Property insider: Chelsea

Chelsea attracts home buyers from across the globe. Kristy Gray gets the property lowdown from local estate agent William Hughes-Ward of Marsh and Parsons
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While the undeniable stars of E4’s TV series Made in Chelsea are its group of young, rich and impossibly gorgeous 20-somethings, the elite clubs, bars and high-fashion boutiques of the King’s Road have proved scene stealers themselves, as have the area’s handsome Victorian villas and pastel-painted cottages.

This exclusive pocket of south-west London is no stranger to the spotlight, attracting home buyers from all over the globe, from celebrities and bankers to aristocrats and oligarchs.

'Chelsea is a global, ultra-prime residential market and attracts a glamorous and successful crowd from around the world'

William Hughes-Ward, senior sales manager of Marsh and Parsons’ Chelsea office, has worked in this area for more than a decade, and says: “Chelsea’s borders have, over the years, changed and today there are many different opinions as to what defines this area. Starting in the east around Sloane Square Tube station; south along Chelsea Bridge Road to the river; west all the way to Chelsea Creek, encompassing the Lots Road area; and north as far as Ifield Road back towards the Fulham Road (skirting West Brompton but pinching the Bolton’s slightly from the north), all the way to Draycott Avenue. The postcodes SW3 and SW10 are generally considered to be Chelsea.”

With such vast geographical borders, it’s not surprising that Chelsea is an area of stark contrasts. On a list of the 200 most expensive streets in London, the top 10 are within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Property around Sloane Square, Sloane Street and Sloane Avenue command the highest values, while homes at the far end of the King’s Road, including Lots Road and main roads with heavy traffic, such as Edith Grove, Gunther Grove and Redcliffe Gardens, are significantly cheaper than in “prime” Chelsea areas.

Hughes-Ward says that as Chelsea encompasses the King's Road it is too urban to have a “villagey” feel. This popular shopping street has been drawing crowds of shoppers since the Sixties, along with big high street brands and high-fashion boutiques. However, smaller enclaves do exist. “Tucked away just north of this shopping mecca is Chelsea Green, a small enclave that certainly does retain a village feel with its local butcher, fishmonger, and pie shop,” he says.

The insider lowdown: William Hughes-Ward, Marsh and Parsons

What types of property are typical to this area?
The majority of properties today were a result of the 19th-century Victorian development boom, many of which have been redeveloped into flats. But there are still plenty that remain as freeholds. There are a number of mansion blocks here but very few new-build developments.

There is a diverse range in Chelsea - you can expect to see 300sq ft studios, one- and two-bedroom flats in mansion blocks, riverside homes near Chelsea Wharf, pastel-painted cottages off the King’s Road, mews houses and townhouses - right through to large 10,000sq ft houses.

What types of buyers are attracted here?
A description that I recently read pretty much sums up my view as to the kind of buyers that are attracted to Chelsea. That description is “a global ultra-prime residential market”.

The area certainly attracts an interesting, glamorous and successful crowd from around the world. At the moment Chelsea is popular particularly with wealthy Italian buyers benefiting from a favourable exchange rate, and rich Russian buyers. UK buyers tend to be very wealthy families and young buyers who are getting help from the "bank of mum and dad”.

What are the hottest properties in the area?
The most sought-after streets for home buyers at the moment include First Street, Halsey Street and Moore Street. Right now we are experiencing very strong demand in SW3, with a particular focus on houses and garden-square properties. However, with a lack of property coming onto the market in Chelsea generally, we have buyers looking across the board and demand is high.

Where are the ‘hidden gems’?
There aren’t many hidden gems left in Chelsea given the exposure and demand the area has had over recent times, but there are a good few streets that are quieter and offer home owners a piece of real tranquility. One of my favourites is Cheyne Row, a quiet one-way street lined with Victorian properties that have a nice outlook, mature gardens, a nearby church and a brilliant local pub, the Cross Keys, just around the corner.

What are the best investment opportunities in the area?
Our lettings team are crying out for decent two-bedroom “sharer” flats in the £700 a week range. Any well-presented flat that is within a 10-minute walk to the nearest Tube will be a solid investment. We are seeing yields at around 4.5 per cent gross at present and things look set to improve further.

How is local parking?
Resident permit holders in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have the benefit of being able to park anywhere in the borough. The council are strict when it comes to issuing these coveted permits and are very thorough when it comes to checking credentials. Be prepared!

What are service charges in the area like?
Service charges can increase dramatically when works to a building take place, and with white stucco-fronted properties this happens every five-to-seven years. On average though, you can expect to pay £2,000-£3,000 for one-bedroom flats, £2,500-£5,000 for two-bedroom flats. Since the “right to manage” came along, many residents are taking control themselves and getting costs down.

What are your favourite viewings to show potential buyers?
I love showing lower-ground or garden flats to buyers who automatically dismiss them (they usually need a little persuasion). Nine times out of 10 they will be surprised at how much more you get for your money - at least a patio garden and your own front door.

Where would you buy in the area?
I’m looking at the Lots Road area as a good place to invest. You can pick up property for, in some cases, 50 per cent less than within the rest of Chelsea. Lots Road power station, much like its Battersea big brother, has long been threatened with a major redevelopment but with more rumours of imminent decisions, capital appreciation here will be very good.

William Hughes-Ward is the senior sales manager at Marsh and Parsons in Chelsea

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