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Camelot in the press A collection of recent press articles

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07.05.2010 - Property week

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07.05.2010 - Property week

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13.01.2011 - Ham&High

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14.01.2011 - The Independent

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R

ent is dead money, or so the saying goes. But despite falling property prices in 2010, with Halifax reporting an overall 1.6 per cent decline, it remains the only option for many aspiring first-time buyers struggling to save for the average £29,000 deposit required to buy a property of their own. This year’s predictions add to the gloom; 41 per cent of landlords are planning to increase rent, say buy-to-let mortgage specialist Paragon. With the average rent already at £692 (and £992 in London), as stated in the latest buy-to-let index from LSL Property Services, the idea of having any money left over, let alone a substantial sum to set aside for a deposit, seems remote for the majority of renters. A recent poll carried by rental site Spareroom.co.uk found 87 per cent of tenants said they felt they wouldn’t be able to ever afford their own home in today’s climate, even though they wanted to. A report published at the end of last year suggested it would take an average earner, on a salary of £25,900, just over 14 years to save a deposit to buy a property, while independent research organisation Resolution Foundation says it could take a low earner at least 45 years. And with most mortgage lenders asking for a deposit of at least 15 per cent, home ownership feels out of reach for many. “It’s still very much the case that the bigger the deposit, the better the rates of interest and mortgage options available to buyers,” says David Hollingworth of mortgage brokers London & Country. “If you had a 25 per cent deposit, you could get a

guardian. Property guardians are appointed by management companies, which look after vacant buildings on behalf of property developers unable to sell or owners who are overseas. In exchange for keeping an eye on the building, guardians benefit from a substantially discounted rent. As a guardian, Higginbottom pays £63 a week, including bills, to live in a 25ft square room in Delapre Abbey, a stunning country estate. He plans on staying there for two years, by which point he aims to have saved enough for a deposit to buy his own home. “The Abbey is glorious – there’s landscaped gardens and woodland walks. To get to my room, you come up a grand staircase and pass stained-glass windows. There’s a definite wow factor to living here, and by being here we’re keeping the place free from squatters,” explains

‘Property guardians are appointed to look after vacant buildings in exhange for cheap rent’

much better rate of interest than if you put down a 10 per cent deposit.” But the idea of owning your own property doesn’t have to be tenants’ wishful thinking; there are ways to save for a deposit even if you’re paying off someone else’s mortgage each month. “I used to really resent paying my rent,” says Alastair Higginbottom, a 26-year-old security manager from Northampton, who was paying £550 a month for a room in a terraced house until recently. “Every month I had nothing left to save or spend. I was always having to say no to going out or buying anything new, and always working overtime to earn more.” Determined to save for his own house, he became a property

Higginbottom. “But for me, the financial savings are most important. I’m saving at least £300 a month, which means I can lead a nice lifestyle and build up a small pot of money as a deposit. That was something I couldn’t even think about before.” Camelot Property manages Delapre Abbey, and places property guardians across the country. It reports a 35 per cent increase in the number of people becoming guardians in the last 18 months. “We are often approached by people who are sick of throwing away money on very high rent, which could be used to save for a deposit,’ says John Mills, Camelot’s UK director. “Many of our guardians are key workers who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford high rental prices, let alone save for their own home.” Camelot says guardians pay an average of £200 a month in rent, including bills and council tax. Its website currently lists 64 properties in need of guardians, including warehouse apartments in the West Midlands and houses in Brighton. Property company Ad Hoc says it has also seen huge interest from professionals signing up to be guardians. “When we ask them why, it’s always because they are saving for a deposit on a house,” says Doug Edwards, an Ad Hoc manager. “They want somewhere nice but affordable to live while trying to save.” Edwards estimates London property guardians could save £8,000 over 18 months. Meanwhile, tenants in the private rented sector could be forgiven for resigning themselves to paying extortionate rent, owing to the shortage of rental supply in contrast to demand. The latest housing market survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors reports that 33 per cent of surveyors saw a rise in

With landlords charging record rates, it’s tough for first-time buyers to save for a deposit. But there are ways to slash your living expenses and escape the rental trap, says Huma Qureshi

STOP LETTING, START LIVING

Homes & Design

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FRIDAY 14 JANUARY 2011 THE INDEPENDENT

Alastair Higginbottom enjoys life at his flat at Delapre Abbey (far left) in Northampton; (right, from top), his bedroom, the entrance hall and the ‘front garden’ JOHN LAWRENCE

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Save in splendour

THE INDEPENDENT FRIDAY 14 JANUARY 2011

demand for rentals in 2010, the fastest increase since 2008. But that doesn’t necessarily leave every landlord with the upper hand. Nik Madan, lettings director at John D Wood & Co, says: “You can negotiate on rent, although you’re more likely to be successful if you’re starting a new rental, rather than renewing one. A powerful way to negotiate is to forgo the break contract which would otherwise give you the flexibility to give notice and move out early. Most landlords will be willing to reduce rent for someone prepared to commit to a long term contract of 12 or 18 months, who isn’t going to leave.” Most landlords are prepared to reduce rent for tenants who can move in sooner than expected and it can be worth offering to take on the cost of repainting or fixing the premises, in exchange for money off. Madan says one of his clients has agreed to knock £200 off a tenant’s monthly rent as a result of the tenant’s offer to repaint and update the house. A more substantial way to save is to rent only during the working week as a lodger. This is how Matt Parr, a 24-year-old PR consultant, saves over £300 every month, which he hopes will culminate in a tidy deposit. Parr and his girlfriend had hoped to rent a flat, but discovered they couldn’t afford the area. Instead, they each pay £25 weekly to lodge in a three-storey house in Pontyclun, Wales, returning to their parents’ homes on weekends. “It works out brilliantly,” says Parr. “We have a bedroom, storeroom and landing which doubles up as my work area, and we share the rest of the house with the owner. It’s informal and friendly; we get on well with the owner. On weekends, it’s easy for us to go back to our parents’ homes too.” Parr is confident the money he

saves will get him on the property ladder. “I graduated in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. Buying my own home isn’t a reality yet, but it’s more of a possibility because I’m not forking out £600 on rent.” Lodging can be up to 40 per cent cheaper than signing up to a full-time rental contract, according to MondaytoFriday.com, a website which advertises lodgings. Judy Niner, the founder of MondaytoFriday.com, says: “It’s do-able as long as you’ve got a base for weekends. It can become as long term as you want it to be; as you get to know your landlord, you can come to an arrangement. Plus you don’t have nearly as many responsibilities as if you were a tenant – it’s not up to you to get the plumbing fixed.” If all else fails, there’s always the option of moving back in with your parents. Although it may not suit long-term renters used to independence, it is proving an attractive solution for some would-be first-time buyers, with Halifax reporting 10 per cent of them moving home to save. Carly Williams, an HR assistant, moved in with her mum in Cardiff last April, after struggling to meet the rent on a two-bedroom flat with her boyfriend. “Money was very tight. We were paying around £800 a month and we struggled – a lot,” she says. Since moving home, Williams, 22, says she’s saving between £500 and £600 a month and doesn’t feel like she’s losing her independence. “I contribute £200 for bills, but the financial pressure is off. I’ve already saved a sufficient amount, and I’m confident that this time next year, I will be in a better position to realistically think about buying. I don’t want to go back to renting again and in the meantime, I’m happy living with my mum.”

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KATE WATSON-SMYTH

t’s probably one of the most recognised fabric designs in the world. Huge splashy poppies in a variety of colours adorning umbrellas, bags, tea trays and bedding. And yet Unikko, from the Finnish design company Marimekko, only came about when a designer dared to defy her boss. Armi Ratia, the creative vision behind Marimekko, bought a textile company with her husband, Viljo, in 1951. She insisted on bold colours but decreed that there would be no floral designs. In her opinion natural flowers were so beautiful they should not be used as motifs. But one of her designers, Maija Isola designed Unikko in protest at being told what to draw. Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko, of Marimekko, said: “Armi had said publicly that she didn’t want any flowers, but Maija refused to accept her decision and designed a whole range of floral patterns which were so gorgeous and distinctive that Armi bought eight straight away.” After the Second World War, Europe was ready for some colour and the Ratias came at just the right moment. But their designs, while popular, didn’t sell as no one knew how to use such bold fabric. Ratia hired a friend to make the material into simple shift dresses. At the first fashion show, the crowd went wild, buying the clothes almost straight off the models’ backs. In 1957, they were invited to show at the upscale Rinascente store in Milan at the invitation of the then display manager, Giorgio Armani. The company name was changed from Printex to Marimekko, an anagram of Armi’s name together with the Finnish word for dress, and, as the formal gloved luncheons of the 1950s gave way to garden parties and barbecues, so their more relaxed style of clothes fitted the new mood. In 1960 Jackie Kennedy bought seven dresses and was pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a red sleeveless version. A few years after Ratia’s death in 1979, the company was sold but ran into financial problems. In 1991, Kirsti Paakenen bought Marimekko and is credited with having saved the company. In 2007, it began opening its own shops and when Carrie Bradshaw was pictured wearing a Marimekko bikini and later a dress in Sex and the City, the company was back at the forefront of fashion. For its 60th anniversary this year, Maija Isola’s daughter Kristina, who still works for Marimekko, has created a collage of patterns first designed by her mother.

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Marimekko unikko fabric

T H E S E C R E T H I S T O R Y O F. . .

Homes & Design


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home

living

thesundaytimes.co.uk/home

16.01.11

Looking after number one

Vicki Couchman; Peter Tarry

Struggling to save up a deposit for your first home? Why not live (almost) rent free as a ‘guardian’, says Martina Lees

H

ow far would you go to save up a deposit? Would you (a) live in an abandoned fire station; (b) risk confronting a drug addict breaking into a warehouse; or (c) have a Blair Witch-style horror movie filmed in your basement? Gregg Quixley, 38, a teacher, did all three before he bought a one-bedroom flat overlooking Richmond Park, in southwest London, with his wife, LeighAnne. To cut down on living expenses in his bachelor days, the burly South African spent 4½ years as a live-in guardian in empty buildings. “It was ridiculously cheap, from £75 a month,” he says. “I saved £400-£500 a month.” Quixley had grasped a simple truth of today’s housing market: if you want to get a foot on the property ladder, you have to be creative. On average, someone in their twenties would have to save their entire take-home pay for 27 months to afford the £37,000 deposit on a typical £155,000 property, the Home Builders Federation found last October. In London, it would take a full three years. For most first-time buyers — 9 out of 10, according to a report by the think tank Policy Exchange — the solution is a loan, or better still a gift, from their parents. But what if, like Quixley’s, your mother and father are unable to help? In January 2003, he was one of the first people to register as a “guardian” with Camelot, a property management firm that had just arrived in Britain from Holland. Any employed person over 18 can apply, provided they satisfy certain basic criteria (see panel, below), for a position as a deterrent to vandals and squatters. Home for Quixley has included a former nunnery in north London, a 5,000 sq ft photographic warehouse in Camden, an abandoned office block in Battersea and, of course, that fire station. He and three other guardians moved into Manchester Square fire station, in Marylebone, central London, after it was closed in 2005. “It had a brass pole to slide down and a lookout tower up a spiral staircase — you could see all the way to the London Eye,” he recalls. The five-storey, Grade II-listed building has since been sold to the hotelier André Balazs, who has gained planning permission to convert it into a 33bedroom boutique hotel in time for the London 2012 Olympics. “We lived right in the middle of a rich West End street, 500 yards from Baker Street Tube station,” Quixley says. He paid just £220 a month, including bills, for his room in an office on the second floor. At the time, art exhibitions were often held in the basement and in the cavernous ground floor, where the fire engines used to stand. Just before Quixley left to get married in 2007, filming of the indie horror movie Credo started on the two lower levels. Starring the late Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, it went straight to DVD — and living with the production was far from

glamorous. “We would wake up at 2.30am with people screaming and killing and all that,” Quixley says. “I had a few bust-ups with the director over the racket.” Looking after a big space can have its benefits, though. While guarding the derelict Consolata Mission College, a Victorian mansion that was used as a Carmelite nunnery in the 1960s, Quixley played squash and indoor cricket in the parquet-floored dining hall. Banner Homes has since turned the property, in Totteridge, north London, into a development of eight luxury homes, called Grace Court — one of which sold for more than £1.3m in 2007. Other aspects can be less appealing. A drug addict broke into Quixley’s first Camelot home — a photographic warehouse in Camden, north London — stealing a camera and leaving a bloody trail after cutting his hand on broken glass, which led to his arrest. Fortunately for Quixley, he was not there at the time — but others have had even closer encounters. Kevin Wrankmore, 50, a salesman for a luxury watch brand, lived as a guardian for another property management firm, Ambika, in a fivestorey mansion in Mayfair that was owned by an Arab family and had views of Hyde Park. “One night, I heard something downstairs,” he says. When he investigated, Wrankmore found a man walking round the house. “I asked him, ‘Excuse me, who are you?’” He at first pretended to be looking

Up to the job? What are the requirements? Guardians must be over 18, employed and able to move immediately. Sorry, no children, pets or smokers — but couples can be accommodated. How do I apply? Anyone with proof of employment and income, British residency and landlord references can apply to Camelot (0845 262 2002, uk.cameloteurope. com) or Ad Hoc (020 7226 9900, www.adhoc.eu). Ambika (020 7376 9740, ambikaproperty.com) requires an introduction by an existing caretaker, as well as a day’s training. What does it cost? Camelot and Ad Hoc guardians pay a monthly licence fee of £100-£400

16.01.2011 - Sunday Times

Gregg Quixley, pictured with his wife, Leigh-Anne, was a guardian at this disused London fire station

at another guardian’s artwork, but then Wrankmore saw that the locks had been broken. A locksmith was sitting in a car outside. “When I confronted him, they left. They must have been looking for a squat.” Although in a shabby state, the house was “very plush”, Wrankmore recalls.

per person per month, including bills; Ambika caretakers don’t pay a penny. There is usually a registration fee of about £30, and you’ll have to buy a fire safety kit for £65. Where could I live? Anywhere in Britain, in anything from an old care home or church to a police station or office block. About 40% of Ad Hoc’s live-in sites are residential, from one-bedroom flats to derelict mansions, says Joseph Cooper, the company’s marketing manager. Camelot, which has more than 5,000 guardians across Europe, has seen a 35% increase in the number of vacant buildings over the past 18 months. What facilities are there? Property management firms ensure that the homes have hot water, power and heating, as well as basic kitchen

“It even had its own lift, but it didn’t work.” A huge staircase swept up from the entrance hall to what could have been a “mini ballroom” on the second floor. He had the entire top floor, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a small kitchen and a “huge lounge” all to himself — all free of charge. “It had these big double doors that led out onto a lovely balcony with views over Hyde Park.” Wrankmore’s three years there — and a rather less exotic 18 months spent guarding a one-bedroom flat in a once

and bathroom facilities. Guardians bring their own furniture. Can I decorate? Yes. Ad Hoc permits only neutral colours; Camelot will let you do wall art, as long as there are no structural changes and you get prior permission. What’s the catch? Ambika can ask you to move out with only hours’ notice; Camelot gives you two weeks. There is no fixed-term tenancy agreement. No parties or overnight guests are allowed and you have to give ample notice of holidays. What’s in it for the landlord? Guardians deter squatters, vandals and theft of fixtures and fittings. Landlords save 50% on the cost of boarding up a vacant property and 80% on security guards, Cooper says.

drug-infested estate on Gray’s Inn Road, near King’s Cross, central London — enabled him to save up a £37,000 deposit by 2003. With his girlfriend, Jennie Gilbertson, he bought a three-bedroom Victorian home in Thornton Heath, south London, for £219,000. Quixley, too, managed to save a hefty deposit. In 2008, he and Leigh-Anne, 34, a vet, bought their flat in Roehampton, on the sixth floor of a former council estate. The previous owner, an elderly lady, had died, and it was on the market for £169,000; the heirs accepted an offer of £110,000. “We got in right at the bottom of the downturn,” Quixley says. If you don’t want too much adventure, fear not: there are plenty of residential properties to protect. Laura Hart, 34, saved £500 a month by guarding a onebedroom flat in Walthamstow, within walking distance of her then job as a plumber at Whipps Cross University Hospital, in northeast London. “I was lucky,” she says. The flat, which she protected on behalf of Ad Hoc, another property guardian firm, had wooden floors and a newly fitted kitchen and bathroom, all for £250 a month. Last October, she bought a two-bedroom flat in Lewisham, southeast London, for £177,000, with a 30% deposit. “There’s no way I could have saved enough money if I had lived anywhere else,” she says. sunday times online

The best strategies to beat the property market in 2011: thesundaytimes.co.uk/home

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21.05.2011 - The Times

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18.08.2011 - FM World Magazine

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BBC Scotland's landmark former headquarters have been occupied by a team of "live-in guardians". Hard-up flat hunters are being allowed to rent rooms in the multi-million-pound Victorian mansion in Glasgow's west end for just ÂŁ45 a week to protect it from squatters and vandals. Genevieve Fidele, 22, has been living at the Queen Margaret Drive building for three months. She said: "It's brilliant. I'm getting to stay in this amazing building with a great location for a reasonable rent, and it means the place is being well looked after. "There are about a dozen of us in here at the moment and everyone gets on well. "We have a common kitchen area in a former office of one of the top BBC executives and we have access to most of the building, so it's really interesting to look around the old studios." Genevieve, a receptionist who is also studying for a master's degree at Glasgow University, added: "I first found out you could do this sort of thing when I was living in London. "When I moved to Scotland, it seemed like the best way to get a good place to stay at a rent I could afford. "It doesn't look like there are any moves to sell the building at the moment so we are hoping to stay put for a while. "Even if someone does buy it, we get a month's notice to find somewhere else." The scheme is being run by alternative security company Camelot Property Protection. Hayate Kassou, Camelot's Regional Manager Scotland, said: "This is a win-win situation for everyone involved. "The property owners get the benefits of low-cost security and people got the opportunity to live in an amazing building. "We are very careful to get the right people to stay in our properties and usually find they are young professionals who like the idea of living somewhere a bit different." The BBC moved out of Queen Margaret Drive to a new purpose-built studio in Govan four years ago. The building is currently controlled by administrators after QMD Glasgow, the property firm who planned to turn it into a luxury hotel, went bust. In exchange for a low rent, guardians live in empty buildings to keep them safe, secure and tidy for the owners. Other Camelot properties include office buildings, care homes, warehouses, pubs, old libraries, schools and churches. Guardians must be over 18, with a job and no dependents, pets or criminal convictions. And they have to be ready to move at the drop of a hat.

18.08.2011 - Daily Record

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action to protect site by LISA BUCKLEY SECURITY staff could be brought in to lay siege at a former Nuneaton secondary school at risk of arson, thieves and squatters. Plans have unveiled for eight `passive' security guards to live at what was Manor Park School, until the future of the site is decided. Warwickshire County Council has applied for permission for a temporary change of use of the vacant school in Beaumont Road to provide accommodation for a `security by occupation' service. Members of the public, including people living nearby, have until Tuesday, October 4 to express their views over the proposal. Ciaran Power, senior planner at Shire Hall, said that the plan is less costly than other options including installing CCTV and should put a stop to lead and copper thieves, firestarters and uninvited guests. "Future use of the site at Manor Park has not yet been determined," he said. "Since the school has been closed the site has been targeted by various acts of theft and in a bid to manage further acts of vandalism, Warwickshire County Council has proposed introducing a 'security by occupation' arrangement to be managed by Camelot Property Management. "The proposal seeks permission for temporary occupation on the site for eight individuals to act as passive security guards appointed by Camelot in exchange for cheap rent with bills included. "This arrangement works out significantly less expensive than installing 24-hour security guards and cameras. "The guardians will live on-site to deter squatters or vandals and are to look after the property until either the building is sold, or the future use of the building is decided. In either event the local authority is required to give three weeks notice to the temporary 'tenants'." The former secondary school building has stood empty since the end of July when the Nuneaton Academy stopped using the site. It is owned by the county council which is still exploring the best use of the large building and surrounding land. Camelot Property Management is the first company in the UK to introduce property protection using live-in guardians. Its staff, who are not trained security guards but come from all walks of life, set up home in temporary `pods' equipped with kitchen and toilet facilities and are used in everything from former schools to monasteries, office blocks and factories. Anyone who wants to have their say about the application can speak to Ciaran Power on 01926 412 193, write to Planning and Development Group, Communities, Warwickshire County Council, Warwick, CV34 4SX or email ciaranpower@warwickshire.gov.uk. People are asked to quote application number NBB/11CC016.

19.09.2011 - Nuneaton News

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19.09.2011 - The Metro

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29.09.2011 - Timeout Magazine

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24.04.2012 - Sutton Guardian

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Source: Financial Times February 1st, 2012

01.02.2012 - Financial Times

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UK London Office

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John Mills

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Hayate Kassou

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N1 7JR London

WS1 1PL Walsall

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your advantages: ■ Protection by occupation is proven to be a successful security alternative ■ Save 80% on security costs ■ Opportunity to generate income ■ Protects property against threats of theft and vandalism ■ Benefits the neighbouring community ■ Lowers your insurance costs ■ Minimises risk and generates revenue

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Camelot in the Press