Good news; Nappy Valley appears to be immune to the vagaries of the pre- and post-Brexit housing market, according to Anna White, property writer for The Telegraph
It was a year defined by political upheaval, and yet South West London’s large family homes market outperformed the rest of the capital in 2019. Although the Tory leadership race and December’s general election added to the ever-present sense of Brexit unease, house prices in Nappy Valley rose 1.9% over the 12 months to the end of 2019. In the same period values slipped by 0.5% across Greater London and fell 1.8% in the capital’s luxury core. The property slowdown between 2015 and 2019 was triggered by George Osborne’s overhaul of Stamp Duty, raising the levy on homes valued over £937,000, combined with a natural cyclical correction. The most dramatic price falls (of more than 20%) were recorded in the luxury inner boroughs with London-wide falls of 12.3%. However, across leafy Wandsworth and Lambeth – dubbed Nappy Valley – prices fell 7.3%. The area covers Battersea, Earlsfield, Southfields, Streatham, Putney, Clapham, Balham, south Fulham, Tooting and Wimbledon. So, why has Nappy Valley been shielded from the widespread five-year Brexit-freeze that has struck the London property scene?
Wandsworth and Lambeth appeal to firsttime buyers and UK families unlike prime central London (namely the core districts of Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea, Mayfair and Belgravia). Job security is a factor to these two buyer tribes when moving, rather than global headwinds or currency play. Both tribes are buying homes first and making an investment second. “Political uncertainty does not halt life,” says Patrick Rampton of Rampton Baseley.
“PEOPLE DON’T STOP GETTING MARRIED, GETTING DIVORCED, HAVING CHILDREN OR MOVING TO THE COUNTRY JUST BECAUSE OF BORIS AND BREXIT”
“People don’t stop getting married, getting divorced, having children or moving to the country just because of Boris and Brexit. The family homes will keep trading.” The first-time buyer has been a major player on the capital’s property scene over the course of the slowdown and is predicted to drive sales over the next five years. The number of sales per year to these buyers is forecast to rise by nearly 10% by 2025, from 43,000 to 47,000. Indirectly, the first-time buyer purchasing a flat in Nappy Valley has powered the market with purchases at the bottom of the ladder enabling the vendor to sell their converted period starter flat and buy a family house in the area.
Education is the other factor that has kept South West London comparatively Brexit-proof. A cluster of outstanding
schools between Wandsworth Common and Clapham Common means the traditional heartland of Nappy Valley is in high demand even during a national period of stagnation. House prices rose 5.3% in the 12 months to December. Those buying into the area for schools are chasing properties on just a handful of roads. Data from local agent John Thorogood reveals the catchment areas of the highly-rated state schools are shrinking as demand intensifies. For example, the acceptance area surrounding Belleville Junior School reduced in autumn 2019 from 399 to 391 metres and from 315 to 280 metres for Honeywell Junior School. Even in the toughest of spells, family homes right off the Northcote Road, in the heartlands between the commons, fly off the shelves, Austin Thorogood explains. “A three-bedroom terraced Victorian house between the commons in need of gutting will go for £1.1 million whereas an upgraded version with a basement on the very best roads could fetch £2.5 million,” he says. Rampton Baseley is selling a six-bedroom end-of-terrace home for £2.6 million on Granard Road, between Northcote Road and Wandsworth Common. It has a double reception room, two family bathrooms and a south-facing garden.
Change has also powered the property market in South West London with new communities being created on swathes of former industrial land. If an apartment between the commons is out of reach, these mixed-use schemes provide a more affordable entry point. Wandsworth town centre has become a hotspot for younger buyers. The gyratory is being regenerated into an eight-acre mixed-use scheme that spans the River Wandle in the grounds of the old Young’s Brewery Across three phases the finished scheme will deliver 713 homes ranging from studios to four-bedroom duplexes and around 100,000 sq ft of shops, community and leisure facilities. There’s culture on the doorstep with the Backyard Cinema and the new London Stock restaurant which opened in January.
Flats start from £580,000 with Help to Buy and there’s a new nursery on site. Of course, such an overhaul will boost prices in the surrounding streets as well. House prices in Wandsworth rose 6.6% over 2019 – higher than any other pocket of Nappy Valley. The transformation of Clapham Junction would have the same positive effect on Grant Road, St John’s Road and Lavender Hill. A speculative plan put together by architects Hawkins\Brown maps out a dramatic overhaul of the station and surrounding Network Rail site.
The team proposes adding more platforms, straightening the tracks to make them more efficient, creating a new space for shops above and below ground, and building studios for creative businesses and co-working offices. The early proposal would also include 5,000 to 7,000 new homes to be built above the platforms, track and sidings. Watch this space.
Receiving drawings of your proposals directly from the local council, or the party wall notices directly from a surveyor, can be seen as unneighbourly. Taking the time to advise of your intentions will open a useful dialogue.
PARTY WALL ACT
Hand delivering your party wall notices to your neighbours gives you the opportunity to alleviate concerns. Undertake a condition survey if the works might cause damage to your neighbour’s property.
BE FIRM BUT FAIR
Neighbours may believe they have the right to impact your project’s design but plans that fall within Permitted Development guidelines will be guaranteed approval. Some may also try to influence working hours; a local authority’s guide on noisy works is usually 8am-6pm midweek, 8am-1pm on Saturdays, and no noisy works on Sundays. It’s up to you to accommodate requests for specific quiet times.
Keeping your neighbours informed of what you are doing and when is sensible, and builders should tidy communal areas and avoid blocking access points.
REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE PROCESS
A project manager will give neighbours a point of contact for any concerns, reducing the emotion involved and resolving any issues.
Getting the retail mix right in Nappy Valley has also helped home sales. Artisanal high streets such as Abbeville Road attract visitors and buyers in their droves, and the recent upgrade to Balham High Road has boosted its appeal. Balham has become increasingly popular over the last 15 years as young renters and buyers spilled over from Clapham in search of affordability. But its burgeoning population out-grew the flagging high street that has long been in need of an upgrade. Wandsworth Council and a collective of local businesses tasked architects Metropolitan Workshop with beautifying Balham.
“We decluttered Hildreth Street, just off the High Road, took down ugly bollards, unnecessary signs and old lampposts, and pedestrianised it so that cafés and restaurants can now spill out on to the street,” says architect Jonny McKenna. Hildreth Street now brings a touch of continental café culture to Balham as well as a vibrant street market. Time Out describes it as “a secret south London gem”. Portico is selling a 2,500 sq ft Victorian house with five double bedrooms and three bathrooms for £1.85 million in Balham. Apartments are available on the High Road in the 41-flat Bedford House, with prices from £655,000.
Properties close to the underground and overground stations are highly sought after, according to Carys Doyle of Marsh & Parsons.
She cites the streets within a radius of half a mile from Clapham South Tube and half a mile from Balham Station, where prices for a one-bedroom flat start from £400,000 and £1 million for a three to four-bedroom house. For value, Doyle suggests Clapham North and between Clapham and Brixton with easy access to the Victoria Line underground. “The neighbourhood around Queenstown Road [Battersea] called the Diamond Conservation area is also popular as it offers good value by contrast to the more prime areas of Clapham. The Battersea Power Station development and Northern Line extension due to be completed in 2021 is also a big draw,” she adds. The upgrade and organic gentrification of Balham High Road has flowed down into Tooting, with Rampton Baseley opening a new office in Tooting Bec’s Heaver Estate. “The Tooting hotspots are the areas within walking distance to the Tube. Two-bedroom garden flats and small houses tend to be most popular,” says John-Paul Burrough of Marsh & Parsons.
A lack of stock also propped up prices in Nappy Valley last year. However, a steady supply came from the private landlord. “The majority of our recent instructions across Balham and Clapham South are landlords selling their buy-to-let properties due to the tax changes which are taking place at the end of April,” says Doyle. Previously landlords could claim the interest paid on their mortgages as a business expense to reduce their tax bill. The removal of this relief has been phased in over the past three tax years and from 6 April 2020 it will be completely removed.
Even in the run-up to the Christmas election confidence was returning to the market, Rampton says, as people started to believe Boris Johnson would win.
Estate agents across South West London reported a ‘Boris bounce’ in December and into January. “We had a surge of applicants between Christmas and New Year, with registrations up 30%,” says Andy Murphy of Portico. “There was never a cash flow problem, people had cash but no confidence, and following the election confidence is starting to return,” Murphy adds. “The outlook is brighter, employment is good and so are mortgage approval ratings.”
Stacey Blacker from the Marsh & Parsons Streatham office claims interested buyer applications were up 78% in January on the same time in 2019, with a high proportion looking to make a long-term buy. Her colleague in the Clapham office, Alex Philo, says registrations increased threefold from the election to the end of January.
This also rang true in Tooting: “The Tooting market seems to have picked up in areas where people are looking to upsize following a renewed confidence post-election. We are also seeing increased activity from first time buyers. As more stock comes onto the market priced around £650,000 we expect the market to move forward at a steady rate,” says Burrough.
“I have never seen so many sealed bids as in December,” adds Rampton. He forecasts a good spring and summer. But it’s not going to transform into a buoyant market overnight. The country now has some certainty over its direction but life after Brexit remains an unknown entity. The pressure is on the Government to secure and publicise trade deals which will in turn give people a sense of job security – the key factor when buying a new home. There is also a chance that prospective sellers are planning to launch their sales in the spring, as typically advised by agents. But this market is atypical and a flood of homes in April could see the best properties sell for record prices and ‘compromise homes’ sitting on Rightmove. Sensible pricing and an early March launch are key to a painless sale.
Just as wannabe movers thought long and hard about making a huge financial commitment in 2019, the Brexit freeze also slowed the renovations pipeline. The home improvements market ebbed and flowed last year according to Rory Gordon, founder of Good London Builders.
“2019 started quietly with people sitting on their hands,” he says. “But when Teresa May announced the delay to the Brexit deadline last April clients adopted the mantra – let’s just get on with it. Until the run-up to the general election!”
The election result has brought a sense of stability with the thought of no tax shocks for the next five years. For those embarking on major work the basement is still an obvious way of maximising space, particularly for those in Victorian terraces.
“Stamp Duty is still a prohibitor to moving,” says Gordon. “So people spend the money on a basement instead.” Fake garden walls – brick walls planted with pretend green foliage – have become very popular.“They are a low maintenance way of bringing greenery into a garden and creating privacy,” he says.
The other trend is to create more sustainable homes and Steve Carter of Sundial Property Services has noted greater demand for “bespoke, doubleglazed, wooden sash windows. They’re popular and cost effective,” he says. This year’s entrants into the Londonwide Don’t Move, Improve Awards, with many entries from Nappy Valley, showcased more colour and texture than in previous years. Exposed blue steel pillars, homes half-hung with black zinc tiles, emerald green polished Venetian plaster walls and sweeping statement staircases all featured.
• To be sure work is done well you need to have done it yourself. You could buy a badly built house and not know until it’s too late.
• Developed houses can suffer from developer finish – built to last for six months, not for a lifetime.
• By not moving you avoid the cost of Stamp Duty. You could view that as the Government effectively giving you a subsidy to do your basement and create more space where you are already.
• Put your own stamp on your home – you know what you like so bring it to life and make it a reality.
• You can be proud of what you have created; don’t underestimate the power of living in something you have devised and achieved.