Buyers are seeking out cosy villages in the capital, finds Cheryl Markosky
London’s more than one big sprawling city. It’s increasingly defined by welcoming urban villages attracting premium property prices. Here’s why it’s worth exploring those charismatic neighbourhoods…
MARYLEBONE, BLOOMSBURY and MAYFAIR
“Marylebone and Bloomsbury have seen an acceleration in values greater than other parts of central London, while Mayfair’s regained its village feel as the Grosvenor Estate preserves small shops and encourages offices to revert back to residential,” says house finder Merlin Dormer at Heaton & Partners.
Marylebone has gone from strength to strength, thanks to the Howard de Walden Estate dovetailing Waitrose with small independents, such as The Ginger Pig, La Fromagerie, and Daunt Books.
“Residents appreciate the weekly farmers’ market, cultural distractions of the Wallace Collection and Wigmore Hall, as well as proximity to Regent’s Park,” explains Martin Bikhit from Kay & Co .
Best for: Marylebone – foodies; Mayfair – the ultra-wealthy
When the word ‘village’ is bolted onto the name of a zone, you know it’s made it. For instance, Connaught Village is one of the capital’s best-liked districts, with chic boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
Martin from Kay & Co says the average price per square foot on Connaught’s Hyde Park Estate is around £2,000, but purchasers still get good value for money when compared to neighbouring Mayfair and Knightsbridge.
Best for: the international set
Chelsea Green is another little pocket of homegrown shops untainted by McDonald’s, from The Real Flower Company and Paxton & Whitfield, to The Pie Man and Chelsea Fishmonger.
“It’s like you’ve lifted a quaint English village and sited it in London,” explains Matthew Kaye of Kaye & Carey.
Cranmer Court’s a popular apartment block for downsizers and pied-a-terre seekers, suggests Matthew. Those requiring a small house head to Markham Street, while families wanting more space gravitate to Wellington Square, where houses cost about £3.5 million.
The jewel in Hammersmith’s crown is Brackenbury Village, according to Finlay Brewer’s Paul Cosgrove. He reckons you can extend a small cottage costing £1.2 million by converting the loft and adding on a side return. Medium to large family houses range from £1.6-2.65 million.
He advises potential purchasers to get a feel for the place. “It’s like a country town, with Stenton Family Butchers that’s been here for decades, Brackenbury Tailors and a gastropub.”
Best for: reluctant Kensington-leavers
Green spaces come into play in favoured villages. “With its excellent Common, Wimbledon Village has managed to retain its special identity,” argues Savills’ James Morrison.
Other pluses are good transport – it’s only 20 minutes by train to Waterloo – good schools, such as Wimbledon High and Kings College, and a wide selection of independent shops and eateries.
James notes a new trend in Wimbledon Village “Downsizers who moved out to the Surrey corridor when the kids left home are now moving back, so they have everything right on their doorstep.”
Best for: tennis fans
There’s a strong sense of belonging, too, in family-driven Hampstead Village, observes Savills’ Peter Brookes. “As well as being drawn in by some of the best schools in London, residents also love the architectural integrity of beautiful old homes and wonderful new ones.”
Small independent businesses – including The Hampstead Butcher and The Horseshoe Pub – help maintain Hampstead’s personality, and the 1,780-acre Heath is terrific for dog-walkers and joggers.
“If you’re looking for a four- to five-bedroom house in the village, expect to pay about £3.5-4 million,” advises Peter. “And a young professional can pick up a one-bedroom flat for about £600,000, which will do well in the long term.”
Oli Russell of SP Property Group thinks real value’s to be had in an up-and-coming village in Fulham, just north of Parsons Green Tube.
He says: “Young couples with one or two children can get swept up in believing they should settle somewhere like Queen’s Park, but instead of waiting for every house on the street to improve, they could live in a more established area for the same price.”
And there’s less risk involved in buying a townhouse costing between £2-3 million in Whittingstall, Lilyville or Winchendon Roads, where you’re only a three-minute walk to Parsons Green Tube, he adds.
Cushman and Wakefield’s Victoria Farrar thinks it’s interesting how developers are creating new, urban villages in London. She’s marketing Taylor Wimpey’s Battersea Exchange, with 290 new homes, a school, shopping parade, gym, café and new walkway to the station.
Best for: pioneers