27th April 2023
A global spotlight will shine upon London this month as King Charles is coronated with what we eagerly anticipate will be scenes of the kind of pomp and pageantry which Britain is so good at.
Not many people can boast of not only getting a new job, but a promotion to boot, at the age of 74. The Queen Consort will also get a new job title: Queen Camilla.
It has been a long journey for the former Camilla Rosemary Shand, who first met King Charles at a Windsor polo match in 1970, proving that when it comes to love, faith and patience can be great virtues.
Property is another game in which patience and optimism are assets, and when seemingly disastrous situations can turn around in remarkably short order. Which is why Black Brick is treating the latest slew of property price data with cool composure. Because even in a challenging climate there are always opportunities to be had.
A whole slew of property data suggests that the worst of the current property malaise may be over in central London.
According to property analyst LonRes, house prices across prime central neighbourhoods have just endured their biggest annual fall since before the pandemic, with prices down five per cent in the 12 months to March to an average of £1,261 per square foot. It blamed the UK’s poor economic outlook, and fears of a further decline in the housing market, for deterring top end buyers from committing to deals.
Yet there are also signs that the slowdown is tailing off.
Savills’ analysis of the market in the first quarter of 2023 found that prices had flatlined in prime central London from January through March, following a 0.6 per cent fall in the final quarter of last year. And in affluent suburban neighbourhoods prices had increased very slightly.
Caspar Harvard-Walls, a partner at Black Brick, thinks buyers should be thankful for some respite from the super-hot pandemic market. “A bull market is really hard to deal with,” he said. “Where we are now means that at least buyers don’t have to make instant decisions or lose their property, there is time for due diligence. It is a much better time to buy than in 2017 or 2014, or during the pandemic when the market went really crazy.
But Camilla Dell, managing partner at Black Brick, said that in a market where the price trajectory remains unclear, expert support is crucial. “There is a lot of conflicting data coming out,” she said. “Expert advice is really important when pricing is difficult to read.”
For more insight into how to make London’s property market work for you, Dell is taking part in a webinar on how to invest in property for the WealthiHer Network on Thursday 11 May at 11am BST. Dell will be joined by Stevie Heafford, Tax Partner at HW Fisher LLP and Sarah Kelly, Director – Prime Residential, SPF Private Clients. Together, they will be discussing and sharing their experience and expertise on how to invest in property for your financial future. For more information and to secure your place see:
Price is not the only indicator of the health of a property market. The number of deals being agreed is another important factor. And according to Coutts real estate the prime London market – defined as homes priced at £1m-plus – got off to a “sluggish” start in the first quarter of the year, with transaction levels down by a third compared to the same period in 2022.
“But you have to remember that 2022 was a record year, when everyone wanted to buy a property,” cautioned Harvard-Walls. “You are going to see some adjustment since Covid-19, because it was a completely artificial, unreal situation.”
Demand certainly seems to be strong. Estate agent Foxtons reports that it completed more viewings during the first quarter of this year than during any of the past five years.
Part of the problem in translating this demand into deals, said Coutts, is that cautious buyers are “pricing in what they think the market will look like next year”, while optimistic vendors are hanging on to the memory of what the market was like last year. The result is a standoff.
“Properties which are really without compromise, what we like to call best in class, are still achieving top prices,” said Dell. “We are certainly not seeing any discounting there. The market is softer for properties which are not perfect.”
During the pandemic, what buyers wanted were houses with outside space. Flats were left forlornly on the shelf. But exclusive new research by estate agent Hamptons suggests that a remarkable turnaround has taken place.
Prices for apartments in parts of central London are up to 26 per cent higher now than they were before the pandemic, in 2019.
The big winner, according to the study based on Land Registry data, is north Kensington where average flat prices stand at £726,750, up a resounding 26 per cent compared to prices four years ago. Other big winners include the area around Old Street, where the renewed appeal of a home close to the City has seen the average price of a flat jump by 24 per cent during the same period to an average £787,190. And there have also been 20 per cent-plus increases in Earl’s Court, Barnes, and Highbury.
In cash terms, the biggest price jumps have been seen in Belgravia, where average prices are up more than £280,000 to an average of almost £2.2m, and in South Kensington, up just over £275,000 to an average of just over £1.6m.
“We were all told during the pandemic that nobody was going to buy a flat without outside space in central London ever again – but in fact, buyers do love the lateral space and convenience of a flat.”
International buyers are major players on London’s prime property scene and their sudden absence during the pandemic left a very big gap to fill.
Their return has been slow but, according to new research by estate agent Benham and Reeves, based on Freedom of Information requests to the Land Registry, the number of homes registered to foreign homeowners is inching upward across the UK.
London saw the biggest increase in the number of homes registered to overseas homeowners, up four per cent in the past year. The highest volumes of foreign owned property is found in three key boroughs: Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea which, between them, cover the bulk of prime central London, and Tower Hamlets, which covers the Canary Wharf financial district.
Harvard-Walls’ concern is that potential buyers who start their London house hunts by scanning the property portals might come away disappointed. “There really hasn’t been a spring market this year, we have not seen loads of new properties coming onto the market,” he said.
“I think part of the reason is a growing trend for people to hold onto their properties for a long time – it is so expensive to sell and they have no compulsion.”
Another reason is the growing popularity of off market selling, meaning that the pick of the available properties often don’t make it online at all. 55% of properties sourced for Black Brick clients so far in 2023 haven’t been advertised.
A debate which rages endlessly amongst Londoners is on the relative merits of brand new properties versus the capital’s stunning period homes.
Clearly this is a dilemma which is partly down to personal preference.
But according to a snapshot survey of the habits of £5m-plus buyers in Mayfair new homes are in the greatest demand.
Estate agent Tyburn found that of the £793m spent on homes in Mayfair last year, 70 per cent of sales were new builds. When it came to £10m-plus property that percentage jumped to 80 per cent.
“This is a definite trend,” agreed Dell. “Buyers are very attracted to the amenities and security which a new home offers.”
Many buyers are also being turned off historic homes, said Harvard-Wells, by the prospect of having to renovate them at a time when building costs are shooting up. “Agents are not putting a big enough discount for cost of work on homes which do need renovation, and buyers really don’t want to take on the red tape and headache.”
Black Brick has been a force in London property for more than 16 years.
But mindful that buyers are often looking to build an international property portfolio, it has begun forging strategic alliances with like minded firms in key locations around the world.
That means that if our buyers come to us wanting a home in New York, Palm Beach or Miami, in a European capital like Paris or Berlin, or on the other side of the globe, in Sydney, Australia, we can help. We’ve made it our mission to partner with best-in-class advisors and buying agents globally, so wherever our clients may be looking to buy, we are able to connect them with the best in the business and with professionals who share the same ethos as Black Brick.
And Camilla Dell will be travelling to Dubai, another of Black Brick’s property network locations this month to meet clients and continue to assess the local market. If you are interested in discussing how Black Brick can assist you internationally, please contact Camilla.Dell@black-brick.com
Our repeat UK clients had been renting a property for some time and were looking for a family home to buy in Marylebone. We had first looked after our clients and found them a rental in Marylebone as a stop-gap before purchasing their family home. Even though our clients lived in the area and knew it well, they wanted assistance from a trusted, professional buying agency to be able to access the best opportunities ahead of the competition.
We undertook an extensive and meticulous search, over many months, liaising with all the local estate agents and developers to fully explore the market and ensure we left no stone unturned in our search. The Marylebone house market is severely limited so we advised our clients to allow us to extend their the search to include the Hyde Park Estate area in W2. Extending the search area meant we were able to show our clients a wider selection of property and we finally identified a house that worked perfectly for them. We sourced our clients a stunning, newly refurbished period townhouse located in Connaught Village. The property measured 2400 square feet and benefitted from 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and 2 reception rooms – ideal for family living. We also managed to negotiate a substantial £350,000 from the asking price.
We thrive in competitive markets. The pandemic has significantly increased competition for family houses. We were delighted to finalise the purchase of such an attractive property, for below the asking price, which will be an ideal home for our clients for many years to come.
When an American couple based in Los Angeles came to Black Brick looking for a dreamy home in Paris it was a little off our regular patch.
However, we were able to introduce them to one of our global network of buying agents, who has helped them secure a most beautiful historic four bedroom apartment with original fireplaces, cornicing, ironwork, and panelling.
The property, which is in the 7th arrondissement and right by the Eiffel Tower was on sale for €3.8m. After negotiation our clients were able to secure it for €3.55m, and they were walked through the unfamiliar French buying process too.
“The clients really wanted to put their own stamp on the property, so they bought something unmodernised,” said Dell. “The buying agent we introduced them to will now connect them to the right people to help with the work.”
Black Brick’s principal role is helping clients buy their perfect home, but sometimes we are asked to assist with the sale of a property.
Our latest offering is an intriguing prospect – the chance to create a new, 16,000 sq ft home on one of north London’s most prestigious streets close to Hampstead Heath and across the road from Hampstead Golf Course.
On offer is a 0.38 acre plot of land with planning permission granted to build an elegant, four storey period-style family house with a pool and tennis court in the garden.
The layout would be perfect for a family, with two living rooms, a spacious kitchen overlooking the garden terrace, a dining room and a study. Upstairs is a principal bedroom with twin bathrooms and dressing rooms and five ensuite bedrooms.
The basement is given over to leisure, with a games room, gym, hair salon, massage room, and changing facilities, as well as a swimming pool, jacuzzi, and swimming pools.
Contact Black Brick for more information.
We would be delighted to hear from you to discuss your own property requirements. For a non-obligatory consultation, please contact us.