Finding original Gainsborough artworks all in a day’s work for this Belsize Park estate agent

Nick Collins, Hadleigh Residential

Nick Collins, Hadleigh Residential - Credit: Archant

North London native Nick Collins, a partner at Hadleigh Residential in NW3, is used to people over-valuing their properties but when they undervalue the contents it can come as a bit of a surprise.

What’s special/different about your agency?

We’ve been here for 25 years, we live in the area, we grew up in the area. We get most of our clients through word of mouth and, as we’ve got older, so have our clients. This means that while we started selling very small properties, we now sell much larger, more expensive homes. That loyalty stems from the fact that we treat our clients as they’d expect to be treated, they’re not just money-making machines.

Where do you live and with whom?

I live in Highgate with my wife and children.

Why did you buy your current property? What’s your favourite thing about it?

We bought the house because my second child was being born and we needed more space. It was the worst house on the best road, which made it a very sensible buy.

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Do you prefer a fixer-upper or plush new-build?

I always used to prefer a fixer upper, prior to children, but once you have children you can’t spend months or years with builders around doing up a place, they hate you for it. But I always used to buy fixer uppers.

If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell yourself when you bought your current home?

Buy it. Buy two!

When did you buy your first property and what was it like?

I think I was 22. It was only £60,000 and it was in Belsize Park. But it was a long time ago.

What’s your dream house?

My favourite house is Boscastle House on Boscastle Road. It’s on a road I used to do a paper round on. I always used to admire it when I used to deliver papers in Dartmouth Park.

What’s the worst thing you’ve seen on the job?

One of the most surprising things I’ve seen was when I went on a valuation a few years ago and an old lady answered the door. There was a narrow path through all the rubbish in the house because she was a hoarder. She was sectioned but when they were sorting through her stuff, in amongst all the rubbish they found two original Gainsborough sketches wrapped in teatowels, lying next to a two-year-old copy of The Times. They turned out to be worth something like £350,000 each.

What are the most common mistakes clients make?

Over-pricing their property.

What are your top tips for the local area?

We always go to the Washington Pub, because it’s the nearest boozer and there’s a sort of speak easy downstairs. It’s quite cool. I also like the soup from Gail’s. They have a different flavour every week and you get two large slices of artisan French bread.