The diamond jubilee pageant will focus on central London but the full length of the River Thames demonstrates one aspect of Britain’s property market that has endured 60 years and more: that buyers are prepared to pay large sums to live by this renowned stretch of water.
The Thames runs 215 miles from Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds to the North Sea; in between there are period properties and new developments lining its banks. Large houses are found along the rural swathes of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire and more dense apartments near urban centres such as Oxford, Henley and London itself.
Savills has calculated the premiums that homes carry at different parts of the Thames. It claims that before the river reaches the capital – as it wends through towns such as Lechlade and Wallingford, into London’s westerly commuter belt from Reading through to Hampton Court – the average price of a home overlooking the river is 27 per cent above that of inland properties. This hefty mark-up masks even greater premiums for homes possessing the holy grail of Thameside living such as an extensive river frontage, a pontoon, or mooring rights.
Savills agent Charles Elsmore-Wickens says: “We sold a house in Shiplake near Henley last year for just over £900 per square foot. If it wasn’t on the river it would more likely have achieved around £500 per square foot.”
Many agents consider Oxfordshire Henley-Marlow to be the most sought-after stretch of the Thames. “Owners of waterside houses here enjoy a thriving social calendar, often gliding down the river on their launches to enjoy an early evening gin and tonic in each others’ gardens,” says Edward Heaton of Property Vision, a buying agency.
It is also one of the most expensive parts of the Thames. Park Place, a country house on a 570-acre estate in Henley, includes a boathouse and sold last year for £140m. Homes currently on the market in this stretch are more modest but still impressive.
Waters Edge near Maidenhead is a 7,867 sq ft eight-bedroom house with indoor pool, staff accommodation and landscaped gardens including 145ft of frontage on to the Thames. It is on the market for £6m through Knight Frank and Pike, Smith and Kemp. Nearby is Toad Hall, an Edwardian seven-bedroom house at Bourne End, with lawns down to the water, a boathouse and a 130ft riverside wooden platform (£2.95m through Knight Frank).
Closer to London, the Thames becomes commuter territory. “Along the stretch from Surrey into London the main hotspots are Hampton Court, Richmond and Strand-on-the-Green. All retain a quintessentially ‘English village’ feel and while being only a short distance from London they offer buyers a range of architecturally interesting properties,” says Richard Marsh, another Property Vision agent.
On this part of the river in Richmond, where waterside homes still have 25 per cent-plus premiums, Hamptons International is selling a 4,100 sq ft Victorian family house. It has direct access on to the Thames and spectacular views of the river, and is priced at £3.5m. Meanwhile Savills is selling a Grade II listed Georgian family home on the bank of the river in Chiswick for a guide price of £6.75m. As the Thames nears central London, premiums rise and so does the landscape. Modern developments – many with price tags as high as their penthouses – line this part of the river.
Savills’ analysis of prices on the stretch from Teddington in the west through Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Chelsea and Westminster over to the City, Wapping, Canary Wharf and Woolwich shows that on the south side, riverfront homes attract a 33 per cent premium over similar properties inland. On the north side, the premium soars to 53 per cent.
“The development of this part of the Thames has exploded in the past 25 years. Bankside was only decommissioned in 1981 and Battersea power station in 1983 with entire swathes of the Thames, on both sides, having been turned over to residential apartments” says Ed Lewis of Savills.
New houses on the Thames in central London are rare but one is being built near Tower Bridge and marketed by Cluttons. At £20m, Tower View will have everything you would expect for that price: 5,000 sq ft of living space over five floors, a gym, a 15-seat cinema, staff accommodation, private pontoon and dramatic views.
It is close to One Tower Bridge, a Berkeley scheme of one, two and three-bedroom apartments close to London’s City Hall. Prices there range from £780,000 to £25m and the first residents will move in later this year. The marketing for this development makes much of its access to shops and public transport – something which cannot be said of every tower along this stretch of the Thames.
“The biggest issue is the lack of infrastructure. Most schemes lack amenity and are not near transport hubs,” says Guy Meacock of buying agency Prime Purchase.
This may explain why some Thames developments have not attracted the volume of purchases from wealthy overseas buyers seen in other central London areas. “Thameside does not yet appear to have taken off with overseas buyers who are still choosing to live in the prime heartlands of Kensington, Mayfair, Belgravia and Chelsea where the architecture and accessibility to restaurants and shops is very appealing,” says Meacock.
Even so, the central London banks of the Thames are now densely packed and scope for new landmark housing is limited with two notable exceptions. One is Nine Elms at semi-industrial Vauxhall, where a new US Embassy will be built by 2017; the other is nearby Battersea Power Station, unused for 29 years. Existing developments on the fringes of these locations have excited estate agents about the potential of the wider area, especially if new homes go ahead and involve new Tube stations.
The river clearly still attracts developers and buyers alike and London’s jubilee events may enhance that reputation. For many, however, it will be the quieter stretches outside the capital that demonstrate why the banks of the Thames remain so desirable.
● Savills www.savills.com
● Hamptons International www.hamptons.co.uk
● Knight Frank www.knightfrank.com
● Pike, Smith and Kemp www.pskweb.co.uk
● Cluttons www.cluttons.com
● Prime Purchase www.prime-purchase.com
● Property Vision www.propertyvision.com
● Berkeley www.berkeleygroup.co.uk