Prop­erty com­ment

Gone are the days when post­code snob­bery hin­dered the Lon­don hous­ing mar­ket, finds Eleanor Doughty. Or are they?

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

IF you were to exit Knights­bridge sta­tion and walk to the Royal Al­bert Hall, you’d pass a cu­ri­ous sign: ‘Park Close SW1’. ‘SW1?’ you might won­der, look­ing at the SW7 post­code of your desti­na­tion. SW1 might sooner call up the Houses of Par­lia­ment or Horse Guards Pa­rade than a pas­sage near Har­rods. How then can the post­code have switched so quickly?

Such is Lon­don’s post­code sys­tem. In my south-lon­don neigh­bour­hood, Streatham High Road flips from SW2 to SW16 in a quick­step. Up in Ele­phant & Cas­tle, 8, Hayles Street is in Se11—‘the gate­way to trendy south Lon­don,’ says a friend who lives on the bor­der—but the pub just next door, The Prince of Wales, is in SE1, one of the city’s big­gest post­codes.

Whether you re­alise it or not, you will have, when re­ceiv­ing di­rec­tions, made a judge­ment about the place you’re go­ing based on the post­code. More than a cen­tury ago, when a young Eve­lyn Waugh lived with his par­ents in Gold­ers Green, NW11, it’s said that he would walk to the next post­box to ac­quire a fash­ion­able NW3 post­mark on his let­ters. But do post­codes mat­ter any longer?

There has long been a snob-value el­e­ment to parts of the city. The Bayswa­ter/not­ting Hill bound­ary is one such ex­am­ple. Prop­erty agent Si­mon Barnes of H. Barnes & Co (020–7499 3434) re­calls a house on Here­ford Road, W2, an eight-minute walk to Bayswa­ter sta­tion. ‘It was a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity, de­signed by a fa­mous ar­chi­tect, but buy­ers wouldn’t con­sider it be­cause it was in W2. The same ar­chi­tect had de­signed an­other house in Not­ting Hill, W11, which at­tracted se­ri­ous in­ter­est. It proved that the post­code was the driver.’

Here­ford Road, where house prices av­er­age £1.9 mil­lion ac­cord­ing to Zoopla, is now ‘one of the most sought-after roads in W2,’ adds Mr Barnes. It’s nat­u­ral to want to be wed­ded to a com­mu­nity, even if only by a six- or seven-char­ac­ter code. ‘With cen­tral Lon­don be­com­ing ever more com­pact, ar­eas pre­vi­ously re­liant on their in­di­vid­ual iden­ti­ties have melded to­gether,’ says buy­ing agent Thea Car­roll (020–7193 3044). ‘It’s lit­tle won­der that peo­ple are keen to de­fine their en­vi­rons by post­code.’

Of course, ‘bound­aries have to be drawn some­where,’ says Bren­dan Roberts, di­rec­tor at Ayles­ford In­ter­na­tional (020–7351 2383). ‘If you look at the foot­print of any bor­ough, it’s a wig­gly line.’ Rob­bie Kerr, a di­rec­tor at Adam Ar­chi­tec­ture (020–7841 0140) dis­misses the idea that post­codes mean much today. ‘If you asked 100 peo­ple in the street, one might be able to tell you where SW7 is,’ he says from his of­fice on Queen Square, WC1, a sixminute walk from Hol­born sta­tion, WC2.

At­ti­tudes are chang­ing, adds Mr Barnes. ‘Peo­ple now re­alise that they can get bet­ter value for money if they stop fo­cus­ing on post­codes and look at what the ac­tual prop­erty of­fers.’ Marc Sch­nei­der­man, di­rec­tor at Ar­ling­ton Res­i­den­tial (020–7722 3322), agrees: ‘We have dealt with buy­ers whose search is dic­tated by post­code and who are in­flex­i­ble about buy­ing within a neigh­bour­ing post­code—even if it’s only one road away—but these are in the mi­nor­ity.’ Part of his patch cov­ers NW1, which is com­monly as­so­ci­ated with Re­gent’s Park, but also in­cludes Cam­den Town. The prop­erty val­ues in these two ar­eas vary: a twobed­room flat on Not­ting­ham Ter­race, NW1, next to Madame Tus­saud’s, is on the mar­ket for £2.25 mil­lion (Win­ston Crowns, 020– 3641 4737), but up on Cam­den Road, Marsh & Par­sons (020–8128 0859) have a twobed­room flat for sale for £700,000.

A friend who bought a house in south Lon­don last year and had al­ways lived in a south-west post­code, ended up in Herne Hill, SE24. ‘I couldn’t care less which post­code I’m in,’ he ex­plains. ‘SW2 or SE24,’ he says. ‘It doesn’t mat­ter.’

Peo­ple can get bet­ter value for money if they stop fo­cus­ing on post­codes

What’s in a num­ber? Hav­ing the right post­code makes no dif­fer­ence to most, but not all, buy­ers look­ing at cen­tral Lon­don prop­erty

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