How Cross­rail turned us into train spot­ters

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - London -

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

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