I am heading down to Surrey to see the Banner Homes new show home, I don’t know quite what to expect but I know it’s big and I suspect it is a wag pad. You know, blingy heaven with extra bells on. There will be gold gates and the modern equivalent of gold taps. No doubt there will be textiles of velvet and acrylic fur and it will be in a ‘people like us’ neighbourhood filled with footballers and ‘used to be a comedian but now on Eastenders’ types.
Coming off the M3 and through leafy Surrey lanes the ‘moneyed quotient’ builds up quickly, until I reach Kingswood. A village with pubs and Trattorias where you know there’s a fat old Italian in charge and the lasagne will come out sizzling. There’s a little train station with a Regency style veranda which belongs in Midsomer murders. Surprisingly sweet. I turn into the private lane, I know it’s private because it says so, a lot. Houses are tucked behind laurel hedges and gates. There are speed bumps and people amble down the middle of the road walking their dogs and smelling rich. They eye me up, ‘I should have washed the car’ goes through my mind, it’s that sort of place- although I doubt any of them use a bucket like me. Hmm, it’s rather smart.
I roll up to the gates of the two home development, through one set and then have to wait for those to close before the next set open. Nice security for Russians I think, no getting shot on the doorstep. I could see Cheryl Cole safely distanced from her fans here and the poor love could keep Ashley at a 50m distance. I purr into the bricked drive and again am miffed that my filthy country living 4×4 sits like something the dog left on the drive.
Norma is waiting for me. Norma is terribly posh and glamorous but I catch a glint of a Liverpool accent so I suspect hidden depths. I am granted an entrance and she wins major praise immediately. No blue plastic bags on my shoes today – that’s how you treat people, Mr Candy!
Into the hall and my, what a hall. It is a ‘receiving hall’. Scarlet and Rhett could swan down that curved walnut staircase quite comfortably. There is marble, lots of it and silver and crystal things gleaming. I avert my eyes from the 666-esque silver antelope skull. A tad too Omen like for comfort. But I can imagine little French waitresses with canape spread silver platters greeting guests and that I suppose is the point of a ‘receiving hall’.
We have over 8000 square feet to explore and start at the back staircase- I do love a house with ‘a back staircase’. This leads to the room above the triple garage and we pass the ‘gardeners toilet’ en route. Well you wouldn’t want tradesmen using your facilities now would you?!
A lovely room where Mr can run his multi-million pound businesses or Mrs can discuss her latest record release and spurn Simon Cowell’s apologies.
I want to see the kitchen. Women generally choose the house and that’s what they want to see first too. Bright, big, central island, family dining and family lounging with a large plasma screened family room next door. Unconvinced about the dining chairs with handcuffs on the back but hey ho, each to their own.
The sitting room is grey and silver, glittery yet calm. A fine place for discussing your golf scores with neighbours. I check the skirting boards, one of my tests for whether builders ‘give a damn’. The house passes the test in the reception rooms, they are deep and meticulously painted. However, I shall be eyeing them everywhere. Woe betide they have whacked some two by four’s in somewhere.
We take the staircase from the hall to the basement. I am rather partial to basements, having lived in the U.S. It’s a dumping ground for teenagers, au pairs and blokes wanting to do blokey things. The residential equivalent of a ‘man drawer’. Buyers at this level expect them. It does not disappoint. The cinema room is bathed in black with leather cinema chairs that would not be out of place in a Hollywood private viewing suite.
Norma gets out her iPad and starts doing techy things with blu-ray and things I’ve never heard of. From the iPad she manages the lighting, the film showing on the massive screen and the sound. Apparently she can also ‘run the house’ from it too. Norma has hidden talents. Mine is mainly used for Angry Birds. I compliment Norma on her technical prowess. ‘Not really’ she says, ‘had one awful incident where I referred to the sound system as having woofters’.
There is a gym, a maid’s room fit for a royal lady in waiting, a wine room and a games room with full sized snooker table, bar and helpful access to a patio with BBQ. This basement says you’ll never see your husband again. Maybe Cheryl would be safe letting Ashley in after all. Oh and it has my favourite thing ever- a laundry chute. No carrying your dirty undies down the stairs, just whack them down the chute upstairs and they plop into the washing machine… Just make sure you hide the cat from the kids.
The boiler room is fun- not something you often hear me say. The biggest tanks you ever did see and ‘apparently’ they have air-source/eco/pump/heat sourcing summat.. which ‘apparently’ is a VERY good thing.
I love top floors almost as much as I love basements, so I am keen to investigate. While the bloke is in the basement the kids are up there. The perfect mother house and the designers have had some fun. There is a boudoir for the teenage daughter up here, dressed up like a Moulin Rouge set.
Then there is the ‘kids room’ where they have done away with glitzy accessories. Here we have rusted tables, wipe clean squidgy leather sofas (essential for teenager’s but best not to dwell on why) and floor cushions. You would never see your teenagers again- ‘cos this room is seriously ‘dead cool’. ‘Obviously’ I refuse to acknowledge the Union Jack cushions other than with a clinched smirk.
I settle down with Norma and some Duchy Original biscuits at the kitchen island. Norma is very proud of her show house and very proud of Banner’s presence in this end of the market. She seems keen to get my ‘take’ because it is well documented that this is Banner Homes’ biggest show home ever. Well the location is right, which is 90% of the battle – private road, laurel hedges, security gates and the ‘right sort of people’. Or as my clients say to me sheepishly ‘people like us’.
And key to it all is that the quality of this house is no different from that ‘big name’ being built three doors down- but there is a difference in price. I like that, it’s my job to get my clients the best property but also the best deal. I know which one I’d be advising my clients to put their money down on.
Norma, asks me again what I think.
‘Oh, Norma’ I say, ‘it works… no gold taps and those skirting boards in the basement were FABULOUS’.
Banner Homes- Regency Gate