable, reputable and professional over the last 12 years that Horton and Garton has operated in Hammersmith. This has greatly helped us quickly and effectively adapt to these new conditions.

There are also legal requirements when letting a property, such as an annual gas safety checks that continue to be an essential priority.

However, we have agreed with our many landlords the need to postpone our bi-annual inspections. This is to protect tenants and contractors.

Heart-warming tales

I’ve had some genuinely heart-warming moments over this past six weeks, including working with landlords who have asked us to contact their tenants and check they’re OK.

I know concerned landlords that have also delivered shopping for vulnerable tenants and generally everyone has shared more of their time and displayed more empathy.

These examples of human kindness have truly been the silver lining to these challenging circumstances we now find ourselves in.

If you can, stay home and stay safe.


Mortgage update: Prepare for life after lockdown

Buying or remortgaging in 2020? Now’s the time to get your financial house in order before the market bounces back, says John Horton

Here at Horton and Garton, we can’t wait to get back to doing what we do best – selling, renting and managing homes in Hammersmith, Chiswick and Shepherds Bush.

While the coronavirus outbreak is causing a bottleneck in the market, we’re busy advising vendors on how to get their homes 100% ready to sell. At the same time, we’re advising buyers how to be on the front foot and have their finances in order.

If you’re looking to buy a home this year and you require a mortgage, now is the time to speak with your broker and secure your agreements.

According to Mark Miller at Hammersmith advisors Capricorn Financial there are attractive mortgage deals coming back onto the market. This bodes well for activity and price levels when the market starts moving again.

Mark (pictured) says it’s still possible to purchase a home with a 10% deposit. And even better news for homebuyers, is that certain lenders will reward a 15% deposit with even better rates. And with interest rates at rock bottom, he says “it’s still a very good time to borrow money”.

Time to borrow?

Recently, our sales team – who are still working flat out, if remotely – attended a very useful Capricorn Financial webinar on the current types of mortgage products available to buyers, as well also for clients who need to re-mortgage from existing products.

Interestingly, the coronavirus outbreak is keeping lenders even busier than normal – with more than 1.2million applications for a ‘mortgage holiday’. This equates to about 10% of all mortgage holders in the UK.

However, only a quarter of these applications were approved. Instead, lenders have been saying homeowners don’t qualify for reasons such as that they haven’t been negatively financially impacted by the pandemic, that they were already in mortgage arrears, or that their tenants were still paying rent.

These ‘holiday’ payments are actually only deferrals – so even if approved, it means higher re-payments in the future.

Changes required

Here at Horton and Garton, we will need to adjust our working practises to keep you and our staff safe during this terrible pandemic.

Londoners will bounce back and so will the housing market. But while the threat of coronavirus remains real and present, we will be working within Government and industry guidelines when you view a property or put your home on the market.

No one knows the market in W6, W4 and W12 better than Horton and Garton. And we will continue to be out in front of our competitors when it comes to keeping you safe in the future.