20th October 2023

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London Location Essentials: What to Look For in your Property Area

According to the old property adage, there are three things to consider when buying a new home: location, location, and location. But choosing your perfect London location can be one of the biggest property hunt challenges of all, requiring a forensic knowledge of London’s myriad neighbourhoods and a clear idea of the factors most important to you.To help you start to whittle down your choices these are the five key criteria you need to consider when it comes to property location essentials – get them right and not only will you have the perfect place to live, but a solid future investment too.

Cross-London Connectivity

During the pandemic London suddenly became a city of pedestrians with everyone – barring key workers – confined to daily hour long walks for weeks at a time. Today the WFH (work from home) revolution is faltering. Although commuter rail companies are carrying fewer passengers now than in 2019 an increasing number of companies are requesting that staff show their face in the office if not daily then at least a few days per month. 

A location with good transport links around London is therefore a fundamental location must-have. This is the reason why the east side of Chelsea, close to Sloane Square, is more sought after than its lower stretches, and why lovely, villagey, but station-free Muswell Hill has never joined the top tier of north London’s prime urban villages.

When considering transport don’t just look at journey time to the office. Fast links to central London are also invaluable – why live in one of the world’s great capital cities if not to make the most of its theatres, galleries, restaurants, and bars? Luckily London is blessed with a mostly reliable tube network. Living within five to ten minutes’ walk of a station will not only be a benefit for you but should appeal with buyers when the time comes to sell up.

London Overground stations have, historically, been seen as second rate when it comes to train travel. Although they can work well for some buyers, their services are less regular and choice of destinations less varied, with transitions onto the underground often quite slow.  

Treasured Green Space

A pandemic trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is the desire to live close to high quality open space, and it’s quickly become a true location essential.

In London the most prestigious of these are the beautifully maintained Royal Parks of central and south west London. There are also fantastic non-royal options from Hampstead Heath to Battersea Park and Dulwich Park. And it is no coincidence that property around all these hugely popular green oases commands a premium. 

As well as giving locals access to nature, parks are often the focal point for communities, home to sports clubs and venue for summer festivals and autumn fireworks parties. 

Proximity to Schooling

Education is a massive driver of house moves. And while properties within the catchment area of top performing primary and senior schools, or within an easy school run of popular independent schools, tend to be more expensive they also have a habit of holding their value in difficult times.

Recent research by Savills found that nationwide the average overall price of homes close to an “outstanding” state senior school is £364,000. A home close to a “good” senior school has an average price of £307,000. 

But the average price of a home close to a school considered “inadequate” or requiring improvement by the schools’ watchdog plummets to £252,000. The exact cost of a school premium is hard to calculate. Much depends on the type of housing in the local area, how oversubscribed nearby schools are, and the precise balance of state and private education locally. But a straw poll of estate agents across London say that homes close to well rated state schools can be up to 20 per cent more expensive than those just slightly further away.

With the threat of private schools losing VAT relief if the Labour Party wins the next General Election, with an inevitable knock on impact on fees, we think that places at London’s quality state schools are likely to become increasingly sought after and those premiums could widen even further.

High Street and Amenities

A good range of local amenities is an essential factor when considering property location – what buyers want is plenty to do within a short walk. A great high street should have a good mix of interesting independent shops and upscale but useful chains, plus places to grab a coffee, grab a relaxed supper, or go out something smarter. 

For generations overseas buyers have instructed buying agents that they will only consider a home if it is within a five minute radius of Harrods, considering the department store the apogee of all that is great about London. And improvements to a high street can have a transformative impact on an area.

Upgrades can be wrought by house builders like Related Argent – which has made its redevelopment of King’s Cross a hit on the back of a clever mix of new shops and restaurants – or by London’s great landowners which are increasingly understanding how they can add value to their portfolios with better shops. A great example of this is the upgrading of Elizabeth Street in Belgravia, which has been carefully rebranded by the Grosvenor Estate, rejuvenating its appeal to buyers in recent years – smartening up the streets and investing in security has also helped. 

The Cadogan Estate is attempting to do the same for Chelsea, and has transformed Pavilion Road into a chic new shopping space, whilst curating hip new arrivals on and around King’s Road like The Ivy Asia and Soho.Home.Studio.

Micro Matters

Choosing a neighbourhood is just one part of the property buying puzzle. 

London’s housing market is incredibly nuanced, and factors like which side of the road a property is on, which way its garden faces, which floor it is on, has a huge impact on its price, and its potential for price growth.

Experience suggests that holding out for a home which benefits from a great aspect, good views, good light, and which is on a sought after street (or in a sought after building) can really pay dividends. During the difficult market conditions seen in 2023 these are the homes which are still trading strongly, and their rarity means they are likely to lead price growth when the London market turns.

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