Chelsea’s annual flower show drives thousands of people through its streets — creating a hot moment in the selling year for local estate agents.
© Alex Lentati
The property market in Chelsea is something of a hardy perennial itself, growing stronger with each year and attracting relentless interest from City money — from buyers who fall in love with its period terraces and pretty squares.
Yet look closer and this is a surprisingly mixed property area with many pockets of value tucked among its premium addresses.
Yes, prices did jump 15 per cent during the year to April 2012 compared with 11.4 per cent for prime central London, says James Pace of Knight Frank, making prices in the most popular garden squares hover between £1,800 and £3,000 a sq ft. But most Chelsea homes do not carry an ultra-expensive price tag. If you don't want a classic Georgian townhouse there are red-brick mansion blocks, modest pastel-painted cottages and Sixties-built council flats to choose from.
Properties on short leases can be bought at knock-down prices (normally you need to be a cash buyer), while studios in less salubrious "walk-up" (no lift) mansion blocks or converted houses start at about £350,000.
What the area lacked and is now getting is modern developments with gated security and underground parking, and other new homes are appearing in traditionally cheaper parts of Chelsea, such as the tract between World's End and the Thames, in the SW10 and SW6 postcodes, and on the border with Pimlico.
Chelsea Walk is a rare restoration of a complete Victorian terrace — an entire block, with 56 flats above 14 retail units with original shopfronts.
Located on Fulham Road, just along from a fashionable strip known as "The Beach", a hang-out for trendy locals, "it's given this patch a muchneeded facelift, with houses in neighbouring residential streets such as Fernshaw Road rising in value on the back of it", says Simon Rose of estate agent Strutt & Parker. Prices from £695,000. Call 020 7373 1010.
Developers owe much to Chelsea's artistic roots. Several conversions of former art colleges are under way or have been recently completed.
Listed Sloane School on Hortensia Road is being redeveloped in two stages. Phase one, called Chelsea Apartments, is a new-build block of 36 homes behind a curved façade with large rectangular windows, reminiscent of artists' studios, and tiered, wraparound terraces, a bit like a wedding cake. Prices start at £1.25 million, rising to £5 million for the penthouse. Phase two is a conversion of the original Edwardian building into loft-style apartments. Call Savills on 020 7409 8756.
Halfway along King's Road, the old Chelsea College of Art has made way for a prestige scheme of 14 apartments and two townhouses fronting Manresa Road. Called Henry Moore Court, it is named after the artist who was head of sculpture at the college in the Thirties. Apartments are set around a landscaped courtyard with a sunken garden designed by Arabella Lennox-Boyd, a six-times gold medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show. Prices start at £5.65 million. Call Aylesford International on 020 7351 2383.
Made in Chelsea
Students at Inchbald School of Design, a college that has gained an enviable reputation for producing successful garden designers, have been asked to create a wow-factor roof terrace garden at one of three large and luxurious new-build homes by developer Morpheus, called The Chelsea Townhouses, on Pond Place. Prices on application. Call Beauchamp Estates on 020 7499 7722.
A delightful three-bedroom house, part of the Painter's Yard development (right) on Old Church Street, is for sale at £3.1 million. Call 020 7349 4300.
The young and privileged from E4's reality soap Made in Chelsea have increased the area's popularity with those fortunate enough to get a mortgage from the Bank of Mum and Dad, says Jeremy Creasor of Hamptons International. "We've just sold a three-bedroom house in SW10 to a father of a twenty-something daughter who wanted to live among the boutiques, bars and bistros of King's Road," he says.
Barracks on the march
Chelsea's traditional heartland lies either side of King's Road, between Beaufort Street and Royal Hospital Road. Conservation area status has restricted even small-scale development. Hence the excitement generated by the upcoming Chelsea Barracks project, which will bring 448 homes to a new 13-acre "quarter" linked to the Pimlico Road hub of posh homeware stores and antique shops.
Despite its name, the former barracks lie in the borough of Westminster not the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, but this will not stop values reaching more than £3,000 per square foot.
Because of the potential uplift in values, now could prove to be a good time to buy into lower-priced Grosvenor Waterside, which lies between the barracks and the river. This scheme is set around a dock built more than 200 years ago to transport materials for the construction of Belgravia.
Bramah House and Caro Point are the latest phases — from £590,000 to £4.036 million. Resales from earlier phases include apartments with huge river-facing roof terraces. Call 020 7590 2450.
Not made in Chelsea but nearby and bound to attract attention from out-of-towners heading from the train and bus station to the flower show is the newly launched Ebury Square, another new development in the borough of Westminster. The garden square was leased to the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, a charity which preserves and enhances gardens across the capital.
Berkeley Homes is redeveloping a police tenement block at one end of the square to create 71 apartments with underground parking and a private communal garden. This is a somewhat compromised setting, with one side of the square bordering Victoria Coach Station. However, prices, yet to be released, will be high. Call 020 7118 9111.