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Real Estate Encyclopedia | Property Law Dictionary | Real Estate Terms | Meanings & Definitions |      Jun 25, 2024

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Mr Damien Abbott, author of the Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms: "I want to redefine the classic things you learn at college and have since forgotten."

This summer saw the launch of The Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms [first edition], compiled by Mr. Damien Abbott.

Mr. Abbott says that he first had the idea of a real estate Encyclopaedia in 1973, when he was assistant to Michael Bamber in the Brussels office of Richard Ellis. For those who may wonder why the Encyclopaedia incorporates UK, North America and French terminologies and comparisons, Mr. Abbott's Brussels experience is the beginning of an answer.

After Brussels, he worked for Ford Europe, mostly on the Continent; his problems there were mainly in communicating with the US — hence the reference to American Jargon.

When Mr. Abbott joined the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in 1978 he found he had time on his hands, so he began putting more research into the book and thinking seriously about writing it.

In 1979, he returned from the Middle East to London with the same employer, took the book to publishers, Gower responded and the writing began.

&lsquoI wanted to redefine the classic things you learn at college and have since forgotten - like what a 'fixture' is when you buy a house,&rsquo he says. A fixture gets the best part of three pages of the book to define in the book: for the layman, fireplaces usually are fixtures, and dishwashers usually not, even if they are plumbed in.

Mr. Abbott also wanted to make it interesting. Definitions of 'money' are backed by annotations from the John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith, Keynes and Aristotle; he has, inter alia, also dipped into Shakespeare, Chaucer and Tolstoy; into the works of Pope Innocent IV and Karl Marx; into the Bible, the Koran and the Magna Carta.

However, he says he takes most personal pleasure from the entry for the "speculator" - who "participates in hazardous ventures, or exceptional risk-taking, with the hope of realising extraordinary profit," and for whom Leonardo da Vinci had a word or two in 1550 or thereabouts.

'Oh! Speculators on things boast not of the things that nature ordinarily brings about; but rejoice if you know the end of those things which you yourself devise … Beware of the teaching of these speculators, because their reasoning is not confirmed by experience.'

Try telling that to a bull market, Mr. da V.

Mr. Abbott, understandably given his present and recent employers, gives a lot of time to 'usury'. INVESTCORP claims [in 1987] to be the only Middle East owned investment bank, and Mr. Abbott manages to bring in Aristotle, Deuteronomy and the Koran into the first 100 words or so.

Meanwhile, Gower is charging a very fair price for the book itself [£85.00]. Even if it has 5,000 entries and 1,100 pages, it is not going to decorate the bookshelves of many students, or even individual chartered surveyors.

"This is a reference book for a company or professional office", says Mr. Abbott, "rather than the individual surveyor or the student. In the US" he adds, &lsquothere are one or two good-sized volumes in this classification, and there must be five or six reasonably small ones."

He knows that having produced the Encyclopaedia, he will be condemned to revise it at some time in the future.

Mr. Abbott winces, however, at what a radical change of government, and government policies in France, the UK or the US might mean, he may even be slightly relieved on this score that he did not bring in the German and Spanish content which he originally considered. …

Mr. Abbott's career has clearly influenced his approach. He joined INVESTCORP in 1985 with a brief to seek institutional investment opportunities which might, otherwise, have been milked of much of their excitement before they were brought in front of Arab investors.

He began with the purchase of an office building in Los Angeles, with Canadian joint venture partner, Manulife; the investment was then syndicated to Middle East investors; and later sold [through Jones Lang Wooton] to the subsidiary of Nomura Securities.

He says that there are three important phrases in real estate: ‘you never stop learning; do not value from an armchair; and always seek the best advice that money can buy.’

William Cochrane

This article was published in the Financial Times on September 4, 1987.