In the hope that the Covid-19 pandemic is over, The Telegraph property writer Anna White predicts a bullish housing market in the super-suburbs of south-west London
At the start of the year London’s estate agents expected the housing market to steady and revert to more familiar ways, after the unprecedented disruption of the Covid-19 crisis. However, even though the emergency stamp duty holiday ended last autumn, and the peak of the pandemic seems to be over, the demand-supply imbalance in south-west London’s Nappy Valley looks set to continue throughout 2022 against a backdrop of uncertainty. The rollercoaster ride started in March 2020. In an unprecedented move the government shut down the property sector as part of the first national lockdown, quashing sales volumes. Trapped at home, tenants and homeowners alike scrutinised their living space, and those who had outgrown it went in search of more rooms and more garden. As a result, the leafy urban villages of south-west London saw a flurry of interest from affluent buyers who would typically have stuck to the central boroughs, along with local families upsizing and first-time buyers.
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This heightened demand was then stoked by the Chancellor’s emergency stamp duty budget, announced in his coronavirus budget in July 2020, and transactions rebounded beyond prediction. It’s been a record two years for estate agent Rampton Baseley, according to co-founder and director Joel Baseley who specialises in selling homes between the commons (Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common). Sales were up 55 per cent in 2021, he says, and the high levels of demand for family homes has continued across Nappy Valley – defined as Clapham, Battersea, Balham, Tooting, Earlsfield, Southfields, Wimbledon, Streatham, Putney and south Fulham. “So far in 2022 we have done twice as many deals as this time last year. Properties are coming and going in a matter of days or they are selling off-market before even being advertised. All offers have at least matched asking price and in some cases sealed bids have pushed them much higher,” says Baseley. Victorian terraced family homes on the Northcote Road are the “engine” of the south-west London property market, his co-founder Patrick Rampton continues, with sales levels in the sought-after neighbourhood 80 per cent up on the three-year average.
This flies in the face of the muchreported London exodus at the height of the pandemic. In this multi-layered market many families made the decision to stay in the capital and buy that 15-yearhome, as demonstrated by continued house price growth. Reports point to a near six per cent rise in the average price of a large family home in south-west London, with the greatest jump in Wandsworth of 7.8 per cent. Wimbledon followed with annual house price growth of 7.5 per cent in the year to December 2021. Lewin Craig-Corbett, sales manager of Clapham South and Balham for Marsh & Parsons, believes the stamp duty break accelerated people’s decision-making and drove the surge in sales activity. “On our patch it usually takes eight to 12 weeks from offer to completion but deals were being done in a record three to five weeks. It shows what can be done when everyone is motivated,” says Craig-Corbett.
Meanwhile, Portico’s regional director Sophie Dunkin has seen situations where 30 buyers are vying for one property in the leafiest areas. First-time buyers are back in force too, adding to the frenetic pace of the market. “We are seeing demand for flats in converted period houses with no garden as some people return to office life and put location first,” says Charlie Carroll of Marsh & Parsons Streatham Hill. Layer into this the demand for a London bolthole from those who made the move far out of town but now realise the need to be present at work, at least some of the week. While demand is unfaltering, the supply crisis is intensifying. At the start of the year members of RICS (the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) claimed more stock would become available due to a jump in valuations. However, interest rates inclines – albeit gradual – in inflation and global conflict have all conspired to create hesitancy among prospective sellers.
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“EVEN WITH LIFTING OF RESTRICTIONS, THE BALANCE OF HOME WORKING IS STILL TIPPED WHICH IS BRINGING WITH IT A DEMAND TO PLAN IN TWO OFFICES WITHIN HOMES AND NOT JUST ONE. VIRTUAL MEETINGS AND CALLS ARE NOT CONDUCIVE FOR TWO SHARING” ENSOUL
Craig-Corbett says stock levels are at record lows. Typically, there would be 400 properties listed on Rightmove for Balham in March. This month there were just 166 [at the time of writing March 2022]. “People are being cautious – maybe interest rates, energy prices and even the Russian Ukraine conflict are affecting seller psychology. Many want to buy but can’t find anything and are therefore not putting their home up for sale – it’s a vicious circle,” says Craig-Corbett. “In fact, now is the time to sell with so much competition for one decent family home.” Portico’s Dunkin adds some statistical rigour. “Supply levels across the capital are 40 per cent below pre-pandemic levels which will fuel price growth in 2022.” The scrutinisation of the four walls by householders did not just result in relocation, it also sent the renovations sector in south-west London into overdrive.
WHO TO USE?
Should you appoint an architect, or builder, or both? Here are the pros and cons.
Design and build contract: The pros are one point of accountability, a single fixed price contract for all elements and able to potentially start on-site sooner with choices confirmed along the way. The cons are agreeing one lump sum based on budget allowances. If you don’t like the spec of products budgeted, prepare for costly variations; if delays or unexpected costs occur, the builder may compromise quality to maintain profit; construction before full spec can be stressful as you design on the fly.
Architect and builder: The pros are that design is a priority and delivers a wow factor; every detail is designed up front before tender, so pricing is accurate and variations are minimised; there is independent contract administration of builder for variations, programme and budget tracking. The cons are that accountability for design sits separately to the build; potentially higher professional fees as you are paying for architecture, interiors and structural design directly; and construction typically starts after detailed design.
“GETTING THE MOST OUT OF A LISTED BUILDING RENOVATION REQUIRES LOOKING AT EVERY ELEVATION, THE ARCHITECTURAL DETAILING OF EACH ROOM, CEILING LINES, MOVEMENT AND TRANSITION BETWEEN SPACES AND THE PASSAGE OF NATURAL LIGHT” OLBC
The stamp duty holiday may have shaved £15,000 off moving costs on homes worth more than £500,000, but on large family dwellings in the likes of Clapham that equates to a mere few per cent. It was far more economical to drastically upgrade current space. “Apart from the very beginning of the first national lockdown when the property market was closed, the home improvements sector never really shut down,” says Helen Wood, marketing director of Simply Construction Group. “The pandemic-triggered supply chain crisis, in combination with a construction boom in the US and China, sent the cost of raw materials soaring 15 to 20 per cent. Yet for many, renovating still seems to be the most sensible approach to improving their lives,” she continues. The protracted Brexit negotiations and threat of a Corbyn-led Labour government in 2019 created uncertainty and therefore an unwillingness to spend. The pandemic followed and people were unable to splash out on travel, leisure or hospitality. “As a result, we are now seeing the release of years of pent-up demand and a big pot of savings,” says Rory Gordon, owner of Good London Builders. “The number of projects requests rose in line with the vaccine rollout, both gathering pace simultaneously.” He says basements, loft conversions, rear extensions and side returns are the most popular projects along with the conversion of outbuildings into studios or the creation of outdoor garden offices.
Wood says she has seen more requests for hybrid rooms – which can easily be switched from bedroom to study or from study to playroom. Inside-outside, open-plan kitchendining areas, which seamlessly melt into a newly overhauled garden, remain popular, with more planting inside. “Roof terraces on flats are a new trend while steel beams are becoming more of a deliberate feature too, often picked out in a bright colour and used to hang or display plants or art,” she says. Carbon neutrality is playing on the client’s mind, although the solutions are not yet clear cut, Gordon explains. “A lot of clients want to steer away from gas but the options are either an electric boiler – which is very expensive to run – or an air source heat pump,” he says. The government has incentivised homeowners to install heat pumps, but if a home is not highly insulated already (which is difficult in a period property) then it is ineffective. It also requires a soundproof enclosure which is a significant cost. “With an air source heat pump, you may have to use electricity to periodically increase heat to get rid of possible legionella bacteria within the cylinders,” Gordon explains. “Also, the cost of insulating a house to the level required to use the lower energy from a heat pump is high and then if you put insulation in the walls you absolutely need air conditioning in the summer or the house becomes a furnace! It’s complicated,” he says. So is the 2022 property market. UK workers returned to office life in their greatest numbers since the start of the pandemic in February, especially in London. This will drive more demand to live in the capital alongside the usual family property progression which is particularly relevant in Nappy Valley. Regardless of global crises, householders will forever need to move for schools and to upsize. In addition, the lockdowns will live long in the memory, sending buyers to the leafy enclaves of south-west London for its vast, beautiful and sociable commons that have something for everyone, from toddler play parks, to outside gym equipment and lidos. Continued house price growth will tempt prospective sellers to finally put their homes on the market. This will only in part satisfy the insatiable desire to live in Nappy Valley, where the property and renovations markets are only going to get busier. About the author: Anna White is the property writer for the Telegraph Weekend newspaper and also writes for the Guardian, including the paper’s Fantasy House Hunt each week, and the Evening Standard.
“HOMEOWNERS ARE SEEKING A WAY TO ENJOY THE OUTSIDE FROM WITHIN THE HOME AND FLOORTO- CEILING WINDOWS ARE ONE WAY TO DO THIS” BESPOKE GLAZING DESIGNS
MANAGING YOUR BUILD BUDGET Think of all of the costs such as professional fees, fixtures and fittings, client supplied items, and VAT
Source: Run Projects