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Country and Townhouse: Suburban Dream

Sat 04 May 2013

Lucy Denyer reports on the rise of the prime London suburb - where competition and lack of stock are pushing the prices higher than ever before Back in the old days, it was simple. You climbed on the property ladder with a starter flat as close to the centre of town as possible, where you entertained contemporaries with casserole suppers and plenty of cheap wine. When you got married and started to have children, you sold the flat and either escaped London for the country, or moved a little bit further out to one of the nice leafy suburbs - Clapham, say, or Islington, swapping your two-bed pied terre for a solid family villa with a little garden, nice and near to a park.

These days, however, if you want to buy the family house in the nice leafy part of the capital, you need to be pretty loaded, and the sale of a starter flat isn't even going to begin to cover it. According to research from both Knight Frank and Savills, prices in the residential ring of areas around the very heart of prime central London have shot up over the past five years, in some cases by seemingly ridiculously enormous degrees. Hampstead, for example, has seen 34 per cent price growth in the past half decade, according to Knight Frank (Savills puts it at a slightly more modest 15 per cent), while Fulham has shot up by 23 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

Average square footage price in Barnes and Fulham, according to Savills, is now almost hitting the 1,000 mark, with many of the more substantial family houses achieving significantly more than that. So what is driving these prices, and what can you expect to pay for that family house these days? Part of it, of course, is the 'trickle-down effect' from prime central London - Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Kensington - which has seen an influx of foreign investment over the past five years that has pushed prices in these areas sky high. 'Fulham in particular has benefited from a trickle-down effect, due to the price increases in Prime CentralLondon; in 2012, 36 per cent of Fulham buyers moved from Kensington and Chelsea, seeking better value for money, but retaining the PCL lifestyle,' says Jamie Lester, head of Haus Properties. Knight Frank's Fulham office tells a similar story: 'In 2011, 39 per cent of our buyers came from Kensington and Chelsea,' says Anne Soutry, head of the office. 'In 2012, that figure had risen to 50 per cent.' This trickle-down effect has resulted insignificant impact on property values in the area, which Lester estimates have risen by approximately 8-10 per cent in the last year alone. According to Lester, 80 per cent of the company's properties in the area sell for asking price or above, with an average selling price of two weeks and a staggering average of 15 buyers per property, while research by the estate agency Marsh and Parsons shows that the average house price in Fulham has now risen to above 1m in every area. Winkworth is selling a 4,000 sq/ft property in Cloncurry Street in the Bishops

Park area, for 3.8m; according to Dave Cleary, director of Winkworth Fulham, who is marketing the property, five years ago it would have been valued at 2m (020 7731 3388; winkworth.co.uk). As markets closer to the centre such as Fulham (right next door to Chelsea) rise ever higher, there is then a trickle-down effect to other areas a little further out, even - gasp - south of the river. 'The Clapham market has shown a good amount of growth over the past five years as we have seen more buyers migrating in from the City as they can buy good-sized family houses for far less than equivalent houses north of the river,' says Charlotte Le Mare, an associate at Hamptons' Clapham office, who is selling a five-bedroom property in Rodenhurst Road, which comes with two receptions, a gym, sauna and roof terrace for 3m (020 7498 8686, hamptons.co.uk). It's a similar story in nearby Battersea. 'In the past, residential streets running Suburban Dreams Marsh and Parsons Country and Townhouse (Web)

04 May 2013

off and close to the Northcote Road were regarded as second or even third choice, as buyers tended to look only to Fulham and Chelsea,' says George Franks, sales director at Douglas & Gordon's Battersea office. 'Now however, SW11 is one of the most desirable places to live in non-prime central London - a destination in its own right and an area where prices have not far off doubled since 2008.' The trickle-down effect is more than just prices, it's people too - traditional British buyers are now competing with a wealth of foreign investors in these areas, who would like to get more house for their money. 'We are seeing more international and cash buyers than ever before - over the past year, the office has taken enquiries from or sold to German, Lithuanian, Russian, French, Italian and Danish buyers,' reports Alex Howard-Baker, director of Savills' Putney office. In Fulham, many of the buyers are French, who flock to the area because a) they can't afford South Kensington any more and b) because of the excellent Lyce on Clancarty Road. Schools are certainly a driver for many buyers these days, and hot competition for school places is pushing prices ever-upwards. In Barnes, for example, you've got St Paul's, the Harrodian School and Barnes Primary, all of which have anxious parents flocking to get their hands on houses such as the four-bedroom, semi-detached Edwardian house in the heart of Barnes village that Savills is selling for 1.275m (020 8939 6900, savills.co.uk). It's the same story in Clapham, where the French school is a big draw; Wimbledon, which has some of the best private day schools around; and Richmond and Chiswick, where the local schools are excellent and the appeal of leafy riverside living is a major lure, resulting in prices in both areas increasing some 15 per cent over the past five years. And, while family houses in these areas are far from cheap (Savills is selling a six-bedroom, Grade II listed property on Bedford Road in Chiswick, which comes with off-street parking and a south-facing garden, for 3m; 020 8987 5555, savills.co.uk), they are still cheaper than Chelsea. Derek Fletcher, manager of John D

Wood & Co's Chiswick office, estimates that the price per square foot is around 900 in the area: about half that of Chelsea prices. In Richmond, meanwhile, you'll have to fight off other buyers - the Savills office recently sold an un-modernised house on Richmond Hill which received 43 viewings in an hour, 11 offers and eventually went for 10 per cent over the guide price. High demand is, of course, what is driving many of the price increases - combined with a dearth of available stock: according to Douglas & Gordon, there are twice as many buyers to each property in non-prime central London areas, such as Clapham, Battersea and Fulham, compared to prime central London, with stock levels reaching critical levels as a result. The upshot? Too few houses, rising demand and an ever-wealthy international population means that the family house in the prime suburbs of London is harder to come by than ever before.

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