Ruth Bloom­field

For­mer lo­cal author­ity hous­ing in the right area is good value now that buy-to-let in­vestors are no longer bid­ding, says

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - First-time Buyers -

NOW that stamp duty hikes and the re­moval of tax re­lief on mort­gage in­ter­est have largely driven buy-to­let in­vestors from the mar­ket for ex-lo­cal author­ity homes, the choice for first-time buy­ers has widened. Ex-coun­cil homes in Lon­don come in many shapes and sizes but in all their in­car­na­tions they have one thing in com­mon: value for money.


Not all mort­gage lenders will loan on ex-lo­cal author­ity homes, par­tic­u­larly build­ings which have “deck ac­cess” to front doors via a vul­ner­a­ble long com­mu­nal bal­cony. We all know that some coun­cil es­tates have se­ri­ous so­cial prob­lems, so high-risk es­tates are to be avoided.

Many are un­der­go­ing re­gen­er­a­tion which could mean enor­mous dis­rup­tion — and po­ten­tially huge bills — for peo­ple who own their homes. And lease­hold­ers reg­u­larly com­plain about the ser­vice charges, which need to be checked out at the start.

The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice pub­lish de­tailed crime data on www. met. po­ but when con­sid­er­ing buy­ing in a spe­cific neigh­bour­hood you should walk through it at dif­fer­ent times of the day and night, talk to lo­cal peo­ple and find out if it’s the kind of place you would like to live in.

Well-main­tained, good-look­ing flats sug­gest res­i­dents are in­vested in their com­mu­nity. The lo­cal coun­cil will be able to tell you if it has any ma­jor works planned, and you should also find out whether there is a healthy sink­ing fund to pay for ma­jor re­pairs.


As a gen­eral rule, homes on small, low­den­sity de­vel­op­ments with on-street po­si­tions are the safest bet. Main­te­nance costs will be lower — lifts are no­to­ri­ously prone to break­downs and ex­pen­sive to keep run­ning — and your home will be knit­ted into the lo­cal area, rather than iso­lated on a large es­tate.

Buyng agent Nina Har­ri­son, from Har­ing­tons, says: “The smaller the block the bet­ter. The small block on the cor­ner of Glouces­ter Walk and Horn­ton Street [in Kens­ing­ton] is a clas­sic ex­am­ple.” For buy­ers who can’t con­sider a prime cen­tral Lon­don prop­erty, ex­coun­cil or oth­er­wise, there are still some great lo­ca­tions to seek out a good­value flat or house.


Buy­ing agent Sara Ran­som, of Stacks Prop­erty Search, ad­vises buy­ers seek­ing qual­ity for­mer coun­cil houses to head just south of Toot­ing Com­mon. “Toot­ing has a plethora of streets a few roads south of the Com­mon that were mainly lo­cal author­ity and are now be­ing sold pri­vately,” she says. “The charm­ing two-bed­room red-brick cot­tages are about 600sq ft and sell for around £500,000.”

Th­ese homes, on the Tot­ter­down Fields es­tate, are part of an early “model sub­urb” funded by the Lon­don County Coun­cil. Just over 1,200 vaguely Arts and Crafts-style cot­tages were built on the es­tate, which was com­pleted in 1911. As well as af­ford­able, qual­ity hous­ing stock, for non-lo­cal author­ity buy­ers there are some huge, un­re­fur­bished Vic­to­rian and Ed­war­dian houses to be found in Toot­ing.

“The area of­fers masses of po­ten­tial for in­vestors and first-time buy­ers, with an im­prov­ing high street and emerg­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion,” adds Ran­som. “It’s an area that has pre­vi­ously been largely over­looked, but it’s ac­ces­si­ble both on the Over­ground and North­ern line. Toot­ing also has its lovely Com­mon, the lido and an ath­let­ics track.”

Ran­som ad­mits Toot­ing High Street needs a facelift.“But it is be­gin­ning to hap­pen. There are lovely Vic­to­rian frontages and ru­mours of a Waitrose mov­ing in. Broad­way Mar­ket has huge ap­peal with new in­de­pen­dent wine bars and bistros com­ing in con­stantly.”


The Bound­ary Es­tate is of­ten de­scribed as the world’s old­est coun­cil es­tate. Dat­ing from 1890 it was built to re­place

left, a two-bed­room ex-coun­cil flat in Parkhurst Court, Warl­ters Road, Hol­loway N7. Call Burgh­leys (020 7267 0100) one of Lon­don’s ugli­est and most over­crowded slums, awash with thieves and pros­ti­tutes.

After vig­or­ous cam­paign­ing the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Board of Works was per­suaded to tear down the slum houses and re­place them with more than 1,000 ten­e­ment flats in 20-plus fine red-brick build­ings ra­di­at­ing from a cen­tral round­about, Arnold Cir­cus. Fa­cil­i­ties in­cluded shops, work­shops and a laun­dry, and the area’s ex­ist­ing churches and schools were pro­tected.

To­day the flats and the band­stand on Arnold Cir­cus are Grade II listed and al­though the homes here are not cheap, with a two-bed­room apart­ment cost­ing from about £600,000, the es­tate rep­re­sents ex­cel­lent value for money by com­par­i­son to other homes.

Old Street, Shoreditch High Street, and Hox­ton sta­tions are all within walk­ing dis­tance, and al­though green space is lack­ing, this area more than makes up for it in other ways, with a seem­ingly end­less va­ri­ety of bars, cafés and restau­rants.


Hol­loway, and neigh­bour­ing High­bury, both have a good stock of pre-war red­brick coun­cil blocks. Steve Bar­ron, sales man­ager of Driv­ers & Nor­ris es­tate agents, be­lieves buy­ers ought to go for a flat in a small block, ide­ally off an es­tate. “I think peo­ple feel safer. Some of the es­tates still have a bit of a rep­u­ta­tion, and el­e­ments of crime.”

Th­ese Vic­to­rian sub­urbs are scat­tered with pre-war flats, such as those on the Hol­loway Es­tate which is ar­ranged around a pub­lic square, or the man­sion block-style Wes­sex Build­ings in Hol­loway Road, built in 1905 when so­cial hous­ing was in its in­fancy and the qual­ity of build and space stan­dards com­fort­ably out­did coun­cil homes built after the Sec­ond World War.

Bar­ron es­ti­mates ex-lo­cal author­ity prop­er­ties are about 15 per cent cheaper than non-coun­cil homes. The av­er­age price of a flat in this area is £480,000 which means a sub­stan­tial dis­count for buy­ers strug­gling to get on the lad­der who choose ex-coun­cil.

£400,000: £640,000: a twodou­ble bed­room ex-coun­cil flat in Abing­don House, Bound­ary Es­tate, Shoreditch. Call Lock­woods (020 8166 7805)

Cot­tage es­tate: Tot­ter­down Fields in Toot­ing was the first Lon­don County Coun­cil “gar­den sub­urb”, com­pleted in 1911. Two-bed­room homes sell for about £500,000

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