Despite its close proximity to the central borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Fulham is usually grouped with its south-west London neighbours across the Thames, such as Clapham, Battersea and Wandsworth, as a more affordable prime location, sought after by families and professionals with City salaries. But the area is now attracting wealthy international buyers who have been priced out of the most expensive postcodes in London.
“Since time immemorial Fulham has been seen as the ‘poor neighbour’ of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and the migration from east to west has been prompted by affordability rather than a strong desire to enjoy the leafy spaces of Parsons Green,” says Anne Soutry, head of Knight Frank’s Fulham office. However, she says more people are moving to Fulham out of an appreciation of what it has to offer.
In the past 12 months, 39 per cent of buyers in Knight Frank’s Fulham branch have moved from Kensington and Chelsea, resulting in a significant impact on property values in Fulham. Average prices rose by 15 per cent over 2011, similar to an average rise of 14.1 per cent for prime central London values, according to Savills, the high-end agent. In comparison, average prices in prime south-west London increased by 7 per cent.
Lindsay Cuthill, head of Savills in south-west London, says the profile of buyers in Fulham is increasingly similar to those in London’s more expensive postcodes. Last year, 60 per cent of Savills’ buyers purchasing property in Fulham worth £2m-plus originated from overseas.
“We have noted a large increase in French, Spanish, Italian and Greek buyers looking to take their money out of those countries as the eurozone uncertainty continues,” says Jamie Lester of Haus Properties, a local estate agent. “As Fulham property has weathered the storm and offers a cheaper alternative to prime central London, it is an attractive investment.”
The number of high-quality primary schools has helped boost Fulham’s appeal. In 2008, the French Lycée opened a primary school in Parsons Green, which Soutry says has attracted a lot of French buyers as Fulham is an easy commute to South Kensington for older children studying at the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle.
The village feel of the area is a big selling point. Fulham has a number of green spaces, such as Bishops Park, South Park, Parsons Green and Eel Brook Common. Good transport links to central London, as well as its position north of the Thames, have also helped Fulham achieve a higher standing than its south-west London counterparts Clapham and Battersea.
The relative cheapness of Fulham, compared with its higher valued neighbours, remains a significant factor in attracting buyers to the area. A property in Fulham is likely to cost an average of £850 per sq ft, compared with an average of £1,800 per sq ft in prime central London, according to Cuthill. The very best homes in Fulham are likely to cost around £1,000 per sq ft compared with as much as £4,000 per sq ft in the most sought-after postcodes in the capital.
Soutry points out how marked the price difference remains between Fulham and Chelsea: “A good house on the Fulham/Chelsea border on the Moore Park Estate will sell at £1,000 per sq ft whereas barely 500 yards to the east the equivalent house on the [same] 10-acre estate will sell for around £1,700 per sq ft,” she says.
According to Jo Eccles of Sourcing Property, a buying agent, Fulham is particularly popular for people about to start or add to a family.
“A lot of our young family clients already live in Fulham and are upsizing, or they’re couples who are moving out of Chelsea as they can get a lot more space for less money in Fulham,” says Eccles. “The best family houses will sell for approximately £2m to £3.5m, whereas on the best roads in Chelsea this would only buy a two or three-bedroom flat.”
The shortage of properties on the market in Fulham is likely to further drive values in the coming years.
“With increases in stamp duty at both the £1m and £2m mark having come into effect in the past 12 months, the temptation to move house just to gain another bedroom has waned and therefore owners are increasingly staying put, adding to the shortage of stock and subsequent continued increase in value,” explains Soutry.
However, Fulham’s architecture may not appeal to buyers used to the prestigious, white stucco-fronted houses that line the streets of Belgravia. People moving to Fulham should expect to buy period, terraced properties, many of which have already been refurbished and extended.
“The current trend to expand by digging out a basement has grown to include smaller houses as well as the larger properties typified by the ‘Lion’ houses on the Peterborough Estate in Parsons Green or the semi-detached houses in the southern ‘alphabet’ streets,” says Soutry.
Lion houses are so-called because their gable ends are decorated with small lion statues. Savills is marketing a six-bedroom, 3,014 sq ft Lion house with a full basement on Stokenchurch Street, in the Peterborough Estate, for £2.65m. The agent also has a five-bedroom, Grade II-listed 1860s villa in Fulham Park Gardens for £5.25m. For those on smaller budgets, Knight Frank is marketing a refurbished four-bedroom house on a tree-lined street off Munster Road for £995,000.
The Fulham market is largely made up of re-sales, rather than new-builds. The exceptions are Imperial Wharf and Fulham Reach near Hammersmith, two river-fronting developments made up of flats and penthouses.
Tanya Powley is the FT’s mortgage and property reporter
● Better value for money than neighbouring Chelsea
● Offers a laid-back village lifestyle with plenty of parks
● Good primary schools
● Fewer shops than in central London
● Most houses will already have been extended and refurbished
● Not as prestigious as Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Kensington and Chelsea
What you can buy for ...
£100,000: A good-sized garage
£1m: A four-bedroom, newly refurbished Victorian home with a gross internal area of 1,314 sq ft