London appears to be embracing the high life. The New London Architecture think-tank counted 89 towers of at least 20 storeys under construction in the UK capital last month, with almost 350 more approved or planned. Yet not every district is joining in: St John’s Wood, for one, is most definitely not a place for lofty living.
Low-rise, lateral living is the hallmark of this quiet, leafy neighbourhood which fans out from the north-western perimeter of Regent’s Park. Here the only things heading skywards are the TV cameras perched high over Lord’s Cricket Ground on Test match days.
“It differs from other parts of London in that it has a good stock of large, detached houses which have very big plot sizes with big gardens,” says London buying agent Jane Wood. She adds that such homes — many gated and set back from the road — offer buyers a degree of privacy unusual for an area 15 minutes by cab from the West End.
Wood concedes that the area is not “particularly hip and trendy”. Yet its proximity to several independent schools, including the co-ed American School in London, has made it popular with families and overseas buyers.
Additionally, it offers a wide range of architectural styles. Those seeking an Italianate villa, gothic cottage, Nash-inspired detached house, mews home, portered block or mansion flat will find all the above in St John’s Wood — and they will find it in a buyers’ market.
Agents report that supply is out stripping demand, with dealmaking stymied by factors now familiar across prime central London: stamp duty hikes, uncertainty concerning Brexit, non-dom reforms and global macroeconomic concerns. “Every morning we’re looking at exchange rates and the price of oil,” says James Simpson of Knight Frank.
Savills reports prime property values in St John’s Wood rose just 0.3 per cent in 2015 (still 29.5 per cent above their 2007 peak). “Vendors are having to adjust their expectations on pricing,” says Marc Schneiderman of Arlington Residential, adding that the 2014 rise in stamp duty affecting purchases over £937,500 and this April’s additional 3 per cent levy on second properties are hampering upsizers and investors alike. “It’s taken a number of people out of the market . . . because the costs are prohibitive. Those that remain are looking to buy competitively.”
Buyers are also increasingly homegrown, says Stephen Lindsay of Savills. “A year ago 70 per cent of buyers were international, 30 per cent domestic. It’s now split the other way around.”
Those seeking to spend £4m-£7m on a family home are particularly well-served. “That’s the sweet spot, there’s a massive amount of property [at that price],” says Simpson.
A good example is a four-bedroom, period home on Woronzow Road in the quieter, eastern part of St John’s Wood. Arlington Residential is asking £4.25m for the property, recently redeveloped to include a lower ground floor.
Such homes contribute to the view that the area offers value in comparison with other smart areas such as Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge. “Even though the [London] market’s softened, you couldn’t get a very good family house more centrally for around £5m,” says Wood. Still, it’s not cheap: prime St John’s Wood property averages £1,700 per sq ft, according to Savills.
The six-bedroom detached home for sale on Hamilton Terrace is at the top end of the market — it is priced at £32m and offers 11,420 sq ft of living space. The property has been rebuilt behind its original 1860s frontage. Features include a pool, steam room, cinema and bar, and a separate three-bedroom mews house.
“It is a perfect example of how one can create a cool contemporary home within a traditional period façade,” says Mark Pollack of Aston Chase, which is marketing the property.
Such spruce ups are common, says Neil Barnes of Hamptons International. “For example, a lot of people are digging down and adding square footage with gyms and swimming pools”.
There is no need to refurbish at 50 St Edmund’s Terrace, a new development abutting Regent’s Park. The low-rise scheme, which was completed in 2015, includes 36 one-to-four bedroom flats and is one of the few high-end apartment blocks in the area to have been built recently.
A two-bedroom unit in the development is on sale with Knight Frank for £3.9m. The building has 24-hour concierge service, a 20-metre pool and underground parking. It may not offer the panorama of a soaring tower but its views of Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park are a decent substitute.
● From St John’s Wood Tube station passengers can reach Bond Street in four minutes and Canary Wharf in 20 minutes
● NW8, which covers St John’s Wood, is the 11th most expensive postcode in London, according to property website Zoopla
● Nearby green spaces include Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill and, for paying cricket fans, the pitch at Lord’s Cricket Ground
What you can buy for . . .
£1m A one-bedroom apartment opposite Lord’s Cricket Ground
£6m A detached family home with six bedrooms
£15m A seven-bedroom, detached house with separate staff accommodation
More listings at ftpropertylistings.com
Main photograph: Jon Anderson/Getty Images