Byline: Ross Clark
Readers with long memories might recall the sad story of Landmark Tower at Repton Park in Essex. Built as the water tower for the long-defunct Claybury Hospital, the building was the subject of a failed renovation attempt which, in 2006, led to its repossession and auction.
In an early warning of the problems that mortgage lenders were to encounter as the property boom ended, the owners, bridging loan specialists Cheval Property Finance, faced losing a fortune.
The outstanding loan on Landmark Tower was ?1million. Yet the property was put up for auction with Savills at a guide price of just ?290,000..
I ended the piece, in July 2006, warning, prophetically, that relaxed lending practices of this kind would lead to ruin in the property market and wondering whether the sensible ones were the pigeons living it up in the vaulted room at the top of the tower without owing a penny in mortgage repayments.
My piece, however, proved to be the pigeons' undoing. If they now try to land on the oriel windows at the top of the tower they will be catapulted off with a spring mechanism. If they do manage to take a peek inside, they will see that their old home has been reborn as a smart kitchen with stone worktops and chandeliers.
Among those who read the article was Sean O'Driscoll, 36, who runs his own civil engineering company in Enfield.
'My company does groundworks for road, rail and other projects, so turning a water tower into a home is not really my forte,' he says. 'But I saw the building and knew I had to have it. I love Victorian Gothic architecture.' The tower didn't make it to the auction.
The day after the piece appeared Sean rang the mortgage company directly and made an offer. …