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Frustrated buyers face more delays at Ballymore

West Hampstead Square still isn’t finished. As you will have noticed.

Progress is being made as recent tweets show but it’s well overdue, and while it’s annoying for locals as the roads clog up with lorries delivering materials, for those who’ve bought apartments (some of whom are existing West Hampstead residents), the delays are going from frustrating to potentially financially damaging.

West Hampstead Square - when will it be finished?

West Hampstead Square – when will it be finished?

The original completion date was June 2015. But, in June this year, with development already a year behind, Ballymore ditched the original construction company, O’Hare McGovern, and took over itself. After taking stock of the situation, it predicted completion by the end of this year. However, since then the company has ‘encountered further obstacles’, according to a letter sent to anxious buyers, which have now set the completion date back another three months. The latest is that no-one will move in until the start of next year and some flats won’t be ready until March. Anger is starting to bubble up.

“Ballymore has taken me and other buyers for granted,” says one local buyer who wants to remain anonymous. “The delay is frustrating, but what’s unacceptable is the manner with which they have drip-fed delays this year, rather than giving a realistic estimate from the start.”

Another buyer felt “it has been very poorly dealt with and has been very stressful” but now he just “wants to get it done to stop spending unnecessary money”.

The problem buyers face is that as soon as the actual completion date is announced, they have just 10 days to provide the balance of the money. Anyone tempted by a premature completion date announcement might find themselves having given notice or sold their existing property only to end up being told to hold on – again.

One buyer, for example, was initially told he could move in by June, but was then told that completion was expected in September, then October, then late October, then early November, then late November. By the end of October it was going to be completing in early December, but just a few days later that was pushed back to the end of January.

Aside from the practicalities of knowing when to move out, these flats were sold pre-Brexit and the uncertainty in the run-up to that vote and in the aftermath has dampened the property market somewhat. Private buyers are probably OK, according to Jon Hughes at local estate agent Benham & Reeves. Overall, the market has softened though underlying prices remain stable, but transaction volume is down.

Buy-to-let investors, who will surely make up a significant percentage of West Hampstead Square owners, will find things a little more difficult. Before construction started, the predicted rental price for a two-bed at West Hampstead Square was £650-£700 per week according to one local agent. In today’s market, he suggested sub-£600 seems more realistic. In addition, mortgage criteria have tightened (though rates are still low) and there is additional 3% stamp duty to pay on second homes.

Any off-plan purchase comes with an element of risk – economic circumstances and personal finances can change unexpectedly over the course of 12 to 18 months – but when a build is running more than 18 months late that risk is exacerbated. We know of some buyers who are have had issues with the sale of their previous properties, others who have sold to release the funds and now need to ask landlords to extend their leases. For anyone not in the super-rich or professional property investor category, these delays are both expensive and upsetting.

It is not just residents who have been affected. Businesses had been hoping to move in before the bouyant Christmas trading period. The latest news is that they will be able to start their shop fit-outs in December, but they won’t be able to open until January at the earliest. Apparently, Marks & Spencer may not open until February.

It seems that buyers have no legal recourse to compensation for the delays despite being strung along for months and possibly well over a year. In fact, in the small print of the contract, Ballymore can complete as late as 2018! All in all it is stressful situation for the buyers, several of whom have expressed their frustration to WHL. If you have experienced these problems or others, drop us a line. We asked Ballymore for a comment, but no-one has returned our calls.

Five ways to boost your chances of renting or selling… without using an estate agent

There are a number of things you can do to try and maximise your income when renting or selling your property and a more ‘hands on’ approach to marketing and managing costs can reap financial rewards. So, despite an estate agent on every corner in West Hampstead, here’s some alternatives I’ve come across while in the process of renting my flat.

1. Emulate the copywriting professionals. Look on Zoopla and Rightmove to see how similar homes are described and see what ideas you can adapt to market your own. For example, a small home might be described as ‘cosy’ and a home with a loft might highlight the opportunity to convert it into an extra bedroom. Also accentuate the positives of living in West Hampstead, like the fantastic transport, shopping facilities, parks and culture – and a great local website – for people new to the area.

2. Take high quality photos. Make sure that the room is as bright as possible. Take photos during the daytime with open curtains and switch all the lights on. Take photos 1.5 meters from the ground and from the corner to capture as much of the room as possible, being particularly careful to include any key room features.

3. Use the major property portals. For £49, OpenRent.co.uk offers the opportunity to upload your photos and description of your rental flat to the major property portals including Rightmove (where you can find my flat), Zoopla and Prime Location. You also get an advertising board and phone number to put outside your West Hampstead property. The price also includes a tenancy agreement, deposit collection, and tenant referencing, which I think makes it excellent value.

4. Launch your own online advertising campaign. Google Adwords are the adverts you see on the right hand side of Google search results. They work by you selecting the words/phrases you want to bid on; for example, “rent two bedroom flat in West Hampstead”. You then draft a short advert with a link to your property listing. Your advert is then displayed when someone searches for the words or terms you chose and you pay Google a small fee (I pay on average 12p) every time someone clicks on your advert. By clicking on this link you can get a free £75 credit for GoogleAdwords when you spend £25.

5. Promote your property through social networks. Share your online property listing via your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts with your connections, and ask them to share it with their friends too. This immediately opens your network. Also look for opportunities on online local community sites such as Camden Netmums, to direct people to your property listing.

Of course, many people do turn to estate agents. An estate agent should complement, not duplicate, your own marketing efforts as they can access customers you can’t. They have shop fronts, databases of people looking to move to West Hampstead and may have relationships with corporate clients. As you don’t pay an agent until they find you a tenant, spread your bets, compare the offers that come in and then choose the option with the best financial return (after deducting any agent fees.)

Property of the Month: April

This month’s property from Paramount is a two bedroom flat on Gladys Road, West Hampstead.

Gladys Road, West Hampstead, NW6
£400 pw

Gladys Road Living Room

Gladys Road Bedroom

Gladys Road Bathroom

Gladys Road exterior

The property is a beautiful raised ground floor flat set within a period conversion. The property has wooden flooring throughout, a bright reception room, separate kitchen, tiled bathroom and both bedrooms have fitted storage.

Located in the heart of West Hampstead it’s close to all transport links and popular local shops.

The property is part furnished and is available to rent now.

Admin charge is £120 inc VAT. Inventory is £100. There are no renewal fees if you decide to renew the tenancy.

Paramount | 020 7644 2315
150 West End Lane London NW6 1SD | Email: ku.oc1511521123.seit1511521123repor1511521123p-tnu1511521123omara1511521123p@dkr1511521123am1511521123
http://www.paramount-properties.co.uk/rent/search/details/2-bedroom-property-to-let-in-West-Hampstead-NW6-parrps-PAR150041

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Property News: Pre-election uncertainty holding high-end market back

MatthewSheldon_grey

New year, new face. I am the new manager of Benham & Reeves’ West Hampstead office. I have arrived from our Hampstead Office, having previously worked for a large international company as well another local independent company.

It has been an interesting start to the year. Available properties are relatively thin on the ground and one would be forgiven for thinking that this would mean be a lot of competition on each available instruction, as the number of buyers certainly exceeds the level of supply. However, so far that hasn’t appeared to have been the case and we are in a very price sensitive market. If the asking price of the property is correct and seen as reasonable then we are seeing a strong number of viewings, followed by relatively quick interest, leading to an agreed sale. Those properties that are deemed expensive are sitting on the market with too few viewings and then end up having to be reduced. The upshot can actually be that they sell for less than they are worth as the aggressively high initial asking price creates a negative sentiment around the property the longer that it remains on the market.

These market conditions are in keeping with recent reports about mortgage lending. According to the council of Mortgage Lenders, lending in January was down 14% from December and 11% from January last year. Buyers have to feel tempted to come and have a look at properties in order to act, and some of the unrealistic prices that are being asked are leading to a reduction in the lending figures as well as sales figures, which were down by 6% according to the HMRC compared to January 2014.

Of course, for those properties that have something a little bit extra special, it’s still realistic to achieve a premium figure. We were recently instructed on a property at a prime South Hampstead address – an absolutely stunning flat. The marketing figure was correct, it attracted a decent level of viewings, and is now under offer at what will be a record pound per square foot price for its road, should contracts be exchanged.

If we look at the market for properties above the £2 million mark, then we certainly see the effects of the upcoming election. The uncertainty surrounding the threat of a “Mansion Tax”, is causing people to think twice about moving before May. Anyone who owns a home worth more than £1.5 million is starting to feel a little bit unsure about the potential repercussions should we see a Labour or Labour-led government, and this is certainly causing buyers and sellers in this price range to hold fire. That explains both the distinct lack of available property above £2 million, but also between £1.5 and £2 million. The amendments to the stamp duty thresholds have also had an impact in this sector. A number of transactions were either renegotiated or, in some cases, fell through, as buyers were hit with a much greater tax bill than they were expecting when a sale was originally agreed.

Having said all of that, if the asking price is realistic, there is still interest in this area of the market. We were instructed to sell a house on Goldhurst Terrace, at £3.75 million, and simply due to the lack of stock available at this price, there were four buyers interested in the house and it is now under offer. I have been suggesting to some potential vendors over the past couple of months that it may be a good time to think about selling as while most people are unsure about moving given the uncertainty, there’s less competition from other sellers, and there are buyers out there. After the election, we could see a lot more coming onto the market.

What is a certainty, is that I am very much looking forward to there being clarity and to what will hopefully be a very stable market. People were of the opinion that the early months of last year were good for estate agents, but those of us in the business knew all too well what was to follow. It appears that the market is more realistic now and there has undoubtedly been a correction in the prices. Once the uncertainty is cleared up, I am confident that we will see a much healthier balance within the market.

Matthew Sheldon
Manager
Benham & Reeves
West Hampstead
020 7644 9314
Follow @BenhamReeves

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Property of the Month: March

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is a 4-bedroom Victorian home near Hampstead School.

Richborough Road
West Hampstead borders, NW2
£1,150,000
Sole agent

Richborough Road external

Richborough Road kitchen

Richborough Road living room

Richborough Road garden

A stunning four bedroom semi-detached Victorian home of approximately 1500 sq ft. Presented in excellent decorative order throughout, featuring two wonderful reception rooms, both with high ceilings, ornate cornicing, as well as working fireplaces. The property has a fabulous kitchen diner with doors opening out on to a spacious patio garden area, the garden can also be accessed via the side of the house. Comprising three generously sized bedrooms, one with a luxury en suite bathroom, a single bedroom and another shower room. This property, which is one of the larger houses on Richborough Road, also boasts having an off street parking space for one small car.

Located within easy reach of both Kilburn (Jubilee Line) and Cricklewood Thameslink stations, the property is also located a not too distant walk from the popular Mapesbury Dell and benefits from being situated in the Camden School’s catchment area. The house has potential for further scope to improve and extend the accommodation by extending into the loft space (subject to the necessary consents).

Family homes offering such fantastic entertaining space and in this condition are rarely available to the open market and early viewing is advised.

4 bedrooms * en-suite shower room * bathroom * 2 reception rooms * kitchen/dining room * guest WC * front & rear gardens * off-street parking for one car

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/100134717

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Property of the Month: February

This month’s property from Paramount is a three bedroom flat on West End Lane.

West End Lane, West Hampstead, NW6
£525 pw

West End Lane_living room

West End Lane_kitchen

West End Lane_bathroom

West End Lane_bedroom

This second floor flat has three double bedrooms and is available from 5th February. The open plan kitchen is fully kitted out with integrated Siemens appliances, and leads onto a spacious reception room.

The property is located on West End Lane, enviably close to the three West Hampstead stations. It’s also above the Paramount office which means we’ll happily act as a concierge service. We’re able to collect deliveries on your behalf which you can conveniently collect from our office after work.

The property is let and managed by Paramount, so tenants will benefit from a 24/7 management service.

Admin charge is £100+VAT. Inventory is £120. There are no renewal fees if you decide to renew the tenancy.

Paramount | 020 7644 2315
150 West End Lane London NW6 1SD | Email: ku.oc1511521123.seit1511521123repor1511521123p-tnu1511521123omara1511521123p@dkr1511521123am1511521123
http://www.paramount-properties.co.uk/rent/search/details/3-bedroom-property-to-let-in-West-Hampstead-NW6-parrps-WST100068

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Property of the Month: January

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is a 1-bedroom flat in West Hamptead Square.

West Hampstead Square, West End Lane
West Hampstead, NW6
£579,950
Joint agent

West Hampstead Square_living room

An opportunity to buy an ‘off plan’ 1 bedroom apartment on the second floor of Block C in the brand new West Hampstead Square development adjacent to West Hampstead tube station on West End Lane. Due for completion in Spring 2015 these flats have proved enormously popular with end users and investors alike due to the location and high end specification.

Bedroom * bathroom * reception room/open plan kitchen * balcony

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/100133557

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Property of the Month: December

This month’s property from Paramount is a two bedroom Lyncroft Gardens flat.

Lyncroft Gardens, West Hampstead, NW6
£460 pw

Lyncroft_living1

Lyncroft_living2

Lyncroft_bedroom1

Lyncroft_bedroom2

A large (926 sq ft.) beautifully appointed two bedroom flat is available in West Hampstead from 27th January 2015.

The flat is set within a well maintained mansion block close to West End Lane, local amenities and excellent transport links.

The property has a bright and spacious reception room with high ceilings, two large double bedrooms, fully fitted kitchen/diner with all appliances, bathroom and separate shower room.

Neutrally decorated throughout, the property has access to communal gardens and is available unfurnished.

Admin charge is £100+VAT. Inventory is £100. There are no renewal fees if you decide to renew the tenancy.

Paramount | 020 7644 2315
150 West End Lane London NW6 1SD | Email: ku.oc1511521123.seit1511521123repor1511521123p-tnu1511521123omara1511521123p@dkr1511521123am1511521123
http://www.paramount-properties.co.uk/rent/search/details/2-bedroom-property-to-let-in-West-Hampstead-NW6-parrps-WST140113

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Property of the Month: November

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is a 5-bedroom house in need of work on Pandora Road.

Pandora Road, West Hampstead, NW6
Guide price £2,000,000
Joint agent

Pandora Road_external front

Pandora Road_reception

Pandora Road_room

Pandora Road_garden

A fantastic opportunity to create a wonderful family home from this 5-bedroom Victorian house in need of complete refurbishment. Pandora Road is a sought after, quiet road within easy walking distance of the excellent transport links, cafés, restaurants and shops of West End Lane.

5 bedrooms * 2 bathrooms (1 en suite) * 2 reception rooms * kitchen * cellar * front & rear gardens* residents parking zone

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/100134807

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Property of the Month: October

This month’s property from Paramount is a two-bedroom apartment on Hilltop Road.

Hilltop Road, West Hampstead, NW6
£495 pw

Liv

Kit Reverse

Ext Close Up

Bed 2

A large (936 sq ft.) two double bedroom flat is available in West Hampstead from the 31st October, close to transport links and the amenities of West End Lane. The bright flat is located on the second floor of a detached property on the quiet and tree-lined Hilltop Road.

The flat has a bright reception room with wood flooring, adjoining kitchen, master bedroom with ensuite shower room, a second double bedroom, tiled bathroom with shower and eaves storage. The property is part furnished.

Admin charge is £100+vat. Inventory is £100. There are no renewal fees if you decide to renew the tenancy.

Paramount | 020 7644 2315
150 West End Lane London NW6 1SD | Email: ku.oc1511521123.seit1511521123repor1511521123p-tnu1511521123omara1511521123p@dkr1511521123am1511521123
http://www.paramount-properties.co.uk/rent/search/details/2-bedroom-property-to-let-in-West-Hampstead-NW6-parrps-PAR140037

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Property of the Month: September

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is a 3/4-bedroom apartment in need of work on Gondar Gardens.

Spring Mansions, Gondar Gardens, West Hampstead, NW6
£865,000
Sole agent

Spring Mansions_external

Spring Mansions_reception

In need of complete modernisation, a 3/4 bedroom mansion flat offering bright and flexible accommodation comprised of rooms with high ceilings, period features and far-reaching views, arranged over the top floor of an end of terrace characterful and grand period building.

Gondar Gardens is a quiet residential road located off Mill Lane and within easy reach of the restaurants, cafes, shops and excellent transport Links of West Hampstead.

3/4 bedrooms * bedroom4/reception room * bathroom * reception room * study * kitchen * residents parking zone

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/100133918

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Property of the Month: August

This month’s property from Paramount is a one-bedroom apartment on Crediton Hill.

Crediton Hill, West Hampstead, NW6
£390 pw

Crediton Hill Living Room

Crediton Hill Bedroom

Crediton Hill Kitchen

Crediton Hill outside

A spacious one double bedroom apartment on the top floor of a Victorian property on Crediton Hill, one of West Hampstead’s premier roads. The flat has a bright reception room with working fireplace and a great view across London. The master bedroom and reception room have been furnished to a high standard. There is a luxury fitted kitchen and tiled bathroom.

The property is let and managed by Paramount, so tenants will benefit from a 24/7 management service.

Admin charge is £75+vat. Inventory is £85. There are no renewal fees if you decide to renew the tenancy.

Master bedroom * bathroom * reception room * kitchen * managed property

Paramount | 020 7644 2315
150 West End Lane London NW6 1SD | Email: ku.oc1511521123.seit1511521123repor1511521123p-tnu1511521123omara1511521123p@dkr1511521123am1511521123
http://www.paramount-properties.co.uk/rent/search/details/1-bedroom-property-to-let-in-West-Hampstead-NW6-parrps-PAR020105

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Property of the Month: July

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is a two-bedroom apartment with a garden on Mill Lane.

Mill Lane, West Hampstead, NW6
£600,000
Sole agent

Mill Lane 2 garden

Mill Lane 2 kitchen

Mill Lane 2_bedroom

Mill Lane 2 reception

A beautifully presented 2 double bedroom garden apartment forming part of a period building conveniently located on vibrant and up-coming Mill Lane. The property offers spacious and modern accommodation in ‘ready to move into’ condition. Of particular note, and unusual for this location and size of property, is a lovely south facing courtyard garden which can be accessed directly from either the master bedroom or reception/kitchen. Mill Lane provides easy access to the many transport links, cafes, restaurants and shops of West Hampstead. Early viewing is advised.

Master bedroom with en-suite bathroom * second bedroom * shower room * large reception room * kitchen * cellar * rear garden * private off-street parking for one car

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/100134294

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Property of the Month: June

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is a two-bedroom apartment with a garden in Fawley Road.

Fawley Road, West Hampstead, NW6
£1,300,000
Joint agent

Fawley Road_reception

Fawley Road_patio

Fawley Road_shower

Fawley Road_garden

A stunning 2 bedroom garden apartment arranged over the raised ground floor of a period house on a quiet, treelined road only moments from the shops, restaurants and excellent transport links of West End Lane. Presented in excellent internal decorative condition, the flat has been lovingly refurbished using the finest materials and successfully blends modern interior design with original period features. The large reception room leads directly out to a paved area ideal for entertaining, which in turn leads to a generously sized rear garden mainly laid to lawn.

Private off street parking for one car adds convenience and further value to this ‘must see’ property.

Master bedroom With en suite bathroom * second bedroom * shower room * large reception room * kitchen * cellar * rear garden * private off-street parking for one car

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/300220261

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Property News: Rental Standard gives tenants confidence

Boris Johnson has recently launched London’s first rental standard, a ‘city-wide badge of accreditation’, to help Londoners rent with confidence and ensure landlords are complying with the law.

We’ve known for a long time that tenants in London want to rent property through an accredited Lettings agency (in our 2014 tenant survey 80% of respondents said they would rent only through an accredited agency) but with several industry bodies in operation there’s a need for a unified body.

The London Rental Standard will automatically allow members of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS), Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) to receive their badge. By bringing together several landlord accreditation schemes, one badge will be awarded to all letting agents and landlords who meet the London Rental Standards, making it easier for tenants to identify transparent agents.

We often hear that London is a market in itself and this is true for lettings as well as sales. Currently more than 25% of London’s households live in rented properties, and that’s expected to increase to 40% over the next ten years. With that in mind, anything that makes renting in the capital safer has to be a step in the right direction.

By signing up to the London Rental Standard, lettings agents and landlords will agree to meet some ‘significant core commitments’, including transparent fees, better property conditions, better communication between landlords and tenants, improved response times for repairs and maintenance, and protected deposits.

In numbers
40% – expected London households living in rented homes by the mid-2020s
85% – landlords unaware of the core legislation that protects renters
61% – landlords with no professional management training
100,000 – target of London Rental Standard accredited letting agents and landlord by 2016

I think the London Rental Standard can only be seen as a real positive, and it’s a step towards regulating the entire lettings market. However there are a few unanswered questions that I’d like to see addressed, including what will happen to agencies that don’t comply. I’m also conscious that the London Rental Standard needs to raise awareness by continually pushing it in the press, so more consumers are aware of what they are doing.

Paramount is celebrating 25 years in West Hampstead this week, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the lettings market when I joined the company in 1998. Back then there were no deposit schemes or EPCs, and rules and regulations weren’t the same as they are now. Lettings has come a long way and smartened its act up, and perhaps in a few years time a London Rental Standard accreditation will be as mandatory as a Gas Safety Certificate.

Spencer Lawrence
Lettings Director
Paramount Properties
150 West End Lane
West Hampstead
020 7644 2314

request a lettings valuation

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Build high or fiddle while Rome burns?

In my last Property News article I extolled the virtues of a rising London property market and the benefits to the economy of foreign investment via the ‘multiplier effect’. Some of you may be surprised to learn that I’m not a capitalist at heart, but I suppose I was just getting fed up with all of the constant talk of housing bubbles and ‘where will it all end?’. It was more a case of: there’s very little any of us can to do change it, so it may be better to embrace the positive aspects of it. But is that true and what might be the long term consequences?

Clearly, opinion will be divided based on whether you are a property owner or not. But don’t we all have a responsibility to future generations to consider the very serious situation that London and the UK finds itself in? The harsh reality is that we are not building enough homes to satisfy the ever increasing population. A mixture of red tape planning bureaucracy and policy, NIMBYism and economic conditions mean that we have very little hope of making this any better without serious reform and a change of policy and attitude.

The Barker review highlighted the severity of the situation back in 2004, and the Department for Communities and Local Government now estimates that we need to build 232,000 new homes in the UK every year between now and 2033. At the moment, only 120,000 homes are being built each year. The Greater London Authority’s 2012 Round Projections of population growth for London shows an increase of 2 million residents between now and 2034. This doesn’t account for the changing way in which we now live; more single person dwellings or for our longer life expectancy.

The numbers don’t add up and it really cannot be any surprise that we have double digit growth in the London property market. What is more concerning is that we don’t seem to have any policies that are directly addressing this problem.

The last Labour government’s response to the Barker report was to introduce a regional level of planning under which each region had to file its own plan outlining policy for development within its region. By the time the coalition government came to power, very few of these regional plans had been filed and approved and the new government decided that these only created more red tape and that the answer to our planning problems was to decentralise planning policy by empowering local communities and increasing permitted development rights.

The grand plan is to let local residents decide on what’s best for the area and to free up buildings and sites for development by removing red tape. The regional tiers were promptly abolished and the Localism Act became law in 2011.

Nick Clegg declared that the Localism Act was “a move from big government to Big Society”. He went on to say “It marks the beginning of a power shift away from central government to the people, families and communities of Britain”. Great sound bites at a time when trust in government was at such a low point.

The Localism Act allows for the creation of Neighbourhood Development Forums (NDFs) which can formulate a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDPs) outlining policy for the designated area and identifying sites for development. The potential problem with such plans is that they must be approved by the local authority and also comply with the local authority’s planning policy and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). In London, they also have to comply with the London Plan.

It seems to me that actually nothing is being decentralised, as all plans have to comply with central policy to be approved. In fact, West Hampstead’s NDP, which was one of the first, is still awaiting final approval from Camden.

Another worrying aspect of these plans is that they cannot actually veto any planning decisions, but they do present another layer of statutory planning guidelines that developers must adhere to and that objectors can cite in any attempts to delay or block proposals.

There will also be a concern in some areas that NDFs may not be representative of the whole community, although local authorities do require evidence that significant efforts have been made to address this before granting approval.

Preservation of the look and feel of our area is also a concern for those living within it. The rows of Victorian terraced houses in West Hampstead and the red brick properties and mansion blocks of South Hampstead are prized and protected assets of our area. But how can we balance the preservation of such areas with the need for building more homes? The Camden plan for West Hampstead says it “expects development in the growth areas to be predominantly housing and seeks to encourage high density development”. By contrast, the local NDP states

Recent development in the past decade has raised a number of concerns, particularly as the population of the area grows, more new homes are built and the population density of the area increases. For many residents the height of new buildings is a key issue. In an area largely made up of houses and buildings between 2 and 5 storeys high, new developments of six storeys or higher are likely to cause strong objections.

Such opposing views must be commonplace across most of London and highlight the difficulty of building enough new homes to satisfy demand whilst preserving the local environment and feel of a community.

West Hampstead has six potential sites identified for redevelopment and arguments over the height and size are likely to be ongoing with planners and the NDF for some time.

It is surely inevitable that we will have to give up on these principles of preserving the height of buildings in London. Sci-fi movies show a vision of future cities with buildings reaching into the clouds with a mix of social and private housing. If we want to provide future generations with affordable housing in London whilst protecting our countryside should we not be considering constructing these buildings now? Such projects would also ease the burden on transport infrastructure and improve the quality of life of key workers forced to move increasingly further out due to increased property prices. Other cities in the world have already accepted the inevitability of this.

The key objective of the NPPF is to achieve sustainable development. Sustainability means building that would not be detrimental to future generations. Isn’t it time we developed our planning policies to cope with these future demands rather than fiddling while Rome burns?

Darryl Jenkins
Associate Director
Benham & Reeves
West Hampstead
020 7644 9300
Follow @BenhamReeves

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Property of the Month: May

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is an unusual two-bedroom apartment in South Hampstead.

Woodchurch Road, South Hampstead, NW6
Guide price £950,000
Sole agent

Woodchurch Road reception

Woodchurch Road bathroom

Woodchurch Road kitchen

Woodchurch Road exterior

Forming the upper parts of a handsome red brick Villa originally commissioned and built for the renowned Victorian artist John Seymour Lucas and designed by Sydney Williams Lee, a fabulous and unusual 2 bedroom apartment. This part of the house was specifically designed as the artist’s studio and is where John Seymour Lucas would have painted many of his seminal works. The studio is now a spacious open plan reception/dining room/kitchen with the double height vaulted ceiling and large window making this room a wonderfully bright and tranquil space with far reaching views over London’s skyline.

A delightful mezzanine area could be used as either an extra sleeping area for guests or as a study and there is fantastic storage space in the attic. If you have a good head for heights there is access to an unofficial roof terrace for even better views on a clear day.

Woodchurch Road is located in the popular and leafy South Hampstead Conservation Area and provides easy access to the transport links at both West Hampstead and the Finchley Road.

Properties of these proportions and light are rarely available to the open market and early viewing is advised to avoid disappointment.

2/3 bedrooms * bedroom 3/mezzanine * bathroom * reception/dining room * kitchen * eaves storage * residents parking zone * energy rating E

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/300219306

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Property of the Month: April

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is a three-bedroom flat in one of the most desirable streets in West Hampstead.

Marlborough Mansions, Cannon Hill, West Hampstead, NW6
£1,295,000
Sole agent

Marlborough Mansions_reception

Marlborough Mansions_dining

Marlborough Mansions_garden

Marlborough Mansions_kitchen

In one of West Hampstead’s most prestigious mansion blocks, a delightful 3-bedroom apartment offering generous lateral accommodation of 1436 sq ft including an open plan kitchen/dining room ideal for entertaining together with a more formal reception room for relaxing. Presented in excellent internal decorative condition, the property has retained many original features and this, combined with high ceilings and wooden floors, provides an immediate overall feeling of a home full of charm and warmth.

This particular flat enjoys direct access to a well-manicured and cared for communal garden. Cannon Hill provides easy access to the shops, cafes and excellent transport links of West Hampstead whilst also being moments from JW3 and the O2 centre on Finchley Road. Early viewing of this fine home is advised.

3 bedrooms * en suite shower room * family bathroom * reception room * dining room * kitchen * communal garden * porterage * residents parking zone * energy rating D

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/300219789

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Property News: Coping with longer tenancies

It’s been a busy first quarter for Paramount as we’ve made some major changes to how we manage properties. As the length of the average tenancy increases and the private rented sector becomes a long-term housing solution, we have to adapt to ensure procedures such as inventories continue to be fair.

In order to combat the lack of knowledge about a property that the shift towards longer tenancies presents, we need to take a proactive and preventative approach to property management. It’s the only way we can protect a landlord’s asset over a long tenancy. We now offer landlords a regular audit of their property during the course of any tenancy which will allow us to spot minor problems before they escalate, such as old water stains from previous leaks or deteriorating wooden windows, ensuring minor issues are identified and fixed long before they become an issue for tenants or landlords.

We will be enlisting an independent inventory company to provide this service at a cost to Paramount. Inventory clerks are trained, property-savvy professionals who are able to spot small issues before they become big problems. By using an independent, impartial and professional inventory company instead of our in-house management team, landlords will know that all listed works will be recommended. In keeping with our ethos, the inventory company we will be using are an independent family owned business who we have worked with for many years.

As tenancies get longer there is no doubt that letting agencies need to adapt it order to meet the challenges this change presents. It’s a topic we think a lot about and we will continue to find innovative ways to improve our service inline with these changes.

Agents Giving

We are thrilled to have been named Fundraising Champions for the second year running by ‘Agents Giving’, a charity that encourages and supports agents to raise funds for established and recognised charities in the UK.

We all become blinkered sometimes to what is going on outside of our own world. I believe that it is important to help people first hand in order to see what’s going on inside our local community as well as donating and fundraising for charities like Agents Giving. We’re proud to have been named Fundraising Champions for the second consecutive year, but the real reward is seeing first hand how charities like Ashford Place and Thames Reach improve the lives of others.

Talking of charity leads us nicely onto…

Brent Foodbank
Brent Foodbank, located between Kilburn and Willesden Green, urgently need supplies to donate to those in need in our community. Paramount is working with Brent Foodbank as a donation drop-off point; this means you can donate any non-perishable food items and toiletries six days a week at our office, 150 West End Lane, which we will then deliver to the centre.

Each week we’ll let you know on Twitter and Facebook what the Foodbank needs the most. This week toiletries are in high demand, so if you’re able to donate shower gel, toilet roll, soap, toothbrushes or shampoo please drop them into our office.

Spencer Lawrence
Lettings Director
Paramount Properties
150 West End Lane
West Hampstead
020 7644 2314

request a lettings valuation

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£645,000 profit on Stephen Fry’s former house

“I fell in love with this extraordinary house. It’s an ordinary terraced house, but an architect scooped out the inside and created all these different levels. There are two trees growing through the middle.”

That was Stephen Fry, in 2002, talking about his house on Sherriff Road in West Hampstead. It’s now on the market again, four years after Fry sold it, for just shy of £2.5 million.

Fry sold the house around the same time he split from his long-term partner Daniel Cohen. According to the Daily Mail, Cohen received all the proceeds from the sale.

The house sold for £1,850,000 back in 2010 and it’s back on the market with The Modern House at £2,495,000. It is a spectactular property – five bedrooms over three floors (although the floors are far from traditional in layout), and what the agents now selling it term “significant spatial drama”. That’ll be the tree in the middle.

The agents, who specalise in architecturally significant properties, explain more: “The house was redesigned in its entirety in the 1980s by the architect Brian Muller, who stripped it back to the structural fabric of brick, joists and lath, and planted a tree that grows through the middle of the space. Huge glazed up-and-over doors flood the interior with natural light and allow it to be opened up to the south-facing garden, providing a seamless transition between inside and out. Metal service ducts and boldly exposed pipework are a nod to the High Tech movement pioneered by architects such as Norman Foster and Richard Rogers.”

Assuming that the property goes for at least its asking price, it’s a 35% price rise in a little under four years, well ahead of the estimated 25% price rise for the street as a whole over that time.

Cheapest flat in West Hampstead is relatively the most expensive (but tiny)

A studio flat in Hillfield Road, West Hampstead has just gone on the market for £160,000 – a bargain if you want to live on one of the area’s most desirable roads.

As you’d expect, the downside to Foxtons’ low asking price for this room (+ shower room) is its tiny size – just 11 ft square (121 sq ft). How big is that? Well you couldn’t fit a full-size snooker table in there. It would be 8 inches too long.

The master bedroom...

The master bedroom…

It may be the cheapest property in West Hampstead (according to Zoopla and Rightmove), but it also works out at possibly the most expensive per square foot, at £1,322.

This is more than 30% over what you would expect to pay for most larger studio and 1-bed flats, which at the moment usually work out at between £600-£900 per sq ft.

The cheapest studio in the yet-to-be-built apartments at West Hampstead Square, which set a new benchmark for flat prices in the area, came in at £908/sq ft with an asking price of £405,000. It is only just over 3.5 times the size of this property, so still hardly large.

However, if you’re shopping around with a budget of less than £200,000, you’ll know there’s not much else available. An ex-council studio flat in Brassey Road has just received an asking price offer of £175,000 after less than a week on the market, according to Peter Gobey at Greene & Co.

HillfieldRd2

Open plan kitchen/living room

Will the – ahem – “bijoux” Hillfield Road apartment sell? Peter Gobey thinks so, “with the market as it is now, I’d expect it to sell as a pied-à-terre or a rental investment.”

Could this tiny living space be a solution for buyers priced out of West Hampstead’s “bonkers property market“? It may be more appealing to commute to London from Barcelona, or to invest your £160,000 budget in this rather nice 4-bedroom house – in Scotland.

Is the property market bonkers?

‘Bonkers’. I hear the word repeatedly whenever discussing the West Hampstead property sales market with buyers, sellers and fellow agents alike. Even people with no recent first-hand experience tell me it’s bonkers.

Newspapers and websites tell us how bonkers it is. A headline in The Sun on Friday reads ‘Property up 2% in a month!’ and goes on to say that this is ‘fuelling fears a property bubble is looming’. Hardly a day goes by without The Daily Express fixating on the impending doom across its front page.

But how bonkers is it? Is it really a bad thing for London and Londoners? A recent article in the Guardian got me thinking; it tells how a central London property investment company has recently set up a £100m fund (or ‘warchest’ if you’re reading The Sun) to buy 1 and 2 bedroom apartments in prime central locations. The company’s reasoning is that the property price inflation seen over the last 40 years is set to continue at 9–10% per annum for the next 30 years at least. They say they can see no reason for this to change and it’s difficult to argue that they’re wrong: a growing population, strict planning laws, conservation areas, limited space and foreign demand and investment are unlikely to change. Their prediction – and gamble – is that by 2050 a central London flat will cost £36m.

This seems unimaginable and enormously unfair for many people, but made me realise that this is one of the reasons London is such a great city. The London property market creates huge wealth and prosperity due to the ‘multiplier’ effect of capital injection into services, employment and investment.

Much is made of overseas investors buying properties in London and never living in them but, in my experience, these people employ local surveyors, solicitors and agents when buying and then embark on expensive refurbishment programmes which employ local contractors and firms, increasing the value of the property and in some cases, gentrifying poorer neighbourhoods, setting new benchmark values for other properties in the process.

The London construction industry alone counts for 10% of the UK’s GDP and employs nearly 2 million people. Office development in London is now at a 4-year high with 9.7 million sq ft under construction and notable recent landmark sales including Google’s purchase of its new headquarters at Kings Cross. The knock-on effect of such investment is huge.

This wealth generation also helps create demand and employment opportunities that attract people from all over the world to London, adding to the multi-cultural mix of Londoners that want to buy property whilst giving it such vibrancy and diversification. This is what we all love about London – would we really want West Hampstead and West End Lane to feel any different?

Homeowners in London also benefit from the consistent rise in prices by being able to unlock large amounts of tax free equity in their homes which they can reinvest into businesses or help future generations get on the housing ladder.

Of course, those yet to get on the housing ladder, or who need to move to a bigger property, are finding it increasingly hard to make London their home as house price rises outpace wage inflation. The risk is that while London might become more diverse in some ways, in others communities like West Hampstead could become more homogenous as only the relatively affluent can afford to buy here, while everyone else is forced out of the city and onto those crammed commuter trains that run through our Thameslink station every day.

So, yes, it does all seem a bit bonkers, and perhaps inequitable for those that don’t live in London or are priced out, but the ripple effect of investment and increasing prices is felt across the whole of the UK eventually. It also makes London an incredibly vibrant, eclectic and exciting city.

Darryl Jenkins
Associate Director
Benham & Reeves
West Hampstead
020 7644 9300
Follow @BenhamReeves

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Property of the Month: March

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is a three-bedroom maisonette.

Mill Lane, West Hampstead, NW6
£700,000
Joint agent

Mill Lane_kitchen

Mill Lane_balcony

Mill Lane_exterior

Mill Lane_reception

A beautifully refurbished 3 bedroom maisonette arranged over the top two floors of a period building located on Mill Lane, a popular road with easy access to the Jubilee Line at Kilburn and the cafes, shops and excellent transport links at West Hampstead.

3 bedrooms * en suite bathroom * shower room * family bathroom * reception room/open plan kitchen * separate WC * balcony

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/300220109

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Property of the Month: February

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is a three-bedroom mews house with a south-facing terrace.

Rose Joan Mews, West Hampstead, NW6
£995,000
Sole agent

Rose Joan Mews_reception

Rose Joan Mews_kitchen

Rose Joan Mews_bedroom

Rose Joan Mews_terrace

A stunning three bedroom mews house located within a quiet private mews of only 10 houses close to the amenities of Fortune Green and West Hampstead. The bright and contemporary accommodation is arranged over two floors only and features a first floor open plan reception room with curved vaulted ceiling and a wall of glass maximising the abundance of natural light into the living areas, with direct access to a south facing terrace. Downstairs, good sized bedrooms lead on to a private courtyard and access to the mews.

There is a passenger lift up to the ground floor from the secure underground car park where this house benefits from two reserved parking spaces. Additional features include underfloor heating and comfort cooling throughout and a large individual storage room accessible via the car park.

3 bedrooms * en suite bathroom * shower room * reception room/open plan kitchen * underfloor heating * comfort cooling * patio * terrace * two reserved underground parking spaces

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/300219985

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How Twitter saved Kirstie & Phil

Lots of you watched Location Location Location last night. But did you know that it was Twitter that saved the couple who wanted to move to West Hampstead?

Location_WestHamspteadmap

In June 2013, Kirstie and Phil were in West Hampstead scouting for a 3-bed flat with a garden for Tam & Krish, a couple with a young daughter, who had very specific location requirements – even down to the exact streets they wanted: Hillfield and Mill Lane.

With a budget of £600,000 most locals could have told them that they were in cloud-cuckoo land. Kirstie agreed – around here, even six months ago, they’d almost certainly have needed an extra £100,000. This meant “compromise”, the watchword of Location ever since it began.

After Kirstie entertainingly accorded West Hampstead the status of a borough, the couple went on to describe West Hampstead as having a “really nice community feel”. Tom from The Kitchen Table was on camera to reinforce that idea.

West Hampstead: "With its village feel, independent shops and cafés, and green space"

West Hampstead: “With its village feel, independent shops and cafés, and green space”

Laura Locke from La Brocca sits outside the bar

Laura Locke from La Brocca sits outside the bar

Over a drink in The Alliance, the couple told Kirstie that they’d been looking for three years on-and-off. The first property they saw had a small kitchen tagged onto the living room and got an instant no. The problem then became the lack of supply.

“Given that we knew you liked this street,” said Phil, strolling down Hillfield Road with Kirstie and the couple, “we leafleted the street. And it’s only via that that the owners of this flat responded and said they would sell the flat.”

Close Phil, but not quite what I was told. This property actually came to their attention because the owner saw me tweeting about the programme filming in the area. He contacted the production company and … to cut a tediously long story short … they bought the flat at £600,000.

Meanwhile, during filming, Kirstie was busy tweeting about the litter problem in the area.

During the screening last night, there were both the inevitable howls of outrage on Twitter from people at how little you can get in West Hampstead for £600,000, and even more predictably dull comments about how it was really Kilburn (yawn). If you want to watch on catch-up, here’s the link.

 

Property News: Camden rent rises trail London average

The rental market in January has been very mixed. There are lots of deals being done at the entry level, with cheaper flats being snapped up fast,but at the top end asking prices are being clipped.

Demand for properties has been strong in January but we are also seeing more properties coming onto the market, which might start to balance supply and demand. We know from experience that applicants will come if you have the right properties, and an increase in supply leads to a higher volume of applicant enquiries. We are getting plenty of enquiries from potential landlords and we’re valuing several new properties each day.

In an area like West Hampstead there are lots of excellent applicants out there but, as we started to see towards the end of 2013, tenants are looking for value for money. The rental demographic has shifted and high calibre applicants are looking to rent for the long term. Their wants and needs have changed and this leads into what we discussed in our last property news; that landlords need to invest in the product if they want to attract and maintain quality tenants.

Looking to the future

Encouraging landlords to invest in their product is a start, but in order for this to be a success for both tenants and landlords they need to fit the right demographic to the product. Last year we ran a series of polls through our West Hampstead Life articles, and your feedback prompted us to ask more questions in order to understand what people want when renting a property.

We’re currently running a short survey to understand what people want when they rent a property. If you are currently renting or are looking to rent in the future, please take three minutes to complete the survey. You’ll get the chance to leave your email address at the end to win £250 John Lewis vouchers, and we’ll share the data in our May Property News blog for West Hampstead Life.

Take the survey here.

Housing stock in London

This week on Twitter the issue of local housing stock was raised. In light of this I was interested to read a recent Centre for Cities outlook that looked at housing stock and prices together to provide a useful insight into a city’s housing market.

London features within the top 10 cities with the highest housing stock growth, coming in at 9th place. Additionally among the top-placed cities, only five (Swindon, Milton Keynes, Gloucester, London, Peterborough) have experienced housing supply growth in accordance to their population growth rate.

Average private rent levels in Camden

In December 2013, rent in London increased by 1.6% compared with the same month a year before, compared to an increase in the rest of England of 0.7%. Although the London property market flourishes in comparison to the rest of the UK, rents across London boroughs vary dramatically. I thought it would be interesting to break the average private rent levels down further and compare average private rent prices increases in Camden compared to London as a whole and the neighbouring boroughs of Brent and Islington.

private rents

Between 2012 and 2013 private rents in London increased by 13.04%. In comparison private rents in Camden over the same time period increased by 1.29%, far behind the London average.

Private rent increases in the neighbouring boroughs of Brent and Islington were higher than Camden over the same time period, seeing increases of 3.68% and 7.44% respectively.

Rents aren’t rising as fast as they once were because rental yields in London are almost insignificant compared to capital appreciation. Previously landlords wanted an investment vehicle that guaranteed them at least a 5% yield, but capital appreciation provides more value than any yield.

The importance of a good team

Towards the end of last year I started to think about what the New Year could throw at us, and I quickly found out. In December I underwent major back surgery following three very uncomfortable months. Thankfully I had time to prepare the lettings team to ensure everything ran smoothly in my absence, but in the first week of January our ever popular negotiator Dominic Moyes broke his ankle and is still unable to work. It’s been a big challenge not having him around but it’s shown me the importance of having a good team around you.

Having two senior members of staff recovering isn’t ideal for any business, but last year we worked hard to build an exceptional team and the internal restructure that took place meant the business was capable of dealing with this unfortunate ripple. Ten members of the lettings team are individually ARLA qualified and most have experience in different areas of the business. Having knowledgeable and experienced staff able to step up successfully into different roles has been fantastic to watch and I’m excited for the year ahead!

Don’t forget to enter our #WhampPlanet competition! Collect your free West Hampstead bag from Paramount, tweet a picture of it on your holidays to @west_hampstead and you could win vouchers and prizes from West End Lane Books. West Hampstead bags have already made an appearance in Antarctica, Argentina and New York – where will it end up next?!

Spencer Lawrence
Lettings Director
Paramount Properties
150 West End Lane
West Hampstead
020 7644 2314

request a lettings valuation

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patio

Property of the Month: January

This month’s property from Benham & Reeves is a two-bedroom raised ground-floor apartment in Goldhurst Terrace with a private patio.

Goldhurst Terrace, South Hampstead, NW6
£750,000

patio

Kitchen

reception

dining area

A superb 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment arranged over the raised ground floor of a well maintained purpose built block located at the preferred end of Goldhurst Terrace, providing easy access to the transport links (Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines) and amenities of Finchley Road and Swiss Cottage.

The property is presented in excellent decorative condition and has direct access to its own private patio garden and also the added convenience of a secure underground parking space.

Early viewing of this particularly desirable property is advised.

2 bedrooms * bathrooms * shower room * reception room * kitchen * patio garden * secure underground parking * energy rating D

West Hampstead Sales Office | 020 7644 9300
106 West End Lane London NW6 2LS | Email: ku.oc1511521123.r-b@1511521123selas1511521123
http://b-r.co.uk/property/details/300219946

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Property market outlook: 9-12% rise over 2014

Thank you to West Hampstead Life for highlighting my market predictions for 2013 in January of last year. Thankfully, according to Rightmove, I wasn’t too embarrassed and figures for West Hampstead showed a year-on-year increase in prices of 7.5% against my prediction of 5% to 10%.

However, I suspect that this figure is quite conservative and, in my opinion, we have actually seen asking price rises of closer to 15% for some locations within West and South Hampstead.

This year saw us break the £1,000 per sq ft barrier for flats in South Hampstead with the sale of a garden flat in Aberdare Gardens in April. This sale seems to have set the benchmark for prices in these roads and asking prices for such properties seem to have risen relentlessly since. In fact, it is now commonplace to see £1,000 per sq ft being asked for apartments with no outside space or off street parking.

West Hampstead has seen similar increases although haven’t yet reached the dizzy heights of South Hampstead. Victorian terraced houses in the Greek and African Roads (Agamemnon, Achilles, Sumatra etc.) can now expect to achieve £1.4 to £1.5m (more with a loft conversion).

Of particular note this year was a house on Narcissus Road that had been developed to include a basement and loft conversion totalling 2700 sq ft which sold for £2.25m – to my knowledge, the only house in one of these roads to sell in excess of £2m. (More on basement conversions in a later issue). Flats in these roads are also now fetching approximately £750 per square ft (depending on condition and location).

On the other side of Fortune Green are the relatively new developments of the flats in Alfred Court and mews houses of Rose Joan mews. In 2013, we sold a 2 bed flat in Alfred Court in excess of £800 per sq ft and 2 mews houses at close to £1,000 per sq ft each in rose Joan Mews. This proves that the demand for new build and ‘maintenance free’ properties still commands a premium, even a few years after the build. This is also supported by the success of the Ballymore development at West Hampstead Square which is achieving in excess of £800 per sq ft for flats with no parking.

In my view, an area of interest for 2014 is that bounded by Sheriff Road, Kilburn High Road and West End lane. Last year saw a developed Victorian house on Gladys Road sell for just over £1.9m and an upper maisonette in good condition for just over £800,000. These roads show signs of building and renovation activity and seem to be undergoing a change in feel and occupation. They are also centrally located and of attractive Victorian housing stock.

In 2013, we also saw the development of renegotiating agreed sales upwards within a relatively short time of agreeing the sale. This awkward and uncomfortable process is a result of slow conveyancing caused by pedantic lenders and unmotivated solicitors combined with the rising market and press hysteria about London prices.

Ignoring the ethical argument, it’s difficult to disagree with vendors who could quite easily have remarketed a couple of months later and made themselves significantly more money. Especially, as the properties they wanted to move to are increasing in value in the same way.

An example from 2013 probably best sums up the market. We sold a townhouse in Parsifal Road which completed in May, one month after the initial offer was accepted. Two weeks after collecting the keys, the new owner had a change in personal circumstances and asked us to remarket the property. After only a few days of viewings we had agreed a sale at a price 8% higher than that agreed five or six weeks earlier. You can now see why I think 7.5% for the year is a bit mean!

The elephant in the room for 2014 is interest rates. All the other factors in terms of supply, economic recovery and foreign investors remain the same and I am expecting a strong start to the year with prices continuing to rise in our area. Most pundits are predicting rises in interest rates in 2015 but some are saying it will be towards the end of this year.

Almost certainly, the London and UK housing market will maintain its recovery and prices will continue to rise. The Governor of the Bank of England says he has measures in place to control the housing market but it will be interesting to see if any of them can slow the market without resorting to the traditional vehicle of interest rate rises.

My view is that history teaches us everything and that economics are cyclical. At some point, without further intervention in terms of planning and development (also for a later article), the London market will need to pause for breath, but that won’t be in 2014. I expect to see rises in values of between 9% and 12% in our area, with most of that growth coming in the first half of the year.

I would welcome your opinions and reaction to this. Also, it goes without saying, but if you would like a current valuation of your property please get in touch.

Happy New year.

Darryl Jenkins
Associate Director
Benham & Reeves
West Hampstead
020 7644 9300
Follow @BenhamReeves

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Did our property pundit get it right?

The prediction by our property sales pundit Darryl Jenkins of local estate agent Benham & Reeves was that house prices should rise by 5-10% in West Hampstead this year.

He described this as being bullish. In fact he was bang on – according to Zoopla, property prices in the area have risen 7.5% this year.

Does that mean that The Standard was right, or behind the times, when it suggested that West Hampstead was “an area of hidden value waiting to be unlocked” in an article that pushed the £1.5 million penthouses in the Mill Apartments.

Rising property prices are good for homeowners but not good for those trying to get a foot on the property ladder. Demand far outstrips supply and the arrival of developments such as West Hampstead Square together with the long-standing attractions such as the transport links, is pushing prices out of the reach of many.

Even rents are becoming unaffordable – as local Sam Cookney discovered when he looked into the cost of renting in West Hampstead compared to renting in his beloved Barcelona AND commuting to London. His piece was widely picked up but also largely misunderstood.

Despite all this, north-west London was ranked Britain’s 7th unhappiest place to live.

Special agents: Licence to rent

Would you rent a property through an unlicensed agent?


Place your vote and we’ll update you on the results on Twitter next week.

Paramount is passionate about compulsory licensing for letting agents. Residential lettings is an unregulated industry and we believe that all agencies and lettings negotiators should become licensed members of a regulatory board in order to let property.

Licensing is imperative to giving consumers real confidence when dealing with agencies and individual staff members who are regulated by common codes of practice. Many agents invest significant time and money to ensure all these requirements are met but are still tarnished by unregulated agents who continue to stoke the public’s negative image of agency.

Becoming a licensed agency is good for generating new business too. More than two-thirds of landlords who use a lettings agency say they consider whether the agent is licensed or regulated when deciding which one to use*. Unfortunately this is not mirrored by tenants and we are committed to redressing this balance.

Industry bodies
An agency that has voluntarily joined the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA) or National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) shows that it is happy to adhere to the highest standards and meet these external organisations’ customer service standard. For instance, all ARLA members are required to work within a robust code of practice, which covers the key stages in letting and managing a property. Regulated agents have to meet a standard of compliance that includes having Professional Indemnity Insurance, mandatory participation in a Client Money Protection Scheme and a structure for dealing with complaints and disciplinary procedures.

One of the only issues with choosing an ARLA or NAEA agency is that the industry bodies only require an office to employ one member of staff, in any office, with a suitable industry qualification. At Paramount we believe that all members of staff, especially negotiators, should study to become a member, as this ensures all staff have to undertake regular training and keep up to date with changes in legislation.

At Paramount, all staff members must be members of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA). If we recruit any new members of staff that don’t belong to one of these bodies, we require them to start their training within a month of joining us.

It’s not just our sales and lettings negotiators that take the exams though. Other members of staff, including administrators and accounts, are encouraged to join too. This is a huge benefit for our customers who meet property experts the moment they walk through the office door. All customers are made aware that everyone they deal with in the office is qualified. They understand that they can tap into our knowledge bank regardless of who they are speaking to – they don’t have to wait to speak to a director to receive expert advice.

Internal confidence
The benefits of a licensed agency are felt internally as well as externally. We invest heavily in our staff and finance their initial and ongoing ARLA and NAEA training. Being a member of NAEA is important to us as a company and as individuals. It’s essential that we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and our customers appreciate us passing our knowledge onto them.

I recently asked colleagues what belonging to an organisation like ARLA or NAEA meant to them. They believe it portrays credibility to the public and suggest it shows that you are serious about your career. It would be great to hear your thoughts on the matter – does an agents membership of a regulatory organisation carry weight with you?

In the meantime, don’t forget to enter our #whampplanet competition. Learn how to enter here.

Spencer Lawrence
Lettings Director
Paramount Properties
150 West End Lane
West Hampstead
020 7644 2314

 

*Association of Residential Lettings Agents Residential Landlord Survey 2013

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Property News: Renters are people too

When choosing an area to live in, what is your main priority?


Place your vote and we’ll update you on the results on Twitter next week.

There is a common assumption that tenants are not invested in their local area and don’t care about what is going on. When the #whampforum was hosted in May it exposed the views of a minority that ‘young people aren’t invested in the area emotionally or financially because they don’t own property, so why would they care’. That’s a huge assumption and one I would dispute in my experience.

Tenants have often been considered a transient part of the population, but this is no longer always the case. The tenants we let property to have researched different areas and made a choice to move to West Hampstead. Many will rent for several years in the same area and are just as invested in the local community as those who own a property. Their priorities might be different (a family who own their home are more likely to participate in the free school debate than a single professional renter) but this has little to do with property ownership.

For some, renting is a stepping stone to home ownership. One benefit or renting is that it allows you to trial out life in an area before committing to staying for longer and this type of tenant is likely to have a very vested interest in the strength of the local community. Reasons for renting aside, considering that 44% of households in West Hampstead live in private rented accommodation (12 percentage points higher than the average across Camden), tenants are clearly essential to the future of the area, economically, politically and socially.

West Hampstead is renowned for its local village feel and community. There are numerous resident groups and local organisations that are incredibly active for an area of London. West Hampstead is unique because the high street continues to thrive with popular independent shops, restaurants and cafés and tenants are essential for their future. West Hampstead used to be considered the Ugly Sister of the area compared to St John’s Wood and Hampstead. Nowadays it is less of a thoroughfare and more of a destination in its own right, catering to its residents with local shops that thrive as they meet the community’s needs.

It wouldn’t be right to talk about the local community without mentioning Twitter. It is an incredible source of local information (often helpfully curated by @WHampstead) and provides a resource and real life social network for those new to the area. The #whamp hashtag, with its various suffixes, has solidified the community, engaging and activating local people irrespective of housing tenure.

As an estate agency it has always been important to us to get involved in the local community, socially and financially. We are proud to support local businesses and have done so since our inception. We take advantage of local and independent services wherever possible; from the printers we use to the independent restaurant we have team meetings in.

Last year we designed cotton bags to help launch the West Hampstead Farmers’ Market, which has become an asset to the area. Every Saturday we look out of our office window and see how popular it is, with regulars returning week after week. Due to the popularity of the bags we recently decided to print some more with a new design. We worked with an illustrator just as passionate about the area as us to create our very own West Hampstead map, and although all of our favourite independent shops couldn’t fit on the design we hope it sums up what is special about the local community.

Please pop into our office to collect your free #whamp bag.

Spencer Lawrence
Lettings Director
Paramount Properties
150 West End Lane
West Hampstead
020 7644 2315

 

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Property News: Tenants’ extra rental

To accompany our regular pieces about the property sales market, Paramount is going to be covering the rental market in West Hampstead. Do leave comments (note, they will be moderated!). Even though these articles are being written by an estate agent, I’m making sure it’s honest comment of the industry and market!

Landlords need to think long-term

We thought we’d kick off our series of Property News articles with a question:

What’s the benefit to you of renting?


Place your vote and we’ll update you on the results on Twitter next week.

How many households in West Hampstead do you think live in private rented accommodation? According to the 2011 census it’s a staggering 44%, which is considerably higher than the average percentage across all Camden Wards (32%).

For many years West Hampstead has been a desirable place for people to call home. Renters are drawn to the area for a number of reasons, including the often cited transport links. The lettings market is based on supply and demand so it’s no surprise that, with the strong demand, the market has favoured landlords over the past few years. However we have now reached a point in West Hampstead where supply is plentiful, and as stock levels increased we began to see a downturn in rental prices.

The supply can be attributed to three main reasons: a lacklustre employment market in financial services sectors, an increase in overseas investors and the rise of ‘accidental’ landlords. Control of the market has swung from landlords to tenants, and landlords have to be realistic about rental prices if they want to minimise void periods and protect their yields.

Why has demand dropped? One reason is that since the census the government has implemented its Help to Buy scheme for first time buyers, which has helped a number of tenants in the area take their first tentative steps on the road to becoming homeowners. Demand for rental properties has shifted to demand for 1 and 2 bedroom flats for sale, with our sales department regularly receiving sealed bid offers significantly over the asking price for these types of properties.

Another reason is that tenants are looking to stay for longer in the same rental property. Instead of moving home every year, tenants in West Hampstead want the stability of a home and once they find the right property they are happy to renew year after year. We support longer tenancies and encourage landlords to invest in the property for this reason.

This type of tenant needs a flat that matches their lifestyle in order to stay, so a professional clean at the end of a tenancy is no longer enough to get a new long-term tenant in. As letting agents we don’t charge tenants a renewal fee as we want to encourage them to stay for longer as it helps minimise the landlord’s void period.

In the last couple of years there has been a shift in the market; it is more price sensitive and product sensitive too. Landlords have to put capital investment into their property and often need to redecorate, redo the bathroom or lay new carpet between tenancies. As tenants have more choice, landlords need to make their product appealing as the rental market becomes more competitive.

Are you a tenant in West Hampstead? What does being part of a local community mean to you? We’d love to hear your thoughts for our next Property News in October.

Spencer Lawrence
Lettings Director
Paramount Properties
150 West End Lane
West Hampstead
020 7644 2315

 

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A “blank” of estate agents

What IS the collective noun for estate agents?
Having run into a bunch on West End Lane the other morning, I thought Twitter might provide some illumnination…

What IS the collective noun for estate agents?

Having run into a bunch on West End Lane the other morning, I thought Twitter might provide some illumnination…

Storified by West Hampstead· Thu, Mar 14 2013 04:18:16

For some – the question bit close to home
@WHampstead As someone who has recently dealt with an estate agent, I’m fairly certain they’re "a burden".Mark Gunner
@WHampstead ‘coven’ or if Foxtons it’s a ‘pester’.Tangent
@WHampstead if selling for you an "excellence", if you are buying a "ramp of estate agents"JM
@WHampstead A "one bedroom, what, oh, it’s really a studio" of estate agents #notsickoflookingforsomewheretolivehonestDavid Whittam
Others chose to accentuate the negative perception
@WHampstead sharks?lokitamara
@EstherForeman @WHampstead Agree. "A shark of estate agents" sounds right to me. Can be singular "He’s a shark of an estate agent" #geniusKate
@WHampstead a ‘dupe’Caroline
@WHampstead I believe it’s a "murder"… a "murder of estate agents".Misread Missus
@WHampstead a "gouge".Jon Kelly
@WHampstead same as for butterflies, a rabble.James Singleton
@WHampstead A douchebag of estate agents.Ilayda Arden
@WHampstead A Human Centipede of Estate Agents? They’re all up their own….Lazy Hound
@WHampstead a befuddlement?Sophie Cable
@WHampstead a swindle?Nicholas Barnett
@WHampstead "an aftershave"LABROCCA
@WHampstead A wank of estate agents?Adam P
@WHampstead "a boogle of estate agents" (the collective term for a group of weasels – I could name and shame)Jason Broderick
Then there were those who turned to estate agent clichés and manner for their suggestions
@WHampstead A ‘characterful’ of estate agents? A ‘smarm’? Or is that a bit mean?Fiona Barrows
@WHampstead A "wellconnectedbylocalbusroutesandandlocalshopsofferingawiderangeoflocalservicesshopsandlocalrestaurants" of estate agents.Anna Black
@WHampstead A surplus? A cringe? A chain? An elaboration?Simon Thompson
@WHampstead I have a slew of less polite ones too… but I’ll spare you those…Simon Thompson
@WHampstead An exaggeration?Kate
@WHampstead a gazump?Liz Wheatley
@WHampstead "A bullshit" (presume someone’s said that already though)Julia Wagner
@WHampstead a "Juliet balcony" of estate agents (aka a large window)Lucy Longhurst
@WHampstead A “bijou” of estate agents.nicky j
@WHampstead An euphemism of estate agents? (Is that ‘an’ or ‘a’? ‘An’ is right, but it sounds wrong…)Emily Turner
@WHampstead "a moment" because of their habit of describing a place’s distance from somewhere thus? Or a "pied-a-terre" of Estate Agents?Maps Man
@KineticEcstasy @WHampstead a spiel of estate agents?Neil Fisher
@WHampstead Also a specific name for West Hampstead estate agents could be a ‘Willesden Green’. They all seem to think it is part of WH.Fiona Barrows
@WHampstead A "must-see luxury promenade boasting buildings, pedestrians and cars" of estate agents (finished to a high standard throughout)Simon Rohrbach
@WHampstead A "reflexive pronoun" of estate agents #collectivenounsnicky j
Some people went more left-field
@WHampstead Regardless of the correct word, it would definitely be a cacophony of estate agents…chatty little buggers.Patrick Hurley
@WHampstead Has to be ‘a shower of’Kenn Goodall
@WHampstead "Nice lot of" #MyInnocenceAndNaivetyIsShowingIsntItAJ
Estate agents themselves were strangely quiet – I would have thought it was a good chance for them to come back with some amusing positive suggestions… Only one person got involved though:
@WHampstead I love how some people complain about estate agents when they deal with Greene and co, foxtons etc. What do you expect?Mark Rees
@WHampstead I guess if you had walked past my office I would have liked you to think ‘reputable’ but I concede that’s unlikely! #perceptionsMark Rees
@WHampstead Parkheath, WEL branch.Mark Rees
My favourites were “a chain” and “a “wellconnectedbylocalbusroutesandandlocalshopsofferingawiderangeoflocalservicesshopsandlocalrestaurants” 

Add any more suggestions below