Totteridge in north London is the kind of place where residents are so used to the good life that some have been known to buy an old black taxi cab (which, unlike most cars, are allowed to use bus lanes), just so they can reach the boutiques and bars of west London quickly during rush hour, according to local agents.
It is no surprise then that this affluent residential location, tucked on the edge of the city between Mill Hill and Barnet and surrounded by greenbelt land, is sometimes referred to as London’s Beverly Hills. If you want to know where the capital’s wealthiest residents live, this is a good place to start. Locals include Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal football manager; Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct; and, allegedly, several members of the pop band One Direction.
Yet, Totteridge is not The Bishops Avenue, the billionaire hotspot in Hampstead where a third of the houses (worth up to £65m) are owned by overseas buyers who rarely visit them and where neo-Palladian McMansions often stand empty for most of the year.
Totteridge has an altogether quieter atmosphere. It has long been popular with affluent families who often live in the area for decades. Sizeable modern homes line Totteridge Lane, the long, leafy road that meanders through the conservation area, which turns into Totteridge Village, then Totteridge Common, flanked by pretty meadows and babbling brooks. Even larger homes with pools and tennis courts are tucked away on the streets behind, where private driveways with automated gates conceal properties with views over open farmland.
It is the epitome of English country living – think cricket grounds and golf courses, tennis clubs and sprawling pastures – only with some contemporary architecture thrown in, a bit more bling and a short train ride or drive into central London. Research published last year by Experian, the information services company, listed Totteridge’s N20 postcode as the most affluent in the UK, in terms not just of high house prices but the equity therein.
Properties here do not come cheap. “You are looking at starting prices of £1.1m for a decent detached family home,” says Nick Staton of local estate agent Statons, “but then, so many buyers here buy properties just for the plot. They knock them down and build something that more precisely meets their specifications.”
Despite the abundance of new builds, Totteridge has avoided ghost houses and accelerated house price growth, in large part due to the strict planning policies of Barnet Council and the work of community groups, such as the Totteridge Residents’ Association and the Totteridge Manor Association, which fight to keep high-density development at bay. Two years ago they prevented an initial plan to convert a former care home, The Conifers, into flats. The developer has since gained planning approval but has had to redesign the scheme to be more sympathetic to the area.
The new properties, when they arrive, will also have to be carefully priced, as one developer, Domus, learnt recently. When it launched a development in Totteridge Manor, the penthouse was initially marketed at £5m and the other flats at £3m, but some of the units remained unsold for two years. The three-bedroom, 4,000 sq ft penthouse was eventually sold for £2.2m, and several of the flats for £1.5m, according to the Land Registry.
Totteridge has not seen the kinds of stratospheric price rises – or recession falls – of other popular north London locations such as The Bishops Avenue or Hadley Wood, in part because it is not really investor territory, says Jim Falconer, a director at Winkworth’s Totteridge & Whetstone branch. “Prices at the medium range – between £600,000 and £1.5m – have risen by about 15 per cent in the last few years, which is not massive compared with other prime locations. Indeed, at the top level – £2m and above – overly ambitious sellers have been disappointed. Many large houses have been overpriced and left unsold.”
Totteridge is essentially a family market, say agents such as Staton, who sees an increasing number of people trading up from areas such as Highgate and Hampstead Garden Suburb and looking for family homes. His agency is marketing just such a property on Totteridge Common called Highcroft. The nine-bedroom, 11,000 sq ft mansion is set within 2.7 acres of grounds and is priced at £7.5m.
“Flats are not the primary market here,” adds Staton. “This is in part because it’s not what buyers want and, of course, because the local residents’ associations don’t want lots of flats built.” It is for this reason that the developer Octagon, which has been trying to buy in the area for “several years”, recently built a five-bedroom house on a three-acre plot, rather than a higher concentration of apartments, which would usually offer a greater return. 48 Totteridge Common is on the site of a former monastery and retains some of the original Italianate-brick façade. The house has an indoor pool, gym, cinema and a separate two-bedroom flat, and is on sale with Statons for £18m. Octagon is also working on a similar scheme next door, which will again be a single house built on almost the same footprint as the former property.
“It’s not building new properties that is the issue in this area. What’s key to these developments is that they occupy the same space as the properties that were there before – and that they avoid being too showy,” says Richard Galland, a director at Octagon. “It’s what has helped keep Totteridge family-oriented for so many years. People buy houses here and then live here for a long time.”
● In Barnet, 28 per cent of buyers are international, and 91 per cent use their property as their primary residence, according to Savills
● Barnet has a slightly higher than average burglary rate for the Metropolitan Police area, according to the Office for National Statistics
● The ancient yew tree in St Andrew’s church, Totteridge, is said to be more than 1,000 years old
What you can get for . . .
£700,000 A three-bedroom, 1930s semi-detached home near Totteridge and Whetstone Tube station
£1.3m A five-bedroom, detached house on a desirable street such as Oaklands Road
£2m A property with five or more bedrooms, several acres of land and a private driveway