The smart Georgian homes, the good schools and the short commute to the City and Canary Wharf have made Maritime Greenwich popular with buyers working in the financial services sector. Slightly grungy around the edges, the area on the south bank of the Thames is home to the vast Greenwich Park, the Cutty Sark — a Victorian clipper ship in dry dock — and, thanks to it being the location for the Royal Observatory, the prime meridian — zero degrees longitude — Greenwich could make a case for being the centre of the world. At least, that is what the locals say.
Except in recent years the shine has come off the local property market.
In 2016, fuelled by competition from wealthy banker-types, the average property price in the Greenwich West ward (which roughly encompasses Maritime, or “old”, Greenwich) was 8 per cent higher than the London average, according to Land Registry data compiled by Hamptons International. In the three years since, prices have slumped by 5.4 per cent, wiping out the “Greenwich premium”. Now the average property price in Greenwich is £2,000 cheaper than the London average.
According to Nicholas Finn, executive director at Garrington estate agents, the uncertainty over the future of the City of London after Brexit and the decline in London property prices have slowed the prime market in Greenwich “to a crawl”. In the year to May, the number of property sales in Greenwich West were a third lower than the same period in 2018, according to Land Registry data compiled by BuiltPlace, a property consultancy.
Dominic Francois, sales negotiator at Hamptons International, puts the slowing market in Greenwich down to “punitive stamp duty changes”. He says local families have been put off upsizing by former chancellor George Osborne’s tax hikes on the most expensive properties, which in 2014 increased the tax bill on homes priced at about £1m and above. The average house price in Greenwich, excluding new-build homes, falls under that threshold at just under £600,000, according to Hamptons.
Four-bedroom house on Devonshire Drive, £1.29m
In contrast to the new-build high rises on the Greenwich Peninsula, the attraction of old Greenwich is its period stock, much of which is listed, says Finn. Hamptons International is selling a four-bedroom wing of the Grade I-listed, 18th-century Vanbrugh Castle on the east side of Greenwich Park for £2.5m, a 9 per cent discount on its original asking price. Winkworth is selling a four-bedroom house on Devonshire Drive for £1.29m.
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Lesley Hodsdon, chair of the Greenwich Society, a residents’ association, calls this area “one of the beautiful villages of London”. Several conservation areas have been set up to keep it that way. There is the Ashburnham Triangle, a cluster of 19th-century terraces to the south of the railway station, originally an estate developed by the second Earl of Ashburnham in the 19th century. Here, Hamptons is marketing a detached five-bedroom Victorian home for £1.5m — down £100,000 on its initial asking price.
There are some striking examples of modernist architecture, too. Both Westgrove Lane and Diamond Terrace near the border with Blackheath are home to one-off 20th-century designs. The latter is also the entrance to an old sand mine, with a warren of subterranean tunnels.
Four-bedroom wing in Vanbrugh Castle, £2.5m
Potential buyers of high-priced homes in the area may be holding out for anticipated changes to stamp duty, says Henry Pryor, an independent buying agent. During prime minister Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, it was suggested that stamp duty could be reduced for homes priced above £1.5m.
“The problem with warning that you intend to fiddle with stamp duty is that the housing market instantly trades on that information,” says Pryor, “either by rushing to sell or buy, or by sitting on its hands and waiting.”
But Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, says other macroeconomic factors are more likely to be holding the market back — especially in those areas of London beloved by bankers, such as Greenwich. Any stamp duty change would have “a relatively small impact” on house prices compared with Brexit uncertainty, he says.
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In 2009, properties in Maritime Greenwich carried a 19 per cent premium over the London average. Last year, the London average was 1.6 per cent higher than in GreenwichGreenwich is close to several private schools, including Blackheath High School, Colfe’s and RiverstonIn 2018, 9 per cent of house sales in Greenwich West were over £1m
What you can buy for . . .
£450,000 a one-bedroom flat in a Victorian townhouse near Greenwich Park
£1m A three-bedroom Victorian terraced house
£1.7m A four-bedroom townhouse in the Ashburnham Triangle
More at propertylistings.ft.com
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