Meerkats house

Not such a simples pad for meerkat millionaire: CompareTheMarket.com boss lives in South Africa’s biggest home

  • Douw Steyn, 62, is the South African entrepreneur who set up insurance firm ComparetheMarket in Peterborough
  • Now worth an estimated £600million, he has built himself a vast mansion in the countryside outside Johannesburg
  • Palazzo Steyn is the country’s biggest and most expensive house, with seven bedroom suites and marble garage 
  • Now Mr Steyn, who also has a £62million mansion in London’s Belgravia, is building luxury housing estate around it 
  • His fortune doubled in four years thanks largely to the success of the TV adverts featuring meerkat Alexsandr Orlov 

He’s the man made rich by meerkats, and this is how he’s chosen to spend (some of) it.

Entrepreneur Douw Steyn, 62, who owns the ComparetheMarket insurance website and is worth £600million thanks to the meerkat adverts, has built himself a vast palace in his native South Africa.

The modestly named Palazzo Steyn, currently being built on a 2,000-acre estate between Johannesburg and Pretoria, is surrounded by a ruined aqueduct from which water plunges into a lake below.

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Palazzo Steyn, built for ComparetheMarket entrepreneur Douw Steyn, 62, is in an estate outside Johannesburg

Palazzo Steyn, built for ComparetheMarket entrepreneur Douw Steyn, 62, is in an estate outside Johannesburg

Looking more like a ballroom than a garage, this marble-lined basement is for Mr Steyn's collection of cars

Looking more like a ballroom than a garage, this marble-lined basement is for Mr Steyn’s collection of cars

South African entrepreneur Douw Steyn, 62, started his insurance firm in Peterborough, Lincolnshire, in 1992
Its fortunes soared after a television ad campaign starring a meerkat with a Russian accent named Aleksandr Orlov

Douw Steyn, 62, started his insurance firm in Peterborough, Lincolnshire, in 1992, and its fortunes soared thanks to the meerkat ads which made the animal’s catchphrase, ‘Simples’, a national phenomenon

With seven bedrooms suites, a wine cellar, and a cavernous marble-floored garage with room for 33 cars, Palazzo Steyn is South Africa’s biggest house, dwarfing the sprawling home in KwaZulu-Natal province of the country’s President, Jacob Zuma.

There’s also a large swimming pool, two fire pools, and extensive walled gardens laid to lawn at the house, which is also South Africa’s most expensive, having cost around £14million to build.

When asked about the size of the underground garage, the businessman, who is married to charity worker Carolyn, said: ‘My home has a basement area that will house my car collection of sport and vintage models.

‘This is one of my hobbies and the architects were briefed to design a showroom where the cars can be easily displayed and manoeuvred.’

The multi-millionaire, who two years ago bought a ten-bedroom, £62million mansion in London’s Belgravia, wants to build 11,000 homes, private hospital, two private schools, shops and office parks, alongside woodland and a 26-mile running track around it.

The businessman said he designed the estate based on the idea that ‘too much time is wasted in cities sitting in traffic and commuting between home, work, schools and the shops’.

Speaking on his Steyn City website, he said: ‘I could have invested in a luxury residence in Europe or in the States, but instead I chose to invest in South Africa. This is indicative of the confidence I have in our country and the success of Steyn City.

Original style: The house is surrounded by a circular aqueduct from which water plunges into a man-made lake

Original style: The house is surrounded by a circular aqueduct from which water plunges into a man-made lake

Carolyn and Douw Steyn, pictured at their wedding in Johannesburg last year, were friends of Nelson Mandela

Carolyn and Douw Steyn, pictured at their wedding in Johannesburg last year, were friends of Nelson Mandela

Palazzo Steyn will be the centrepiece of his brainchild, the 11,000-home Steyn City - a luxury 'lifestyle estate'

Palazzo Steyn will be the centrepiece of his brainchild, the 11,000-home Steyn City – a luxury ‘lifestyle estate’

The London pad: Mr Steyn bought himself this ten-bedroom house in Belgravia two years ago for £62million

The London pad: Mr Steyn bought himself this ten-bedroom house in Belgravia two years ago for £62million

How the money was made: The success of the meerkat TV adverts meant that Mr Steyn's fortunes doubled

How the money was made: The success of the meerkat TV adverts meant that Mr Steyn’s fortunes doubled

‘I also long for the quality of life that we are creating for future residents and it therefore made sense for me to be a part of it… My wife and I are looking forward to entertaining our friends and business partners from all over the world at our new residence, while also exposing them to our magnificent country.’

The estate, which at 900 acres will be nearly five times the size of Monaco, will be 50per cent developed and 50per cent woodland, with pedestrian walkways and cycle and running tracks looping through and around it.

Mr Steyn is said to be passionate about the idea that the car ruins environments for people – instead he wants children in Steyn City to grow up playing outside without danger of being run over.

There is also a Nicklaus Design 18-hole championship golf course being built on the estate, with completion scheduled for next year, when the homes in Steyn City will first go on the market.

It will be open to residents and their guests, and is being built around canyons and an old quarry.

The best of compare the market’s TV adverts

This picture shows the fourth hole on the Steyn City Golf Course, which is currently being built for residents

This picture shows the fourth hole on the Steyn City Golf Course, which is currently being built for residents

The Steyn City golf course clubhouse will feature a 'growing roof' planted with vegetation to help it blend in

The Steyn City golf course clubhouse will feature a ‘growing roof’ planted with vegetation to help it blend in

Mr Steyn, who owns the upmarket Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg, and the Shambala Private Game Reserve in Limpopo, was a close friend of Nelson Mandela, whose widow attended the Steyn wedding last year.

It was to Mr Steyn’s Johannesburg home that Mandela went after he was freed from jail in 1990, and it was there, in the entrepreneur’s home in the smart suburb of Sandhurst, that Mandela finished his autobiography Long Walk To Freedom.

The South African insurance boss owes much of his success and wealth to the fictional chief meerkat, Aleksandr Orlov, who spoke in a fake Russian accent and made his ‘Simples’ catchphrase a national phenomenon.

Worth £200million when the meerkat adverts first hit British screens in 2009, his wealth has since more than doubled – impressive for an insurance firm started in Peterborough in 1992.

The entrepreneur was born in Johannesburg and attended university before moving to Britain in 1992 and setting up BGL, parent company of ComparetheMarket. By 2009 he was worth an estimated £200million, and a year later it had grown to £320million, since when it has grown yet again.

Meanwhile, the company’s value has more than doubled from £43million in 2008 to £88million, thanks to the meerkats, while BGL employs 2,400 people at its Cambridgeshire HQ plus offices in Sunderland and Coventry.

Residential property sales tumble in January, says HMRC

Residential property sales fell in January, HMRC has reported.

There was a fall in both its “seasonally adjusted” figures and its “actuals”.

“Seasonally adjusted” sales fell by 1.4% compared with December, and by 6% compared with January last year.

There were 97,320 residential sales on a “seasonally adjusted” basis.

However, when not adjusted, there were just 78,740 sales in the UK, well down from the figure of 105,400 for December and the 87,280 recorded by HMRC for January 2014.

Rents show another annual rise – but fewer tenants in arrears

Another superb article by Rosalind Renshaw

Rents are now 16.3% higher than five years ago, having risen by 2.8% over the last 12 months, according to the latest buy-to-let Index from Your Move and Reeds Rains published this morning.

In absolute terms, the average residential rent across England & Wales has grown by £107 since January 2010 to reach £763 last month.

This amounts to an average annual rent rise of 3% over the last half-decade. However, this represents a real terms increase of 0.6% per annum when adjusted for inflation over the same period.

Most recently, rents have fallen on a monthly basis, down 0.6% between December 2014 and January 2015.

LSL, parent company of Your Move and Reeds Rains, noted that its data is now “much more closely matched” by the Office for National Statistics after the latter revised its own information.

Annual rent rises in England and Wales have averaged 2.4% since January 2012 according to Your Move & Reeds Rains analysis. The revised ONS measure for the whole of the UK has averaged 2.1% over the same period, considerably closer than the previous version of this “experimental” series, which averaged 1.2% over the last two years.

This morning’s latest index also showed that just 6.8% of tenants are now in arrears, compared with 11.1% in January five years ago, when LSL started producing monthly rental information.

LSL rents

Morning glory: Why that early a.m. staff meeting is so important

Saw this article on Property Industry Eye which had been written by Julian O’Dell, leading trainer. This is exactly how we operate and I have to say, if I miss a meeting or we get interrupted, it can really throw your day out! Re-reading this has inspired me to make 100% sure that this becomes part of our standard daily routine!

Here is the article;

A few years ago, I witnessed a snapshot of the life of two estate agency firms in the same town, which was all it took to identify the successful agent from the struggling one.

Picture the scene, if you will…

At 8am one Wednesday morning I arrived to prepare to run a course for an independent agency in the training room above one of their residential sales offices.

Most of the staff were already present and as always I was struck by the smart interior and energetic atmosphere even at this early hour.

Having got myself and the training room organised, I wandered downstairs to witness a team meeting in full flow, as the staff discussed yesterday’s successes and today’s challenges with enthusiasm.

Everyone seemed involved and alert, and were making notes on various action points.

A huge white-board included yesterday’s priority tasks, targets and potential business opportunities.

I then went outside to get some air and pick up a newspaper. En route to the newsagents, I happened to pass another estate agency office at around 8.30am and glanced through the window to see two members of staff in the front office.

One was reading The Sun and the other was putting on his tie.

It will probably come as no surprise that when I took a drive around the area later that day, the initial agent was seen to hold a dominant market share within the town in question, while the latter firm appeared to be a bit-part player. And on a recent return visit, I discovered that the second agent has ceased trading…

For any manager in our currently challenging industry, a well-run daily team meeting makes a massive difference to productivity. Yet many fail to hold such an event at all, while others merely go through the motions because superiors have told them to.

Managers have such huge challenges in their role, not least because they are often responsible for a large chunk of the front-line sales business that needs to be achieved. Upon listing all the areas of responsibility of an effective manager on a recent course, the delegates came up with over thirty separate suggestions!

A structured daily meeting is not the answer to all ills; however, it achieves a great deal in helping a manager manage successfully.

Management is sometimes defined as “the art of directing physical activities and human resources in the attainment of predetermined goals”, and there is no better time to undertake such “directing” as in a team meeting.

An agenda is essential to ensure all key areas are covered and must include a review of yesterday’s activities, new business opportunities in terms of valuations, instructions, applicants, viewings and sales, as well as team input into problems and challenges that they face, both individually and collectively.

From this agenda there is a natural flow of objectives for the day ahead, which can be discussed and issued to the appropriate staff.

The manager can then record these objectives, and more importantly be seen by the staff to do so: the aforementioned white-board shouldn’t be underestimated as a focal point for all tasks for the day. Place it out of public view, but somewhere where the staff will see it regularly, and it will do a bit of managing in your absence!

The manager must then ensure subsequent monitoring during the day and checking at close of business.

Employees benefit from a clear set of daily goals, as they will be focused on those tasks and motivated as they are gradually achieved during the day.

The staff are also more likely to ensure those objectives are met, given that they know there will be a review of success or failure at the next meeting.

Sales can be created in this environment as a valuer describes yesterday’s new instructions to salespeople who come to the meeting equipped with a list of their hot buyers/tenants.

A review of new applicants for whom nothing on the available list seems suitable may prompt a colleague to suggest a less obvious alternative from the withdrawal list, lettings portfolio or forthcoming valuations.

Different angles on problems may be seen by team members leading to a plausible but previously untried solution to a problem sale.

Commencing each meeting early enough in the day will minimise interruption, but as long as one member of staff is allotted the task of dealing with incoming enquiries, then the rest of the team can concentrate for the duration.

A manager needs to adhere to the timeless cycle of planning, monitoring and checking. Without these team meetings, the first part of this process is at risk, thereby automatically jeopardising the other two.

The time spent on an effective morning meeting will doubtless be the best investment in a manager’s day.

Firm that ran estate agency ordered into liquidation to protect public

A company that operated an estate agency business has been ordered into liquidation on the grounds of protecting the public interest. A sum of half a million pounds remains unaccounted for.

Matrix Company 1 ran Crown Property Professionals from 151 Rushey Green, Catford, south London, and had been under investigation by the Insolvency Service.

The company advertised properties on third-party property search websites and on two websites operated by or connected with the company.

One is named in the Government press release as www.crownpc.co.uk and the other as www.propertypropertyproperty.co.uk

The High Court heard that the investigation was met with deliberate confusion and obstruction to prevent its business and affairs being fully investigated and that despite the obstruction, accounts were identified which had received over half a million pounds all of which remains unaccounted for.

According to the sole registered director of the company at the time of the investigation, a Ms Kimberley Grice (who the investigators were not able to meet and who an employee of the company stated she had never heard of) had decided to sell the company’s business to one of its employees, a Mr Shakiru Knight (a former employee of Credence), who was going to trade as a sole trader.

The investigation found that the company was a continuation of the business previously carried on from the same address in Catford by Piper London (trading as ‘Credence’), one of 14 connected companies which were all wound up in the public interest on June 4, 2014.

The companies were linked in that they were found to be vehicles for the business interests of Mr Charles Gordon, an undischarged bankrupt.

Welcoming the Court’s winding up decision, Chris Mayhew, company investigations supervisor, said: “This formally brings to an end a disreputable estate agency business carried on by this company which failed to co-operate with the investigation and deliberately sought to mislead the investigation as to who managed and controlled its affairs.

“The Insolvency Service works closely with other regulators to protect the interests of the public against unscrupulous companies and I would like to thank Lewisham Trading Standards for their assistance in bringing this company’s affairs to an end.”

The Insolvency Service said that the company had engaged in unfair trading practices and complaints had been made to Lewisham Trading Standards.

These included: allegations of taking deposits and attempting to retain administration fees in circumstances where the property had been let to someone else or the transaction did not proceed; giving false information as to why properties were available as to price, availability and/or condition of properties; taking an unreasonable length of time to refund deposits; advertising properties for sale when not a member of an estate agent redress scheme as required by law and making false claims of membership in this regard.

Matrix Company 1 was incorporated on October 26, 2012. No accounts have been filed.

The petition to wind up the company was presented in the High Court on November 26 last year.

Charles Gordon was adjudged bankrupt in July 2003. According to the Insolvency Service, his failure to co-operate with the Official Receiver and Trustee in Bankruptcy means that his automatic discharge from bankruptcy has been suspended.

Charles Gordon is known to have used various aliases, including Charles Roberts, and has been associated with the Catford address for over ten years.

The grounds to wind up the company were its lack of transparency; failure to co-operate with the investigation; lack of commercial probity; failure to maintain, preserve and/or make available to the investigation accounting records; and failure to file accounts.

In ordering the company into liquidation, Mr Registrar Jones gave a detailed and damning judgement in which he said: “The concerns of the Secretary of State are wholly justified. It seems to me that the conclusion to be drawn is that the company is indeed a company controlled by Mr Charles Gordon.”

* Eye contacted the portal www.propertypropertyproperty.co.uk yesterday afternoon and spoke to two people, neither of whom was able to shed any light on any possible connection with the case and who stressed that the business remains up and running.

Now that’s some snow!

If you don’t live on the east coast in the United States, consider yourself lucky. The entire east coast has seen record breaking amounts of snowfall over the past few weeks and they’re running out of places to put it.

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I need a spade??!!

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I’m sure my path is here somewhere?

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bit frozen then??

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Dude, where’s my car??!!

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So when we get a wee bit of snow or frost, we really are very lucky indeed!

 

 

Best buys in the last 7 days.

Here is a selection of properties that have been listed on Rightmove in the last 7 days that we feel would be the best buys. Don’t forget, other properties could offer better returns, this is a snapshot of the current market.

If you are looking to purchase your next home, just ask for our advice and we will happily guide you through the market

Here is a lovely modern 3 bedroom close to town and being offered with a guide price of £200,000 to £225,000. We estimate a rental return of £950pcm. Easy access to the mainline station and has a cloakroom, en-suite and enclosed garden. Looks really clean and tidy!

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Now this is well worth considering! Superb 2 bedroom modern home,has a garage and in the sought after Bridgefield location and would easily reach £850pcm and all within a guide of £170,000 to £180,000

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and at the lower price end is this superb 1 bedroom ground floor flat. We currently manage 2 similar flats and feel that £550 would be achievable and if you can push hard on the price, this could be nearly a 6.5% return!

9012OT0R

As always, these are just a few that have caught our eye but we are more than happy to appraise any home that you have seen and are interested in. Just call or email us anytime.

Immigration ‘right to rent’ trials showing discrimination

Very much like employment in that you need to verify the status of a foreign national, this poorly thought out system is being tested in areas with a view to roll it out throughout the UK. Discrimination is obviously a clear issue and I know from experience that we have been accused of this, we certainly don’t need or want extra pressure! Read on;

“Prospective tenants with foreign accents are being rejected, according to the first indications from the Immigration Act “right to rent” pilot scheme.

According to ongoing monitoring of a pilot scheme by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, new rules which require landlords or their agents to check the immigration status of prospective tenants are leading to discrimination.

The pilot scheme was launched in December in the midlands, before the policy is due to be rolled out across the UK.

According to the first results of the monitoring, the additional checking requirement is also pushing up costs for tenants, with extra admin fees being charged.

Landlords have also admitted they are less likely to offer a viewing to someone who needed time to produce paperwork.

The Immigration Act has introduced penalties where there is failure to conduct checks on tenants, with fines of up to £3,000 for breaches.

But the Council for the Welfare of Immigrants says it is encouraging discrimination against some legitimate tenants who cannot easily identify themselves.

Saira Grant, legal and policy director, said: “This impacts not only on many migrants but on all those without passports or full birth certificates.”

Housing charity Shelter is also monitoring the pilot for evidence of racial discrimination.

Martha Mackenzie, public affairs officer for Shelter, said: “If you’re a landlord in a high-demand area and you have got two tenants competing for the property, you’re just going to pick someone who’s got a British name.

“People who do have a right to rent in the UK will be shut out.””