From the desk of our UK scribe...

Chesterton's, the up market Estate Agents (200 years old last January) announced on 8 March 2005 it had gone bust. The commercial arm has ceased trading; but the residential side apparently remains a going concern.

How it came to this is puzzling. The administrators Grant Thornton said that the company had run up £2m of losses in the last 7 months. Clearly, financial controls were not what they should be; not enough was being retained in the business; and no doubt too much was going in commissions.

Disingenuously, the company mentioned a high level of "voids" meaning office vacancies and a lack of lets.

This, along with other recent failures of estate agents, may mark the start of a trend.

Bubble theory update:
Avid readers will note that this commentator has wondered aloud about housing bubbles in the UK and elsewhere. As a regular visitor to Madrid in the recent past he mused who would occupy the numerous new developments springing up.

Well, he can now confirm his long held suspicion - no one. It is estimated that there are/soon will be 300,000 speculative (empty) flats in Madrid. And that's ignoring all the other speculative development on the Costas.

Phew - must go for a lie down. Thank God I don't hold any Abbey shares. Er, sorry - I mean Banco Santander.

Editor: This morning Countrywide estate agents also had less than encouraging news for UK property investors.

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