Jake Perkins: estate agent

22 Nov

Everyone has a story on the Islington Faces Blog. Jake Perkins is a partner at the eponymously named Hotblack Desiato – the estate agent on Upper Street that sci-fi writer Douglas Adams borrowed to name one of the rock stars in The Hitch hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Jake was born in Islington in 1971, went to Canonbury Primary School (as did his four children), but moved to Dorset in 2008. He now commutes to London. Interview by Nicola Baird.

Jake Perkins: “It suddenly hit me, everyone hates estate agents – but it’s a really fun job.”

“I broke my back skiing when I was 26, and was in traction for three months. The doctors said that’s the end of your skiing instructor career, get another job. I fell into this job*, then suddenly it hit me, everyone hates estate agents. I thought I’ll have to live with that because it’s a really fun job. I love the architecture, the buildings, the noseyness and how people perceive other people’s designs. Islington’s a good place to live and Highbury Fields is one of the biggest pulls to the area. You get people with newborns, dads and kids doing football on Saturdays, mums doing buggy fitness class. Upper Street is a really good central road for shopping and eating.”

Barnsbury boarded up
“My parents moved here in the 1960s to be near to work. They rented a few rooms from a barrister who owned a house in Danbury Street. Lots of Barnsbury was still boarded up then. There was a rumoured flyover on Balls Pond Road and through Highbury Corner, and no tube.* My three sisters and I were all born and bred in Canonbury Park North – I was born in the basement and two of my four kids were homebirths too.

“Back then the local school, Canonbury Primary had a fantastic headmistress so that’s where we went. People always leave Islington because of the schools, it’s the biggest excuse we hear, and because I was a boy (here Jake grimaces with appropriate modern/Islington sensibility) I was sent to a boarding school in Surrey and then Dorset. Unlike my sisters it meant I had no London friends.”

School are still a critical factor in whether families move away or not.  “I’ve got four sporty children aged 15 to eight years. Now we’ve got horses, chickens and a dog,” says Jake. “But more and more of our friends are keeping their children at schools locally. That trend is good, it’s got be good for the area.*”

Still local
Even though Jake’s moved to his family’s dream house in the country – Grade 2 listed, built in the 1500s with a history that takes in time as an old tavern, a farmhouse and a brewery, and still boasts old panelled rooms and wide doors so you can roll in the barrels – Jake thinks of himself as an Islington local. “Me and my sisters are all still local – it’s a rarity in Islington. And I do stay a couple of nights a week in a flat the family has in the old police flats on Alwyne Road. My mum stays there too every six weeks, so she’ll ring me up at work and asks me what I want for dinner!”

Q: Average Islington house price?

A three-bed family house is just shy of a million pounds.

Q: Why live in Islington?

It’s the combination of architecture and location. Islington has a very complete and large range of developments. There are new builds and lots of family-sized three bedroom properties. Relative to other areas it was very affordable, but the gentrification of Kings Cross and the Olympics changes has had a knock on effect.

Q: Strangest property sold?

This year (2012) on Elwood Street, N5 – what used to be a storage for the barrows and stalls for the old Arsenal stadium is going to an architect desperate to build the house of his dreams.

Q: Estate agents – hateable or sensitive souls?

“Sensitive souls. I can tell if someone wants to buy a house within 30 seconds. They’ve seen the house on the internet. It’s the feel the house gives them that is so important. Nothing is worse than having a client on the phone in tears because something has gone wrong. Nothing is nicer when the exchange completes. You can see the happiness. It’s lovely. It’s up there with moving in together, having a baby. But often people’s emotions are very raw and you have to tread carefully. There are divorce and probate sales too and you can get consulted by both parties. The main thing for us is to know what is needed. We work around people – and often a lot of what we sell is not on the open market.

Q: What’s commuting like?

“I couldn’t imagine getting a train for three hours to a job I didn’t like. But I can only do it because of the internet. I get up at 6am, am on the train at 6.34am and at my desk at 9.05am. I have a dongle so can do all my paperwork and emails on the train. Then I take the 4.50 or 5.20pm so I’m home at 7.45pm.

Hotblack Desiato sells, rents and manages property. Jake is based at 314 Upper Street, tel: 020 7226 0160 but there are also offices at Highbury, tel: 020 7288 9696 and Camden, tel: 020 7482 2894 http://www.hotblackdesiato.co.uk/


  • Canonbury Primary School
  • Highbury & Islington started life as two train stations, one opened in 1872, the other (on the north side of Holloway Road) in 1904. The stations were closed after damage by the V1 bomb that hit Highbury Corner on 27 June 1944. The Victoria line was opened on 1 September 1968. The first tube to open was Farringdon on 10 January 1863, operated by Metropolitan Railways – which is why so many other tube systems are known as the “Metro”. The new-look Farringdon station gives Islington another amazing transport hub. A pub quiz question people in Islington might like to gen up on – how many tube/train stations are there in the borough?
  • Jake started his estate agency career at Thomson Currell – now known as Currell.
  • You can look at information about all Islington schools here. Or see the government site (which also allows you to compare results and spending patterns) here. The crucial secondary school yardstick is how many children at 16 get five or more A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths (national average is around 58 per cent). In 2012 Islington schools saw 54 per cent of Year 11s get five or more GCSEs (of A*-C) including English and Maths – with the top performing schools – Highbury Fields (girls) and Central Foundation and St Aloysius (boys) – all seeing 70% or more of their students gain five or more A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths.

Over to you
What do you think of the way estate agents can give clues about the area you’re thinking of moving to? I asked to interview Jake because he was a calm, friendly and humorous guide when we bought our house via Hotblack Desiato in 2004. By the way, if you’d like to feature on this blog, or make a suggestion about anyone who grew up, lives or works in Islington please let me know, via nicolabaird.green@gmail.com. Thank you. And yes, this blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.


7 Responses to “Jake Perkins: estate agent”

  1. Caroline Russell November 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm #



    Caroline Russell Twitter @highburyonfoot Mobile 07876 260491

  2. nicola baird November 23, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    From Facebook (a lively debate about estate agents and literature)…
    Pete: “is he a character from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?”

    Howard “I remember Switch (charlie higson) also used a real london estate agent to name a character in ‘the best years of our lives’ cartoon strip he drew for the UEA student mag in the late 70’s – Conrad Ritblat”..

    Nicola Baird “His company is the character … hotblack desiato. Conrad ritblat a cool name too!

  3. Pete May November 28, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Is the meaning of life number 42 for estate agents too?

  4. Sarah Clay September 18, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Hi Nicola
    Jake kept this one quiet! What a lovely interview and a great blog!

    • homemadekids September 18, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

      Hi Sarah, glad you’ve found the interview – Jake has very interesting stories about Islington. When it first came out I did pop into the Highbury office to try and persuade the guys in there to have a look… so maybe a few of your colleagues knew it was posted! Shame Jake is so modest. Nicola


  1. Jake Perkins: estate agent « Homemade Kids - November 28, 2012

    […] Jake Perkins: estate agent. […]

So, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: