Schools have long been a key driver for housing demand and, in South West London, whether co-ed or single-sex, private or state, junior, senior or all through, local parents have a variety of choice when it comes to educating their children. Finding a family home in the area is something that head of Savills South West London residential region, Robin Chatwin, recalls only too well having moved to Wandsworth over 25 years ago to raise his family. Now with three grown-up children, he details how the property market has changed over the years and what today’s buyers are looking for from their next move.
“Increasingly, we are seeing young couples from central London who don’t yet have children buying homes in the South West of the city that offer longevity. These buyers will tend to opt for homes with multifunctional interiors, more bedrooms, access to outside space and proximity to schools,” explains Chatwin.
“In order to future proof, buyers are also stretching their budgets to secure the kind of property they want to live in long term. Additionally, we are noticing an increased interest in homes that need renovating – people are more comfortable to take on a project if they are planning to be there for many years,” says Chatwin, whose own home needed renovating in its entirety when he and his family moved in. “Even some 25 years ago, we experienced competition when buying our home, and yet this is something that still remains in the current day market, but with added pressures of limited stock,” he adds.
As Deputy Chair of Governors at Finton House School, Chatwin has noticed a desire among schools to reduce their carbon footprint, highlighting that “being within walking distance has become an increasingly important factor for buyers to consider. Ever since I’ve worked in the industry, it’s something that has formed part of people’s criteria, but it’s even more of a requirement now. Often we have seen competing bids with buyers also paying over the asking price in order to secure the property they want, which means they won’t need to get in a car to drive their children to school.”
According to Savills’ research, over the last 18 months, large family properties in prime South West of London have been among the capital’s strongest performing markets and values for a six or more bedroom house have risen by around 12.1% during this period. And clearly, more space has continued to be a big driver for buyers in this area; in the last quarter of 2021, Richmond, East Sheen, Wandsworth and Wimbledon were the four strongest performing London locations for annual price growth in 2021.
“When the pandemic hit, it’s unsurprising that there was an increase of city-based residents looking to escape to London’s leafier suburbs which meant that South West London was really under the spotlight - and this hasn’t changed as we embark on a new year,” Chatwin explains.
“In the first few weeks of 2022, we have already seen a number of family properties achieving their asking price, including a home located just 100 yards from Finton House, which received multiple competing bids and sold for more than its asking price. We had a similar situation in Wimbledon Park where a large house suitable for a family went over its guide. That particular property had a big private garden as well as scope to be extended – something people now like the option of being able to do should they want to as their family grows or their property needs change.”
Savills recently analysed the best places to live for families with primary school-age children, with the borough of Merton, which covers much of Wimbledon, being among the top London locations. “With a total of 41 primary schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, it’s unsurprising that family houses within the catchment areas are extremely desirable,” suggests Chatwin.
Meanwhile, the super-prime market within the region also recorded a strong performance last year. “Throughout the pandemic, we saw people living in central London move out to the area who wanted a ‘country’ style home but weren’t wanting to leave the capital altogether. In fact, there was an 84% increase in the number of £5 million-plus local sales in 2021, compared to 2020,” notes Chatwin.
“Wimbledon, Battersea, East Sheen and Wandsworth were often the most popular destinations, particularly because they all deliver on the golden formula that people want with large family houses, a sense of community, good schools and activities for children and of course great links back into central London. Traditionally these are buyers who might have made the move to the home counties or further afield but who now feel that they can strike a very good balance staying in London – they get the sense of greenery but can also go to the theatre or a Michelin restaurant with ease in an evening if they want to,” he adds.
Looking ahead, recently released research from Savills suggests that demand from domestic buyers looking to upsize to a larger family home will start to soften with a lack of suitable stock on the market continuing to support prices, while the supply-demand imbalance remains.
“However, we do expect to see interest in the large family homes market in South West London remain strong. So far this year, we have seen some significant activity in this particular market, with a number of deals being agreed in January alone. We expect this to continue, particularly as travel restrictions ease and as international buyers return to the market. The appetite for outside space is also likely to fuel property searches,” concludes Chatwin.
Robin Chatwin can be contacted via email RChatwin@savills.com or on 020 8877 1222.