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Buying in London: home buyers returning to the capital with Brent the hottest spot

Daniel Lynch
By
29 March 2021
T

he number of Londoners searching for a new home in the capital is 10 per cent higher than it was a year ago, as anti-urban sentiment and the exodus to the country finally starts to moderate.

Around half of all Londoners searching for a new home are looking in London, according to new data from Knight Frank, up from a low point of 39 per cent last July.

The research reveals a switch in the pandemic-triggered trend of buying in the country to buying in more urban areas.

Last year (between March and September) the area with the biggest rise in properties under offer was North Devon. 

However, over the last six months such rural areas dropped down the ranking and the new area recording the biggest rise was the London borough of Brent, which stretches from Kilburn to the edge of Harrow.

No London boroughs appeared in the March 2020 to September 2020 analysis which was heavily rural featuring areas such as the Ribble Valley and Derbyshire Dales.

This time around the top ten areas with the biggest rise of properties under offer included Brent (up 53 per cent), Hounslow (up 32 per cent) and Dartford (up 28 per cent). The London commuter towns of Epsom and Ewell and Slough also featured in the latest iteration.

Home buyers plan for life after lockdown

“The search for space is far from over but the trend has a more urban flavour now,” says Tom Bill, head of residential research at Knight Frank.

“After an initial spike in demand for rural locations following the first national lockdown, the appeal of towns and cities is growing as buyers plan for life after lockdown and some attempt to capture the best of both worlds.”

The plummet in demand to live in the luxury centre of London can be explained by the absence of the international buyer and investor during the different national lockdowns, with travel restrictions into the UK.

But the abandonment of the capital has also been overstated with high levels of activity in some of the outer boroughs as those wedded to urban life look for more space within the bounds of the capital.

There was quarter-on-quarter growth for the seventh consecutive month in prime outer London in February. Average prices in Belsize Park, Dulwich and Wimbledon have all grown by four per cent since April last year.

“The benefits of living in London may not have been apparent for many people during the pandemic but that doesn’t mean a centuries-old process of urbanisation is about to go into reverse.

“As the prospect of future lockdowns begins to recede, buyers will increasingly plan for life beyond the global pandemic and will take advantage of the obvious perks that come with living in a global city like London,” says Bill.

Why are house prices up in Brent?

Brent stretches from suburban areas such as Queensbury on the edge of Harrow to Kilburn on the cusp of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea.

It includes former industrial neighbourhoods such as Alperton where developer St George is building a 3,000-home new suburban village named after the Grand Union canal that it sits on. Prices range from £425,000 to £880,000 (020 8023 9713).

The transformation of Wembley by Quintain into a rental community is the defining regeneration scheme in the borough – although phases are still being built. Residents first moved in five years ago this February. There are now 3,255 homes finished.

West Kilburn is in the throes of a new 15 year masterplan too which will deliver 2,400 new homes with priority going to 1,400 local tenants. There will be a new park and public realm created, with a primary school and healthcare centre due to complete in 2029.

As a result of these multiple regeneration projects and ongoing demand for family homes in well-established desirable residential parts of Kilburn and Kensal Rise, prices have risen through the pandemic from £428,560 in January 2020 to £519,355. Your money goes further in these areas than the neighbouring Zone one boroughs.

There are some rare homes on the market in the area too. Kenmont Gardens in Kensal Green is a converted Gothic church, resigned into a 6,000 sq ft four-bedroom home.

It’s next to the Grade-I listed 72-acre open space of Kensal Green Cemetery and on the market with The Modern House (020 3795 5920).

£5.95 million: a Gothic church in Kensal Green converted into a four-bedroom home

/ The Modern House

Canary Wharf makes a comeback

There are other indicators too that householders are eyeing up a future that, in part at least, involves going back to the office in London’s central business districts. Demand to buy or rent in London will go up in line with that realisation.

“As shops, restaurants and offices reopen, connectivity and convenience will return as motivators for people choosing where to live,” says Savills’ Lawrence Bowles.

New data from property consultancy JLL shows that lettings in Canary Wharf have increased 63 per cent from 2020 to 2021 and enquiries to rent have jumped 125 per cent after rents fell last year.

JLL’s Lauren Hatcliff puts it down to savvy renters seeing what deals they can get in walking distance to the office.