So soothingly English, Lennox Gardens is the top choice in the Zombies game.

Deciding where you want to be when – and of course, if – the Zombies invade (for current zombie twist on the classic love story, rush to see the film Warm Bodies) what better place than tucked away in one of those reassuring red-brick curved terraces with smart black iron railings and arched sash windows.

Cut off from the rest of humanity for a brief zombie flesh-eating moment, you could lose yourself in the resident’s only private gardens, or the ‘golden shopping triangle’ between Knightsbridge, Sloane Square and Brompton Cross. With emporiums such as Harrods, Joseph, Paul Smith and Penhaligon’s, handbags, skinny jeans and summer scents will upstage the Zombies.

Food won’t be an issue either with eateries aplenty. Hunger pangs will be staved at Daphne’s with scallops coated in pancetta, sage and garlic, charcoal-grilled chicken at Maroush, Chisou’s ten zaru soba, roast bone marrow on toast at The Admiral Codrington and The Pantechnicon’s burgers with Bloody Mary sauce and beetroot relish.

Getting slightly tipsy – or blind drunk – can help dissolve Zombie jitters. Cocktails with long-legged Russian dolls in the Blue Bar at the Berkeley Hotel, or a late night pick-me-up at Eighty-Six or Barts could do the trick.

Escaping to a spa seems a fabulous 21st-century solution. Languish in the Ushvani Day Spa on Cadogan Gardens or the G-Spa in Pelham Street – after picking up beauty essentials from Space NK in Hans Place, naturally.

To understand the world of Zombies (Hollywood, Haitian and philosophical) and other weird conundrums, visit the Science, Victoria and Albert and Natural History Museums, all in their own handy golden triangle.

In term time, children aged from 3-13 will want to hunker down in independent Knightsbridge Preparatory School at the top of the road. As well as a creative curriculum with music, sport and fun activities, the uniforms – dapper blue blazers over blue-and-white checked shirts and dresses – are some of the most fashionable in the capital. When not learning the three R’s, there’s Hyde Park for dashing about, and the swinging King’s Road for spending pocket money.

And if spiritual guidance is required, you can take confession at the Brompton Oratory in Brompton Road, or pop into the Church of Scotland’s St Columba’s in Pont Street.

When all the Night of the Living Dead Zombie nonsense has deceased and the Tubes start running again, you can trot up to Knightsbridge station (only an eight-minute walk, which may stretch to 15 minutes if you’re in your stilettos), or Sloane Square, about 10 minutes away.

Zombies or no Zombies, Lennox Gardens – a gorgeous prime spot that truly has the lot – is the place to hole up in.

Cheryl Markosky

The Notting Hill market exposed

Just out and fresh off the press, our latest market intelligence delving into all the property facts, figures, statistics and inside knowledge that we have to offer on this lovely part of the Capital including W14, W11, W10, W8 and W2. The pace of change in the buying demographic is breath-taking – some may be trying to take us out of Europe – but it seems that now you can’t take the Europe out of us.

It’s all here or read on for a few of the highlights:

Overseas buyers:

– Since the Budget, overseas buyers have dominated our market, with two-thirds of properties sold by Crayson since March 2012 bought by non-British buyers, compared with just one-third a year earlier.

Half of all residents in Kensington & Chelsea were born outside the UK. The motivations behind purchasing a home in London range from pure investment, buying for offspring, hedging against the instability of their own property markets, and taking advantage of currency variations. Prices in prime London increased by 30% over the past five years for domestic buyers using Sterling. However, in Euros, prices have only increased by 16%, and by just 4% for those purchasing with US Dollars.

Price increases:

– Prices per square foot in our area increased by 7.5% in 2012, with average price per square foot now exceeding £1,170

– Properties in Bayswater and Ladbroke Grove showed the highest price increase of 14.8% in our area

London continued to dramatically outperform the rest of the UK where values rose by just shy of 1% over the course of 2012. Of the top ten local authorities nationally, eight out of ten were London boroughs, led by Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

Transaction levels:

– Over the course of 2012, transaction levels across our market dropped by 7.8% compared with 2011.

– However, the investment market remained buoyant. The number of sales of Notting Hill flats priced between £1m and £2m rose by 12% year on year.

While transaction levels dropped in 2012 across the board, the last four months of the year saw sales activity 12% higher than for the same period in 2011; while for the first eight months of the year sales were down 17% on the same period in 2011.

In 2012 transaction levels rose for properties £750k – £1m, and properties over £5m saw a rise of 43% year on year. But they dropped for properties between £1m and £2m, and properties between £2m and £5m showed a fall in transactions of 23%, almost certainly as a result of the increase in stamp duty for homes over £2m, and the uncertainty over the possible implementation of a Mansion Tax.

Levels of stock

– Available stock levels have fallen by 11% in our area with 828 properties available in January 2013 compared with 932 in January 2012. Demand continues to dramatically outweigh supply.

– Kensington & Chelsea has seen the greatest fall of properties available – from 149 to 105, a fall of 29.5%

However, W11 has seen a small increase in the number of properties available for sale, from 197 in January 2012 to 202 in January 2013, an increase of 2.5%.

You can see our full report online here. But if you’d like a hard copy, please feel free to give us a call (020 7221 1117) or drop us a line (nick@crayson.com). Or even better, come into the office to pick one up – we’d love to see you.

A bientot, Nick

What makes ‘prime’ property prime

‘Prime central London property’ is the buzzword amongst buyers – many of them increasingly from overseas. Amid economic Armageddon, increased stamp duty, and property prices falling in numerous areas and sectors, ‘prime central London property’ has continued to perform in a way that bears little or no relation to the rest of the property market. Recent research indicates that prime Central London prices have risen more than 15% since the 2008 high.

So what makes prime Central London prime? And what protects it from normal market forces?

Period property tends to outperform new stock. Supply is seriously limited within central London, and the market is global – driven by international forces. And there’s always somewhere in the World that thinks it’s the right time to be buying property in London. If it’s not the Chinese or the Arabs, it’s the Russians or the Americans.

Buyers at this level will have expert advisors. And while they will clearly be looking for value, what’s most important to them is that they buy property that’s going to keep its value, show good growth, and a reasonable rental return. To achieve all this, there’s a very straightforward list of benefits that establishes ‘prime’, and distinguishes the best from the rest.

  • Victorian, Edwardian or Georgian properties, impeccably renovated or not renovated at all
  • New conversions in period buildings
  • Apartments should be 1st floor or 2nd floor
  • Good proportions
  • Primary location is crucial
  • Central London
  • Quiet road
  • Close to local amenities
  • Within 5 minutes of underground
  • Lateral conversions are a bonus
  • Garden square properties also a bonus

If you can’t tick all the above boxes, the description (and associated price tag) can no longer be applied.

Compromises, such as basement apartments, or walk-ups above 2nd floor, or a noisy road, will immediately down-grade the description from ‘prime’ to ‘good’. It goes without saying that the value of London property will always reflect the number of boxes ticked, but equally importantly, the prime property will always be easier to sell. The market for ‘prime’ property is much bigger than for none-prime neighbours.

We’re selling a good example of this kind of cast iron investment. A perfectly formed apartment in one of central London’s incomparable addresses: Lennox Gardens, SW1X, a secluded garden square in Knightsbridge’s golden shopping triangle. Distinctive architecture; quiet street; beautiful outlook; high ceilings; perfect proportions; high-spec renovation; raised ground floor; two tube stations within easy walking distance; every prime box is ticked.

The apartment is leasehold, has two bedrooms, and amounts to 1,314 sq. ft. of accommodation. Guide price £3.1m. You can see the details here.

But where does all this leave buyers in central London who are buying property to live in, not as part of an investment portfolio?

Use the same rules to your advantage. Decide what your lifestyle allows you to compromise on, and seek out value by looking at property that misses some of the golden rules. There may be benefits in the process – good outside space from some lower ground floor properties – so great for families and pet owners; and good views from apartments on higher floors.

Bella Tellwright

Not on the high street

Where’s your spirit of adventure? Venturing off the beaten track can reap benefits, argues our resident blogger Cheryl Markosky.

Although many people like supporting our dependable High Streets (and quite right too – go Mary Portas!), there’s a case for sometimes daring to swerve off the predictable path.

There are advantages to being one step away from the rest of the crowd, explains Crayson’s sales director Bella Tellwright.

She points out that in these uncertain times, most Notting Hillbillies don’t want the world and his wife to know his business. So, striding into a highly visible agent’s office to talk about your business going down, your wife leaving you or how online gambling has left you in a bit of a pickle isn’t on.

Privacy and discretion is all, whether you’re upgrading to that garden square terrace you’ve always dreamt of, or you’re offloading it to pay the taxman. This is why buyers and sellers are looking at new options. Increasingly, those in the know are drifting off the Westbourne Grove highway to lane-like Lambton Place (where Crayson’s office is situated) for a more private chat.

Even better, Tellwright adds that they’re often armed with a gym bag, “so it looks like they’re going to BodyWorksWest a few doors away. But really they’re coming to us in the mews where they’re not being observed.”

Also, all that money spent on flash offices on major thoroughfares might be better spent on high-end photography, brochures and other methods to sell your house for the best price. Or, inconspicuously locate that bonus bonanza mansion, and avoiding property porn envy from those less-bricks and mortared up than you.

So, be intrepid. Walk on the wild side away from the High Street hordes to boldy go where no man has gone before. Or, not masses of them, anyhow.

Cheryl Markosky

St James’s Gardens – mind the aposhtrophe

Now, you have to admire an address that’s rigidly precise when it comes to the correct use of the apostrophe. None of this pitching pesky punctuation, as Waterstones recently did, to the horror of London’s literati.

Fussiness about retaining an apostrophe in St James’s Gardens neatly reflects the sort of homeowner on this hushed 19th century enclave built by speculative builder Charles Richardson as part of the Norland Estate. Until recently, this was solid True Blue Tory British territory, but suave Russians with ‘on trend’ facial hair can be found queuing for red leg partridge at high-end butcher Lidgates around the corner.

Small shops and businesses are a feature – a veterinary clinic, newsagent, Granta Publications and Portobello Books – lining broad and leafy Addison Avenue running up to St James’s Gardens. The main focal point on the Gardens is the Lewis Vulliamy-designed church, with Miss Delaney’s Nursery School tucked at the back. A splash of cosmopolitanism is the concealed Spanish and Portuguese synagogue on the south side.

Georgian-style and Victorian villas surrounding the churchyard garden are mainly low-built and arty looking. Agas in basement kitchens, topiary window boxes, original shutters, pianos, busts and piles of books shout a scholarly back-story. A kindle is still something to help light a fire, rather than an electronic reading device.

There’s the odd flat and maisonette (Crayson just sold a rather smart one with high ceilings and its own 42-foot garden), especially on the north side leading into Darnley Terrace. But, this is mainly family house country, with private Norland School handily placed on Holland Park Avenue, and Shepherds Bush and HP Tubes a short walk for banker dads whisked to their City desks via the Central Line.

St James’s Gardeners’ main preoccupation is where to get a fine Bloody to kick off Sunday brunch. The answer: The Academy, where beef goulash with new potatoes costs less than a tenner. Other local favourites include Julies, the rock chick of the restaurant world, and the Cowshed, with its lazy, knackered, saucy, horny or spoilt (take your pick) cow range, and bullocks products for urbane urban men.

And we needn’t worry about the future of high-end car manufacturing. Porsches, Audis and BMW’s are almost the exclusive choice on the streets, where parking’s surprisingly easy. Even the average nanny would ferry little Violet and Bertie round in an A-series Mercedes, so it’s not all bad in this west London garden community.

Cheryl Markosky

Doing things differently

The perceptive amongst you will have noted that our newest property on the market, Zachary House, is a little outside our normal operational zone! True enough, most of the properties we take on are within a three or four mile radius of Crayson HQ in Lambton Place, but as with everything it is the exception that proves the rule. And in the case of Zachary House, the exception is very exciting.

This spectacular Grade II Listed property has over 8,500 square feet of wonderful floor space that combines Georgian elegance with dramatic light-filled lateral space, and sits beautifully on the banks of the Thames at Chiswick. On top of its considerable physical attributes, it has a fascinating musical history, its major claim to fame being that Midge Ure, who owned the property, and Bob Geldof, co-wrote Do they know it’s Christmas, and put down the backing track used as the base for the lyrics, under its very roof.

You can see all the gorgeous property pictures, and read all about the house here.

Given that this is a far from conventional property, a little outside our usual stamping ground, we have customised a marketing plan to suit. A far-reaching advertising and PR strategy has meant that the house has already been seen by an exceptionally wide market. Graham Norwood, a freelance journalist who writes extensively about property, came to see the property last week and his full page article appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on 23rd September, resulting in some hot Crayson telephones! You can see the article here.

Buying agents are a crucial part of the top-end London property market, so we arranged a Chiswick away-day on board a wonderful old Routemaster bus, along with music and a little light refreshment, to make it nice and easy for a group of our contacts to see this very special property.

Almost without exception, everyone who’s seen Zachary House has fallen in love with it. If you’d like to arrange a viewing, for yourself or on behalf of a client, give us a call. @propertyjourn said on Twitter ‘quite the best property I’ve seen for some time’. We hope you think so too.

Nick Crayson

Cool school families

Forget The Brady Bunch and The Waltons. Forget smiling robot-mums in red-and-white checked aprons and slippered dads with pipes clenched between their teeth. And forget their perfectly freckled and faultless offspring.

Notting Hillbilly families are anything but the nostalgic nuclear unit of yesteryear. City sophisticates, but still with a delightful dollop of cheekiness, the youth of the ‘hood can be found flipping through seven- and 12-inch singles at Rough Trade, and putting up fliers to find other budding musicians keen to join start-up bands. You’ll also spot young ‘uns with their iPad-clutching folks outside the Duke of Wellington, tucking into fish ‘n’ chips coated in Young’s beer batter.

To show high culture hasn’t passed them by, children love perusing what’s on offer in Lutyens & Rubinstein bookshop-cum-literary agency. The books are always spot on, as the staff canvass adults and children about what they’d like to see on the shelves.

At this back-to-school time of the year, flowered pencil cases and i-Phone covers are scooped up at Cath Kidston, followed by biscotto (cookies and cream) gelato from Dri Dri in Portobello Road. T-shirts and pumps are ticked off must-have school lists at Jack Wills by the more preppy crowd, while the truly groovy hit charity emporium Fara in Elgin Crescent for punk jackets and retro boots.

Where do the best Hill families reside? The crème-de-la-crème are found on private garden squares (with Ladbroke and Lansdowne two of the most feted), where kicking footballs into carefully tended hedges and building dens in trees tagged by aboricultural experts from Kew is de rigueur. Off-square townhouses along Kensington Park Road and Gardens, and Stanley Crescent are also deemed super family-friendly.

And if your mum’s a fashion designer and Dad manages a hedge fund, a funkier existence in Ledbury, Artesian or All Saints Roads within easy cappuccino-swirling distance of Westbourne Grove will probably be on the early pages of your CV.

Cheryl Markosky

Feel the love

I seem to remember a few weeks ago that I would not, repeat NOT, bang on about the Olympics. Well, I’m sorry, but like so many others, I’m swelling with pride at the incredible job that we have done in hosting the Olympics, and yes I am talking about me, you, Boris and Seb – Well Done!

Even if we weren’t trouncing the opposition in the medals table on a per capita basis, I would still be as proud, if not prouder, than Chad le Clos’s father Bert after his son beat Michael Phelps to win Gold in the 200m butterfly. (By the way, if you haven’t seen this already, it’s essential viewing! Watch it here.)

Olympics or not, I’m a wholehearted supporter of London and I spend most of my life selling it – by the brick. I can’t imagine a better metropolis to live in and I can’t understand why anyone would not want to live here.

My office is fully manned during the Olympics and the holidays – all leave has been cancelled – we are dealing with a new type of tourist; the one with an Olympic ticket in one hand and property details in the other. What a perfect time to buy between events – when almost everyone else is away on holiday.

And this leaves us with our best export – The Pound Sterling. Thank goodness we did not give up our fiscal sovereignty. There is huge concern within the Euro Block, amongst the most affluent countries, about what is amounting to a stark devaluation of their currency. There has been an influx of German buyers looking to invest in London property, particularly in the past few weeks. This is a trend that I predict will grow as our buying demographic morphs even more.

With the most stable of governments bonds accruing interest rates of under the 1.5% mark, there is no better place to invest money than in the leafy streets of Kensington & Chelsea. We do not need to show off our medals or our trophy cabinet. It is all around and our property is our Gold Standard.

Nick Crayson

Summer market intelligence

Well, we thought about calling it something else, ‘third quarter report’, or ‘monsoon property report’, but in the end went for optimism and a traditional label. We remain positive that hope will, eventually, triumph over experience!

Prices rise…..

Despite the lack of sun, London’s housing market continues to be bright when compared with the wider UK market. UK house prices fell by 1% over the last twelve months, but prices in Kensington & Chelsea rose by 11.6%. Prices within the Notting Hill and Holland Park market continue to increase. Average £ per square foot values achieved so far this year have grown by 4.9% for flats and 6.5% for houses when compared with 2011.

Here at Crayson, properties we’ve sold so far this year have continued to set new records. In May we sold a house on Horbury Crescent, W11 for £1,555 per square foot, the highest ever achieved on the street. This month we have agreed the sale of a modern townhouse on Woodsford Square, W14. The £1,202 per square foot achieved set a new price benchmark for the square for one of the single houses.

But transactions fall….

Numbers of sales though are down on last year – as are those in central London generally. The market over £2 million in Notting Hill and Holland Park has been more resilient, with sales per month only 16% down on 2011 compared with a 24% fall for properties under £2 million.

Despite lower transaction levels, we are more than a little bit proud that our market share has been steadily increasing. This year, we’ve been responsible for 36% of sales between £3m and £6m in W11 and the Notting Hill part of W2 – more than any other agent.

Correct pricing the key to a successful sale

With agents vying for new instructions, overpricing remains commonplace amongst some agents working within our market. Across Notting Hill and Holland Park, 39% of flats and 34% of houses currently being marketed have been reduced in price since they were first launched onto the market.

We continue to maintain that that realistic pricing is vital from the outset, rather than unrealistic appraisals followed by price reductions. Our results speak volumes – we have only had to reduce the price of one property so far this year, with all selling at or in excess of our asking price.

You can see our full report online here. But if you’d like a hard copy, please feel free to give us a call (020 7221 1117) or drop us a line (nick@crayson.com). Or even better, come into the office to pick one up – we’d love to see you.

Nick Crayson

Al mezzo-fresco – from our lovely guest-blogger, Cheryl Markosky

Just as underwear is the new outerwear, making a good impression en plein air is the hottest new trend. During this season that still dares to call itself summer, despite constant deluges of the wet stuff, some people are just too cool to care about raindrops dripping down backs of necks and frizzled coiffeurs – no matter how much Moroccan oil you lovingly apply.

The trick is finding that halfway house of mezzo al fresco where you can be in out, in out and shake it all about. An outdoor patch with a bit of cover might be too much to wish for, but intrepid hunting reveals a number of places where you can emulate the Great British Barbecue and eat and drink out-of-doors under umbrellas or awnings.

The Crayson hey presto, mezzo al fresco guide reveals Ottolenghi in Ledbury Road, where a small metal bench and two matching chairs perch jauntily out front. Close enough for that mad dash indoors when the heavens erupt, there’s that added bonus of observing all who cross the cake and salad emporium’s threshold.

Up the road, Beach Blanket Babylon makes a resounding semi-splash with pretty round tables, wooden chairs with cushions, bay trees, awnings – and even a heater to get you through the most unpredictable summer nights. And, nearby Melt provides a round table, chairs and highchairs for young and old bent on hovering outdoors when indulging a passion for high-grade chocolate.

202 has always managed to please hardy adventurers that will turn up no matter what the weather’s doing with plenty of tables and wicker chairs in its garden out back. Not to be outdone, Daylesford, a new entry in Crayson’s mezzo al fresco Hall of Fame, provides smart grey metal tables and tables safe and dry under generous awnings. And, a hidden secret is Tom’s round tables and stools on a small rear terrace behind the café.

Meanwhile, The Grocer and Mr Christians in Elgin Crescent and Café Respiro in Kensington Park Road supply outdoor seating, with the promise of internal warmth and comfort when showers threaten to water down cups of cappuccino and turn croissants soggy.

Don’t forget Osteria Basilico, with its famous antipasto dal buffet, where you can sit out front and watch the great and good from Notting Hill pass by. And, for those wishy-washy, will-it-or-won’t-it moments, Kitchen & Pantry’s voluminous windows can be slid open or closed at the flick of a Polish waitress’s wrist after checking Met Office’s latest forecast on a smartphone.

Cheryl Markosky

Cool-hunting – Chepstow Place

Clash and match – fake and real, flowers and stripes, the Kindle and the paperback – is all the rage. A place where the bish and the bosh come together is the rather unprepossessing Chepstow Place, tucked off Chepstow Corner, and nestled between Notting Hill and Westbourne Grove.

The yin is there with fashionable Farrow and Ball, stylish vet’s surgery Pets Naturally (where free poo bags hang enticingly outside on a hook), and hat emporium Misaharada Millinery. And yet, when you’re feeling a bit yang, you can pop along and place a bet at William Hill, run your clothes through a cool cycle at Central Wash (one of the remaining launderettes in west London) or buy a paintbrush and roller at Lords decorators merchants.

It’s rare to have both the normal and extraordinary in one short city block, but Chepstow Place seems to manage this with swaggering self-possession – to the degree that Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster parking zones have chosen this avenue to conjoin. Which means either permit allows you to park on both sides of the street. Life doesn’t get much sweeter than this for London parking junkies.

The mirroring goes on with authentic Italian eaterie, Assaggi. It’s so real you need to be Roman to read the only-in-Italian menu. Perched below the fegato di vitello is Colchis, a Georgian eat-a-whole-suckling-pig kind of place – but only if you pre-order said swine 48 hours in advance.

This whiff of the Continent blending with nouvelle Russian and heritage English (note the Jubilee-friendly red pillar and telephone boxes in front of Art Deco building, Baynards) sums up the housing as well.

Where else can you find whitewashed Fifties houses next to wisteria-clad Victorian terraces? An ambitious new scheme at the Westbourne Grove end (the bigger the skip, the bigger the Bluetooth speaker system?) juxtaposes with the old Blighty-ness of ‘Chepstow’ etched ceremoniously in glass over a 19th century front door.

It’s the spot where it all ebbs and flows, where net-a-porter-clad downsizers rub zip-detailed leather shoulders with young couples en route to Otto’s for a cornmeal crust pizza and root beer float. Chepstow Place is really a micro-London, where a little bit of everything feels somehow right taking it easy next to each other.

Cheryl Markosky

Crayson exceeds expectations – again!

The Crayson team was cock-a-hoop to hear that Giles Barker had completed his Marathon in 3 hours 49 mins, obliterating his target time of 4 hours 30 minutes. HUGE congratulations to the man who describes himself as having an unwavering aversion to sweating!

His target fundraising of £1,750 now stands at £1,895….and counting! You can read his story, or add to the growing fund, here.

A very impressed, Nick Crayson

Spring sales

Spring is traditionally the time when the London market stretches itself and wakes up properly. 2012 is no exception, as can be seen in our latest market intelligence report.

Notting Hill and Holland Park prices are now, on average, 13.5% higher than the previous 2007 peak (Lonres).

But it’s interesting to see how this breaks down within the area. The star performers are houses within W14 where prices have risen on average by 19.9% in the last 12 months, compared with houses in W8 increasing in value by an average of 11.4% over the same period, and houses within the W11 postcode rising in value by 10.4%.

By contrast, houses within the W10 postcode have risen on average by 3.2% in the last 12 months.

Flats have performed less well with prices in W14 rising 8.3% over the same period; and those in W11 falling by just under 2.4%. In W10 however, flats have risen in value slightly more than houses showing a 3.2% increase in value, compared with 2.8% for houses.

These figures are testament to the strong levels of demand for prime property in this area. Good houses in prime locations can, if marketed properly, sell quickly and at record prices. We recently sold a house in Highlever Road, W10 that went under offer within a week and above the guide price and in Chepstow Place we sold an unmodernised house prior to marketing and achieved a new £psf record for un-modernised property in Notting Hill.

Despite flats generally showing less in the way of price increases than houses in the Notting Hill area, the best are selling strongly. We recently sold above the guide price a one bedroom flat in Talbot Road, W2 priced at £1 million. We had several offers that the vendor was willing to accept, but we felt that more could be achieved and the vendor agreed to hold out. The apartment sold within 6 weeks and achieved a record price for the immediate area of £1,250 £psf.

But valuing is not child’s play; it’s a surgical process to establish the correct price in a market where overvaluing can leave a property overlooked on the sidelines of a fast paced game. We have been ambitious but not ridiculous, and every house we’ve sold this year has been at the guide price or above.

The latest budget revealed some costly changes for those buying at the top end of the UK housing market which will have the greatest impact on London where 73% of homes over £2m were sold last year. However, the case for investment in the Capital remains compelling and we have seen no let-up in activity since March 21st, and anticipate that the added cost will be absorbed with little drama.

You can see the full report online here. But if you’d like a hard copy, please feel free to give us a call (020 7221 1117) or drop us a line (nick@crayson.com). Or even better, come into the office to pick one up – we’d love to see you.

Nick Crayson

“I’d run a marathon, I’ve simply not gotten around to it…”

These were the words uttered by Crayson team member Giles Barker after an indulgent Christmas lunch, and the ones he may live to regret on Sunday morning when his newly fine-tuned and well-honed body is put to the test.

The Crayson team is giving him a great big shout of suppport – we’ve endured the whimpering, sympathised with the aches and pains, and witnessed the body transformation from comfort to speed. Now’s the time for action, not words.

Read Giles’ story here. He’s supporting a great charity, The Children’s Society, and we all wish him the very best of luck.

Nick Crayson

Quick sale in Talbot Road

Who wants two bedrooms when you can have one? The owner of an urbane apartment in Talbot Road, W2, went for best-factor rather than guest-factor when he converted the existing two bedroom flat into an extremely stylish and spacious one bedroom pied a terre. And then set about decorating it in the most sophisticated style.

Generous room sizes, high ceilings, wide open views from front and back, and a light-filled 26’ living space with access to a balcony overlooking the local bustle were all strong selling points, and following a nice piece of editorial in The Times, we quickly tied up a sale in excess of the £1m guide price after the property attracted a great deal of early interest.

London purchasers generally work on the basis of £ per square foot rather than number of rooms. Reducing the number of bedrooms may seem like a rash move; but this is a good example of how less really can be more.

Nick Crayson

7% Stamp Duty will squeeze the market

Property above £2m has effectively just gone up in price by 2%. Already expensive property has just got a bit more. However property in our market has consistently outperformed over the medium and long term and – although the costs are now higher – no doubt homeowners will recoup these costs over time.

What is more important – now more than ever – is good estate agency. Our role is to support our clients’ property values and to maintain the market in a controlled and effective way. The SDLT levy raise is a delicate issue that needs to be handled professionally – and if done so we can all be better off in the long run – whilst doing our bit to bolster the Exchequer’s revenues and help our country in this difficult economic climate.

Buyers viewing property that falls just within the higher tax band will, understandably, seek to do a deal under the threshold and save themselves £40,000 in tax.

The £2m+ sector is where a great deal of London’s activity has been focused, and it’s been responsible for keeping the wider market liquid. While it’s easy to believe that the majority of buyers in this price range are wealthy investors, there is in reality a very strong home owner contingent buying at this level. And these buyers have jobs, salaries, families, and mortgages. Finding an extra £40,000 isn’t necessarily effortless. So there’s little question that the market will be affected.

Having said all that, it is our job as agents to help deal with the situation through a combination of sensible valuation and negotiation. Taxes are a necessary evil and are never going to go away. In time, the market will adjust to compensate, but in the short term, empathy and flexibility are the key to keeping the market moving.

Nick Crayson

Cool-hunting Clarendon Road – from our lovely guest-blogger, Cheryl Markosky

Although it might sound thrilling, sometimes being smack in the middle of everything can be a tad tiresome. Which is why living on the fringes of Notting Hill on Clarendon Road, but only moments from Portobello Road, makes good sense.

Clarendon Road, a quiet residential street and one of the top-drawer addresses in Holland Park, is in a kind of Golden Triangle close to three hot locales: Notting Hill, Holland Park and Portland Cross.

On the southern tip of the road, there’s the area’s mega-meeting place, The Castle. A fixed price menu of two courses for only a tenner (think chicken and chorizo skewers or hake fish fingers) means you don’t have to cook if you prefer dallying over that pint of fine ale. And if you still have a thirst, there’s Nicolas on the corner where a bottle of Sancerre Blanc is just £15, or you can splash out on Mersault 1st Cru at fifty quid.

Probably the world’s best fruit and veg emporium, Michanicou Bros, is next-door (they deliver daily). In the same stretch, friendly Thai restaurant, Cool Monkey, offers a two-course lunch express at £7.95, and newcomer Italian deli Melograno serves up espresso and mini baguettes for breakfast, and fresh pasta and salami for easy suppers. And, spring brings white narcissus at £6.50 a pot and bunches of daffs (four for a fiver) at Bursting Buds.

New townhouses nestle close to sumptuous semis on the corner with Ladbroke Road. John Cleese once lived in one of the half-dozen Thomas Allason-designed homes with unusual bowed projections at the rear. Built in 1845, Allason copied Georgian homes in Bath and brought the facsimiles to the Ladbroke Estate. Smart cars appear to be obligatory at this end of the road, with polished BMWs, Porsche Cayman S’s and the latest Minis lined up in this outdoor showroom.

Past the huge detached house where Robbie Williams once resided, lamp posts groan with planning notices for iceberg basements and ground and first floor side extensions. Other up-and-coming signs include light-wells, exteriors splashed in whites from the Farrow and Ball chart, and boho-chic The Clarendon with its animal skin-draped cocktail lounge, Sunday Bloody Marys and roast fests. Fringe benefits galore on Clarendon then for edgy residents wise enough to choose the verge over the hub.

Cheryl Markosky

Winter words of wisdom

At the time of our autumn report, there was much debate in the office about which season we were technically embraced by. No such doubt now. With the thermometer reading -5C, and snow due to fall in the next couple of days, we are clearly in the grip of winter.

Our winter market intelligence report provides a detailed overview of the property market in W14, W11, W10, W8 and W2, and we hope this will give the residents of Notting Hill a gripping fireside read! You can read the full report HERE, but for those of you with places to go and people to see, we’ve extracted some of the highlights.

Price increases:

The average sales price achieved across the local market in 2011 was £1.59m, which represented a 9.4% increase on values achieved in 2010. (The report itemises average values for W10, W11, W14, W2 and W8 – interesting comparisons).

The figures are testament to the strong levels of demand for prime property in this area. At Crayson we were very pleased to achieve a record value for a flat in a Holland Park villa in W11 of £2,047psf, which is around £150psf more than previously achieved at this location.

New instructions low, but transactions grow

New instructions dropped quarter by quarter over the course of 2011 with about half as many new instructions in Q4 of 2011 as there were in Q4 of 2010. Despite that, there were 8% more transactions in 2011 than in 2010; with property sales over £2m increasing by 22%.

Slow to sell:

Over 2011, the average time that properties were on the market in the area before sale has been steadily increasing, rising from just under 3 months in Q3 of 2010, to 5.6 months in Q4 of 2011.

Vendors who are horrified by this statistic may be reassured to know that, at Crayson, the average time to sell a property is 10.2 weeks. And there are encouraging examples of exceptionally quick sales. For example, we sold 26 Clarendon Road in the same week as being marketed at £125k over the guide price.

Pricing crucial:

Call me repetitive, but property that’s overpriced simply won’t sell! The evidence is overwhelming. Across our market, 60% of sales in 2011 were made under their asking price; and 38% of properties currently available for sale have seen at least one reduction in asking price. The worst record is for houses between £1m and £2m, where 56% of houses currently available for sale have been reduced in price.

Again, at the risk of sounding smug, Crayson bucks the trend here. All our sole agent house sales in 2011 sold at or above the full asking price; and we didn’t have to reduce a single asking price in order to achieve these sales.

Outlook

It’s not just the weather that’s chilly; the economic forecast is decidedly frosty, and there seems little hope that things will thaw any time soon. But Prime Central London property has consistently remained buoyant throughout the economic gloom. Whether growth will be as robust as in 2011 remains to be seen; but it is my certain belief that we will end 2012 with prices in this area higher than they are today. I anticipate a growing interest in W2, W11, W8, W10 and W14, with buyers frustrated by constrained stock in Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Belgravia looking for alternative areas for investment.

If you’d like a hard copy of this report, please feel free to give us a call (020 7221 1117) or drop us a line (nick@crayson.com). Or even better, come into the office to pick one up – we’d love to see you.

Stay warm….

Very best wishes, Nick

Clarendon Road, W11

Running parallel to Ladbroke Grove, two streets to the west, Clarendon Road is one of the most prestigious addresses in Holland Park. The wide and tree-lined street stretches through the heart of this thriving area, joining Holland Park Avenue at its southern extreme. Residents have the advantage of a relatively quiet street location, combined with being on the doorstep of the considerable charms and attractions that the immediate area has to offer – fashionable ‘Portland Cross’ and Holland Park Avenue in the south; Portobello and Kensington Park Road to the east, to name just a few.

Not only is property in Clarendon Road wonderfully located, it also offers a huge variety of property, both in terms of size and style. Some modern property in the north, large detached family homes further south, and smaller terraced properties in pretty pastel shades in the south. Buyers will find everything from one bedroom apartments from around £300,000; to large five or six bedroom detached and semi-detached houses for upwards of £10m.

Located within Kensington & Chelsea, property in Clarendon Road sells quickly when compared with other property – an average of 146 days, compared with 180 days in the whole west London area.

In the last year only 16 of the 396 properties on Clarendon Road changed hands, resulting in strong competition when homes do come to the market. In the last five years, average £ per square foot (£psf) achieved on properties sold in Clarendon Road has increased by 43%, compared with 29% growth in achieved £psf across prime London.

The first property to exceed £1,000 psf on Clarendon Road was a large 3,000 square foot house, selling for £1,053 psf in December 1997. A similar house sold in November 2011 achieving in excess of £3,250 psf, a record for the street.

These £psf prices however are the exception, although price increases have been robust over the last 15 years. The average £psf in 2011 was £1,166, more than doubling since 1997 when the average £psf was £530. Buying in Clarendon Road has proved to be a strong investment as well as a very attractive lifestyle choice.

Look out for our Guest Blogger, Cheryl Markosky’s, Cool Hunting guide to Clarendon Road in the next week or two.

Nick Crayson

A big welcome to our new blogger – Cheryl Markosky

Cheryl Markosky is a freelance national property journalist, who writes for publications including Country Life, Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Sunday Express. She recently moved from Notting Hill to Holland Park, but creeps back over the border to visit old haunts, such as Mr Christians, Oxfam Books and the Electric.

Cheryl’s also getting to grips with the digital world, contributing to Primelocation, Findaproperty and other websites. We’re delighted she’s agreed to contribute a monthly blog to the Crayson site, and you can read her first in the ‘Cool-hunting’ series, here, now. Cool-hunting focuses on the quirky, wondrous, hilarious, cheeky, crazy, serious and fun in the area. February’s target is Ledbury Road. Enjoy!

Cool-hunting – Ledbury Road

Ledbury Road is so damn cool it makes Svalbard look like one of Dante’s fiery circles of hell. In fact, the coolness factor makes Ledbury the next sure-fire location for Frozen Planet 2. Although what David Attenborough would make of the uber-groovy boutiques and restaurants is any penguin’s guess.

It’s safe to say there’s really no earthly point in flogging all the way to Bond or Elizabeth Streets, while everything is right smack in Ledbury or its larger adjacent version, Westbourne Grove.

If you fancy a pair of silver sequined sneakers (and who wouldn’t?) then Emma Hope’s the place, while rufty-tufty guys can home in on hardy-looking coats and big shovels at Nick Ashley. Or, how about a purple retro chair from B&T antiques, the ultimate LWS (little white shirt) from Anne Fontaine in a converted church or a pair of moccis for the terrible toddler in your life?

Extreme shopping can lead to a heightened appetite, however. Without leaving the road you can slurp a bowl of Tom Yum at The Walmer Castle, that most wondrous English Russian doll contradiction: a Thai restaurant nestled into a traditional pub. Other gourmet blow-out spots include Beach Blanket Babylon (they’ve got the best venison carpaccio), Ottolenghi for fat caraway seeded cheese straws, Weight Watcher-disapproved cakes and roasted beetroot and sour cherry salad, and Michelin-starred The Ledbury (the rabbit lasagne gets my vote).

So, wrap up warm and explore the nifty wintry climes of Ledbury Road. Crayson has just sold a marvelous, roomy house with four bedrooms, four reception rooms and three bathrooms. The guide price was £3.555m. There will be plenty of space to store all those purchases!

Pet places for…

• TINY SOFT CARDIGANS – Caramel
• STRIPEY FRENCH TOPS – Petit Bateau
• ORANGE WALLETS – Anya Hindmarch
• BOLD BRIGHT BRACELETS – Lyon Choy
• ITSY BITSY TEENY WEENY BIKINI – Melissa Odabash
Cheryl Markosky

Happy Christmas from the Crayson team

We’ll be sad to see the back of 2011, our first full year of trading. It’s been a wonderful year for all of us at Crayson, we’ve met some fabulous people, sold some amazing houses, and totally immersed ourselves in Notting Hill life.

As a thank you to everyone who’s shown us support we got together with our neighbours Kell Skott Haircare and Beauty Works West and threw a properly Arctic Christmas party in Lambton Place. The mews was transformed with Christmas trees, penguins, snow, an ice sculpture polar bear complete with vodka luge, and a very festive crowd! Pictures will be posted on our website very shortly so everyone who was there can relive the party, and anyone who couldn’t make it can see what they missed!

A huge thank you to everyone who’s supported us this year. Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and here’s to a happy, peaceful, fun and successful 2012.

With very best wishes from the Crayson team.

Nick

Space Odyssey

We don’t have a shop window, and don’t feel the need to position ourselves on a high street, taking up valuable retail space, cheek by jowl with every other estate agent. Apparently 94% of house buyers use the internet to find property for sale and no longer feel the need to walk into an estate agent’s office. We strongly suspect the figure is even higher than that in Notting Hill.

But just because we’ve chosen to hide ourselves away from the crowds doesn’t mean that we’re not proud of our premises. We are! We’ve got a wonderful location in Lambton Place, just a few steps away from the rush of Westbourne Grove, and our office is a beautiful space, full of light, and extremely comfortable facilities; even our loos are gorgeous! We’ve put all our energies into creating the best environment for us to work in, and the perfect ambience for business meetings.

If you come and visit us you can see for yourself, and we always make visitors extremely welcome, even though we haven’t got pictures of properties for sale in our window. But for those of you who aren’t local, or who don’t have the time to pop in, we’d like to share with you some pictures of the space we’ve created. Here they are – we hope you agree that our decision to stay away from the high street and spend more money on great space, hiring better people to sell your house and marketing your property was a good one.

Best wishes

Nick

Autumn greetings

We are delighted to be publishing our Quarterly Market Intelligence report. You can see it in full here

It’s our ‘Autumn’ report. Some may be hanging on to the belief that it’s still Summer; others may complain that it is palpably Winter. Technically, both are correct. Meteorologists use a definition of the seasons based on months, with autumn being September, October and November in the northern hemisphere. However, astronomically, autumn doesn’t officially start until the autumn equinox, the date when night and day are nearly of the same length and the Sun crosses the celestial equator. That date will be 22nd September.
Meanwhile, the Royal Horticultural Society reports that it is an early Autumn – due to the hot and dry Spring, leaves are changing colour a month earlier than usual.

There has been some debate in the Crayson offices about this; but the Autumn Market has officially begun at Crayson and we are hugely busy, bringing a lovely selection of fabulous new properties to the market and dealing with a remarkable number of genuine and keen buyers.

Away from semantics – the autumn report does contain some very interesting information that is not all a ‘Crayson Party Political Broadcast’. Almost 40% of houses on the market in this area have been subject to price reductions. At Crayson (sorry to brag) we have not reduced one price on any of the houses that we have sold all year and all have sold at either Guide Price or above. I am pretty happy with this record! If you would like a hard copy of the report please do ask and we will deliver.

Thanks very much to all of you who have supported us in our first 6 months.

Best Wishes, Nick

We hope you’ll forgive us if we take a moment to blow our own trumpet….

Six months on from opening our doors in Lambton Place, we’re overjoyed to be able to report that all the houses we have sold have been at the Guide Price or above, and that we have not had to reduce the price of any of the houses we’ve sold so far. What’s more, we recently exchanged on a property in Lonsdale Road well in excess of the guide price of £3.2m, setting a new £ per square foot record for the road and the area.

When I set up Crayson I was determined to offer vendors a different kind of estate agency service and to set new standards. This wasn’t just more estate agent speak. My mission was to ensure that clients get the absolutely best price possible for their property; but at the same time I didn’t want to be overvaluing property, being unable to sell it, and having to reduce the price.

Which is why I’m so delighted about our record so far. Especially as this has been set in a climate of price reductions. Low stock levels in the area are causing competition amongst agents for instructions, and this has led to some agents quoting unachievable prices. As a result, nearly a fifth of properties currently available within Notting Hill and Holland Park have seen their asking prices reduced. Of those reduced in price, properties for sale over £2m have seen an average of £443,000 knocked off their price, which amounts to an average reduction of nearly 10%.

As much as I’d like to continue to claim a 100% hit rate on valuations and prices achieved, I’m realistic enough to accept that the day will come when we have to drop an asking price; but I guarantee I will not take on a property at the wrong price simply to win the instruction. Unrealistic pricing can badly jeopardise a sale, and leads to false vendor expectations. Record prices can be (and have been) achieved, but only if a realistic price is set from the outset. We promise to give you the best advice on price every time – because if we can’t be intelligent about price, how can we expect you to be?

Fingers on the property pulse

If you’re buying or selling, or are simply a home-owner in Holland Park and Notting Hill, you may well want to take a look at our research into the local property market. Our quarterly review is hot off the press and captures the character and mood of the area, analysing trends and prices.
Pricing is key
A crucial issue that the research highlights is that pricing is the key to successful sales. Our area is seeing particularly low levels of available stock. Although the shortage of properties has boosted price growth over the past 18 months, the current low stock levels are causing competition for instructions amongst agents. This has led to some agents quoting unachievable valuations. As a result, around a fifth of properties (18.6%) currently available within Notting Hill and Holland Park have seen their asking prices reduced.
Of those reduced in price, properties for sale over £2m have seen an average of £443,000 knocked off their price (9.6% of asking price).
We believe that realistic pricing is so important that we will not take on a property on at the wrong price. We have only had to reduce the price on one property so far this year.
Record prices can be (and have been) achieved, but only if a realistic price is set from the outset. For example, we exchanged last week on a property in Lonsdale Road well in excess of the guide price of £3.2 million, and at over £1,900 per square foot, setting a new £ per square foot record for the road and area.”
Average values
Local residents may also be interested in how prices have moved over the course of the last year. Prices in the local market are currently 4.1% higher in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period loast year; this compares to a fall of 1.4% in england and Wales, and a rise of 2.1% across Greater London. Average property values were £970,694 in 2011 Q1 compared with £932,792 in 2010 Q1.
There are lots more statistics and insights within the research document – you can see it all here, or if you’d prefer a traditional, non-digital copy, give us a call, drop us a line, or better still pop into our office at 10 Lambton Place, W11 to pick one up. We’d love to see you.

Bon voyage….

…to Crayson client, and Gumball Rally organiser, Maximillion Cooper

It’s Gumball time again as celebrities and supercars converge on Covent Garden to participate in the annual Gumball 3000 Rally. Over 100 sensational vehicles set off from London today (26th May) on a 3,000 mile journey across 10 countries to Istanbul in what Vanity Fair Magazine described as ‘the most rock ‘n’ roll car rally ever staged’.
Famed for its outlandish exploits and celebrity participants, Gumball 3000 was created in 1999, when founder Maximillion Cooper invited 50 friends to take part in a 3000 mile drive and party around Europe. Over a decade later, crowds of over a million people attend the rally, and a televised and online audience reaches over 60 million in over 100 countries as fans follow Gumball’s every move.
At Crayson we have more than a passing interest in Gumball as we’re selling Maximillion Cooper’s spectacular Notting Hill home. Set over five floors, the stunning Victorian terraced house in Westbourne Grove has been virtually rebuilt over the course of the last two years. Designed by award-winning architects, Russell Jones, renowned for their imaginative and contemporaryvarchitecture, the interior is relaxed yet cutting edge.
You can see more details and images of the stunning five storey Victorian terraced house in Westbourne Grove here. Not only does it look sensational with its floors of Italian volcanic lava and enormous single pane of glass at the rear, the technology is seriously impressive. Integrated heating and lighting can be controlled by iPhone or Blackberry from anywhere in the world, as can the custom built security camera system.
The accommodation extends to 2,659 sq. ft, and includes large kitchen/breakfast room leading onto the garden, double aspect reception room occupying the whole of the raised ground floor, master bedroom suite occupying the whole of the first floor, four further bedrooms, balcony, terrace and private walled garden. The guide price is £4.9m for the freehold.
Good luck Max from the Crayson team.

26 Minutes for Notting Hill based royal wedding photographer

All of us at 10 Lambton Place loved the Royal wedding; and we’re delighted that those stunning official photographs were taken by a Notting Hill photographer. Hugo Burnand is based in Powis Mews, a few minutes’ walk from our own offices.

This article in Monday’s Evening Standard tells the whole story beautifully. Our congratulations to Hugo Burnand for securing what he is said to have described as ‘the gig of the century’, and for capturing those historical images.

Market Update 3rd March 2011

The last few weeks have seen precedent prices being set in some of the best properties in the area and to some extent some buyers have rushed to Exchange and Complete before the end of the financial year and beat the increase in the top band of Stamp Duty Land Tax from 4% to 5%.

It does not feel like a market that is overheating and the gains in price are modest and sustainable and encouraged by the common problem of a shortage of good housing stock.

There have been an ever increasing number of enquiries coming from overseas buyers and this week. We even saw a small influx of buyer enquiries from Bahrain – politically topical!

As spring approaches Notting Hill and the surrounding area is starting to look its seasonal best again. The financial sector is again attracted by the quick transport links to The City and in some cases we are seeing competing bids from some of these buyers as bonus monies start to flow into the market.

The outlook is sunny with the odd potential cloud in the shape of possible interest rate rises. Inevitably they are going to have to go up some time soon. My against the grain bet is that this will not happen in April. In any case it is unlikely that small rises in interest rates are going to have a marked effect on property prices in this area in the short term.