I'll take the lot

The hottest property for time-poor buyers right now are ready-furnished former show flats. Cheryl Markosky finds out why
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The notion of anyone wanting to buy a show home, that icon to everything that is artificial and dreamlike, is hard to fathom. Yet it is a common enough occurrence, according to agents and developers, who find buyers demanding not only the textured walls and laminate flooring - but also every item in the place.

The notion of anyone wanting to buy a show home, that icon to everything that is artificial and dreamlike, is hard to fathom. Yet it is a common enough occurrence, according to agents and developers, who find buyers demanding not only the textured walls and laminate flooring - but also every item in the place.

Julie Parry, a 34-year-old media executive, confesses to being bitten by the "Buy The Show Home With All The Contents" bug at Watermead in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Considering embarking on a 10-step programme where the afflicted vow never to set foot on thick-pile wall-to-wall carpet ever again, or finger fake fruit in a brightly coloured display bowl in the open plan kitchen/diner, Parry says her experience was all down to a second marriage to her new husband, David, 39. "We came from two 'single people' homes and didn't have the right furniture to fit," she explains. "Our stuff would have looked ridiculous, so it was easier to buy the show house and all its contents."

Parry quietly points out that it was a brute negotiating ploy as well. "The show home was nearing the end of its life, so they were more open to chucking in the furniture. We went from an Ikea sofa to an expensive one, just like my mum has."

You can almost understand why female purchasers might opt for getting their hands on the whole kit and caboodle. A bit like doing a spring clean of your wardrobe and insisting, "I simply have nothing to wear," you can start with a clean slate once you've carted all your tired ensembles off to Oxfam. The same mentality applies to show homes and their trappings. As Parry says, "Women expect more from the dream and most women who move house like to start again when it comes to furniture and accessories."

When you imagine a man "starting over", though, a different image comes to mind. Surely most men would just want an empty house with a comfy sofa and the latest wide-screen TV? Add maybe a table football à la Friends and some electronic "boys' toys", and you would have to fight off the buyers. But in reality, it is the pristine "designer" homes, created to appeal to the broadest spectrum of visitors, which have viewers reaching for their chequebooks.

Project manager Paul Irons, 27, fell in love with the Paul Daly-designed two-bedroom show apartment at Arthouse, a converted Victorian school in Hoxton - and all its furnishings. "If you have to imagine going out and finding furniture in London, buying it and then hoping someone will turn up to deliver it, it is easy to understand why people like me are attracted by a turn-key project," he says.

Irons believes that the "designer stamp on show flats adds value" so you could argue you are getting even more for your money. His list of goodies that came prêt-a-porter in his show flat includes sofas, dressed bedrooms, towels, soaps, bar chairs, a kettle, toaster and extra wine racks. Par for the course on an £11m scheme like this one by Capital & Provident, "but for an individual it would cost several thousand to kit it all out, so it does make a difference".

David Galman of Galliard Homes adds: "The funny thing is that when people buy show homes, they often don't bother to check the inventory. Frequently there is nothing in the drawers and the dining table is set only for four. You have to go shopping to match the rest of the set anyhow."

He thinks the allure of an already-stocked show flat is that it is easy for people. "Some buyers are simply lazy or hate shopping for things for their new home. I sold one show flat in Tea Trade Wharf at London's Butler's Wharf with everything included, and it came down purely to saving time. He didn't have any spare time to do the place up.

"But many others really do fall in love with the show flat when they set eyes on it. If it is a bit wacky and different and has special paint finishes and wallpapers, they know they'll never get round to do doing all that, and interior designers are too costly." Galman points out that some people buy the show home and its new lifestyle simply to clear out all of the bits and pieces they have inherited.

Of course, there is the practical approach - getting everything on a plate (even if it is only part of a setting for four) is a bonus if you are a landlord. Greesh Dhir, a 33-year-old IT consultant, bought a one-bed show apartment at Fairview's Ferry Quays development in west London's Brentford for £260,000. "Everything came with it," he says, "which is ideal for me. I would have done something similar with the flat, but I wanted a professional finish." He let it out swiftly and says that every potential tenant who came to view the property liked the place immediately.

Dhir estimates that the special finishes and contents of his apartment add up to around £5,000, which is a big saving if you are just embarking in the buy-to-let world. Dhir says he was tempted to get his make-up artist partner Jyoti to help out. "She is good with colours," he explains, "but I got the flat and all the stuff in it, so we don't have to worry."

It is probably best for their relationship that they saved making all those horrific trips to Ikea and Habitat, where they might have found themselves squabbling over what shade of throw to buy or whether white towels won't look grubby after too short a time. Perhaps we should all live in a universe where homes come ready-filled.

Currell: 020-7253 2533

Knight Frank (Mayfair): 020-7499 1012

Knight Frank (Bristol): 0117 943 9850

Comments