One-on-one interview: Vivienne Harris of Heathgate

Posted 23 April 2015 by Marc Da Silva

Marc Da Silva’s ongoing series of interviews with senior figures in the UK property industry continues as he heads to north London to peak to Vivienne Harris, owner and managing director of Heathgate estate agents.

What makes Hampstead in North West London a great place to live? Where do I start?! The interesting, historic and eclectic architecture, the picturesque nature of the area with all its historic background, the plethora of schools for all ages and budgets (in fact the highest density of schools in London, if not the UK), the wonderful Hampstead Heath that changes daily with the seasons and weather, and provides a superb outdoor space with ponds, mature trees and grassland. Its 320 hectares offer superb views over London, fabulous walkways for people (and of course, dogs), numerous wildlife habitats, Kenwood House with its fine art gallery, magnificent architecture and of course, the tea rooms. Best of all, its free (not the tea!).

The main shopping areas comprise Heath Street and Hampstead High Street, that blend high-calibre shopping, local amenities and general household goods together in a village atmosphere with friendly local shopkeepers who actually know their clientele. But also further towards Belsize Park there are South End Green and Rosslyn Hill retail areas with further shopping facilities.

The many thriving coffee shops, brasseries and restaurants ensure a lively buzz plus the ever-popular and well-renowned ‘Creperie’ stall that is something of an institution. The housing is varied, from studio flats to ambassadorial mansions, and the architecture varied and in many cases, unique.

The excellent transport links are of great benefit with the Northern Line tube providing easy access across the capital, the added links via the Hampstead Heath Overground station, easy access to the M1 for all routes north and all this only six miles from London’s West End.

I think that it just appeals to all people of all ages. Whether young or old there is something for you. For baby and tots there are playgroups and lovely walks, an array of high-quality schools and colleges, fun restaurants that are popular with the teens and younger population, and more sedate eateries for those of more mature years. There are cinemas, theatres, libraries, a community centre, talks, bookshops and a variety of interesting things to do. All in all, I can’t think of a better place to live.

How long has your firm been selling properties in Hampstead? Heathgate has been established since 1990 but I have been selling property in the area since 1978.

Where in Hampstead do you currently have homes available?  We have a variety of housing available across NW3 from flats to houses and we also provide rental accommodation. As we are Hampstead based we cover Hampstead, Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage, as well as, South and West Hampstead, plus the lovely properties that are found in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

What types of properties are on offer?  From one-bedroom flats to 10-bedroom mansions. Our price ranges start at approximately £500,000 and can be up to £50m.

For letting, there are studio flats ranging upwards of £240 per week and ambassadorial-style homes at £10,000 per week.

What are housing market conditions like in Hampstead?  The market up to £1million is still extremely busy but with the changes to legislation and the concerns over the possible Mansion Tax, properties over £2million are taking a little longer to sell. The rental market is also slower at the upper end mainly due to cuts in budgets for the employees of the larger corporations.

Have you noticed any particular buying trends recently? There are certainly more rental investors looking to buy with many purchasing for outright cash. In some instances we are still going to sealed bids and achieving over the asking prices. We have seen this trend mostly in properties up to up to £2million.

What impact is the looming general election having on the local housing market? Due to the uncertainty of what may happen it is natural that buyers and sellers alike are being cautious. This creates stagnation in the market and slows it down. Currently we have a good number of well-qualified buyers up to £2million but very little available to sell. We have therefore been achieving some excellent prices for our clients. With more stock the market would still be very active.

What’s your property market prediction for the rest of 2015? It depends on which party in elected. Once the election is over, if property taxes remain at the same level then prices will probably rise, but if a Mansion Tax, or an equivalent, is introduced or there are any further increases to Stamp Duty Land Tax, price drops will be inevitable.

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