According to a survey of the most expensive postcodes in Britain published last month (Property News, May 26), the Monopoly board of London warrants a long-overdue edit. This has probably been the case ever since Park Lane became a three-lane highway, but it serves to illustrate that the grand streets of Mayfair have been outclassed largely by a few square miles of Kensington and Chelsea.
In 2010, and following a recent boost to house prices in the capital, the most expensive street in Britain, where the average price tag hovers at a cool £18 million, is in Kensington W8. All but three of the top 10 most expensive postcodes are dominated by south and south-west London. The first to attempt to balance the bias, in seventh place, is NW3, a byword for north-London intelligentsia, psychotherapists and creative success stories.
Part of the borough of Camden, NW3 is Hampstead village, the area that lies to the south and west of Hampstead Heath, the 790-acre parkland that separates it from Highgate. It’s said that a young Evelyn Waugh used to hike up the hill to post his letters in the village so that they bore a Hampstead postmark rather than Golders Green. Its heart is made up of irregular cobbled streets that climb up past pretty Georgian terraces, boutique shops and street cafes. Hampstead is the highest point in London and, because of the breezes and fresh air, it once served as London’s laundry: the sight of sheets drying on the holly bushes led sailors arriving in the Docklands to think that the village was snow-capped.
In cities all around the world, it’s typical for the leafy residential areas to be at least 40 minutes, if not an hour, from the city centre. London is unique in that Hampstead is-on a good day-10 minutes by car from the West End,’ says Trevor Abrahmsohn, who runs Glentree International (020-8458 7311) and sells many of the ‘telephone-number priced’ houses in the area. ‘Hampstead is a place to bring up families: the local schools are excellent and houses have gardens of up to 11 acres. Then there are two golf courses within a five-minute drive, the M1 gives easy access out of town and, of course, there’s the Heath for walking the dogs and the open-air concerts at Kenwood House in the summer.’
Grant Alexson,who runs Knight Frank’s local office (020-7431 8686), goes further: ‘People buy here because it’s like living the country life with all the benefits of the city on the doorstep-it means you don’t have to have a house in both London and the country.’ Instead, residents’ second homes tend to be in the south of France and Spain.
In the past couple of months, the top-end market has had ‘a field day’, according to Mr Abrahmsohn. He reels off a list of completed sales ranging from 15 to 50 via 23 and 43-‘all
millions’. ‘There’s been a massive revival in confidence across all our buyers, from local to national and international. They don’t see a downside in property values in Hampstead.’ Mr Alexson agrees: ‘The market is strong across all price bands. We have interest from all over: bankers and international businessmen, Middle Eastern, the Russians and Americans who enjoy the history-there are blue plaques scattered everywhere-and the fact that the American School is just down the road in St John’s Wood.’
Architecturally, the housing stock varies greatly, from period terrace houses to more sharp, modern, glass boxes, but the key attraction is that they’re low built, says Rosy Khalastchy of Beauchamp Estates (020-7722 9793). ‘You can find a similar amount of space in central London, but it tends to be laid out over four or five floors. For those who prefer lateral living-and that includes lots of overseas buyers-Hampstead wins.’
Prices for a four-bedroom family home start at £2.75 million and, although there are flats on the market, the area doesn’t tend to attract people looking just for a pied-à-terre. Those looking for the really large houses with big gardens will often find them in the adjoining Hampstead Garden Suburb. ‘It’s an expensive place to buy because, quite simply, it’s a lovely place to live,’ says Mr Alexson.
The Kenwood House concert season begins on Saturday, June 26 (www.picnicconcerts.com)
* For more properties like this every week, subscribe and save