Does my life look good in this scene?

| Adela Suliman 7 May 2019

Standing on black and white steps - checkered like her Chanel handbag - Helen Schweitzer poses elegantly on a London doorstep to capture the winning photograph for her Instagram page.

Fellow Insta fiend, Chantal Mallett, prefers the pastel patchwork and blossoming wisteria of a nearby Notting Hill street for her bridal couture feed.

And Luisa Hille models a classical stone gatepost, soaking up the sunshine as her legs dangle on the wall of a multimillion-pound, sea-green home.

The front-step selfie is a phenomenon that grew with social media in an era when few can afford to buy the actual lifestyle.

"Your backdrop is important because it gives out a subliminal message to the audience that you're pitching to," says Henry Pryor, an estate agent.

Schweitzer is typical of the trend. Scroll down her online feed and the German blogger appears outside another London property, leaning on the railing of a Barbie-pink home. In a third, the 20-year-old brunette dances through a cobbled mews, where a home tops 1 million (HK$10.2 million).

She is not alone in property stalking.

Thousands flock to Notting Hill, one of Britain's priciest, for colorful facades to elevate and enliven their social media.

Pryor, who sources homes for the rich, famous and "plain hard working," says modelling a top property connotes success. "There is something very aspirational, very safe and traditional about being photographed in Kensington and Chelsea."

The trend irks some homeowners, while others say the mostly young photographers are just living a dream they will never afford.

Schweitzer, who posts five to 20 pictures a month as an unpaid hobby, claims she has never received a complaint but sympathizes with owners.

When Gabriele bought a Notting Hill home in 2006, she was unaware it had featured in the hit romantic film Love Actually. She soon found out when a regular weekend "selfie brigade" crammed the sidewalk outside, lining up for a front-door shot.

"Some days it's okay as long as they ask nicely and other days you just want to shoot them," says Gabriele.

On a sunny Saturday, her home draws up to 200 selfie visitors. "We are the most Instagramed house in Notting Hill," she says. The hashtag #NottingHill had close to 1.2 million posts on the Instagram platform.

Some want more than a quick shot.

Gabriele witnessed an Indian wedding and multiple marriage proposals on her stoop. Often models bring outfit changes or even pose on her bike. "It beggars belief."

Her area is already one of London's richest, lined with elegant stucco houses owned by bankers, oligarchs and celebrities. Yet according to Pryor a property known from television shows or hit films could potentially add a price premium of up to 10 percent.

The price of the average house in London has increased from 11 times the average income in 2009 to 17 times the average income today.

An average house in Notting Hill costs over 2 million, up from 392,000 in 1999.

Nor is the selfie doorstep phenomenon limited to London.

Multicolored Rue Cremieux in Paris is a dream for fashion shoots and Instagram fiends alike, its once-modest worker cottages now among the most expensive.

Exposed to yoga poses and rap video shoots, owners have tired of the adulation and formed an association to ask authorities to close the picturesque road to non-residents on weekends and evenings.

Gabriele has instead deployed strategic olive trees to deter uninvited guests and set up a donation box urging contributions of one pound per camera to homeless charities.

Despite the crowds outside her front windows, Gabriele says, she would not move, explaining: "I love my house and I love living here."

THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION

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