Once the keys are finally handed over, then the real work on a property begins – from restoring and refurbishing to recruiting staff and ensuring a smooth day-to-day operation. “The decision to buy is quite easy, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions that follow on from that,” says Philip Eddell, Director of the Country and London House Consultancy at Savills. “At the point at which you exchange contracts, there’s a flurry of questions, and the bigger the house, the more complicated it can be. But the decisions you make, and how you navigate that process, can have significant consequences.”
Which is where the Savills Consultancy team comes in. Describing themselves as “management consultants for big houses”, their services include everything from project-managing major restorations and appointing architects and interior and landscape designers, to financial forecasting, estate and asset management, and recruiting and managing staff such as housekeepers, security, chefs and gardeners. It’s a bespoke service, ensuring clients are given the level of advice and assistance they need, for as long as they require it.
“Historic houses are often quite complicated and expensive to operate, and if you haven’t owned one before, it’s not always immediately obvious how to do that, and who to use when and where,” explains Philip. “And, of course, a house isn’t just a building – it’s a living thing, too. The probability is that you’re going to employ staff to help look after the house and your family, and the chemistry of that is very important, too.”
Working predominantly across London and central and southern England, around two-thirds of the properties the Consultancy advises on are large country houses, with the remainder in the capital. Purchasers in the country tend to be British or European, with some American buyers. While in London it’s a more international demographic.
The team’s involvement can last for a matter of days, or lead to a relationship that continues for many years. Some clients choose to delegate the ongoing property and estate management, while others only want help just after they move. “We might be heavily involved at the beginning and fade out of the picture as people settle into it themselves,” explains Philip. Some people would rather not be involved in every decision, he adds, and the expertise the team can offer, in a wide range of different areas, can be invaluable.
“If you’re buying a very significant house and you’re going to have a restoration that might cost a million or more, with operating costs of six figures or more, it would seem to me that good professional advice pays for itself very quickly,” he says. “Very few people have got the expertise to do it. It’s the emotional and financial intelligence of getting it right. We’re not there to tell people how to live. We’re there to enable them to live as they want to.”