The hypothetical “man on the Clapham omnibus” is still cited as the rational English Everyman, typical in terms of attitude and income. Yet should he want to buy a house in Clapham today he will, atypically, have to be among the wealthiest in Britain.
Estate agents say the value of property in much of this southwest London district has risen up to 20 per cent in the past year. As a result, large family houses can be priced at more than £4m and apartments up to £1m, while prime property rents approach £1,000 per week. Demand for property is up to 35 per cent higher than a year ago, according to local agents. Walk through Clapham’s leafy streets and it is easy to understand why.
Many of the smaller houses are three-bedroom terraces with some semi-detached and detached Victorian and Edwardian villas of up to seven bedrooms. Most houses have gardens, some substantial, making this one of London’s most family-friendly areas, especially as most homes are a stroll from the triangular 220-acre Clapham Common. And parts of Clapham have a village-like atmosphere thanks to the large number of street cafés and independent shops.
The area is well served by public transport, with an overground rail service and four underground stations, all with frequent trains. It takes 20 minutes to reach London’s West End and 30 minutes to the City. Car journeys towards north and central London are likely to take longer but Gatwick airport is only 26 miles (or 50 minutes’ drive) to the south.
David Kirkup, of local estate agency Aspire, says Clapham’s high-end housing market is mainly located in two areas. In the pretty and well-preserved Old Town to the north of the common “larger houses in Macaulay Road and The Chase range from £3m to £6m,” he says. Savills is marketing a 4,300 sq ft Victorian terraced house with five bedrooms and a 97ft garden on The Chase for £3.75m. Nearby, rival agency Cluttons is selling an extensively refurbished five-bedroom house called The Old Printworks for £3.25m. The property comes with a small two-bedroom gatehouse in its grounds.
The second, less expensive, area is east of the common and is known as Abbeville Village. “Abbeville Road and Northcote Road are particularly popular because of their villagey feel and their proximity to schools,” says Kirkup. Aspire is selling a six-bedroom terraced house here with 2,500 sq ft of living space for £1.89m, while nearby a 1,200 sq ft, three-bedroom apartment is on sale with Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward for £795,000.
The area’s highest price growth has taken place in Abbeville Village. Although values fell 25 per cent from 2007 to 2012, demand has returned. Kirkup says small houses that sold for £1.2m in the winter of 2012 are now valued at £1.5m, with the most sought-after attracting multiple bids, “in some cases £100,000 over the asking price within 24 hours of marketing”.
In early 2013 there was significantly less competition for high-value houses because buyers were reluctant to pay higher stamp duty. “The £2m-plus market has been fairly static, although this has changed in the last few weeks. The previous two years have seen large increases in this price band so the rest of the market is catching up,” says Caspar Harvard-Walls of buying agency Black Brick.
Despite these premium prices – the highest in inner south London and well above some neighbouring areas such as Brixton, Balham and Streatham – Clapham is seen as low-cost by some buyers. Rampton Baseley, another local estate agency, says 45 per cent of its buyers are from prime central London, particularly Kensington and Chelsea. By contrast, just two years ago 80 per cent of purchasers already lived in Clapham.
“Buyers are a mix of those priced-out of central London wanting to get better pounds-per-sq-ft, first-time buyers who’ve been renting in the area, and down-sizers captured by Clapham’s immense staying power,” says Andrew Snell of Hamptons International. He says the area’s strength is its self-sufficiency, thanks to the availability of quality restaurants, art-house cinemas, music venues and high-end supermarkets.
The housing market is being bolstered by increasing numbers of international buyers. “The French community in particular is attracted to a new Lycée [a bilingual primary school, known locally as Wix’s]. Clapham has far more affordable housing than South Kensington where the other Lycée is located,” says Harvard-Walls
“There’s also been a lot of new-build in and around Clapham, attracting foreign buyers who feel they’re getting more value than in prime central London,” says another Black Brick representative, Camilla Dell. Saudi and Chinese investors, for example, have bought several units in the 136-apartment Library Building project.
Many such buyers are drawn by Clapham’s significant private rented sector, especially homes close to Clapham North Tube station. Although rents have changed little over the past year, “two-bedroom apartments are let to professionals for up to £550 per week, three beds up to £700 and house rentals are £900 upwards,” says Aspire’s Kirkup.
Clapham has come a long way from the bland anonymity of the early 20th century when the man on the omnibus phrase was first used. Buses still run there, of course, but these days Clapham residents are just as likely to travel in their 4x4s.
● In October 2013, there were 220 reported crimes in Clapham, in line with nearby areas such as Streatham
● Clapham’s population grew 7 per cent to 43,000 from 2002 to 2012
● About 25 per of households live in social rented housing
● The average home in Clapham has risen in value by £54,330 since January 2013, according to Zoopla
What you can buy for . . .
£500,000: A two-bedroom apartment on the Brixton side of Clapham
£1m: A three-bedroom terraced house with a courtyard garden
£5m: A large Victorian villa with off-road parking and a large garden