The managing director of Glentree International is a veteran luxury real estate agent who has sold houses to everyone from Ringo Starr to Saudi princes. Here he explains why he is still excited by his north London patch and what continues to attract discerning buyers to this corner of the capital.
What makes north London a great place to live?
North London, with its leafy avenues and 900 acres of heathland, allows residents to enjoy a semi-rural ambiance and yet be within 15 minutes of the West End. This is a facility that is unique in any metropolis in the world.
The medieval villages of Hampstead and Highgate are particularly interesting and are steeped in history, as are the quaint cobbled alleyways of Old Hampstead and Highgate.
You can buy an array of different properties so that the prince can live close to the pauper and its rich medley of homes stretch from cottages to castles.
Some of the finest schools are situated along the northwest London corridor, such as the American School, Lycée and Highgate School, that are undoubtedly the best of their kind.
If you are a golfer there are two courses within walking distance. The area is extremely well supplied with shops and all manner of eclectic restaurants so that, in the summer, a drive through Hampstead with its bistros and patisseries could make you think that you were in the Mediterranean.
It is an ideal place to bring up families and you are bathed with friendly communities and families for many generations seem to find this one of the most desirable places to live in the world.
How long has your firm been selling properties in north London?
We are the longest-serving estate agency [in this area] – under the same management – having been founded in the mid-1970s and transcended four recessions. We have dealt with most nationalities from the ‘four corners of the earth’ and have dealt with, in some cases, three generations of the same family who value consistency, trust and probity.
Where in north London do you currently have homes available?
Our catchment area stretches from St Johns Wood to Mill Hill and beyond. We can as easily accommodate an enquiry for a £600,000 home to a £60 million-plus property. Our New Homes Division has one of the largest selections of newly built properties in northwest London and we have an experienced tier of management who proudly offer a bespoke service to our loyal patrons.
What types of properties are on offer?
We can offer cottages to castles. We understand each echelon of the market and most characteristics of buyers enabling us to have an unparalleled record of sales successes ratio.
What are housing market conditions like North London?
From the changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax [SDLT] in the 2012 Budget, business has been deleteriously affected, particularly in the higher price ranges and this has been exacerbated by the further increases to SDLT in the Autumn Statement last year. Affectively SDLT has risen by 240% that means that the transaction cost for properties is now substantially attenuating sales.
Wealthy international buyers are far fewer and this is particularly so from Russia. The market at the lower end, up to £1million, is still doing nicely, having been given a tax ‘give-away’ in the Autumn Statement.
Mansion Tax for properties over £2million is like a black cloud hanging over the market and some purchasers are forestalling decisions until this uncertainty is clarified after the next general election.
Have you noticed any particular buying trends recently?
Buyers up to £1million are benefiting from the Autumn Statement and historic low mortgage rates which is certainly assisting positive sentiments. The very low inflation environment is also a contributing factor with petrol and prices in the shops deflating and thereby allowing more money to be retained in one’s pocket.
What impact in the looming general election having on the local housing market?
Generally, buyers are fearful of a left-wing socialist government with a penchant for higher taxation, more bureaucracy and anti-business ethos. The real possibility of this scenario is giving rise to tangible uncertainty that is never good for positive decision-making. Owners of properties around £2million are reluctant to trade up firstly because of the SDLT deterrent and secondly the real possibility of a Mansion Tax.
What’s your property market prediction for the rest of 2015?
Properties up to £1million will continue to do well with growth of between 3-5%. Properties in the middle range i.e. £3-5million will see low growth this year and if there is a Mansion Tax values could drop by up to 35% when the stock overhang is taken into consideration.
At the higher end of the market i.e. £7million plus there will be no growth this year and properties in this bracket will suffer the same fate if a Mansion Tax is imposed. It will be a buyers’ market and the few buyers around who will consolidate purchases will be those with a real need to do so.
If there is a Conservative government returned at the election these markets will stabilise. There may not be any reduction in values but there will be very little growth this year again mainly due to SDLT.