Morning commuters stand on a corner of West End Lane. Behind them, Ballymore's West Hampstead Square development can be seen. LONDON, 15/08/2018
Ballymore’s West Hampstead Square development © Harry Mitchell

West Hampstead’s former Decca recording studio can take credit for some significant moments in music history. It was where The Rolling Stones were first signed, it was where Fleetwood Mac formed and it was where David Bowie recorded his debut single. But the studio is most renowned for spurning four young men who came to audition on January 1 1962, who called themselves The Beatles.

“Groups of guitars are on the way out”, said the studio’s head of marketing, and sent them on their way. Admittedly, the band could perhaps have fared better if they hadn’t been in Trafalgar Square the night before, ringing in the new year. In the words of Pete Best, who was then the band’s drummer, they were “as drunk as skunks”.

Today, the property market is suffering from a Brexit hangover, says Michael Hall, senior negotiator at Knight Frank Hampstead, and a lull caused by successive changes to stamp duty. Transactions of homes have dropped — there were 130 sales in the 12 months to June 2018, according to Land Registry data compiled by Hamptons International, representing a 38.4 per cent fall on 2014.

Over the same period, prices have fallen between 10 and 15 per cent, says James Diaper, head of residential sales at Savills Hampstead. He estimates that 30 per cent of homes on the market in the area have price reductions.

Map showing West Hampstead in London

On Sumatra Road, Goldschmidt and Howland is marketing a five-bedroom freehold terraced house with a garden for £1.495m — a discount of 8.1 per cent on its original listing price.

Foreign interest is down, says Mark Watkinson, sales manager at Goldschmidt and Howland. Good transport links to the City and Canary Wharf, as well as nearby international schools, had meant that West Hampstead was popular with European and US buyers. Watkinson estimates that half of the market in 2014 went to overseas buyers. Today, even with far fewer sales, he says they make up only 30 per cent.

As for buy-to-let investors, “the market is really shot”, he adds. Agents blame the 3 per cent surcharge introduced on second homes in 2016, coupled with the reductions in tax relief for buy-to-let mortgages and low returns. Gross yields have dropped from 4 per cent in 2014 to 3 per cent today, says Watkinson.

Houses on Sumatra Road in West Hampstead. LONDON, 15/08/2018
Houses on Sumatra Road © Harry Mitchell

Diaper estimates that the investor market share has dropped from 25 per cent to less than 10 per cent across the same period. “There’s a lot of bank of mum and dad [these days],” Diaper says of the young professionals buying their first homes. Watkinson knows of one lucky 24-year-old whose parents are buying him a £1.5m home outright.

Two-thirds of buyers have young families, says Marc Schneiderman, sales director at Arlington Residential, and there are some sizeable family homes in the area. Some of the streets off Fortune Green Road, such as Parsifal Road, have large double-fronted houses with sash bay windows (and occasionally small turrets).

Looking out onto West End Lane from Lola's Bakery in West Hampstead. LONDON, 15/08/2018
Looking on to West End Lane from Lola’s Bakery © Harry Mitchell

West Hampstead wasn’t always so popular with parents. “Fifteen years ago, it was kind of scary; it was a bit Kilburny,” says Watkinson. But gentrification is running its course. Prime West Hampstead homes are roughly 40 per cent cheaper than those in Hampstead, says Schneiderman. The area has become a natural destination for buyers priced out of St John’s Wood, Maida Vale and Hampstead. Accordingly, there is now a farmers’ market and a Gail’s bakery.

The smartest homes are east of West End Lane, says Watkinson, noting the large houses on streets such as Crediton Hill and Fawley Road, which are close to the Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club. Here homes can fetch up to £1,000 per square foot. The enclave known as South Hampstead, on the border with St John’s Wood, is also popular says Diaper.

Savills is marketing a four-bedroom, 1,904 sq ft apartment in a mansion block with communal gardens on Cannon Hill near Finchley Road for £1.5m.

Marlborough Mansions, Cannon Hill - £1.5m https://search.savills.com/property-detail/gbhahscli181139
Four-bedroom apartment on Cannon Hill, £1.5m

There is little new-build property on the market. Ballymore’s 198-unit West Hampstead Square scheme was completed several years ago and has sold out. Two major developments — a retirement scheme called Gondar Gardens and a 164-unit development at 156 West End Lane — are both in the planning stage.

While The Beatles were unceremoniously given the boot more than 50 years ago, there is another rowdy bunch of crooners that West Hampstead is struggling to shift. With Wembley stadium a short hop away on the Jubilee Line, the pubs near the station have become a magnet for sports fans on match days; in addition, traffic has increased significantly since Tottenham Hotspur started playing their home games at Wembley while their new stadium is being built. The club was to move in at the start of the season but there have been delays. West Hampstead must now endure Spurs fans — and their songs — until October at least.

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Buying guide

  • The average price per square foot in the first half of 2018 was £931, according to Hamptons International
  • The average West Hampstead sale price in the year to May 2018 was £845,572, according to Savills — 25.3 per cent less than the average price in Camden
  • Canary Wharf is 25 minutes from West Hampstead on the Jubilee Line

What you can buy for . . . 

£390,000 A small one-bedroom flat above a shop

£1.5m A four-bedroom house on Solent Road

£3.5m A six-bedroom family home with a garden

More homes at propertylistings.ft.com

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