28 February 2016, Financial Times
When the author John Lanchester was writing Capital, his 2012 novel about London’s spiralling property market, he chose to set it in Clapham in 2008. There, house prices were rocketing as quickly as his characters’ lives were unravelling. However, by the time the BBC adapted the novel last year, Clapham was no longer suitable, it seems. The film-makers transposed the drama to still-gentrifying Balham and Tooting. By then, Clapham had arrived.
“The best addresses in Clapham have joined the £1,000 per sq ft club,” says Robert French of Knight Frank.
“It’s something that people aspire to join.” According to French, the best streets in this part of south-west London are The Chase, Macaulay Road, Old Town and Clapham Common North Side, which, he adds, have been teetering on the £1,000 price point for some time.
The larger homes on Clapham Common West Side have also reached this price level, says Robin Chatwin of Savills. “A view over the common will add a 5 to 10 per cent premium over properties in adjoining streets.”
Clapham used to be thought of as a “stepping stone before a move out to the country”, says Sophie Chick, associate director of residential research at Savills, but today it attracts buyers who want to put down permanent roots. Chick says more than half of Savills’ buyers and tenants in Clapham in 2014 and 2015 moved from within the area.
The smattering of smart restaurants, bars and cafés along Clapham High Street, combined with access to large green spaces, is making buyers question their desire to move on, says Philip Eastwood, partner at The Buying Solution. “There is also the concern that continued London property price growth means that a move out of the city might well mean you can’t buy back in.”
Not even schooling drives Clapham-based families to up sticks these days. In fact, many families move to the area for its high-performing state primaries such as Honeywell and Belleville, or independent schools Broomwood Hall and Eaton House.
Some homeowners decide to pack their children on the train to Surrey for day schools, says Robin Chatwin of Savills, then “the parents have an easy commute to the City”.
The increased stamp duty on homes priced at more than £937,500 is also encouraging more homeowners to stay put. “We are seeing a lot of families enlarge their properties through basement digs and loft extensions,” says Eastwood. “Ultimately, this reduces the number of properties on the market, which keeps prices high.”
Despite rising prices, some of Clapham’s neighbours are still making it look like good value. According to French, Battersea is 25 to 30 per cent more expensive. “The huge development around Nine Elms is driving values up there,” he says.
The price difference is more marked when comparing Clapham with prime markets north of the Thames. Savills estimates a quarter of Clapham’s buyers come from one of three boroughs: Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, and the City of Westminster.
“We are arriving on people’s search lists that we would never have been on before,” says French. “We’re seeing people who say they are searching between Chelsea and Marylebone, then they buy in Clapham Old Town.”
Knight Frank is selling a 3,305 sq ft, six-bedroom house on Orlando Road, just off Old Town, for £3.29m. Savills, meanwhile, is marketing a five-bedroom, semi-detached house on Clapham Common West Side for £3.3m.
What sets Clapham apart from most of central London — and neighbouring Battersea, for that matter — is its buyer demographic. While in the rental market Australians are a prominent bunch, increasingly family owner-occupiers are replacing them, says French — and they’re mostly British. “I’d say 90 per cent of buyers in Clapham Old Town are now British,” he says.
Prices cannot rise indefinitely, though. Some agents feel the slowdown in central London will start to affect Clapham and its neighbours — and sooner rather than later. “Prices in the best areas of prime central London are down 7.5 per cent since the 2014 peak and it’s my belief that what starts in [the centre] will filter out into outer-prime London, which includes Clapham,” says Caspar Harvard-Walls, partner at Black Brick buying agency. “By the end of 2016, I expect the best stock in these outer-prime locations will have seen a price drop of up to 10 per cent.”
If that is the case, perhaps John Lanchester might consider returning to Clapham in a few years’ time for a Capital sequel.
In 2015, the average home sale price for Clapham, Battersea and Wandsworth was £728,000—a third higher than the Greater London average
The most expensive area is between Clapham and Wandsworth commons, which is the only ward in Clapham with an average sale price of more than £1m
Clapham is within the boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth. The former, has one of London’s lowest council tax rates. Lambeth has one of the highest
What you can buy for . . .
£500,000 A two-bedroom flat
£1m A two-bedroom unit in a new-build
£5m A six-bedroom family home overlooking Clapham Common
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