January 2023

2023 Predictably unpredictable and why this is the year to take good advice

In the early months of the pandemic, the Bank of England warned that UK house prices could fall by 16 per cent as the economy grappled with the impact of Covid-19.

In reality prices went on a two year growth spree, jumping by almost 10 per cent in 2021 alone as buyers rushed to upsize into WFH friendly homes with outside space.

What this anecdote proves beyond doubt is that not all property forecasts stand the test of time.

Anybody with a finger on the pulse of London property will be aware that most pundits agree that with the cost of living crisis still raging house prices are likely to fall this year.

Savills, one of the most respected UK property analysts, believes the downturn will be short, and shallow.

In prime central London it predicts prices will drop by two per cent this year. But it also suggests prices will begin to recover in 2024 and will produce cumulative price growth of 13.5 per cent by 2027.

In outer prime London, a market more dependent on mortgage finance and less attractive to international buyers, Savills forecasts suggest prices will drop by seven per cent during 2023, but rally to produce growth of 6.1 per cent by 2027.

London’s prime suburbs will follow a similar path, with prices dropping eight per cent this year, before returning to growth. By 2027, Savills believes, price growth will total six per cent out in the burbs.

With the possibility of price falls this year, and little chance of above-inflationary growth over the next few years, the takeaway here is that buyers need savvy advice to make sure they don’t overpay and that their new home is future proofed both to their needs and to the vagaries of the market.

“Being well advised and having access to off market property is what 2023 is going to be all about,” said Camilla Dell, managing partner of Black Brick. “We have recently renegotiated deals on behalf of our clients to reflect changes in the market, including our acquisition of the month below, although this is a strategy best handled by professionals.

“Re-negotiating deals is a fine art which many unrepresented buyers get horribly wrong – around a third of property deals are falling through at the moment and attempting to reduce an offer without alienating a vendor takes a tremendous amount of tact and skill.”

Where to buy in 2023

From historic West End enclaves with some of the best nightlife and shopping in the world on the doorstep, to leafy London villages with buzzy atmospheres and improving transport links – anybody considering buying a London home this year certainly has plenty of choice.

Picking the right postcode is a fine art – as well as considering the lifestyle and local amenities on offer, buyers need to have an ear to the property market ground to select a location with the staying power to ride out the inevitable ups and downs of the housing cycle.

To help you decide where to buy in 2023, these are Black Brick’s selection of the five key locations to watch over the next 12 months.


Prime Central London: Mayfair

This roughly one mile square grid of streets and squares has been a prime London address ever since the late 17th century and clever curation of its public spaces and shopping streets means that when it comes to PCL Mayfair has firmly overtaken Knightsbridge as the place to be.

Stock is in short supply, and demand remains strong from both domestic and international buyers. Add to that the fact that few Mayfair vendors will be in a position of having to sell, means prices are likely to withstand any economic shocks the year may bring.

“Mayfair is one of those places where buyers are willing to pay a premium to live,” said Camilla Dell, managing partner of Black Brick. “They don’t expect to get big discounts.”

Homes range from elegant townhouses to modern, ultra-luxury apartment buildings like Clarges Mayfair, Burlington Gate, and 1, Grosvenor Square.  The average sale price stands at £4.3m according to data from Rightmove.

“One of the key things about Mayfair is the huge amount of investment that has been put into the area by the Grosvenor Estate – they are very particular about things like which shops go into Mount Street and – and there has also been a real explosion of exclusive new private members clubs and restaurants,” said Dell.

The delayed opening of the new Crossrail line at Bond Street in October has given Mayfair an extra fillip.

“It will really appeal to buyers who come in and out of Heathrow,” said Black Brick property consultant Tom Kain.


Prime London Fringes: North Kensington

Samantha and David Cameron were early adopters of the W10 postcode, only leaving their family home to move into Downing Street in 2010.

Since then, North Ken has been on a quiet ascent.

Golborne Road Market is a more peaceful, less tourist flooded, and altogether hipper alternative to Portobello Road, with pretty stalls and food trucks, artisanal cafes, restaurants, vintage shops, and boutiques.

This fact has not gone unnoticed by young British, European, and American buyers looking for a buzzy new neighbourhood to call home. And they are also cottoning on to the fact that they can get great value for money compared to Notting Hill, less than a mile away.

‘In W10, a really smart property would sell for around £1,400 to £1,500 per sq ft,’ said Kain.

‘A similar property in Notting Hill could cost anywhere from £4,000 to £5,000 per sq ft’.



Up and Coming London Village: Herne Hill

In the 1780s streets of fine houses were built in Herne Hill by wealthy merchants and bankers, earning it the nickname the “Belgravia of south London”.

In more recent years it Herne Hill was overshadowed by the hipsterfication of its nearest neighbours, Brixton and Peckham. But as property prices there have swelled so buyers looking for value for money have started to explore Herne Hill.

What they have found is good quality period houses, plentiful green space, and an increasingly impressive range of gastropubs and restaurants. Little wonder that a ripple of young families – the “dogs and sprogs” crowd –looking for space and quality of life have adopted Herne Hill.

The most famous of these are, of course, Boris and Carrie Johnson, who are reported to have chosen a Edwardian villa on Stradella Road as their post-Westminster home.

The average sale price of apartments in Herne Hill last year was just under £500,000 according to Rightmove, with semi detached houses selling at close to £1.5m. Prices are now 10 per cent up on pre pandemic levels.


Prime Outer London: St John’s Wood

The jewel in the crown of north London, St John’s Wood with its affluent high street, amazing schools, and beautiful white stucco villas has long been a popular roost for families who tend to stay put for decades.

“St John’s Wood has done really exceptionally well over the last 18 to 24 months,” said Dell.

The current average price for a flat in NW8 stands at just under £1.2m according to Rightmove, while semi detached houses fetch an average of just over £4.2m. And current sale prices are up 11 per cent compared to the 2018 peak.

Beyond average prices, there have been some really super prime deals struck over the past couple of years. Three houses on the area’s premiere street, Hamilton Terrace sold for north of £20m, while unmodernised properties on the almost equally sought after Avenue Road are now trading for an exceptional £3,000 per sq ft.

“I think we will definitely see prices plateau this year, but this is the sort of area where people don’t need to sell if they don’t get the right price, so I don’t think we will see a drop off either,” said Dell.

Historically one thing that SJW has lacked is prime apartment buildings to tempt local homeowners to downsize. Most local stock consists of dated mansion blocks.

There is clearly latent demand: homes at One St John’s Wood, a 12 storey building opposite Lord’s Cricket Ground, which completed in 2022, sold strongly at prices starting from £2.6m.

And in November preparatory work finally started on the redevelopment of the St John’s Wood Barracks, which has been in the works for more than a decade. This 2.2-hectare site, formerly the headquarters for the Royal Horse Artillery, will bring 179 brand new homes to the market.


Crossrail Outperformer: Acton

Ever since it was announced that London was to get a new train line, smart buyers have been eyeing this Victorian suburb as a natural step out from Notting Hill or Holland Park.

And now that it is up and running its super-fast train links to the City and Canary Wharf are starting to tempt buyers who might once have preferred to live in Islington or Clerkenwell.

When the line is fully operational journeys to the City will take just over a quarter of an hour, and travellers can be in the West End in ten minutes.

These new arrivals have helped hike house prices in Acton by 59 per cent between 2012, when work on Crossrail began, and last year. And they have also contributed to a groundswell of organic local regeneration which is in the throes of transforming Acton from rather bland backwater into the new East Dulwich.

Its de-facto high street, Churchfield Road, has become a hotspot for interesting independent shops and restaurants, galleries and gastropubs, many founded by new locals.

Acton has already had its fair share of investment – the £800m regeneration of the South Acton Estate to name but one – and more is to come. Transport for London is poised to start work on a £1bn scheme to build 850 new homes, plus offices, shops, and restaurants, close to the station which will give the gateway to Acton just the face lift it needs.


Acquisition of the Month: Ashburn Place, South Kensington, SW7 – £6,155,000

Our overseas client was a first time London investor hoping to add a rental property in prime central London to his portfolio.

With limited spare time to research the market and find a location which combined potential for capital growth and high rental demand he came to us.

We identified South Kensington as the perfect solution thanks to its resilient, robust rental market – as well as corporate tenants the area is hugely popular with students at nearby Imperial College.

We also advised him to consider acquiring an entire freehold building, a strategy which gives complete control over the running costs of the building going forward.  If the building contains six or more apartments it also qualifies as a commercial property investment, offering savings on Stamp Duty.

This kind of asset is rare but, after an extensive search, we found a period building divided into seven flats, all with period features and outside space. The building was fully let. The original asking price was £7m but after lengthy negotiations we were able to secure it for £6.155m – a saving of more than £800,000.


Camilla Dell heads to the UAE

Managing Partner Camilla Dell will be visiting the UAE on business at the end of January. The UAE has always been an important region for Black Brick, and we look forward to connecting with our clients and professional networks. If you are based in Dubai or Abu Dhabi and have an interest in the London property market and would like to meet Camilla, please email Camilla.Dell@black-brick.com.

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