Former local authority housing in the right area is good value now that buy-to-let investors are no longer bidding, says
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.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
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. police.uk 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.
SMALL IS GOOD
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.
AREAS TO SEARCH TOOTING
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