How Crossrail turned us into train spotters
Is there still time to make money from London’s newest link? Anna White finds out who is buying into the Elizabeth Line
Crossrail has turned many of us into train spotters. Who would have thought that the state-of-the-art trains being introduced this month on the eastern part of the high-speed line would have piqued such interest?
Although this fleet is just providing service on an already-open section of the route (Network Rail is merely testing the modernised rolling stock), for homeowners, landlords and investors who have bought near one of the 40 stations it’s a tangible sign of things to come.
It was a bold move to purchase a property along the line when construction started eight years ago this month. After all, it is Britain’s most ambitious transport project ever, conceived before the recession, and started at its tail-end. The gamble has paid off: house prices within a mile of any Crossrail stop have risen by 66 per cent since 2009, according to data from Hamptons International. That’s 15pc more than the average across London.
For those who bought in Abbey Wood or Woolwich, for example, that means an increase in house prices by 71 per cent and 57 per cent respectively from 2009 to December 2016, and a 15- and 24-minute reduction in the commute to central London.
On top of the appreciation already achieved, experts forecast another surge on the opening of the first leg of the Elizabeth Line, albeit at very different levels across its 62-mile stretch from Reading in Berkshire to Shenfield in Essex.
“There are always those homebuyers who have to wait to see an infrastructure or regeneration project come to fruition before committing, therefore driving up prices again,” says David Fell, analyst at Hamptons International.
Increased demand from tenants, who will only move closer to Crossrail once it’s running, will push up rents, yields and property prices too.
Contrary to popular belief, landlords are not going to be the main passenger on this house price juggernaut, according to the Hamptons research. First-time buyers have, thus far, been the main player in this project’s property market.
Typically, the small buy-to-let investor is one of the earliest and most active entrants when an infrastructure scheme comes to town. “The private landlord who owns a couple of properties, and who is very aware of what’s planned in his locality, is usually a dominant player,” says Fell. But the Elizabeth Line is an exception.
Fell has produced new research matching the various types of buyer to different parts of the line at each stage of the project, and found that it is firsttime buyers who have snapped up the highest number of properties of those on sale within a mile of all Crossrail stations since 2009.
“First-time buyers are overrepresented in this scheme compared to the wider London picture. This is because, unlike second-steppers with families, they are not tied down to the sale of their current home and so took advantage of Crossrail quickly,” Fell explains. “In addition, the land that has been available to developers tends to be right by or above the station, which is ideal for flats suitable for those taking their first step on the property ladder.”
In 2009, 42 per cent of properties along the line were bought by firsttime buyers, 36 per cent by other owner-occupiers and 22 per cent by landlords. This year, that split has changed to 40 per cent, 33 per cent and 27 per cent. As property in east London has traditionally been the most affordable, first-time buyers have dominated this end of the Crossrail track.
First-time buyers who got in on the action early have not only slashed minutes off their commute but also invested smartly in their first property. But what about house hunters who have a deposit saved and want to get in on the act now? Is it too late to jump on board – and is there any value left on Crossrail?
Lit up: the Centre Point penthouse is £55m via Rokstone, top and right; Queen Elizabeth unveiled the new roundel, far right; a test train, top right; construction of the Crossrail tunnel, bottom right