Country houses for sale

The new family London

The most remarkable property story of recent times has been the meteoric rise of house prices in London, particularly when pitted against their sluggish progress in the country. As a result, more families are now looking for their perfect house within the capital. Rather than rush to the country immediately, those mindful of the market are staying put to take advantage of further expected price rises, reports Ed Mead of Douglas and Gordon. But as international buyers continue to dictate prime central- London prices, the British are discovering that lesser-known areas of the capital actually have all the amenities for family life: well-built period houses, good schools, cafes, restaurants and lots of green space.

Traditionally, families have looked to south-west London for its parks and generous floorplans, and demand has remained strong (and supply limited) for family houses in Wimbledon, Wandsworth and Richmond. ‘Our buyers are commonly selling a flat somewhere such as Kensington and looking for a family house with good connections back to town, but with green spaces and a family feel- and by that, they mean a village feel,’ James Williams of Knight Frank in Richmond (020-8939 2800) explains. ‘St Margarets is a wonderful example of an area that ticks all the boxes for families-and where we’ve certainly seen increasing demand.’

Only half an hour by train from Waterloo, the area is within walking distance of Old Deer Park, Richmond Park and Richmond town centre, as well as Marble Hill Park. It has a cricket pitch, four tennis courts, two annual fêtes and a choice of good schools (from the Old Vicarage and King’s House in Richmond to Jack & Jill and Radnor House in Twickenham), plus proper butchers, a bakery and a clutch of quirky independent shops along the two main streets.

Add to this the fact that St Margarets caters for a range of budgets, and it’s easy to see why it’s increasingly on buyers’ radars. ‘There are predominantly Victorian terraced, detached and semi-detached houses up to the popular St Margarets Trust grounds, where properties sell for between £1.5 million and £4.5 million-all good value when you consider the £6 million price tags in Richmond Hill,’ says Mr Williams.

For many people, the appeal of going further out of London includes the feeling of peace and space that you don’t find in Zone 1, but some families still enjoy being part of the action. Clapham, for example, has succeeded in revamping its image, and many young couples and families are buying town houses there. However, the really big news these days is Battersea. Until now, the streets fronting the park, with their beautiful period houses, commanded top prices, but other areas suffered from the local transport woes and a shortage of amenities.

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However, the planned relocation of the American Embassy from Mayfair to Nine Elms, coupled with the regeneration of Battersea Power Station, have already proved to be game changers. Reports that flats and town houses worth more than £600 million sold at the Power Station in a four-day stampede when they were released in January only reinforce what experts were predicting. ‘The new embassy quarter is the talk of the town- added amenities and the crucial extension to the Northern Line will make Battersea an incredibly attractive proposition,’ comments Lindsay Cuthill of Savills (020- 7731 9410).Those who own family houses around the area are going to see them shoot up in value, and buyers will find it served by brands they’re more familiar with from life in SW3.

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Going west across the Thames, buyers increasingly look towards Ravenscourt Park and Ealing, which will be just 20 minutes away from the City once Crossrail is complete. Halfway between Holland Park and Ravenscourt Park, Brook Green is a great family favourite, according to Justin Holder from Marsh & Parsons (020-7605 7760): ‘We have an excellent collection of large period town houses, with high ceilings and good gardens, just minutes from the Central Line at Shepherd’s Bush.’ Prices for a four-bedroom Victorian property range from about £1.5 million to £2 million.

Between Brook Green and Ravenscourt Park, Brackenbury has two excellent State schools, John Betts and Brackenbury Primary, with St Paul’s and St Paul’s Girls schools also on the doorstep. Local shopping ranges from the Westfield behemoth in Shepherd’s Bush to independent restaurants and boutiques, including a Ginger Pig deli and butcher on Askew Road. Brook Green itself has tennis courts, and there are stables nearby.
Not everybody, however, heads west. Although the Tube doesn’t extend very much further than Elephant & Castle and Brixton, the excellent overground services from London Bridge, Charing Cross and Blackfriars lure many families to south and east London. One of the smartest, most desirable areas is Dulwich. ‘We see lots of buyers from Islington and the City looking for family homes here,’ says Anna Lubeck from Hamptons in Dulwich (020-7715 7153). ‘It’s only 15 minutes into London Bridge from North Dulwich station, and Dulwich Park, Dulwich Wood and Crystal Palace Park are all beautiful spaces.’ Dulwich village itself is charming, and has a Continental feel in summer, when everyone sits outside the cafes by the park.

It’s also home to prestigious Dulwich College. Consequently, supply is often short and a wellappointed period house on College Road, within yards of the park, will command more than £3.5 million. However, properties are rather more affordable in satellites North, West and East Dulwich; a family house just off Lordship Lane, in East Dulwich, costs about £750,000 £800,000.

Set the compass to north, and Hampstead and Highgate have long been popular destinations, but, lately, Crouch End has been attracting buyers who aren’t tied to the Tube. ‘The area has changed greatly in the past 20 years and 70%-80% of our residents are now families,’ explains James Ballard from Winkworth Crouch End (020- 8342 9999). With great State schools such as Highgate Woods, lots of green spaces, including Priory and Stationers Park, and many independent shops and cafes, the place has real character and charm.

It’s just 16 minutes to Moorgate from Hornsey overground station and City workers can find a great house there for a fraction of what they’d pay in Hampstead. Most of the properties are terraced Victorian houses: ‘A four-bedroom house a decade ago would have cost £400,000-£500,000, but now, buyers can pay £1.5 million to £2.5 million for the very best properties,’ explains Mr Ballard. ‘Sought-after addresses include Crouch Hall Road and Coolhurst Road, near the tennis club.’

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