30th November 2022
In a year which can probably best be summed up as unpredictable, Black Brick has still purchased almost £100m worth of property, from central London apartments to country estates, on behalf of clients from all around the world. As the market gets more cautious, half of those homes were being sold off market – up from a third in 2021 – and the average discount on asking price we secured was four per cent (or £40,000 per £1m).
As the pandemic slips into the past so buyer interest in flats has well and truly returned during the past 12 months. Seven in ten of the homes we purchased this year were apartments, compared to five out of ten in 2021. And 2022 has also seen the return of the investor buyer. One in five of our deals were made on behalf of investors in 2022 compared to just six per cent in 2021.
Nationality wise, around 40 per cent of our clients were from the UK, closely followed by American buyers (29 per cent) who have returned to the British capital to take advantage of the weak pound. We have also acted from buyers from Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and France.
These diverse buyers have bought homes across London although the W1 postcode (Marylebone, Mayfair) accounted for around a quarter of our sales, up from six per cent last year. Wimbledon was our most popular suburb, attracting one in ten of our buyers.
Below are our Top 10 Deals of 2022 which we hope will inspire you. Thank you to all of our clients and professional contacts that we have worked with this year. We look forward to fulfilling your property ambitions in 2023.
Fixer upper properties, town or country, have gone out of style during 2022. Everybody knows how difficult, and increasingly expensive, it has become to renovate. The majority of buyers no longer want the stress and aggravation of managing a build.
Our client, looking for a country pile within easy striking distance of London, was no exception
As well as wanting a turnkey property his wish list included equestrian facilities, and he had specific aesthetic requirements.
“This client didn’t want to buy a rambling old redbrick house that would need a lot of work – some of these country homes have been in a family for generations and have not been modernised,” said Dell. “It was quite a tough requirement.”
We found him a classical-style house and arranged for him to spend a weekend there to get a feel for the site. Once he had decided to buy another buyer was in the picture, and we had to move fast and negotiate hard to secure the house for our client.
Our clients were long term fans of Mayfair’s restaurants and private members clubs, and they had calculated that it would be more cost-effective to buy an apartment than stay at Claridge’s when in London.
They wanted a turnkey home and we found them a newly refurbished apartment in a prestigious location. “It is in the best period building in Mayfair,” said Caspar Harvard-Walls, a partner at Black Brick.
We worked fast on this one – our clients viewed the apartment, made an offer, and exchanged contracts all within a couple of weeks.
“I think we are going to see more of this kind of flight to quality in 2023,” said Harvard-Walls. “There will be fewer buyers, but they will be focussed on the best in class.”
This, said Camilla Dell, managing partner of Black Brick, is because previous recessions have proved that there will always be demand for top drawer homes: “If you do need to sell in a hurry these are the kind of property that does not sit on the market for very long, and that is true in any market,” she said.
The buyers of the Carlos Place property are from the USA, another trend likely to become increasingly common in 2023. American buyers are increasingly heading to the British capital, aware that the weakness of Sterling is providing them with a once in a lifetime chance to buy at – effectively – a 20 per cent discount.
Certain leafy London villages are a triple threat, with good looks, good transport links, and great schools. Homes there are always in demand, no matter the state of the market, and Wimbledon is a classic example.
Once families arrive in SW19 they tend to stay put, which makes finding a property a real challenge.
Our clients were living in Surrey. The problem was that their son’s school is in Wimbledon, and the school run was gruelling. They wanted him to be able to walk to school and live near his friends, Wimbledon Village, and Wimbledon Common.
They were also looking for a house in good condition that they could move straight into.
We found them a perfectly located property and – after a six month hiatus during which the owner decided they didn’t want to sell after all, then changed their minds – we were able to make a fast, asking price offer and secure the property before it went onto the open market.
“At £7.5m for 5,278 square feet – or £1,420 per square foot – the house represented good value given that it was in excellent condition,” said Harvard-Walls.
“Our relationship with the selling agent meant that our clients viewed the house before anyone else. The location of the property would have likely led to competition from multiple buyers, a scenario we managed to successfully avoid.”
It might seem counterintuitive, but the more negative the headlines the more buyers turn their backs on conventional marketing strategies and head off market.
“When there is lots of negative sentiment around owners are very reluctant to show all their cards,” said Dell. “Selling off market gives them protection – if it doesn’t work out, they don’t have to publicly reduce their prices. More and more sellers are choosing not to advertise online any more for that reason.”
In this particular case our buyers were already based in Dulwich but needed more space. This was proving easier said than done because Dulwich, with its splendid architecture, plentiful green space, and outstanding state and private schools, has become one of London’s most sought-after family addresses.
Despite the seismic shocks of 2022, from the cost of living crisis to the mini budget, prices have continued to grow.
Average asking prices in Dulwich tipped the £1m mark this year, hitting £1.11m during 2022 according to Rightmove, an increase of 16 per cent. Prices are now 24 per cent the previous peak of £897,000 in 2018.
This growth is partly due to an extreme lack of stock – people who move to Dulwich tend to stay long term. “It is a market where we are still seeing intense competition for houses,” said Dell.
It has been almost a decade since the first apartments at Battersea Power Station went on sale. And its combination of quality design, outstanding location, and history – as well as some smart placemaking from the developer – has made Battersea Power Station a powerful player on London’s property scene.
Our clients had been living up the road in Nine Elms and they started out looking for a complete change of scene.
“They started off looking for a house in Chelsea, but decided it was more fun to be in Battersea, surrounded by bars, restaurants, and Battersea Park,” said Harvard-Walls. “It is a really good set up.”
Dell believes that buyers after a new home should seriously consider repurposed historic buildings – think the former gasholders at King’s Cross, the military buildings at Royal Woolwich Arsenal, The OWO Residences by Raffles, luxe apartments within Winston Churchill’s wartime headquarters – rather than faceless grand-scale modern schemes. “When you get this combination of new build within a historic building like this it works really well,” she said.
Schemes like Battersea have also upped the pressure on developers to create thriving neighbourhoods not simply collections at homes. “Battersea really feels full of life,” said Harvard-Walls. “With a lot of new build developments there is nobody there.”
Our clients were based in the Far East and were looking to buy a property they could rent out in the short to medium term, and move into when they eventually returned to the UK.
They wanted a three bedroom house with a combination of features which can be hard to find in London: it needed to be energy efficient, have air conditioning, but also have period features and charm.
With a free rein on location, so long as it was within prime central London, we selected a pretty freehold mews house close to the new Crossrail station at Paddington which ticked all the boxes.
Our clients had a budget of £2m. The property was on sale for £2.175m. We took on the delicate matter of negotiating a deal and were able to secure our delighted clients a £225,000 discount.
Tom Kain, senior buying consultant at Black Brick commented, “We understood that the sellers were keen to sell, having owned the property as a buy to let investment they wanted to release their equity. That really helped with the negotiations. We have also provided a complete service to our client, introducing him to our trusted network of interior designers, contractors, and architects to help transform the mews house. We can’t wait to see the finished house once the works are complete.”
The mews is a category of property which punches well above its weight.
Once home to carriage drivers and their horses, these charming terraces on – often – cobbled and flower-decked streets have been modernised, extended below ground, and offer the benefits of both lateral living and freehold ownership.
“There was a time when they were a bit looked down there – they were for horses and staff -but we now get ultra high net worth buyers asking for them,” said Dell. “They are really picturesque, pretty streets, very quintessentially English, and they are tucked away and hidden which feels more secure than a regular street.”
Our clients were empty nesters living out in deepest north west London and were keen to return to the centre of the city to be close to their medical practices in Marylebone. They wanted a property with three bedrooms and plenty of light but had been struggling to find the right place in a competitive market.
After around a year they hired Black Brick and we sourced them a mews house being sold off market. When the property went to final offers we advised them on how to pitch their offer in order to come out on top.
Our clients had relocated to London and didn’t have much time to find a two bedroom flat in a great central London.
Not only did we find them a beautiful two bedroom home in one of Notting Hill’s prettiest streets, within their timeframe but we also helped them fight off hot competition.
Another bidder offered £55,000 more in an attempt to secure the property, but the vendor was persuaded that with Black Brick taking care of the practical details our buyers were the more proceedable option.
Just two years ago it would have been impossible to imagine buyers fighting over a flat without outside space in central London – everyone was racing for space in the suburbs and beyond with the pandemic in full cry.
During 2022, however, flats have enjoyed a reversal of fortune.
“I think that people feel that the likelihood of another lockdown is small enough to consider an apartment without outside space,” said Alex Oliver, senior buying consultant at Black Brick. “Outside space is certainly becoming less of an absolute must. And, if you want to be in a period building, they tend to come without outside space unless you are on the lower ground floor.”
Meanwhile more companies are insisting staff reappear in the office; in October Transport for London reported its highest passenger numbers since the start of the pandemic as workers return to their desks.
“More and more people are back at work and don’t want a massively long commute,” said Dell. “They also want the buzz of everything London has to offer having had a couple of years of not being able to party and have fun.”
Although buying property is our stock in trade every now and then Black Brick agrees to take on the sale of a property. These clients don’t want to be just one of thousands of vendors being dealt with by a high street agent and appreciate our discreet, expert service.
The owner of this warehouse-style apartment in central London came to us at a particularly tricky time. It was spring, the UK was very much in the throes of the pandemic, and to make matters even more difficult international travel restrictions meant overseas buyers were in short supply.
Our client had struggled to sell the property with a local agent and came to us to see if we could do better.
With our contacts we were able to matchmake the client with a buyer who made a far better offer than anything previously received, and a deal was agreed.
Our investment client was looking for a modern two bedroom apartment in a central City location, with top notch onsite amenities and an impressive sales record.
The contemporary, dramatic One Crown Place development was the perfect fit, they opted for a spacious one bedroom apartment with a winter garden and stunning views of London’s skyline.
This client, who was launching a new fractional ownership scheme, was unusual. But demand for second homes in the City has been very much on the upswing during 2022. Buyers who sold up and moved out to the sticks during 2020 and 2021 have started to realise that they still need a foothold in town.
“This idea of having a crash pad in London is really popular, especially for people who moved really far out of London during the pandemic, to Somerset or Cornwall,” said Harvard-Walls.
The majority of these buyers are British; a decade or so ago transient international workers stationed in the City for a year or two would also buy rather than rent apartments, and sell at a profit when they moved on. “The cost of buying and selling means that is no longer possible,” said Harvard-Walls.
Today’s Square Mile buyers have longer term plans for their City pads which they anticipate one day want to pass down to their children. “Renting is now so expensive and competitive that if you can take your kids out of that it is a great thing to do,” said Harvard-Walls.
We would be delighted to hear from you to discuss your own property requirements. For a non-obligatory consultation, please contact us.