The play’s the thing: developers appeal to culture vultures by building theatres right next door to home

By Nicola Venning

There are many reasons for buying a home: location, size and lifestyle all spring to mind. But equally important, though more elusive, is a sense of community. For Sarah and Justin Savage, who work in the theatre industry, that comes from a vibrant arts scene with pop-in-for-tea neighbours and a friendly local.

“We are used to having a community and chatting to our neighbours, and want to carry on doing that,” says Sarah. “As well as being close to a good theatre.”

Sarah and Justin, both 60, first met four years ago – after finding each other on the Telegraph dating website – at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, west London, where early episodes of Doctor Who, Hancock’s Half Hour and Play School were made.

Sarah, a former actress and scriptwriter, and Justin, a theatre producer, married two years later and started the hunt for a home for their new life together.

When the newly-weds discovered that Riverside Studios was being redeveloped as an arts hub in conjunction with a new apartment complex, Queens Wharf, they realised they had found their “forever home”.
“It was a no-brainer, really,” says Sarah. “It enabled us to have access from our building to the cinema, theatre, restaurants, bars, and have places to take clients. It is the perfect spot for us at this stage in our lives.”
The couple – who now run their own theatrical management agency, Savages, representing actors – bought a three-bedroom apartment with a large terrace, and plan to move in this November.

A flat at Queens Wharf, sold through CBRE Residential. Two-bedrooms start from £1.15 million, rising to £1.425 million for a three-bedroom flat

Queens Wharf has 165 apartments, which are being sold through CBRE Residential; two-bedrooms start from £1.15 million, rising to £1.425 million for a three-bedroom flat.

Creating cultural spaces within new apartment blocks is a growing trend as developers have realised they help sell homes and create communities. “People want to live and work in a place where things are happening: arts exhibitions, music venues, street parties and celebrations in the community,” says David Twohig, chief development officer at the group overhauling Battersea Power Station.
Twohig is tasked with the challenge of creating a sense of community in the sprawling, shiny new development.

Arts spaces and socialising are incredibly important for all areas, but particularly new ones. They enable people to come together and help build community. It is the stuff of life David Jubb, artistic director and the boss of Battersea Arts Centre.

Battersea, which will ultimately have 25,000 people living and working within its 42 acres, will have 250 shops, cafés and restaurants and nine entertainment “platforms”, which include open squares, parks, playgrounds and indoor areas. The Village Hall, a rather bucolic-sounding name for an urban community space, sits within Circus West Village, the first phase of 865 apartments where prices start from £400,000.

Events there are being curated with the help of local Battersea Arts Centre, and are designed to draw in the wider community as well as new home owners. A choir is already up and running while theatre, stand-up comedy, Ted talks and local celebrations such as weddings are in Battersea’s vision.

“Arts spaces and socialising are incredibly important for all areas, but particularly new ones,” says David Jubb, artistic director and the boss of Battersea Arts Centre. “They enable people to come together and help build community. It is the stuff of life.”
A vibrant cultural centre also helps create a sense of place. As well as several restaurants, a pool and gym, One Tower Bridge by Berkeley Homes will include a new theatre alongside its 376 apartments.

The 900-seat Bridge Theatre, run by Sir Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, both veterans of the National Theatre, opens this autumn. Not only will it add glam to the already high-end apartments (with prices starting at £1.475 million), but it will enhance a relatively overlooked section of the South Bank.

Increasingly, creative outlets are the amenity of choice. Brewery Gate, a development of 28 family homes by St James’s in Twickenham, has foregone a gym in favour of a community hub and 320-seat theatre. The success of an arts – and indeed any – public venue depends heavily on how it is run, and this facility, where homes start from £1.55 million, will be managed by St Mary’s University.

Such venues also transform the merely interesting into the highly desirable. Television Centre is generally regarded as “one of the coolest and hippest new developments,” says Camilla Dell, managing director of Black Brick, a buying agency. And that is despite being in less-than-fashionable White City. Formerly part of the BBC, the much loved Grade II listed building is being turned into 950 homes. Prices start from £750,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.

It includes a host of the usual amenities (health club, hotel, cinema), but it is the building’s television history and its three soon-to-be-reopened studios (home of Strictly Come Dancing, among others) that make it stand out. Wander down from your flat to a live recording of your favourite show – how’s that for local culture?

How Greece’s troubles affect British firms – not all badly

“I don’t think anyone should underestimate the impact that a Greek exit from the euro would have on the European economy – and the knock-on effects on us.”

So said the Chancellor, George Osborne, who called the Greek crisis “one of the biggest external economic risks to the British economy”.

So which companies are feeling the worst of this knock-on effect?

The travel sector is the most obvious example, with Greece a top destination for sun-seekers. Credit Suisse analysts reckon the sun-soaked Mediterranean nation accounts for about 10 per cent – and 15 per cent in the summer – of bookings for the main two tour operators, FTSE 100 operator Tui, the group behind the Thomson and First Choice brands, and Thomas Cook.

They predict recent events in Greece, as well as the shootings in Tunisia, will hit the tour operators over the summer.

They have cut their earnings forecasts for this year by 8 per cent for Thomas Cook and by 3 per cent for Tui on the basis the pair will have to drop prices to attract customers back to Greece. Shares in both firms crashed this week.

Tui’s 40 to 50 Greek hotels make up around 17 per cent of its hotels business. The company’s own guidance says that every 1 per cent change in occupancy in Greece adds €6m (£4.25m) to underlying earnings.

On that basis, a 5 per cent fall in hotel bookings in Greece could cost it €5m.

However, Gert Zonneveld, a top leisure analyst at Panmure Gordon, said that while the travel companies will be hit in the short-term, a “Grexit” could even benefit them further down the line.

“If Greece ends up leaving the euro and reinstates the drachma, it might actually increase demand for trips to Greece, depending on how much the drachma would devalue relative to the euro or sterling,” Mr Zonneveld told The Independent.

“I can’t see how routes to and from Greece would be significantly negatively affected over the medium and longer-term,” he added. Shares in the British Airways owner IAG and rival EasyJet have also suffered on the prospect of fewer bookings to Greece, while Ryanair’s stock has just about held firm.

But Mr Zonneveld estimates that the Irish carrier makes 5 per cent of sales from flights to Greece compared with EasyJet’s 3.5 per cent.

June was the FTSE 100’s worst monthly performance in three years as it tumbled 6.6 per cent, thanks largely to fears over Greece.

The exodus from equities, which often happens during times of uncertainty, means lower volumes of trading for fund supermarkets such as Hargreaves Lansdown, whose shares have fallen 8 per cent over the month.

Dixons Carphone, the UK company behind PC World, Currys andCarphone Warehouse, has a Greek electricals business called Kotsovolos. Shares in the retail giant fell 3 per cent on Monday on fears capital controls imposed by Greece, restricting the amount of cash that can be withdrawn from banks, will prevent consumers buying pricey electrical goods at the chain.

The retail analyst Nick Bubb said: “It’s hard to see their stores doing much business this week, with the banking crisis intensifying.” Meanwhile, analysts at Barclays suggested it could reduce store hours or even close down, depending on demand.

Elsewhere, shares in Marks & Spencer, which has 28 stores in Greece, have fallen from 570p to 545p in a week, while investors in Greece-based but London-listed coke bottling company Coca-Cola HBC have also suffered.

Banking giant HSBC has been “monitoring the developments” in Greece. It has $6bn of Greek assets, around 3.7 per cent of its total net asset value, which is the most among European banks.

“Like all banks, HSBC has been working to prepare for such events and to take the necessary steps to meet relevant requirements,” HSBC said on Monday.

Banknote printer De La Rue has also watched its shares fall, along with lesser-known property investors Dolphin Capital, which has two resorts in Greece.

Vodafone also has a Greek arm. It recently admitted sales had suffered due to the crisis. “In Greece, the steady recovery in revenue trends through the year stalled in Q4 as a result of the worsening macroeconomic conditions,” Vodafone said.

Its sales in Greece fell to £576m last year, making up around 1.4 per cent of the group’s overall revenues. So while the numbers sound big, the relative impact on the mobile giant is small.

Imperial Leather soap maker PZ Cussons has a Greek food business called Minerva, behind the low-cholesterol cheeses and spreads line Benecol. But it also only makes up a small percentage of sales and the group’s shares have been impervious to the Greek debacle as a result.

Car dealer Inchcape enjoyed a return to growth last year from Greece, where it is the distributor of Toyota and Lexus vehicles, owns five retail centres and runs another 42 which are independently owned. The FTSE 250 firm said the Greek market continued its recovery, claiming the overall Greek car market grew 22.5 per cent last year.

Inchcape said: “The Greek market is expected to continue its recovery after six years of decline prior to 2013.” The latest figures on the Greek car market showed car sales jumped 47 per cent in April.

Moving money out of banks and spending it on hard assets such as cars is a classic sign of a country in the midst of a financial meltdown.

People would rather own physical assets than lose control of their earnings or lose them altogether through insolvency – much in the same way investors rush to buy gold in economically or politically unstable times.

It was a similar story last year for Russia, where car registrations soared as the rouble crashed. So Inchcape may well be profiting from the Greeks’ financial distress.

The property buying agency Black Brick, which covers London and the Home Counties, reported an increase in Greek clients looking to invest in London as the economic instability takes hold in their homeland.

Managing partner Camilla Dell said: “Greece’s super-rich have long been a feature of the top end of London’s property market, but the country’s recent woes have seen a different type of buyer arrive from Athens.

“Middle-class Greeks are looking to acquire London property as a hedge against the effects that a return to the drachma would have on pensions and similar investments they hold in Greece.”

Made in Mayfair

Sultan Al-Nuami, from Abu Dhabi, has just got the keys to his three-bedroom penthouse apartment on Albermarle Street. There’s nothing unusual about a wealthy individual, originating from the Middle East, moving into Mayfair – whose 5,000 or so residents are drawn from 42 nationalities.

What sets him apart from the traditional Mayfair resident is his age. The Sultan, a student at Brunel University, is 20 years old. He is renting a flat above commercial premises for about £1,400 per week – or £220,000 for the full three-year term – just off Piccadilly. “I chose Mayfair because it’s very convenient and the shops and restaurants are a stone’s throw away,” says Sultan Al-Nuami. “The Mayfair vibe is so alive and it’s close to every location in London.”

He’s not alone in his newfound love for the maze of historic streets and grand squares between Park Lane, Piccadilly, Oxford Street and Regent Street. But although Mayfair is famous for occupying the most expensive spot on the Monopoly board, in recent years it has struggled to justify its lofty status.

Mayfair was born in the 1700s, when the politician and property developer Sir Richard Grosvenor was granted permission to build on Grosvenor Square. Construction started in 1721, as other families began to develop neighbouring areas such as Brook Street, Clarges Street and Hanover Street.

What was a downtrodden district suddenly became highly desirable, with dukes, earls and viscounts all moving to Grosvenor Square – turning it into the most fashionable address in London.

But the playground of Georgian and Victorian nobility began to lose its sparkle after the First World War, as the wealthy residents – many bankrupted by the war – moved out and commercial concerns began to move in. During the Second World War, more businesses fled from the City – and the bombs of the Luftwaffe – to the West End and by 1945 three quarters of the housing stock had been turned into offices.

“Traditionally it is an office-dominated area with a stale corporate environment,” says Camilla Dell, the founder of the property company Black Brick. “Next to Oxford Street and with good transport links, it was deemed a nice place to work but not a nice place to live.”

But that seems to be changing. According to a new report from the estate agent Wetherell, the area is again becoming a magnet for the young, fashionable and wealthy from all over the world.

The report shows that 60 per cent of the 5,100 people who live in the area permanently are from overseas. Of these, 64 per cent are aged between 20 and 44, with the majority living in lavish, serviced apartment blocks.

And, says Peter Wetherell, who has been selling properties in the area for 35 years, Mayfair is definitely getting younger. The proportion of residents aged between 25 and 44 had risen from 33 per cent in 2011 to 42 per cent in 2014. And the number of people renting is another indication of a younger crowd. Almost half the properties are privately let, compared with 26 per cent that are privately owned.

This split also reflects the nature of Mayfair’s housing stock. Most people live in purpose-built apartment blocks or former offices that have been converted into luxury flats – perfect for young couples or singletons.

“The housing stock is more suited for younger buyers,” says Camilla Dell. “Family buyers start their search in Mayfair – drawn to the illustrious address – but even the big houses in the neighbourhood do not have outside space. They just won’t get the big gardens available in Notting Hill, St John’s Wood or Hampstead Heath – which is inevitably where they end up.”

In fact, Mayfair is becoming a borough of extremes with either young, wealthy residents making homes there or older couples whose children have grown-up, downsizing to be near the West End, theatres and shops.

This is exactly the experience of the duo behind the Hanover Properties, an estate agent run by Richard Douglas and Alex Bourne, two former Foxtons employees.

“In the last week alone, we’ve had two buyers in their 20s, each looking to move into properties in the region of £10 million-£20 million in Mayfair for the same reason – the nightlife,” says Mr Douglas.

Their neighbours would now include celebrities such as the actresses Lindsay Lohan and Kiera Knightley and reality stars Mark-Francis Vandelli and Fredrik Ferrier, from Made in Chelsea, who have made their homes a mile or so to the east. There’s a glut of expensive restaurants and private members clubs, such as Nobu, Roka, Annabel’s, 5 Hertford Street, Loulou’s and The Arts Club. “It’s very different to, say, Knightsbridge, as it’s all so much more compact and accessible,” he adds.

Even the estate agents add a touch of glamour – both Mr Douglas and his business partner used to be television actors.

They had another client who sold his home in Mayfair to get away from the 24-hour party scene. “Having bought a place, he turned it into a great party home, removing a floor and creating a DJ booth. Now, married and with a baby, it’s entirely impractical and he’s in the process of moving,” says Mr Bourne.

Mayfair’s transformation from stuffy business district – where it was rare to see a light in the windows after dark – to the new party capital of the West End has been kick-started by the upward trend in house prices.

According to Alex Michelin, the chief executive of the developer, Finchatton, it was in the Nineties, when the residential properties became more expensive than commercial ones, that people started thinking of Mayfair as a place to live again.

Both Westminster City Council and the Grosvenor Estate, which owns much of the area, have been supportive of disused offices and commercial buildings being returned to residential use, he adds. Evidence of this can be found in the millions spent on the beautification of Mount Street, home to the celebrity hang-out Scott’s of Mayfair, and a parade of designer stores.

Only last, month the Qatari ruling family snapped up a six-storey Victorian town house on Mount Street for £40 million – one of the most expensive home sales in London so far this year – the Stamp Duty alone will cost £4.7  million.

While this sale underlined the dynasty’s desire to create a “Little Doha” in Mayfair, the area’s tradition as a centre for finance is also making it increasingly popular with young hedge fund and private equity executives who want to live near work.

This trend is highlighted in Peter Wetherell’s report, Who Lives in Mayfair, which paints a picture of single private wealth managers who work and play on their doorstep, and creatives and the self-employed who work from home.

Eleven per cent of the residents work remotely, 22 per cent commute on foot, while 46 per cent rent privately and 55 per cent live alone.

Mr Wetherell says: “Middle Eastern princes, bankers, wealth managers, commodity brokers, advertising directors and students from ultra-wealthy families are now typical Mayfair householders… they are bachelors and bachelorettes who want to live in a fun and lively resort-village with easy access to fashionable shopping, restaurants, bars and clubs.”

Despite the princely sum paid by Sultan Al-Nuami, research from the agent Knight Frank shows that this is not – “by some distance” – the highest amount paid by students and young renters in Mayfair.

“We have had several student applicants currently looking for properties up to £2,500 per week,” says Rahim Najak, the head of lettings for Knight Frank. “We also recently rented to an 18-year-old international student for £2,000 per week and have another student tenant who has been in the same property for several years at £3,200 per week,” he adds.

Both the sales and rental markets in Mayfair have boomed since the last housing market crash and property prices are now among the highest in the world, proof of the new surge in demand.

Over the 12 months to the end of March the average value reached £2,300 per square foot, an increase of 7.4 per cent from 2013, the Wetherell report shows.

More than nine out of 10 of all properties sold went for more than £1 million, and 28 per cent commanded a sales price of over £5 million – up 17 per cent rise from the previous year.

Even more telling of the Mayfair renaissance, the average price per square foot over the last 12 months was 39.5 per cent higher than the rest of central London.

The super-luxury condominium Clarges fetched £4,750 per sq ft last year, and it’s not even built yet. Although on the south side of Piccadilly, the development has been branded “Clarges Mayfair” to cash in on the new-found Mayfair cachet.

It all adds to the sense of history repeating itself. And Grosvenor Square, where it all began, is at the centre of it. There are several major developments under way there as Finchatton renovates the American Naval headquarters and the Indian developers Lodha convert the old Canadian Embassy into flats – turning the square once again into a playground for a very different kind of aristocracy from the one that first colonised the area three centuries ago.

 

Catch the house price wave south of the Thames in ‘new London’

Thirty years ago, there was no contest. Ask people which side of the Thames it was better to live on, and the answer would be north every time.

You only needed to look at the Underground map. Barely 30 Tube stations south of the river, compared with 200-plus on the north bank.

Why? Firstly, blame the geology. It was easier to tunnel through the solid clay of north London, than through some of the wetter, more gravel-like soil on the south of the river.

And then there was money. The firms that were building London Underground lines in the 1920s and 1930s were all private companies. The way they maximised their profits was by opening up stations in parts of London that were hitherto uncatered for.

“They preferred to build new lines into areas not previously well served by transport links, rather than areas already served by local mainline railways or tramway networks, as was the case in south London,” says Candice Jones, marketing manager at the London Transport Museum.

This was all very well until 1952, when trams were discontinued. Then, 10 years later, the last trolleybuses were shunted onto the hard shoulder of history.

All of a sudden, travelling into the centre of town became a lot harder for anyone in south London.

North of the river, your average Central Line passenger could get on at West Ruislip and read the paper all the way to Oxford Circus, as could the District Line ticketholder from Upminster to Mansion House.

By contrast, commuters from Surbiton, Croydon and Sidcup had first to take a British Rail train into a central London terminus, and then fight their way onto a Tube to get to work.

And that, so Londoners thought, was the way it was destined to be, which is why the past 20 years have come as something of a shock. For the riverbank south of the Thames has been transformed, from gap-toothed wharfside wasteland into a line of gleaming apartments stretching all the way from Wandsworth to Woolwich.

Forget Fagin and the Artful Dodger; Thames-side residents these days are no longer ragamuffins and pickpockets, but high earners who can pay anything from £500,000 up to £50 million for a river-view home.

This hasn’t happened by accident. Roots of the south-of-the-river renaissance lie in the building of Canary Wharf and the opening of the Jubilee Line, then the Docklands Light Railway.

More recently, too, there has been the creation of the London Overground. This means that in the space of a few minutes, you can make what would previously have been a nightmare journey from Peckham Rye, in the south, to Highbury and Islington, in the north.

The biggest south-of-the-Thames hotspot at the moment is the Nine Elms area, which covers the mile-and-a-half-long stretch of river between Vauxhall and Battersea.

There are about 30 building projects taking place here, covering 480 acres, all due to be linked by parkland. The most newsworthy building is, of course, the new American Embassy, which is moving here from Mayfair. And it will have plenty of other buildings to keep it company.

These include the old Battersea Power station site (3,800 homes), Nine Elms Point (573 flats), One Nine Elms (436 flats), Embassy Gardens (1,900 homes), Nine Elms Parkside Royal (436 homes), plus Vauxhall Cross Towers (291 homes).

And rather than having to cram their way onto already packed trains into Waterloo, residents will be able to hop straight on to the Tube, since two new Northern Line stations are being built at Battersea and Nine Elms (opening in 2020). The cost of these stations (£1 billion) will be met not by the taxpayer, but by the developers building the apartments (the Battersea Power Station Development Company alone is contributing £200  million).

Further good news, given the Northern Line’s propensity for technical problems, is the fact that more money is being put into improved signalling. This should result in a 20 per cent increase (11,000 people) in the number of Northern Line passengers who can pass through central London during peak rush hour.

Yes, this part of town may have lagged behind in the past, but now the brakes are well and truly off. On top of which, New Covent Garden Market is to be redesigned, and in the process is predicted to become south-west London’s answer to fashionable Borough Market.

“This part of town is set to move forward a century in a matter of a few years,” says Mayor Boris Johnson. “It will support 24,000 new jobs, 18,000 new homes, and will cut journey times for passengers.”

And given that London’s population is expected to reach 10 million by 2030, plans are even now being laid for a £3 billion extension to the Bakerloo Line, taking passengers beyond Elephant and Castle, to New Cross, Lewisham, Bromley and Hayes.

As well as constituting a rebirth for the broader south London area, the new plans also mark the upward-mobilisation of the river. Instead of being seen as synonymous with mud and rats, the Thames is now being promoted as an attraction, providing uninterrupted, panoramic views.

“The top 10 cities in the world for global property, in terms of where to live and invest, are all located either on the banks of a major river, on the harbour front or by the ocean,” says Sophie Chick, from the research team at Savills.

“London is one of those premier world cities. The others are Hong Kong, Moscow, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.”

An even bigger bonus is that the Thames follows a pleasingly circuitous route, enabling some residents to see both up and downstream.

“In the west of London, the river bends quite obliquely, and you get terrific views both of the Shard and the London Eye, and back down the river westwards,” says Mark Dorman, head of residential development at estate agents Strutt and Parker.

The best part is that if you live right on the river there’s nothing blocking your view. Mind you, it’s by no means just in the west of town that the river’s renaissance is happening.

As well as the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern, east London has also seen a huge amount of new development, backed up by improved transport links (first the Jubilee Line, then the Docklands Light Railway). Initially, this development was from Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf and the O2 Dome, but it now stretches much further.

Indeed, when Crossrail opens in 2018, you will be able to get from Canary Wharf to Liverpool Street in six minutes, Bond Street in 13 minutes, and Paddington in just 16 minutes. Effectively, then, east London is no longer a public transport outpost. As a result, the developers have moved in and bought up once-disregarded tracts of land.

“Along the riverfront from the eastern end of Greenwich, and around the Greenwich peninsula, there are still a lot of mouldering wharves and industrial sites,” says Rod Cullen, associate director of sales at Chestertons estate agents. “The developers can’t put up new blocks fast enough.”

Fact: House prices along the South Bank, inbetween new development schemes, rose 8.7pc in 2014, with Chelsea seeing price falls of 1.6pc and Fulham 0.7pc.

Plans are afoot, too, for housing developments to be built as far eastwards as Gillingham, in Kent. Here, a 20-acre site is being turned into Victory Pier, complete with shops, restaurants, art centre and apartments starting at £152,000.

The other big bonus is that a river view is a whole lot more affordable in the east.

“For years, the chance to own a balcony overlooking the Thames was the preserve of the wealthy in west and central London,” says Antony Crovella, marketing director at United House Developments, the firm that has converted a former marine boiler factory into the 257-unit Paynes and Borthwick development in Greenwich (asking prices £480,000-£950,000).

“Now, though, sites in the south-east of London are providing a more affordable way to achieve this.”

These days, it’s not just a question of building flats and then moving on. Developers have learnt from some of the earlier south-of-the-river developments, which have a rather lonely, Marie-Celeste-cum-wind-tunnel feel to them.

“Developers have realised that, in order to make their scheme a success, they have to build not just flats, but a whole new community,” says Camilla Dell of buying agency Black Brick. “It needs to be made up of offices, parks, new transport links, restaurants and shops.”

This is something Jacob Sullivan, head of sales for Berkeley Homes South East, is keenly aware of. His firm is currently turning South Quay Plaza, next to Canary Wharf, into a more human-friendly, 900-home environment.

“The whole point is to buy a site that we can transform into a proper place,” he says. “Not just with lounges and terraces for the residents of the development, but, for example, with swimming pools and gyms and underground parking.”

And don’t overlook shops, restaurants, cafés and views. That’s the aim of George Kyriacou. Brought up in nearby Lambeth, Kyriacou is now managing director of CIT, the firm that is turning the former IPC Magazines building, at Southwark, from offices into a 41-floor, 170-plus-apartment residential scheme.

“The great thing about the south bank of the Thames, is that there are now wonderful views across to the buildings on the north side,” says Kyriacou.

By the same token, too, there is more for north Londoners to look at across the river, given the number of south London developments now reaching skywards.

Certainly, it’s south of the river where the boom is happening, with some 8,500 apartments being constructed. This compares with some 500 apartments that are being developed on the north side, between Battersea and Blackfriars.

The two biggest north-bank schemes are the Riverwalk development just east of Vauxhall Bridge (116 apartments, from £1.75 million, being built by Ronson Capital Partners), and the 50-storey Principal Tower scheme, designed by Foster and Partners, on a site close to Liverpool Street Station.

No question about it, then, Thames-side living is now in fashion, and prices are rising almost as quickly as the new, riverside blocks.

“Even houseboats with moorings at Wandsworth Park sell for £500,000 up to £2 million,” says Chris Firth, director of sales for Chestertons estate agents.And that’s for homes that don’t have any firm foundations, but float on top of water.

“It didn’t used to be the case, but because of all the changes, now it’s true,” says Kyriacou. “These days, the south bank of the Thames is no longer second best. It’s a prime residential area.”

Some like it hot

Where do you stand on hot tubs? Do you try desperately to banish all thoughts of Hugh Hefner as you suppress an embarrassed British snigger at the sight of one? Are you Scandinavian at heart and think how bracing it would be to streak across the terrace on a snowy winter’s morning and jump into the bubbles? Or is there a touch of the SoCal about you and the mere glimpse of a hot tub sees you planning your “bellini and bikini” parties. If so, you’ll be wanting the Luxema 800, the deluxe $26,000 split-level variety that includes a built-in bar, TV and sound system.

Whatever your view on hot tubs, one thing seems certain – the London skyline will soon be peppered with the jet-set waving to one another from their steamy, bubbling rooftop pools as top-end developers include them as must-have accessory for residents of the capital’s multi-million pound penthouses.

Paddington Basin may not match Miami for dreamy waterfront views, but buyers of the duplex penthouses at 3 Merchant Square – priced from £3.4m (020 7993 7393) – can gaze across W2’s canals from the hot tub on their huge decked terrace. The view is more bucolic – you could even watch the Oxford v Cambridge boat race glide by – from the four penthouses at Queen’s Wharf next to Hammersmith Bridge. “The hot tub is a great piece of added luxury. They bring that element of prestige,” says Alex Greaves, CBRE’s associate director of residential development, who is marketing the penthouses from £4.75m (0207 205 2973).

Other high-end London developments with rooftop tubs are 127 Shoreditch, whose £4.75m penthouse (020 7101 2020, hattonrealestate.co.uk) has one on its wraparound terrace. Definitely one for those who want to be seen.

Buyers of the £8.5m Triplex Penthouse or the £8m Ophelia Penthouse at One Tower Bridge (020 7871 0011) can luxuriate in theirs while soaking up the postcard views. “We wanted to create a usable yet luxurious outdoor space which feels like a private members club and hot tubs make the ultimate viewing platform all year round,” comments Jacob Sullivan, Berkeley Homes (South East London) head of sales. “They are certainly the most relaxing way to enjoy panoramic views of the London skyline.”

We British are clearly learning to love a hot tub. Holiday Lettings report that they are one of the most asked-for features in luxury UK holiday homes, with searches for hot tubs in country houses or “swanky flats” rising by 250 per cent in December 2014 compared with a year before.

“They are definitely a tick box for the international super rich and some houses have two – one inside next to the swimming pool as a built-in spa, and one outside as a “feature” area,” comments Alex Newall from property advisors Hanover Private Office. There’s something quite sexy and decadent (not to mention exhibitionist, given the probable proximity of your neighbours) about having a hot tub in the city – wallowing in your warm water high above the masses trampling the pavements below.

In semi-rural surroundings such as on Surrey’s Wentworth Estate, where Vilebrequin-toting owners are very partial to these millionaires’ pleasure troughs, it’s all about soaking up the peaceful views across golfing greens and countryside. “We recently acquired a £10m property there for a high profile client which has a sliding glass roof and stairs leading up to a private terrace with a hot tub, wet bar and modern shower,” says Newall. “There’s no escaping it – we’re embracing the American lifestyle.”

Other agents remain unconvinced that we can ever do hot tub culture with aplomb. “They are expensive to maintain, unattractive and frankly still have a bit of a seedy image,” says Robert Bailey, a central London buying agent. “Developers put them in thinking it will entice buyers, but within a few years they are covered in dust and debris, never having been used.”

Jo Eccles, head of Sourcing Property is similarly scathing. “They’re a gimmick that doesn’t get used”, she says, while Camilla Dell, MD of Black Brick buying agency, thinks “they are out of fashion. People prefer to bathe in the privacy of an indoor spa – though they do work well in the country”.

Perhaps they might be converts if they saw the “hot tug” – the world’s first wood-fired hot tub that is half Jacuzzi, half motorised dinghy. Ideal for those whose property comes with a mooring. You can’t help thinking that pootling around on the water in a receptacle that is full of water can only lead to a sinking sensation. But the Dutch love them and it can only be a matter of time before they start to appear in St Katherine’s Dock or Chelsea Harbour.

 

 

Ultimate party pads

When couples of a certain age watch their children leave home, they typically downsize, declutter or maybe just repaint. Not so for South African couple Chris and Melinda Bird. When their daughter flew the nest last year, they called in the builders to turn their £2m family home in Fulham’s Radipole Road into an all-singing, all-dancing party pad.

Out went a spare bedroom to make way for a balcony overlooking a vastly-extended party kitchen. In came ensuite bathrooms so guests could comfortably stay over, a high tech wireless music system with hidden ceiling speakers in every room, and the basement floor was lowered to build a fully-waterproofed wine cellar with tasting area and feature “spitting” sink. They also added some top notch soundproofing.

“They absolutely didn’t want a family home any more – they wanted an adult folly where great entertainment space was key,” says Billy Heyman, MD of BTL Property, who carried out the £800,000 refurbishment.

 

Leisure spaces in luxury London homes are becoming less about “me time” and more about me, you and 100 of our closest friends in sumptuously designed surroundings that render going out pointless. Swimming pools turn into dance floors, walls retract to reveal hidden bars and in one St John’s Wood house, a gym floor opens up to expose a 1,000-bottle wine cellar with adjoining wine room and “contemplation area”.

The best party houses combine space, privacy and views. “They should provide exceptional free-flowing spaces with a wow factor – ideally integrating seamlessly with the external landscaping so you can expand the guest list significantly,” says Mark Pollack, director of Aston Chase. Add a bit of drama in the form of a Lalique chandelier or a recognisable art collection and you’ll be fighting to keep them away.  

 

Penthouses lend themselves perfectly to the job – and with the average London penthouse costing £13.3m, according to new figures from Lonres, developers are throwing in the firepits, hot tubs and other Miami-style accoutrements to make buyers feel they really have something worth showing off to their friends.   

 

One penthouse with views to spark any party conversion sits on the 37th floor of Strata in Elephant & Castle, on sale for £1.75m, its 43-foot wide living room with sloping windows providing a prime frame over every central London landmark.

 

The Penthouse 127 in Shoreditch, on sale for £4.75m, is a similar conversation piece, with 360 degree views from its 1,372 sq ft wraparound terrace that includes an outdoor lounge, kitchen, dining area and even an al fresco TV.

 

Also in Shoreditch but more discreet in its party particulars is the penthouse at Avant-Garde – a two-bed duplex, £3.5m which features a gold wall in the reception room that opens up to reveal a moodily-lit bar.

 

You don’t need a new-build to be the ultimate socialite, however. You could follow in the footsteps of practised partiers The Astors in a converted listed farm building built by Lord Astor on land that was once part of the Cliveden Estate. The property £3.95m, pays a nod to the partying days of the young Astors, with its theatrically huge space and features such as a galleried music room, a concealed spiral wine cellar and a cinema. What’s more, its master bedroom looks across to Spring Cottage, where Christine Keeler stayed when she indulged in a different kind of partying with John Profumo.

 

“The Astor is a show-stopper, a property with a rich and scandalous history that has been turned into the ultimate party pad. It’s designed with a sense of fun in mind,” says Nick Hole-Jones, Hamptons’ country house director.

Another show-stopper in its time is Bethany Hall, a four-bedroom house in Ladbroke Grove which – to give an idea of its lofty proportions – once hosted a party where trapeze artists were hired to swing from the beams in its vast hall. Now the 1920s former dance hall is on sale for £5.5m and includes a “total immersion baptistery” currently used as a wine cellar.  

 

If dinner parties are more your style, then you’ll be wanting a show kitchen, the latest feature in some central London mansions where guests sit around a counter in the kitchen to watch the chef perform. Camilla Dell from Black Brick buying agency describes one exquisite 12,000 sq ft townhouse in Belgravia’s Eaton Place, soon to come on the market. It includes a professional kitchen with “chef’s table” on the excavated basement level. “It’s ideal for families with their own private chef,” says Dell.

 

If this all sounds like taking partying to another level, there’s a Hampstead developer who is quite literally doing that. He has built a private high-speed lift to whizz guests to a 2,000 sq ft dedicated party space two floors below ground. As Aston Chase’s Mark Pollack comments: “It means that other residents of the building will be blissfully ignorant of the fun going on below their very feet.”

It just shows how London’s luxury developers are taking partying to dizzying heights – and depths.

House prices in high-end London slashed after stamp duty shift

Wealthy homeowners will be forced to slash house prices in central London following the Government’s sweeping stamp duty reform, experts have warned.

Vendors with property worth more than £1m are preparing to reduce their asking price to attract buyers who will be hit with a heftier tax bill following the Autumn Statement.

Mr Osborne reduced the burden of stamp duty on buyers in the mainstream housing market when he switched the old slab system to a new graduated one, ridding the market of huge jumps in transaction tax.

However, the top end of the market is now paying substantially more in stamp duty. “It is in London’s £3m to £10m price band where the changes will have the biggest impact, here the market will almost come to a halt,” said Gary Hersham, high end estate agent and managing director of Beauchamp Estates.

In order to shift their property some of these vendors will need to reduce their prices, he explained. Buyer, Camilla Dell, from the agency Black Brick, has forecast a 10pc drop in prices in the £2m plus market.

“While we accept that stamp duty is a one-off purchase tax that the majority of high-end property buyers can comfortably afford to pay, these latest changes are likely to have a pronounced impact on market conditions in the coming months,” she said.

Other property professionals have voiced their concerns that should Labour win the general election, Ed Miliband will bring in mansion tax on top of the new stamp duty regime.

“It really will be a case of killing the golden goose. Politicians simply don’t understand the amount of money that comes into the UK from wealthy foreigners buying property in London and the south east,” said Hugo Thistlethwayte, managing director of buying agency Prime Purchase.

“Meddling with further taxes will sabotage that and affect all the builders, decorators and others who benefit through property changing hands. It makes the whole thing unsustainable and these buyers will go elsewhere.’

The forecast fire sale follows a stampede of wealthy buyers trying to push through their transactions before the early hours of yesterday morning to avoid the additional tax hit.

The new progressive system came into force at midnight on Wednesday, unless a buyer had already exchanged, at which point the individual can choose which system to sell under.

20 ways to become a property millionaire

Not since the days of Roy Jenkins and the permissive society has a government minister struck such a cavalier note. That was until last March, when pensions minister Steve Webb announced: “If people want to buy a Lamborghini… that is their choice.”

Mr Webb was speaking in the context of the Government’s ongoing pensions reforms, which were being driven forward at breakneck speed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. From next year, people will be able not only to release up to 25 per cent of their pension pots tax-free, but to access those pots almost as easily as they can access their bank accounts.

It is goodbye to that safe-but-dull annuity, and hello Lamborghini, fine wine and holidays in the Caribbean. Until the cash runs out, of course.

Could it also be hello second, third and fourth homes? Anyone can see that, with interest rates at their current level, money in the bank is going to grow so slowly that it might as well be kept under a blanket. Property prices, by contrast, have soared, far outstripping inflation.

All that might change, of course. But anyone who has been tempted to release capital from their pension pots, and wants to put the money to good use, not just blow it on extravagances, would be mad not to include property in their long-term financial calculations.

We have all endured those tedious dinner parties where Plonker A boasts about how he did up a flat in Walthamstow and made £300,000 profit in six weeks, and Plonker B says that’s nothing, he made a cool million on his buy-to-let in Barcelona. Well, if you cannot beat the plonkers, why not join them?

This 20-step guide to becoming a property millionaire is hardly foolproof or risk-free, but it incorporates practical tips from the experts.

1. Target flats rather than houses

Most observers agree that investors who put money into flats tend to generate a good return. “Generally speaking, flats make better buy-to-let investments than houses, and if your budget will stretch to a two-bedroom, two-bathroom flat, we would always advise that,” says Camilla Dell of Black Brick.

The second bathroom might sound unnecessary, but the more flexible your buy-to-let property is, the better.

2. Be patient

It’s important to assess all the pros and cons of an investment before jumping in. “Remember that property is a long-term game, and if you want to make money from it, never put yourself in a position where you are forced to sell,” explains Rupert Collingwood of the London Management Company.

How many buy-to-let investors commit precipitately to a purchase after listening to the sales pitch from a developer? They should talk to local lettings agents before taking the plunge.

3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

As with stocks and shares, a diverse property portfolio is much more likely to weather financial turbulence than one relying on a single, bold gamble. The potential return on that beach development in Albania may look mouth-watering, but if the Balkans lets you down, it is nice to have a student buy-to-let in Bristol to fall back on.

4. Always look for ways to add value

“One of the best ways to make money out of a property is to add value to it,” says Dan Channer of Finders Keepers in Oxfordshire. “Even seemingly unglamorous purchases can prove lucrative. For instance, consider a maisonette above a shop with potential for a loft conversion.”

5. Become tax-efficient

You will never become a property millionaire if you pay the taxman more than you absolutely have to. “There are many ways to keep your tax bill down, and you should take full advantage of them if you want to achieve maximum capital growth,” says David Hannah of Cornerstone Tax.

“If you are married, ensure any rental income from your property portfolio is divided between you and your spouse in the most tax-efficient way. You should also maximise savings from tax-deductible items, such as furnishings.”

6. Exploit local knowledge

It sounds obvious, but when buying a property, it’s not going to be easy to spot a bargain thousands of miles away. The sort of property that is so reasonably priced it can hardly fail to appreciate in value is going to be much easier to spot in your own backyard. In addition, you will have all the vital information about schools, transport and so on at your fingertips. You will also find keeping tabs on tenants so much easier than from another town.

7. Start at home

Are you nearing retirement age and living in a tired and dilapidated family house that is far too big for you? Then consider breaking it up into two or three flats. You can keep the ground-floor flat for yourself and use the others as the first building blocks in your property portfolio, advises Luke Walsby of Hamptons International. It makes obvious financial sense to release some equity from your biggest asset, and you will be on the spot to oversee the newly created flats.

8. Find professional partners you can trust

Unless you are a financial wizard with a law degree and advanced DIY skills, you are going to need professional help in building your property portfolio. “Pick the right partners, people you can trust, with expertise in their chosen field,” says Phillip Button, managing director at property investment specialists Brookes & Co. Finding dependable builders, lawyers and accountants is not just key to maximising your profits, but will offer you peace of mind during a complex process.

9. Is there cash in your attic?

If you are thinking of selling your main home to raise capital and kick-start your portfolio, consider making value-adding improvements first. A loft conversion or extension – assuming you have not employed a cowboy builder – can add 20 per cent to the value of a property, according to a recent Zoopla survey.

10. Take advantage of low mortgage rates

“Turning an initial investment of £200,000 into a £1 million portfolio is certainly achievable if you do your homework,” says Graham Davidson of Sequre Property Investment. “One possible strategy might be to buy eight properties costing £100,000 each, using a 75 per cent buy-to-let mortgage, and putting down a £25,000 deposit on each. “Invest intelligently in vibrant, up-and-coming cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, and you would soon be in a position to purchase four or five more similar properties.”

11. Don’t turn your nose up at unfashionable suburbs

“For anyone nearing retirement, I would strongly suggest buy-to-lets in suburban London,” explains Marc von Grundheer of Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings.

“I have just bought a one-bedroom flat in Tooting for £320,000, opposite St George’s hospital, and am expecting to get a rental yield of 5 per cent. You would be hard pressed to achieve that in central London at the moment.”

12. Think Waitrose

Even if you prefer shopping in Tesco or Sainsbury’s, you should keep an eagle eye on what Waitrose is doing. If there is a new Waitrose scheduled to open in Hampton-in-the-Puddle, then a better class of resident in the area – and a subsequent hike in house prices – can be confidently predicted.

13. Look for young professionals as tenants

“If you are pursuing a high-income investment strategy as a means of building a £1 million portfolio, the best tactic is to invest in premium-quality, low-cost shared accommodation for working professionals,” says Steve Bolton of Platinum Property Partners.

With the right tenants, converting a single-occupancy property into one in multiple occupation will lead to significant capital gains, covering the refurbishment costs with plenty to spare.

14. Don’t trust estate agents’ estimates of rental yields

Novice buy-to-letters are at the mercy of estate agents promising unrealistic rental yields. So don’t trust the agents, do your research and get genuinely independent advice, says Camilla Dell of Black Brick. Average rental yields in central London are a modest 2.83 per cent, and if you only have around £200,000 to invest in a buy-to-let apartment, you may do better in “outer prime” areas, such as Fulham and the City.

15. Vive la France!

The French property market is in the doldrums and, with the pound so strong and the euro so weak, there will never be a better time to buy that dilapidated farmhouse in the Dordogne for a song. Do it up, turn it into a stylish holiday home, with all mod cons and swimming pool, and wait for the optimum time to sell. You could double your money in five years – and have some slap-up French meals along the way.

16. Check out property investment funds

“There’s nothing better than lying by a swimming pool and watching the pool go up in value,” says David Rogers of Rocksure Investments.

Rocksure specialises in schemes where, for an outlay of just over £200,000, you can purchase a share of a luxury villa in the sun – or, for that matter, a Chelsea apartment, a blue-chip investment if ever there was one – and have personal use of it for a certain number of days a year. Capital growth tends to be modest but reliable.

17. Could Jersey be a cash cow?

In a recent report highlighting islands where property prices have remained resilient during the global economic crisis – and which offer outstanding long-term investment potential – the Channel Islands came close to the top, along with the likes of the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands.

“The next 10 years will see a growing appetite for island real estate development,” predicts Yolanda Barnes, the director of Savills World Research.

18. Become a trainspotter

When you analyse why house prices have grown faster in some areas than others, you will often find that the single most important factor is improved rail links, slashing commute times.

But it is no good waiting until that new station has been built before sinking money in an area. You need to stay ahead of the game, study long-term transport plans and pinpoint areas that will get the benefit of improving rail links in five years’ time.

19. Follow trends in planning approvals

Keep an eye out for approved local planning applications, urges Natalie Hall of Fyfe Mcdade. They can be found on local authorities’ websites and often give an early indication of areas with good long-term investment potential.

Where planning permission has been granted for major housing schemes, there is often a noticeable ripple effect years before the developments have actually been built.

20. Remember the growth potential in gardens

Even if you are investing in a city apartment, remember how much people value fresh air.

“Our research suggests that London properties with some kind of outdoor space, such as a small patio, are worth 20 per cent more than properties without such a space,” says Nick Barnes, head of research at Chestertons.

As for your own outdoor space, worry not. If all your buy-to-lets perform according to plan, you’ll be able to afford as much of that as you want.

 

 

Where to make Capital Gains

 

In the game of snakes and ladders that is the London property market, there is nothing quite as satisfying as being the first person to identify a hot spot. “People buying in central London have become far less postcode-snobbish than they used to be. And they are prepared to look at areas they might once have overlooked, so long as the price is right,” explains Tom Bill, the head of London residential research at Knight Frank. Substantial and continuing changes in the city’s transport infrastructure have also played a pivotal role.

So where should the canny buyer invest? Some areas, such as around the soon-to-be-renovated Battersea Power Station, have obvious investment potential. But the developers know that, so property prices already reflect the expected gains. Other up-and-coming corners of the capital have improved under the radar, so to speak, and may be better long-term bets

Here are 20 capital hot spots where snapping up property in 2014 could just be the best decision you have ever made.

1. Bayswater/ Queensway

Bayswater is “the last piece of the jigsaw around Hyde Park,” says Tom Bill. Prices on the north side of the park have never matched those in Kensington, Mayfair or Knightsbridge, but wealthy overseas investors are starting to buy properties around Queensway. Look out for tired terraces and once-cheap hotels which, with a bit of TLC, could be converted into ultra-cool residences in a prime location.

2. Dalston/ Kingsland

To the old mantra “Location, location, location”, there needs to be added a new one: “Trains, trains, trains”. House prices in Dalston/ Kingsland are up 31 per cent in the past 12 months, according to Hamptons. It’s the area’s proximity to the North London Line – part of ongoing improvements to London Overground – which is believed to be responsible. Equally sharp price rises have been observed near other London Overground stations, such as Brockley and Brondesbury Park.

3. Whitechapel

Could Whitechapel be about to finally shake off the reputational damage caused by Jack the Ripper? Yes, says Lochie Rankin of Lichfields, who calls Whitechapel “the most interesting developing market in east London”. Although prices in the area are tipped to rise by around 25 per cent before Crossrail is completed in 2018, developers have only recently seen Whitechapel’s huge potential. Expect a rash of New York loft-style properties in the next few years.

4. Peckham

The Trotters would probably be appalled, but there is hardly a plonker to be seen in Peckham now – the area is being gentrified so quickly. “When prices shot up in more salubrious parts of London, Peckham was left behind, despite its proximity to the City and fantastic Victorian architecture,” says Gareth James Mozley of GJM. It is making up for lost time now, with prices more than doubling in five years.

5. Holborn/ Aldwych

Holborn used to be viewed more as a corridor between the West End and the City than as a desirable address. Not any more. Cool city apartments or town houses on immaculate residential streets such as Doughty Street cost significantly less than they would in more fashionable parts of central London. You can be confident of showing a healthy profit in the long term.

6. Clerkenwell

“Clerkenwell has seen positive changes in recent years, and I believe the scale of this regeneration will accelerate over the next five to 10 years,” says Camilla Dell of Black Brick. Current property prices in this likeable enclave, popular with creative types, range from £1,000 to £1,400 per sq ft, but experts see no reason why they should not rise to Soho levels of £2,000 per sq ft. Farringdon will be a major beneficiary of the Crossrail project, while the major new development on the Old Street roundabout, known as the White Collar Factory, should be complete in 2016.

7. Nine Elms, Battersea

London property experts are unanimous that, with the regeneration of Battersea Power Station, the US Embassy moving south of the river and the planned Northern Line extension, this area has a bright future. So much smart money has already been pumped into the area that it may be too late to get on the bandwagon, but it is certainly a bandwagon worth careful consideration.

8. Streatham

“This area is a brilliant option for those who can’t afford the more established surrounding areas, such as Balham,” says Robin Chatwin of Savills. “We have seen prices grow by nearly 20 per cent over the past 12 months, but the area still looks amazing value.” The new Streatham Park is helping put the area on the map, while there are excellent transport links to Victoria, as well as some well-regarded schools.

9. Stoke Newington

“Stoke Newington is what Shoreditch was five or six years ago, with a lot of young professionals moving into the area and creating a real buzz,” says Robert Fraser, director of Fraser & Co. Like neighbouring Newington Green, this multicultural pocket of the borough of Hackney is being rapidly gentrified without becoming in any way genteel. It looks an excellent long-term bet.

10. Southwark

t is hard to envisage a day when Thames-side properties fail to attract a premium, and it is mainly developments south of the river which are setting the pace. The latest one, due for completion in 2016, is the Music Box. These 40 modern apartments are perched on top of the London Centre of Contemporary Music in Southwark, which is fast becoming the epicentre of South Bank cool.

11. Bow

No East End Cockney used to be worth his salt unless he had been born within the sound of Bow bells. Not many of Bow’s current residents would pass the Cockney test, but the area’s rich history, and lively ambience, continue to make it attractive. “Bow is proving particularly popular with City types who cannot afford to live in Canary Wharf, but view it as an excellent alternative,” says Robert Fraser, director of Fraser & Co.

12. West Drayton

Another area likely to benefit when Crossrail is completed in 2018, when Bond Street will be just 23 minutes away. “Over the past couple of years, we have seen a huge increase in the number of investors keen to purchase property in the area. They are confident that their investment will achieve a substantial rise in capital value once the Crossrail station opens,” explains Nicholas Jordan, director of the Cameron group. Drayton Garden Village will provide nearly 800 new homes, while Drayton Wharf, on the Grand Union Canal, will offer stylish apartments at affordable prices, starting at £200,000.

13. Brixton/ Kennington

“Thanks to re-rating, the search for property hot spots in London is starting to move outwards, and Brixton and Kennington are among the areas benefiting,” says Ed Mead of Douglas & Gordon. “Brixton is defying convention and is now the area where young people want to live for all right reasons, while the Oval is firmly in the sights of the Bank of Mum and Dad.”

14. Earls Court

Known as Kangaroo Valley in the Seventies, Earl’s Court has never quite overcome a down-at-heel image. But all that could be about to change, says Richard Barber of W A Ellis: “The redevelopment of the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre and Seagrave Road will have a massive effect. The development will comprise four urban villages and a new primary school, and we will undoubtedly see house price increases off the back of it.”

15. Wapping

“The past 12 months have been fantastic for Wapping, with price growth of 24 per cent compared with seven per cent for Chelsea and Knightsbridge,” says Lauren Ireland of Savills. Wapping is simultaneously steeped in history and thoroughly modern, packed with the kind of riverside warehouse conversions that seem sure to gain in popularity.

16. Victoria

“Victoria has long been seen as a poor relation of neighbouring Belgravia. It’s often called up-and-coming, but has never really arrived,” says Rachel Thompson of the Buying Solution. But better times could be just around the corner, with the £2bn regeneration of Victoria Coach Station and Victoria Street. Ultra-modern glass buildings are slowly replacing the austere architecture of “old” Victoria – often a telltale sign of an area where confidence is booming.

17. Tottenham Court Road

“Historically, this end of Oxford Street has been considered unattractive. But I have no doubt that this perception will change considerably, particularly if the Centre Point building gets redeveloped into high-end residential units,” says Camilla Dell of Black Brick. The Tube station is being completely redeveloped and, with the travel time to Canary Wharf set to be halved, the area can only go from strength to strength.

18. Honor Oak

No sector of the capital has benefited more from improvements in the capital’s infrastructure than the south-east. Honor Oak, in the borough of Lewisham, perfectly illustrates the knock-on effect of good rail links. The area has never had the cachet of Dulwich, but it is catching up fast. With direct trains to London Bridge likely from 2018, courtesy of the Thameslink Project, those competitively priced three-bedroom Victorian terraces at around the £500,000 mark are starting to look like real bargains.

19. Mayfair

Anyone who has ever played Monopoly will have clocked Mayfair as London’s most pukka address, so it may seem odd to call such a bastion of conservatism up-and-coming. But perhaps that way of thinking is out of date, says Tom Bill of Knight Frank. “Mayfair used to be dominated by offices, but we have recently seen a big growth in the residential market, which is likely to bear fruit long term.”

20. Elephant & Castle

Elephant and Castle used to be the kind of scruffy London enclave you drove through without stopping: it was far from easy on the eye and the road layout was a mess. But better times have come to the area, with a significant programme of regeneration (the picture shows Elephant and Castle’s dilapidated Heygate Estate as it is planned to be – an eco-friendly, mixed-use retail space)) . It is also in travel zone one, which is a plus, and property prices remain remarkably reasonable for somewhere so central. It’s not far from the Old Kent Road, which along with Whitechapel, is the last area on the Monopoly board where you can still hope to find a bargain.

 

Sniffing out the perfect property

The big name architect and interior designer are on board, the original artwork and bespoke chandeliers are in production and the private residents’ lounge is taking shape…what else does a luxury developer need to think of these days? Ah yes, the smell! What is this development going to smell like?

While luxury new-builds sell themselves as being a feast for the eyes (those views! That £150,000 kitchen!), ears (think soporific background music to lull you into thinking you’re already at home) and touch (throws to envelop yourself in, rugs to melt into), appealing to the sense of smell has usually been limited to the reliable old waft of freshly baked bread and just-brewed coffee.

But developers are starting to get more sophisticated in their indulgence of the olfactory. They are realising that creating a “proprietary fragrance” is all part of the process of enticing buyers. The team behind One Thousand Museum, Zaha Hadid’s futuristic bottle-opener of a building on Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard, has commissioned the bespoke New York-based perfume factory 12.29 in their first residential project. Their task? To come up with a scent that matches Hadid’s architectural vision.

The resulting beach-breeze aroma that will be diffused around the huge reception area is “the aesthetic message of One Thousand Museum”, according to its marketers. The gym has its own smell too – no, not sweat, but a motivating citrus with dark wood, while the rooftop aquatic centre will emit a smell called “warm skin” – a coconut and orange flower combination that’s “reflective of an ocean breeze”.

The main purpose behind it all is branding. As 12.29’s founder, Samantha Goldworm – who has invented scents for Lady Gaga, trendy hotels such as the Quin in Manhattan and Miami’s glamorous Art Basel event – puts it: “we took the developers through the process that translates their brand identity into a scent”.

But there’s also a more romantic motivation, that smell is “the most powerful link to emotion and memory”, says Goldworm. As Samantha’s twin sister and 12.29 co-founder Dawn explains: “when you scent a space, you’re changing the way people feel about it”.

In New York, INSTRATA Lifestyle Residences – a portfolio of luxury residential buildings throughout the city – also have a custom scent. It’s called Golden Bamboo byScentAir and its top notes of satsuma and lime blended with a base of apple and bamboo emit a scent reminiscent of a massage or meditation session, according to Rob Neiffer, Director of Invesco Real Estate.  “The use of a distinctive scent is a relatively new concept for residential real estate but growing in popularity. If the right scent is selected, it can help to reinforce a luxury feeling and experience when entering the building,” Neiffer adds.

For luxury British developers Millgate, white tea and fig is the signature scent that infuses its projects, including six-bed mansions in Holland Place, Sunninghill that cost from £4.25m. The idea, says sales director Jonathan Cranley, is “to create a soothing, luxurious environment. We believe that scent is a powerful way to connect on emotional and memorable levels with our customers, forging a greater association when a buyer first walks in”.

The leading candlemaker Rachel Vosper has been drafted into One Tower Bridge, Berkeley Homes’s new development of luxury apartments beside the iconic London landmark, to give each of the three show flats a distinctive smell.

For the “Tom Ford Suite” show apartment, designed by Honky, Vosper chose an oriental spice blend to complement the river and park-side location, while the Casa Forma-designed apartment lent itself to a fresh, minty smell. “Bringing an apartment to life doesn’t just involve scents but an acute attention to detail to make it feel simultaneously lived in and like a blank canvas,” says development manager Doug Acton.

Given the effort and expense that goes into creating bespoke scents for properties, it all seems a bit of a shame that the most effective smells are those we scarcely notice. But it’s far preferable to send a subconscious message of luxury than to thrust an aroma, quite literally, right up our noses.

In one £55m London apartment that Camilla Dell from Black Brick buying agency came across, the smells were carefully choreographed to suggest sheer decadence. “The men’s walk-in wardrobe and bathroom had a very masculine smell and empty shopping bags from Hermès and Loro Piana scattered around, whereas the woman’s walk-in dressing room and bathroom had a floral, feminine scent and was dressed with Chanel and jewellery. It all combined to create the feel of a family living there with the best of the best,” says Dell.

We choose perfumes to suit our personalities. Why not use scents as a subtle way to announce the personality of properties too? That must be what they call paying through the nose.