“There’s never enough stock,” he says. There is also a new phenomenon, cash-rich parents and grandparents buying one- and two-bed flats for their children. With the average deposit for a house being £78,000, it’s no wonder that purchasers often need a helping hand. Of course, no-one would stay unless the area was pleasant to live in, and it is. Edged by the Thames at its northerly reaches, shopping parades, eclectic shops, a huge range of bars and restaurants, fantastic transport links and good schools make it ideal for singletons and families alike. Impressive period homes are interspersed by large green spaces: Battersea Park, Clapham Common, Wandsworth Common and Tooting Common. “The quality of life in the area is good,” asserts Joel Baseley, a Director with Rampton Baseley. “People are buying their principal residence here.” High demand and insufficient supply has led inevitably to price hikes, which spiked in spring 2014 when, Hamptons’ Jonathan Dyson recalls, 20 buyers would fight to buy every house that came on the market. That ratio of buyers to property has settled to 10:1 today. The steam has also gone out of the overheated prices. These shot up by 21% across the borough of Wandsworth between January 2013 to April 2014, then dropped by 8% in the six months following.
Last year prices were static due to the uncertainty over the election. Today, the market is bouncing back. Of the Northcote Road area alone Jonathan says, “This area is as solid and bankable as Chelsea; it’s as bulletproof as it gets.”
A lack of supply has also turned neighbouring areas into equally costly places to live. Who would have thought that Balham would become gentrified, be so sought after and command top prices? A house here bought a dozen years ago for under £500,000 is worth almost £1.5 million today. “We get a lot of City professionals in their early thirties and married couples with a young child,” says Laura Wilcox-Chandley, Associate Director of Marsh & Parsons in Balham. “Balham still offers more value than neighbouring areas such as Northcote Road.”
She also flags up the positive impact of Crossrail 2, which will augment an already robust transport system in Balham. “People are investing here for that very reason and it will put prices up,” predicts Laura. In the short term, however, it won’t be much fun for those living opposite Wandsworth Common along Bolingbroke Grove (if that is the confirmed site of the vent shaft for the project). “It will be difficult to sell houses there with construction going on for five to ten years,” says Joel Baseley.
A similar dampener will be the Chancellor’s 3% tax on second properties coming into force on April 6th. Aimed squarely at stopping buy-to-let investors, it could have a significant impact on multiple ownership. The silver lining, Laura Wilcox- Chandley believes, is that the new tax will release much-needed stock onto the market. If Balham is better value than Northcote Road, better value still are Streatham and Tooting and even Colliers Wood, although “Tooting prices are going up,” confirms Laura. A five-bed family home in Streatham in need of refurbishment might have a price tag of £1.1 million; further north in the borough such a house would easily set you back £1.5 million. Moreover, Balham’s premium price tag is almost halved further down the Northern Line in Colliers Wood.
There are no such bargain prices for the bigger houses that make up what is known as Abbeville Village in Clapham. Most are four-bed Victorian houses on roads set further apart and often with larger gardens. “We’re not just prams here,” says Thomas Crabtree of Marsh & Parsons. “The demographic is cosmopolitan, from international money to first-time buyers for flats in Victorian conversions,” he says. His prediction is for homes in Clapham Park to rise next. “It’s an area to watch,” he says. “It’s between Abbeville Village and Brixton, is really central and relatively good value.”
The stamp-duty-hike in 2015 negatively affected the £2 million-plus housing market in the area and, Thomas comments, “More people are digging down into basements to extend what they’ve got rather than move.” This is something keenly felt right across Nappy Valley. One builder dryly noted that the Chancellor had given his industry a lifeline.