26 February 2015, New York Times
London — A gracious five-bedroom Victorian townhouse in a part of southwest London once associated with a faded shabbiness has benefited from the area’s considerable gentrification in recent years.
The four-story home, which has been in the same family for 50 years, is in Earls Court, where its spotless white stucco reflects the neighborhood’s growing prosperity: The 2,443-square-foot home is on the market with Farrar & Co., a London real estate agency, for 3.5 million pounds, or about $5.4 million.
On the lower ground floor, a somewhat dated kitchen looks out on a south-facing garden and opens to a family room, which leads up to a formal dining room at street level. One flight up, the drawing room is elegant and spacious, with a welcoming fireplace. The bedrooms and two bathrooms are on the top two floors.
There is rare, highly prized off-street parking for two cars in front of the house, marked by an original Victorian lamp post.
Located on a side street to the east of Earls Court Road, the house is in one of Earls Court’s many streets and squares that are now “great places to live,” said Roarie Scarisbrick, an agent with Property Vision, an independent agency based in London that works with buyers.
But it wasn’t always like this. As recently as 10 years ago, said Caspar Harvard-Walls, a partner at Black Brick, an agency and consulting firm in London, there was “a real divide between property prices in the Earls Court postcode of SW5 and the South Kensington postcode of SW7,” one of the most well-heeled neighborhoods in the capital.
Back then, Earls Court was still dominated by grungy bedsits, peeling homes and cheap hotels frequented by backpackers. Some areas west of the busy main road are still a bit grubby. However, in the east, where Lady Diana Spencer lived before she married and became Diana, Princess of Wales, the changes are more apparent.
“It’s Earls Court in name and postcode but much more South Kensington in appearance and price,” said Mr. Scarisbrick. “This is where most of the uplift has been seen.”
Mr. Scarisbrick estimates that prices have risen by about 25 percent to 30 percent in the last three years alone, and range from £1,500 to £2,000 per square foot. This kind of increase is spreading west to the former bedsit heartlands.
Local agents are also selling a delightful 715-square-foot studio with a terrace, 14-foot ceilings and a bank of tall French doors in Earls Court Square, west of the main road, for £1.15 million, or £1,608 per square foot. “We are seeing higher asking prices there as a result of the ongoing redevelopment,” Tom Kain, senior consultant with Black Brick, said by email, referring to a long-term project on the site of the former Earls Court Exhibition Center, which has been torn down to make way for new homes and a commercial district.
The first phase in the project is Lillie Square, a five-minute walk from Earls Court Square, where 808 one- to three-bedroom apartments, penthouses and four- and five-bedroom townhouses are being released for purchase in staged payments as the project is being built. Prices start at £1.57 million. Lillie Square, which is to be completed in 2016, will have a concierge service, residents club, spa, gym and swimming pool.
Plans call for 7,500 new homes to be built in the next 15 years, amid 30 acres that will encompass landscaped gardens and a park, as well as a new shopping thoroughfare. A range of cultural and leisure amenities, many of which are now lacking, will also be introduced.
“The new development will provide the retail focus the area desperately needs,” Mr. Harvard-Walls said.
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