Forget kerb appeal and marble work surfaces in the
kitchen. New research shows that the single most important factor for home
buyers in 2019 is having fast broadband speeds.
A recent poll of 2,115 UK homeowners, carried out by
Broadband Choices, a broadband, television and mobile comparison website, shows
that 69 per cent of us prioritise the availability of speedy internet over, for
example, living close to good nurseries and schools (57 per cent), friends and
relatives (38 per cent) and shops and amenities (35 per cent).
Mark Lawson of The Buying
Solution explains how he found the ideal house for a client. ‘It was good-looking
architecturally, with easy access to London —
exactly what she wanted. But she wouldn’t cross the threshold until she knew
its broadband speeds.’
The world’s wealthiest are often criticised for their carbon footprint, particularly those who navigate the globe in private jets and superyachts. In their homes, however, they increasingly engage with sustainability; conversation at the smartest dinner parties is now as frequently about air quality and biomass as it is about fine wine and art. “If you’re travelling for much of the week, there’s a feeling you should do a bit more,” says Jonathan Bramwell, Head of The Buying Solution. “Like everyone else, high-net-worth individuals are under pressure from their children and, of course, they have the means to introduce often-expensive eco-friendly features to their homes.”
also fair to say that highly effective people often relish a challenge. “Many
of our buyers are very successful in business and finance. They’re used to
analysis and enjoy working out how long it will take for solar panels to become
cost effective or discovering the most sustainable construction methods,”
Bramwell says. “One client, for example, has recently insisted that all the
materials used in his rebuild should be sourced from within a 30-mile
radius of the property.”
Improving air quality is, of course, another pressing preoccupation, particularly in cities. Grosvenor, for example, has been something of a trailblazer, introducing the world’s first “living” lampposts – a green column system, which can be placed around each post, with automatic watering powered by solar panels. Clearly, however, the countryside is where the biggest impact can be made, and The Buying Solution’s Bramwell has noted his clients’ enthusiasm for planting trees – replacing natural resources and improving air quality. “Buying or creating your own woodland has become very fashionable, and elite buyers tend to be looking for existing woodlands with the potential to add more,” he says.
In the latest property special of the prestigious FT How To Spend It Magazine, Will Watson of The Buying Solution is included in a feature on London’s best streets.
The London property
market may be bearing the brunt of Brexit malaise, but even in straitened
circumstances there are homes that sell fast – and sell well. In key
hotspots across prime central locations there exist unofficial waiting
lists as buyers hold out for the sale of homes on coveted streets –
in itself, a rare event. London’s “best in class” ranges from charming
mews to verdant avenues and, of course, garden squares. Some, such as Chelsea’s
Egerton Crescent, have been considered top notch for generations. Others,
like Grosvenor Square in Mayfair,
are enjoying a new lease of life thanks to a perfect storm of developments.
within the “golden triangle” between Brompton Road, Exhibition Road and Knightsbridge,
Ennismore Gardens and its mews offer privacy, peace and incredibly short
distances to London’s museum district and the twin retail meccas of Harrods and Harvey Nichols.
Its white stucco buildings with classical columned entrances are pure elegance,
and the best properties directly overlook the square. The mews has a
charming aspect with cobblestones and just the right amount of planting,
overlooking the grounds of the Anglican church, the Holy Trinity Brompton.
Most of the houses on the square have been divided into apartments. “There have been some significant sales here, with values of £4,000 per sq ft-plus being achieved,” says Will Watson, Head of TBS London.
Palace Gardens is one of the most expensive streets in the world, but its vast
and rather ornate Italianate mansions with their huge subterranean leisure
suites are not to everyone’s taste. Just south of Kensington High Street,
however, is what The Buying Solution’s Watson describes as a “special pocket of
excellent family houses”. Victoria Road runs due south from Hyde Park and
– despite its proximity to Kensington, Knightsbridge and South Kensington
– is surprisingly quiet.
best houses are those south of Prince of Wales Terrace (away from noisy
Kensington Road), where there is a choice of tall, slender townhouses and
low-built villas that are in particular demand with those who prefer lateral
space. “Houses here rarely trade, which means when they do become available,
competition from multiple buyers is commonplace,” says Watson. Those keen to
secure a family home here will need to dig deep. Knight Frank is
offering Victory House – a double-fronted six-bedroom villa with 592sq m of
living space, spa, swimming pool, garden and roof terrace – on Victoria Road
Bringing an unloved property back to life can make you money
but only if you know the fixer upper rules.
Harry Gladwin, Partner at The Buying Solution, says; “When most of our clients describe their brief and the ideal property, they usually finish the description by saying – “or a property which we could do-up / knock down / extend in order to create what we want”. The reality is that both the dream home and the fixer upper are like hen’s teeth at present – but both have pros and cons. The great advantage of buying a house which has been ‘done’ properly is that you can move in immediately and you know exactly what you are getting.
In my view there are three levels of project, the
differences between which are broadly – risk, cost and time:
Cosmetic ie new kitchen, bathroom and decorate.
Extend – as above, with extension usually to create a large kitchen / family
room and extra bedroom space.
Rebuild – knocking down an existing dwelling (or finding a site with planning
consent) to build a totally new house.
With 1, 2 or 3 above, I find buyers typically underestimate
the likely cost and amount of time projects are going to absorb; they also fail
to put the right team in place and get the best advice at the outset, meaning
that they can be exposed to unforeseen risk further down the line. We
frequently see the 6 month project which is in its third year with no end in
Typically an interesting ‘project’ property will hit the
market with huge interest from buyers who cannot believe their luck in finding
a property which ticks many of their boxes and is within budget. A little
further down the line, once sums have been done, buyers fall by the wayside,
realising that they are uncomfortable in terms of risk, cost and time.
Is now a good time to buy a ‘project’? – I think it’s always
a great time to buy one, provided you do so with the right advisory team by
your side. Acquisition cost is typically lower, meaning lower SDLT cost; it can
present you with an opportunity to create exactly what you want rather than
having to buy someone else’s creation and you can unlock huge value if your
project is carefully considered, well planned and executed.
In any year over half our clients are buying ‘projects’ and
our ability to find these opportunities, help clients evaluate risk, cost and
time through putting together the best possible team of professionals is where
we add real value.
The super-luxury redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks in west London may have begun with a battle involving Prince Charles and the Qatari Royal Family a decade ago but this understated Belgravia scheme is now open for business says The Times. It is said to be one of prime central London’s greenest developments, with 5 acres of landscaping on the 12.5 acres overall and a stand out feature with the 100m vegetable garden.
Will Watson, Head of London at The Buying Solution, comments: “This area of London hasn’t had any housing stock of this calibre before – Chelsea Barracks offers amazing new build quality and incredible facilities and communal spaces, with prestigious Belgravia and Sloane Square on its door step, while also being close to the river. We are seeing clients downsizing from Eaton Square, Eaton Place and Chester Square who recognise the appeal of the large lateral spaces, and no longer want to be in tall narrow houses over six floors. They are selling their houses and generally paying like for like values, so not necessarily gaining sq footage but are drawn to the appeal of lateral living and facilities – they love how easy it is to get to the gym at the bottom of their development and secure parking, especially given for the most these are international buyers with multiple homes. The apartments are achieving in excess of £4,000 per sq ft. For some time this was a large under-utilised area of London – the redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks, with its generous greenery and attractive architecture, has created a connection between Battersea and Chelsea.”
Highclere Castle, the fictional home of the Crawley family in Downton Abbey, has been drawing the crowds since the TV drama launched in 2010. The recent movie has thrown it back into the spotlight and the demand for nearby property seems to be as strong as ever.
Mark Lawson, Partner at The Buying Solution, spent some time with New York Times journalist Peter Wilson at Highclere to give him the lowdown on the local market.
Mark Lawson says; “There are now a lot of privately owned period properties on
the edge of estates like Highclere or in the surrounding villages that get a
lot of advantages from being so close. A lot of stately homes were obviously
built in beautiful areas to begin with, and many of those areas are now quite
special, because they have been protected over the centuries because of their
historical significance. We don’t have clients saying ‘I want to buy a house
near Downton Abbey!’ but we do notice that a lot of people are more aware of
these properties because of the show. At the moment, I have American and Indian
clients who I know are certainly aware of Highclere because of ‘Downton Abbey’.”
Research by the
Halifax bank during the final season of “Downton Abbey” in 2015 found that the
“halo effect” generated by interest in the drama was broad; over the preceding
decade, the prices of properties around other stately homes had risen 39
percent, or nearly twice the national average of 22 percent.