Prop. Notes: An opportunity for our proprietor to ruminate on life, London, property and golf – The Property Chronicle
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Prop. Notes: An opportunity for our proprietor to ruminate on life, London, property and golf

Golden Oldie

ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 1ST OCTOBER 2018

This month, as guest at one of England’s most famous and senior golf clubs, I was reminded of the brutality of the real estate investment business. A tall, broad smiling, full haired, long-socked figure was hailing fellow members at the bar. He looked confident, at home, impressive. But his investment firm had recently gone bust.

Most property businesses are paid on results, transactions, assets under management. Unlike other fellow club members – the lawyers, surveyors and accountants – our property man was paid nothing for long hours, miles and meetings. In his business, it is no deal, no cash. As he hit the ball down the middle once again I couldn’t help thinking: if he approached me with a commercial proposal would I avoid him as someone rackety living in fantasy land, or would I back the inner confidence that believes, with just one deal, all will be well?

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Watching PM’s questions is a reminder that different democratic political systems require different skills. If you want to be elected President somewhere you need to give a good speech to crowds, have a clear brand, be able to distil complicated notions into simple cliches and a touch of razzmatazz. To become Prime Minister in a parliamentary democracy you better be academically clever. You will need to give precise, substantive answers in front of a baying party political crowd. And the real pressure: if you misrepresent the slightest thing in the chamber you are finished. Of post-War British Prime Ministers all, bar two, were conventionally academically successful and/or professionally trained.

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The two exceptions were “Sunny” Jim Callaghan and John Major. Combined they occupied Number 10 for a decade and held seven of the eight major offices of state but they both inherited the top job in midterm (1976 and 1990). When it came to the general election exam, however, representing the non-academic PM team, they were bottom, winning only one general election between them, in 1992, and that by a nose. This might tell us that, irrespective of party persuasion, the UK electorate likes its leaders to be clever. If I was a current Labour supporter that would worry me.

Listening to Radio 4 I have become very cranky about verbal tics and chattering class cliches. Rory Stewart was criticised for starting every answer with “So…”. I missed this, but my pet hate is the habit of prefacing every reply with “Look …”. I first noticed this in Australia but it is now over here with a vengeance. The education secretary, Damian Hinds, gave a ten minute, forgettable interview on the Today programme recently and every answer he gave started with“Look…”.

I was dying for Humphries to say “Certainly, where?”

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When it comes to irritating cliches of the chattering, professional classes, at the top of my list would be: ‘fit for purpose’ (it works) , ‘absolutely’(yes) , ‘going forward’ (in the future), ‘tectonic shift/quantum leap’(big),‘the truth is’ (I need to pad this answer out), and ‘febrile’ (jumpy).

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There is a nasty criminal business model playing out in central London residential property. Crooks are setting up phoney companies to pass rudimentary credit checks, getting ASTs in the name of a director, then dissolving said company and aggressively sub-letting the property, often through Airbnb. This has happened to me once and looks like it might be happening again. Other landlords have reported similar issues. The law makesit very hard to evict a tenant, as the criminals know, and so they can milk the property for months, sometimes longer, before anything can be done.






Golden Oldie Prop. Notes

About Stephen Yorke

Stephen Yorke

After Cambridge University and a few years at the Commercial/Chancery Bar, Stephen spent two years in John Major’s Political Office at Number 10. He then laboured on the FX/ Bond trading floors of two investment banks during the 1990s. In 2004 he founded (and ran until this year) a small Real estate Fund management company. In 2017 he founded 'The Property Chronicle' and is now a new boy publisher.

Articles by Stephen Yorke

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