The Buying Solution expands their London team

Thea Wellband has joined The Buying Solution’s London team as a senior buying consultant covering all of the capital’s key areas. Her focus will be working for clients looking to spend between £800,000 and £4m, as well as supporting those who wish to secure a specific rental property either as a pied-a-terre or a base while they continue their search. She will be working closely with me and be based in the firm’s head office in the Michelin Building, Chelsea, SW3.

Thea has moved to The Buying Solution after building up extensive experience both buying and selling across London. She started her property career as an agent for a fast-paced and highly-competitive London agency where she quickly earned a reputation for her tenacity and drive to go above and beyond her remit. After securing a core widespread knowledge of the capital’s marketplace, she was asked to join the investment arm of an established property management company where she handled client searches ranging from £500,000 to £40m.

A highly energised and focussed professional, Thea brings with her an excellent understanding of the capital’s market and a strong track record of going to any length to fulfil a client’s brief. Having worked for a vast array of clients, from Hollywood actors to HNWIs from the Middle East and Asia, Thea has earned a reputation for delivering a highly discreet service, tailored to each and every client, while striving to stay one step ahead of the game.

I’m delighted that she brings this dynamism and expertise to work for The Buying Solution’s clients across the capital.

Thea Wellband, Senior Buying Consultant
T:  020 7591 2644
M:  07918 561050

TBS in The Daily Telegraph – Building the stately home of the future

Building the stately homes of the future: Georgian design complete with a cinema room

The concept of a new-build country house was once much derided. Low building standards and the poor quality of design that pervaded the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies attached a certain stigma to modern piles; they were a far cry from the historic and characterful grown-up dolls house that is conjured for many by the term “English country house”……  Jonathan Bramwell of The Buying Solution comments.

Read Arabella Youens’ full article at

Notting Hill’s coveted garden squares

Some of the most sought after properties in London are those Notting Hill houses that back onto private garden squares. The cinema-going world’s spotlight was shone on them during Richard Curtis’ 1999 hit Notting Hill when Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts climb over the fence into Ladbroke Square; shortly thereafter began an explosion of interest for properties in Notting Hill.

I witnessed this rise in popularity first hand, as I joined Knight Frank’s Notting Hill office as a selling agent shortly after the film’s release. For the next fourteen years, until moving over to TBS, I negotiated the sale and purchase of a multitude of the very best of Notting Hill’s garden square houses.

There are almost 200 private garden squares in London but what sets those in Notting Hill apart is that the houses back onto the garden squares rather than face them. Many other garden squares in London—Onslow in South Kensington, or Montagu in Marylebone, for example, don’t have this advantage. For families with children, this is a major plus as access doesn’t involve crossing a road—it’s just a question of opening the garden gate.

It’s also the whole package that makes these garden square houses so attractive. Not only are you buying a classic London townhouse but also the lifestyle that comes with it–the luxury of having a lovely house and nice town garden as well as the benefit of a rather grand private park, too. It’s where children can play with other children and out of that a community and social life is created. The residents of these garden squares organise events including annual fireworks parties where everyone gathers in the garden with sparklers and glasses of mulled wine to watch a spectacular display as well as summer garden parties. It’s that buy-in that everybody wants; I’ve often said in the past that what people are paying for when it comes these houses is the communal garden, the house is almost an after-thought.

Not all squares in Notting Hill have this access, however. Ladbroke Square garden, for which it’s possible to apply for a key if you live within a certain distance, is only directly accessible from the houses on Kensington Park Gardens; those houses on Ladbroke Square face the garden and have to cross the road. Garden squares to look out for therefore include: Elgin Crescent, the south-side of Blenheim Crescent, Arundel Gardens, Lansdowne Road and Crescent and Stanley Gardens and Crescent.

Notting Hill has a reputation of being slightly more Bohemian chic than other parts of prime central London such as Belgravia. In the early days of the rise in popularity, the best houses were bought by those in the City and finance but that’s changed and now there’s a mix of buyers from IT and the media, as well as new wealth and family wealth. While prices have come off their 2014 peak, the average for a prime property would be around £2,000 per sq ft.

The premium of buying a house with direct access to one of the private garden squares is somewhat difficult to quantify but as a guide, I’d suggest it’s 20% to 25% more than an equivalent-sized property without the access. This is why I always tell clients to think seriously about buying such a house if there aren’t young children in the family—is there a real need to spend this much more for an amenity that might not be used?

Of course, the attraction of buying in Notting Hill isn’t just about the gardens squares. There are some good private prep schools within easy reach—including Pembridge Hall for girls and Wetherby School for boys. As well as an ever-growing number of shops and restaurants, many of which line both sides of Westbourne Grove.

TBS in Country Life – Living in a Conservation Area

Conservation areas have been protecting some of Britain’s most beautiful areas for 50 years – here’s what you need to know if you live in one, or are thinking about moving to one writes Arabella Youens at Country Life.

Jonathan Bramwell at The Buying Solution comments.

Read Arabella Youens’ full article on
Living in a Conservation Area:  Ten things you need to know


Spotlight on Oxford

In recent years, the rise of north Oxford property prices has grabbed many headlines for the prices achieved per square foot which, in some areas, are almost in tune with parts of central London.

A huge factor for this is the city’s schooling.  Some of Oxford’s top private schools – The Dragon, Summer Fields, St Edwards, Magdalen College School, Oxford High School ­and Headington – are now known throughout the world.  This means that interest for buying properties within an easy reach of them has come from well beyond the local market and London.  To make matters more challenging, a clutch of these schools are located within a small network of streets in leafy north Oxford known as Summertown, which has forced prices for the limited number of houses close to them sky high.

Being within walking distance of the school comes high on many buyers’ wish lists because traffic congestion in the City – especially during the morning and evening rush hours – is famously challenging. On a difficult day, it can take more than 45 minutes to drive into the centre from one of the outlying villages and a recent study said that congestion has increased by over 20% in the city over the past five years.

The new, revamped Westgate Centre opened on 24th October – a £440m shopping centre off Queen Street – which includes a 120,000 sq.ft. John Lewis as well as 25 restaurants and cafes, more than 100 shops and a five-screen Curzon cinema.  This is bound to entice more visitors into Oxford. While the Council has long tried to dissuade car uses from entering the city – its outlying park-and-ride facilities have been in operation for decades – new developments both in and around the city will continue to fuel the congestion problems. Solutions therefore have to be found which includes talk of a congestion charge being introduced or its centre becoming an emission-free zone from 2020.

Despite the pressures on city centre properties, prices recently have, however, remained relatively static.  Figures from Knight Frank Research say that annual growth is down 6% from 2014 prices and the prime market has dropped 0.7% in the six months to June 2017. Houses are staying on the market for longer too and Knight Frank Oxford’s stock levels are almost one third higher at the end of August 2017 than they were in August 2016.

Political and economic concerns are understandably making buyers more cautious and price sensitive.  However, analysis of Knight Frank data shows the number of new prospective buyers between January and June increased by 14% compared to the same period in 2016. Buying in Oxford should remain a good long-term investment due to its popularity which is not just down to schools and universities but also its central location and excellent transport links particularly to London (60 minutes by train to Paddington and Marylebone) and its wide range of cultural and recreational activities.  Therefore whilst there has been a cooling off in the market this could represent a good time to buy.

Having been educated in Oxford I am aware of the prime addresses and those which offer better value, and can provide clients with this valuable information as well as other important factors such as ease of school runs and commuting needs. Our service also covers rental searches as clients often need to secure a home quickly before the start of a school term especially if coming from overseas.  Placing a client into an appropriate rental also means we can wait for the right property and ensure they pay the right price. Rents in prime areas range from £3,500 pcm for a typical 4-bedroom house to £5,000pcm for a five-bedroom house and over £10,000 pcm for a large detached property with off street parking, garage and large garden.

Where to look

In order to avoid the aforementioned traffic problems, schools driven buyers will want to decide between two areas: central north Oxford and Headington. For those considering sending their children to Summer Fields (a boys prep school, also opening a boys pre-prep in September 2018), the Dragon School (co-ed prep) and its pre-prep Lynams, as well as Oxford High (girls from 4 to 18), Cherwell (a co-ed state secondary), Wychwood (independent girls from 11 to 18), and St Edwards known locally as ‘Teddies’ a (co-ed secondary school), the key areas will be in central north Oxford and around Summertown. The most expensive area of Oxford with prices averaging between £900 and £1000 per square foot are close to The Dragon School which include Norham Manor, the pretty Georgian crescents of Park Town and the large Victorian villas found along roads including Bardwell, Bradmore, Crick, Northmoor and Charlbury.  Woodstock Road offers better value price per square foot due to the compromise on traffic noise. North of Summertown, which has the advantage of being closer to the new train station at Oxford Parkway, prices are lower with an average of £600 per square foot.

Headington, on the east of the city centre and up on a hill close to the John Radcliffe Hospital, offers better value for money when compared with central North Oxford.  Prices here are at an average of £500 to £650 per square foot and yet it still provides fantastic access to the city centre. It’s also conveniently placed for pupils at Headington Girls School (ages 3 ½ – 18), Rye St Antony (ages 3 – 19) and Magdalen College School (independent boys from 7 to 18 with girls in the sixth form).

Oxford vs London

For those buyers moving from London the trade on price still remains attractive as shown on the table below which gives a basic guide on the difference in price per square foot.