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For the past three years price growth in prime central London has been making all the headlines. But watch out Chelsea: the spotlight is now on Fulham. Once considered to be – literally – on the wrong side of the tracks, the southwest London suburb is enjoying an impressive spurt.
Over the past year property prices in Fulham, which is separated from Chelsea by the District Underground Line to the east and follows the curve of the Thames to the south, increased 13 per cent – five per cent in the last quarter alone – reaching an average of £980 per sq ft, according to research by Savills.
Lucian Cook, the estate agents’ director of residential research, calculates that £1m invested in a Fulham property would have gained £2,500 per week over the past year, compared with £845-a-week in prime central London where prices have risen by an average 4.4 per cent year on year.
Prime central London is still enjoying the strongest bounceback from the recession. Prices are up 27.8 per cent since the peak of the market. But Fulham is hard on its heels, with growth of 27.5 per cent.
Lindsay Cuthill, a director of Savills based in Parsons Green in the leafy heart of Fulham, believes the area’s relative value for money is driving the current boom. Property in Knightsbridge costs an average £2,390 per sq ft, for example, while South Kensington property sells at £1,700 per sq ft.
“The disconnect between these areas makes Fulham feel like incredibly good value,” says Cuthill. “Buyers are drifting down the King’s Road and bringing their friends with them.”
Fulham is also increasingly appealing to overseas buyers. In 2010, 79 per cent of sales in Fulham were to domestic buyers. In the first quarter of 2012 this had fallen to 52 per cent as buyers from western Europe as well as – to a lesser extent – eastern Europe, the Middle East and North America – move in on SW6.
Cuthill describes these buyers as “mature”. They know London well, having lived there for several years, and are ready to branch out from the city centre. And they favour Fulham over other southwest London suburbs simply because it feels more central than places like Chiswick (where prices are up 7.8 per cent since the peak) or Putney (up 9.5 per cent).
“There is also the fact that Fulham is just north of the river – those bridges can be a barrier, particularly to overseas buyers,” says Cuthill.
The majority of buyers, UK or otherwise, are families. Parents like the leafy streets, the open spaces, and the abundance of organic cafés and independent boutiques. Then there are the schools. The smartest way to start a Fulham education is at nursery age with Pippa Pop-ins. There are then a series of private prep schools including Hill House and Fulham Prep to choose from. Secondary age children are in striking distance of Westminster or St Paul’s schools, and there are top-performing state schools, including The London Oratory School and Lady Margaret School.
Fulham’s property stock is unremarkable but the most popular enclave is the Peterborough Estate, south of New Kings Road and close to the Hurlingham Club, a private members sports club. These streets are lined with “lion houses” – named for the carvings on their gable ends.
Barclay Macfarlane, a partner at Strutt & Parker, says it is the proximity to the Hurlingham, plus the shops on the New Kings Road, that have made these Victorian terraces so popular. “In 2007 they were selling for £750 to £850 per sq ft. Now they sell for just in excess of £1,000 per sq ft.”
This means that entry price to the estate is about £2.5m, although six-bedroom homes can cost closer to £4m. Savills, for example, is selling an immaculate five-bedroom property redesigned by the award-winning architects Eldridge Smerin for £3.8m.
Macfarlane puts Fulham’s success down to a “snowball effect”. “People hear great things about Fulham, and when they realise they can sell a two-bedroom conversion in South Kensington and buy a freehold house in Fulham they are keen,” he says.
Anne Soutry, a partner at Knight Frank, calculates that two years ago 39 per cent of her buyers came from Kensington and Chelsea. Today, that figure is closer to 55 per cent. She puts the rise down to the opening of a junior school outpost of the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in 2008, the regeneration of Fulham Broadway station and the arrival of more high-end shops and cafés. “Fulham Broadway used to be just a little bit sleazy,” she says. “Now it looks so much nicer and the facilities have become more and more upmarket.”
The other change in Fulham is the string of riverside developments in Sands End, led by Imperial Wharf, a scheme completed in 2009 with about 2,000 apartments, plus shops, restaurants and a new station. Knight Frank is selling a three-bedroom apartment in the development’s Courtyard House, with all-important river views and three terraces, for £3.5m.
In September, Barratt London enters the fray with Fulham Riverside, a high-end development of about 460 apartments between Chelsea Harbour and Hurlingham Park. Prices in the first phase will range from £510,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to £1,450,000 for a three-bedroom duplex. Penthouses are expected to start at £5m.
Despite all the improvements, Lucian Cook says that to officially join prime central London the area would need to breach the £1,500-per-sq-ft barrier. Nonetheless, in price and aspiration terms, Fulham is clearly pulling away from the rest of southwest London.
● Last year some 44 per cent of buyers in Fulham worked in the financial and business services industries
● More than 15 per cent of the total population of Hammersmith and Fulham are under 14 years old
● Some 1,657 offences in the area were reported to the Metropolitan Police in May – a rate of 10.03 crimes per 1,000 residents
● Noise pollution from aircraft flying overhead can be a problem
● The majority of properties in Fulham go to sealed bids, with homes in the £400,000-£ 800,000 bracket attracting about 12 bids each
What can you buy for …
£500,000: A one-bedroom flat at Imperial Wharf without river views
£1m: A two-bedroom flat off the King’s Road
£4m: A five-to-six-bedroom “lion house” on the Peterborough Estate