Property: How much is that doggy in the window?

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The Independent Online
WHILE deserting rats show a ship is sinking, disappearing dogs are a sure sign that the property market is starting to refloat. A 'dog' is agentspeak for a home that remains stubbornly unsold, and these mutts are finally being brought to heel.

One pack acquired by David Goldstone a couple of years ago has been halved in a week. Number 3a Palace Green is a bland address hiding what was meant to be London's most exclusive block of flats, offering the most exclusive of neighbours: Charles and Diana next door at Kensington Palace. But the development went as sour as the royal marriage.

A surge of demand for top central London homes has relieved Mr Goldstone's company, Regalian Properties, of nine of these flats. But prices have crashed. One of the remaining 11 is down from pounds 2.65m to just over pounds 1m, reports Victoria Mitchell of agents Savills.

Another dog with royal connections has been found a new owner by the same agents. The Veneto Villa, Regent's Park, is one of three creations by the architect Quinlan Terry aimed at extending Nash's unfinished classical plans. These also competed for the highest UK price tag, with pounds 10m being suggested. After more than a year of talks, an overseas buyer has taken the Veneto, and while no figures are being released, some guide comes from the third villa, the Gothick, which is now being quoted at pounds 6.75m.

MEANWHILE, back in the real world, a few tips for owners with more mundane homes to sell. A poll of London agents by a not entirely independent authority - the DIY chain B&Q - reports that the most effective ways to woo buyers are painting the front door, plastering over cracks, and wallpapering. Well, they would, wouldn't they? But that doesn't mean they are wrong.

Laurence Carr at Allsop & Co points to an 'immaculate' Knightsbridge flat put on the market for more than pounds 800,000. After standing unsold for four years it had to be redecorated last summer. This - plus a price cut to pounds 725,000 - finally raised interest. But the eventual selling price was pounds 670,000.

THE GREAT clear-out by builders is accelerating as they scent revival. Many are now selling at cost price so that they can get on with producing more homes.

Wimpey has announced mortgages at less than 4 per cent for the first year on certain properties in the South, as well as meeting legal costs and stamp duty. Barratt has pegged its rate at 6.5 per cent for three years. These kinds of subsidy generally come from builders forgoing profits, but there are conditions. Buyers must provide a 5 per cent deposit. Remember also that rates eventually bounce back, so be sure you can afford the higher costs. Insurance against redundancy and illness is essential.

ANOTHER straw in the wind of recovery? London's estate agents are so confident of an upturn that they deluged the receivers Ernst & Young with bids for Folkard & Hayward, despite its collapse with debts of more than pounds 1m. Within a week it was taken over by Kinleigh, a rival firm from South-west London.

IT IS ONLY when moving home that you realise how much junk you have accumulated. Now you can dump it and help a good cause at the same time. Oxfam has spotted a fund-raising opportunity and linked up with the British Association of Removers. Ask for an Oxboxx or Oxbagg, fill it with old clothes and other leftovers, and the containers will be collected free.