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Series Explores U.K. Real Estate

Series Explores U.K. Real Estate

The business of real estate in London is characteristically British: reserved, unostentatious, conservative. Dealmaking is opaque and listings are typically sold off-market via exclusive contracts — thwarting competition among agents and agencies. The U.K.’s estate agents queue rather than showboat.

Worse still, lips stiffen on payday. In London, agents often receive just 1 to 2 percent of their sales as commission, compared to as much as 6 percent in the U.S.

It couldn’t last. On May 22, Buying London bows on Netflix. The U.K.’s answer to reality spectacles like Selling Sunset and Million Dollar Listing, the series promises to take TV audiences where they’ve never been before: inside London’s most exclusive residences and the quietly cutthroat business of selling them.

“Expect to see beautiful homes and people with a lot of character and personality,” the show’s star, Daniel Daggers, 44, tells THR. “I love the fact that people get to see the greatest city on the planet on their big screen. There’s a lot of entertainment.”

Daniel Daggers, the founder of London’s DDRE real estate brokerage, stars on Netflix’s new real estate reality show, Buying London.

Courtesy of Netflix

A London native who had ambitions of football stardom, Daggers has reached the top of his city’s real estate ladder after 12 years at Knight Frank, selling the “super-prime” market; homes priced at 10 million-plus pounds ($12.5 million). In 2019, he was part of the team that sold a Georgian mansion at 3 Carlton Gardens to billionaire Ken Griffin for roughly $122 million — the biggest deal London had seen in a decade. During his 26-year career, he’s closed $5.5 billion in London property deals.

Now, Daggers is leading the charge to push London’s estate agencies toward the more open, agent-friendly business models seen in New York, Los Angeles and Dubai.

Step one happened in 2020, when Daggers launched his own agency, DDRE. It eschewed the city’s traditional, bankerly approach to real estate in favor of the sharkish, independent contractor system common in the States. “[The agents] pay to be part of DDRE global, and then they keep 70 percent of their commissions,” says Daggers, who goes by “Mr Super Prime” on Instagram. He adds that meeting brokers from in other parts of the world broadened his view. “In markets like New York and Miami, I witnessed what brokerage looked like. I met the top brokers. I started to see the influence of social media,” he says.

But Daggers isn’t alone. A relaunched London Sotheby’s franchise — owned by ex-Swiss banker George Azar — promises much the same thing. It plans to demand higher fees for agents and to share a larger piece of the pie with them. “In the old days, you had the big fish eating the little fish. Today, you have the fast fish eating the slow fish. We are the fast fish,” Azar, who also owns Sotheby’s in Dubai, told the Financial Times.

Freddie Mercury’s former home, Garden Lodge, on the market for $38 million.

Barney Hindle

Meanwhile, the arrival of branded residences is adding fresh luster to London. Five-star hotel chains Raffles, Mandarin Oriental and The Peninsula are all selling multimillion-dollar flats serviced by their namesake adjacent hotels. The Peninsula, a new Peter Marino-designed building located in ultra-posh Belgravia, has 25 private residences asking about $12.6 million, or $7,360 per square foot, for a one-bedroom — roughly three times the average per square foot for prime central London property. Not content with merely one London property power play, Griffin is reported to have bought the penthouse for more than $125 million.

At the same time, Raffles has transformed the gargantuan Old War Office (OWO) in Whitehall — where the likes of Winston Churchill, Ian Fleming and T.E. Lawrence once toiled— into a $1.4 billion luxury playground. It has 120 guest accommodations and 85 residences, each with a unique layout. The building is half sold, with the penthouse still available for about $125 million, while one-bedroom apartments start at $5 million. Michael Bloomberg and Goldman Sachs International president Todd Leland are reported buyers. In fact, Americans are the building’s biggest boosters, brokers say, perhaps drawn by the building’s cameos in The Crown and Bond flicks from Octopussy to Spectre.

Inside a residence at Raffles’ The OWO Residences.

Martin-Morell

“London was late to the branded residences game,” says Charlie Walsh, head of residential sales at Westminster Development Services, including those for the Raffles residences. That tardiness, he says, speaks to the sophistication of London’s buyer pool. “They will not be fobbed off with a 20 percent premium because you slapped a brand on the side of a building. There needs to be justification as to why someone’s doing it. It has to be a brand that understands hospitality and service.”

Walsh says that Raffles’ nine restaurants, three bars and 24-hour service are proof of the hotel brand’s real estate hospitality know-how. And it’s already become a society gathering spot, with Prince William and Tom Cruise posing together in February at a gala fundraiser at The OWO, which has the third-largest ballroom in London.

The primary bedroom of the Portia Fox Penthouse at Southbank Place‘s One Casson Square looks out over the London Eye; it’s listed for around $16.45 million.

Southbank Place

Still, it hasn’t been an easy start of the year for the London property market. Prices for homes in prime neighborhoods — like Belgravia, Mayfair and Kensington — slumped 7.1 percent in January, year-over-year. Linked to high borrowing costs, it was the largest decline in nearly five years, according to LonRes data. But there are signs of a rebound, with roughly a quarter of London homes selling above their asking price, according to the brokerage Hamptons. One of the city’s most exciting new listings is Freddie Mercury’s former home in Kensington, a neo-Georgian mansion on the market for the first time since he bought it in 1980. It’s listed with Knight Frank for $38 million.

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But, according to Daggers, the capital’s new development sector is where the action is. He points to buildings like 1 Mayfair — a $2.5 billion development being built by mobile phone tycoon John Caudwell. Already, 120 buyers reportedly have registered for just 29 apartments with prices around $87 million, according to The Evening Standard.

Current listings around London include the former Italian embassy in Belgravia, listed with Beauchamp Estates for about $27 million. “During its time as an embassy residence, this illustrious townhouse-mansion was visited by notable guests from the pages of history including Diana Mitford, Lloyd George and Wallis Simpson,” says Charles Lloyd, head of Beauchamp Estates (Mayfair & Belgravia).

Courtesy of Subject

Another example of this new breed of London super-apartment can be found at The Whiteley, just north of Hyde Park. It’s a transformation of a historic department store, with 139 private branded residences and the U.K.’s first Six Senses hotel, due to open in 2025.

“When a new building is built and a branded residence is in play, it entices a lot of people, not just in the UK, but all over the world,” says Daggers. “They want to come and have a look at this new destination building.”

Prices at The Whiteley, in typical London fashion, are elusive — just know that if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. Even Daggers proudly touts that 60 percent of his listings are off-market with no digital footprint. “There are a couple of outstanding homes off-market for $160 million and $175 million. You just don’t know about it,” says Dagger, acknowledging that his new show is a step in the other direction.

” ‘Eyeballs’ — that’s a term used in the U.S. that we don’t really use in the U.K., but we are starting to adopt it,” says Daggers. “I know firsthand that TV sells real estate. So what better platform to find your property on than Netflix?”

Listings around London include this loft-like four-bedroom residence, occupying two floors of a Victorian warehouse, listed with Nest Seekers’ Solly Strickland for $11.97 million.

Courtesy of Subject

A version of this story first appeared in the May 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.



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