Search the site


A week in the life of an international estate agent

publication date: May 17, 2007
Download Print
Apparently we’re all losing sleep over the cost of keeping our homes, about security and terrorist threats and our weight. I guess the first is hardly surprising with escalating interest rates which can have such a marked impact on our Estate Agency businesses.

But losing sleep over security issues? Be more vigilant maybe. And as for weight, well I gave up long ago. Going to the gym helps, but the spread of middle age when on a constant diet of airport food, hotel buffets and developers ‘entertainment’, is hard to halt. I’d need to convert to a vegan teetotal diet to make any impact. And even then I’d cheat like hell. Anyway, with these thoughts ringing in my ears, I leave home after a difficult meeting with the planners about the new house we’re having built, to go to Heathrow with its heavy security to go away on business and holiday where I know I’m going to pile on the pounds.

Wednesday

Security at Heathrow is pretty quick this morning – but it’s still an inconvenience taking your shoes off, belt off, jacket off, all the stuff in your pockets out, wallet, phones, coins and so on. Then liquids all into a tiny eight inch square bag. Once everything has gone through the X-ray machine, you have to go through the redressing procedure. All highly undignified, but I’d rather not get blown out of the sky today. I’m off to Paris. Next to me on the flight is ITV news presenter Mark Austin – the giraffe of newsreaders as he must be six foot four plus. He’s en-route to Baghdad for a spell of reporting along with a cameraman. Mark has been to many a war zone on business, and to Baghdad before, but the cameraman fires endless question on the short flight about what to expect and so on. ‘Rather you than me.’ I thought.

Groupe Alaine Crenn is developing Samanah Golf Club in Marrakech, Morocco. Their huge offices are on the terribly posh 2 mile long Boulevard Haussmann. I’m here to meet with them and get marketing ideas under way. Morocco is one of my favourite destinations. Not too far to travel and yet wildly different in landscape, culture and climate. It’s currently an overseas property hotspot which has been largely price point driven. Samanah is comparatively expensive, which throws up different marketing challenges. Halfway through our meeting, the office doorbell rings. A gentleman out walking his pooch wants some particulars on the resort. He’s told that an important meeting is in progress and that he’ll have to make an appointment another day!

We retire for lunch across the road at Bistro Haussmann 154. On first impression this looks like a simple bar, but it quickly fills with suited business types and we tuck into incredibly wonderful French nosh – fois gras, escargots, moules, steak and frites, du fromage and one of the best crème brulees I’ve ever had. Slightly disconcertingly, my host insisted on sharing this with me – with one spoon. I left to spend the night worrying about my weight…

Thursday

Charles de Gaulle airport has some quite funky architecture. The buildings are a collection of huge concrete oval sausages. They are the kind of buildings which seem to have been designed and built for their aesthetic qualities rather than their practical abilities. Inside it all goes wrong with shops and restaurants squashed into spaces not designed for them. Security has almost no space and the queues are horrendous. I’ll no doubt be losing sleep tonight!

The Air France flight to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic is a pleasant ‘day off’. The new Bond film is on, so I watch it – in French (the alternative was German). I used to be semi fluent in French, but now realise that I am completely hopeless.

Friday.

I’m in the DR on business but am adding on a couple of days for a weekend break as the Missus has come with me. The South Eastern coast of this country is lovely. White talcum powder sand beaches from heaven, bendy coconut trees, with a gentle breeze luring you into believing it’s not so hot.

The hire car turns up at the hotel. Dents, scrapes, cracked windscreen. You name it, it had it. All over. Still it had five roadworthy tyres which is a major and unexpected bonus in this country.

We’re off to Roco Ki, a smart new resort further up the coast. It’s not far, but getting there – in fact getting anywhere in the DR – was an experience. The Dominicans driving has to be seen to be believed. It is truly awesomely bad. This is partly due to the potholes in the roads, some of which can be over three feet wide and a foot deep. So there is a lot of swerving – slightly unnerving if the swerver is an oncoming car and swerving towards you (the swervee?) – at the last second. This happens a lot.

We get lost. Of course. And end up driving along the most stunning deserted beach I have ever seen. Miraculously this bought us to the back entrance of Roco Ki.

This place has a sales centre the sort of which I never imagined might exist. I saw Bond on the flight over, and now I was in a Bond style house. Enormous, massive vaulted ceilings and overlooking the beach, with pools, bar, restaurant and so on. Eventually it will be transformed into a ten bedroom holiday home. Palace more like. The entrance gate security guards had told them of our arrival. We were warmly welcomed with a waiter on hand to serve us a fresh fruit juice.

Nick Faldo has designed the golf course for a reputed $2m. Around it are a collection of apartments, houses, building plots and a Westin hotel. A spacious apartment here is nearly a million quid. At nearly 3000 acres, Roco Ki is a massive undertaking and is projected to take 10 years to complete. It has American money behind it and with the golf course almost finished and hotel opening early next year; this is one resort to watch.

A tour around the building site gives a glimpse into old practices. No scaffolding here. Just wooden poles instead. And the workers digging the foundations out of the rock with pick-axes.

Saturday and Sunday

Rest days. This is the land of all-inclusive hotels. We’re in a good one, so might not get travellers tummy if we’re lucky (we didn’t). Spend the days loitering around the swim-up bar, indulging in endless food feasts (I won’t sleep tonight for worry about my weight again!) and walking along the beach. Had a disastrous haircut on Saturday afternoon, as she couldn’t understand anything I said. I came out with a head of hair resembling a loo brush.

Monday

Drive down to the Punta Perla development where there were guards with guns on the gate. Language proves tricky and they won’t let us in so we attempt another route in via the beach through the Catalonia Hotel next door, which sides on to this 2700 acre resort. Security is tight at the hotel and we get thrown out within seconds of arriving. We haven’t got the correct colour wristbands on!

Not one for being put off, we drive round the block and try again, with our hands deep in our pockets to hide our ‘wrongly coloured’ wristbands. It works and we set off down the Punta Perla beach. 2 miles of deserted beach backing on to what will be a superb resort with three golf courses, a marina and so on. For now there isn’t much activity although some preliminary works have been carried out, so we head off to look at Cap Cana resort where Donald Trump has just added his name to part of the resort.

Seeing this part of the DR is a sure sign of booming tourism – there is building everywhere and yet for all the new accommodation being built, the tourist numbers keep rising. Americans unsurprisingly, but also a huge number of Canadians come here.

Before long its time to get back to the airport and the dreary overnight flight back to Paris. It’s a shocking flight. Everyone is strapped in for four hours as the planes bangs up and down with alarming ferocity. Yelps and whimpering all around. Unbeknown to me as I vaguely slept, the belt on my trousers has rubbed me completely raw. Must lose weight. Think and worry about the new house plans. Oh dear, I’m going to be joining the non sleepers!