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At first glance Sands End seems like a pleasant but featureless collection of newly-built flats and town houses. It is not the kind of place to excite strong feelings either way and, views of the river Thames aside, there is little to suggest that it’s close to the centre of one of the world’s great capital cities.
Yet this one-time industrial backwater at the southernmost tip of Hammersmith and Fulham, in southwest London, is seeing property prices rebound strongly from the downturn thanks to a string of riverside developments and increasing demand for its late Victorian workers’ terraces.
Average prices in Sands End have increased from £424,203 in 2003 to £786,483 – the average price recorded between the fourth quarter of 2012 and the third quarter of 2013 – a jump of 85.4 per cent, according to research from Savills.
Prices are now 33.1 per cent higher than in 2007. Transaction levels (the number of homes being bought and sold – a vital indicator of market health) is currently running at 86.7 per cent of peak rates, compared to 58 per cent in Greater London.
Anthony Bell, sales manager at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, says Sands End is the most buoyant part of the SW6 postcode, which also includes Fulham and Parsons Green, for three key reasons: it has a ready supply of new apartments when stock elsewhere is short, good value period homes and improved transport links.
Signs of gentrification are easy to spot when walking around Sands End. Front doors are a colour chart of Farrow and Ball greys and – a shape of things to come, maybe – at least one house is currently having a basement excavated. The local boozer is now a gastropub, co-owned by the former royal equerry Mark Dyer. And this connection has occasionally brought Princes William and Harry to Sands End, which in turn has attracted the attention of wealthy twenty-somethings.
Particularly active in this market are young professional families priced out of Fulham and Parsons Green. Their interest means that an average house (as opposed to a flat) in Sands End has increased in value by 171 per cent in the past decade, to an average of £1,398,316. Foxtons is marketing a four-bedroom period house close to Wandsworth Bridge Road for £1.575m.
When it comes to flat sales the picture is more complex. Average prices have increased from £399,850 to £657,442 (64.4 per cent) in the past 10 years. But, across the borough, flat prices increased from £273,775 to £484, 384 (76.9 per cent).
James Watson, a director of estate agency Fine and Country, suspects this apparently weaker performance may be because early developments – and subsequent resales – in Sands End have been high-end, giving the area an artificially high base from which to climb. He is confident, however, that the true picture of growth is far stronger.
The new-build boom in Sands End has its roots in the late 1980s when Chelsea Harbour, a mixed development including 368 apartments, set a new standard for gated schemes complete with a marina, smart restaurants and a sports club patronised by Diana, Princess of Wales.
In 2000, developer St George launched Imperial Wharf, 1,400 new homes on a former British Gas site abutting Chelsea Harbour. The development was a hit in pre-recession London and the selling agent, Knight Frank, achieved prices of around £1,700 per sq ft.
In 2009 it was, according to a survey by Halifax, the 17th most expensive address in the UK and, in the same year, a train station with the same name was opened.
St George has followed up Imperial Wharf with Chelsea Creek – billed as the “Venice of London” thanks to the two canals running through it. By 2018, there will be 899 homes, plus shops, offices, a health and fitness centre and a park. Since the summer of 2010 just over 500 properties have been sold to a mixture of international and UK buyers, both owner occupiers and investors. Currently on the market is a three-bedroom penthouse, priced at £4.5m.
In September, Barratt London entered the fray with Fulham Riverside, 396 private homes priced from £1,144,000 for a two-bedroom apartment to £1,673,500 for a four-bedroom duplex. Penthouses are expected to start at £5m.
However, not all developments in the area are this size. Jamie Lester, managing director of Haus Properties, put a small scheme of 10 flats by developer First Quantum up for sale on October 5. “We had our first viewing at 10am and by 10.40am we had a reservation and a deposit paid,” he says.
During the course of that first day five more homes were sold, priced up to £1.75m. Buyers ranged from a high profile aristocrat to a first-time buyer assisted by their parents, a buy-to-let investor, and one or two Europeans. There are currently two flats available: a 1,743 sq ft four-bedroom garden apartment, on the market for £1.38m, and a two-bedroom flat (958 sq ft), priced at £885,000.
That development money is pouring into Sands End is clear. What is less clear is how successful it is as an area.
The architecture can be rather bland and local facilities are extremely limited, but agents hope that once Chelsea Creek and Fulham Reach are complete the range of amenities – and homes – will be dramatically improved. There are also plans for a footbridge from Imperial Wharf to Battersea.
“The shops at Imperial Wharf are not as good as they should be but it’s chicken-and-egg,” says Lester. “The people have to come before the shops, and the new developments will bring much more traffic to the area.”
● Trains from Imperial Wharf run on the London Overground. There are also river buses from Chelsea Harbour
● There were 54 criminal offences in Sands End in December
● While, Langford Primary School, is considered “inadequate” by Ofsted, fee-paying options include Hill House and Fulham Prep School.
What you can buy for …
£500,000 A one-bedroom flat in Fulham Riverside
£1.5m A four-bedroom late Victorian terraced house
£8m An apartment in The Tower, at Chelsea Creek