Soho, famous for its naughty nightlife, is on the doorstep of theatreland, with the capital's liveliest bars and restaurants. It’s not swanky and posh, but its colourful, noisy, arty and artful, and is the centre of the universe for Londoners.
© Glenn Copus
Taking in part of the West End, Soho covers an area of about one square mile, and is bordered by Oxford Street to the north, Shaftesbury Avenue to the south, Charing Cross Road in the east and Regent Street to the west.
'Soho has several personalities; it has a stylish office/residential quarter, a lively, buzzy area and a trendy foodie quarter'
Crowds spill out onto the pavements of the area’s pubs, cafés and bistros on long summer days, while trendy bars and clubs fill up every night of the week giving the area the feel of a suburb that almost never sleeps.
Such attractions draw Londoners and tourists by the thousands, yet it hardly seems a heartland for homeowning - but that is the secret. Its residential quarters are tucked into little squares and courtyards, in streets and lanes, back alleys and ancient estates on street level and above it.
So what type of homebuyers are attracted to this most central of London’s neighbourhoods, with its wealth of transport options and amenities on the doorstep? And what types of properties can be found here? Laurence Glynne, a Partner at West End estate agents LDG, has worked in this area for 23 years and has infinite knowledge of the homes on offer in this über-central part of London.
He describes Soho as having several personalities, “from the local stylish office/residential quarter around Broadwick, Lexington and Carnaby Streets in the west, to the livelier, buzzy feel along Old Compton Street, Brewer Street and Shaftesbury Avenue, and finished off with the trendy foodie quarter taking in Greek, Frith and Dean Streets. The west side is quieter and classier, while the areas around Brewer and Compton Streets are typical Soho spots.”
Insider lowdown: Laurence Glynne, LDG
What types of properties are typical to the area?
Soho has a mix of classical period-style apartments, New York-style loft apartments, eclectic modern blocks, art-deco converted offices and quaint Queen Anne period houses which have an average of four bedrooms.
In terms of size, there is a fairly even mix of pied-à-terres, one- and two-bedroom flats in modern blocks and two- and three-bedroom converted homes in Lexington and Brewer Street.
What types of buyers are attracted to the area?
Young London executives in their 30s and 40s - many linked to the media world - that prefer to live in a trendy part of town. Other buyers include UK-based and international rental investors, plus creative/art/media types.
Where are the ‘hottest’ properties?
Soho Lofts in Meard Street, originally a warehouse building, was sold as a blank canvas so all the flats are uniquely designed. Marshall House, on the apex of Broadwick Street and Marshall Street, was built in the late Eighties and has popular, functional West End apartments that are ideal as town pads or rental investments. The 33/34 Dean Street “Deco” building provides lateral-built, spacious two-bedroom flats finished to a very high standard in a prime Soho spot.
Where are the ‘hidden gems’?
In Bourchier Street there is a good, modern block with secure private parking. In Meard Street, a pedestrianised Street between Dean Street and Wardour Street, there are Queen Anne properties built by the architect Thomas Meard. Many of these Grade II-listed houses and flats retain original panelling, deep-set fireplaces and oak flooring.
St Anne’s Court, between Dean Street and Wardour Street, is also pedestrianised and is blessed with period features. Foubert Mansions on Newburgh St, an Edwardian lateral conversion with street views and masses of light, is another hidden gem, and on Upper John Street there is a fantastic loft-style apartment block which includes high-spec details by property group, Speyhawk; it also benefits from secure underground private parking.
What are the best investment opportunities in the area?
The best rental investment opportunities include flats in local authority blocks such as Ingestre Court and Dufours Place. The council house stigma is not as prolific in this area because people are tending to buy property at realistic prices, but with good returns as they are in the heart of the West End.
Many lawyers and barristers who live in town rent in local authority blocks. However, because many buyers are purchasing these types of homes as rental investments, these properties do not come onto the market very often.
Other good investment opportunities are in Sandringham Court and Soho Lofts.
How is local parking?
Residents have permission to park on meters after 6.30pm, and there are car parks in Poland Street which include concessions for local residents. However, for many residents, parking isn’t as issue as owning a car is simply not necessary.
What are service charges in the area like?
They vary depending on the apartment block - conversions and small blocks are the lowest. Modern blocks, including Marshall House and Stirling Court, are very reasonable and well run. Soho Lofts is higher, with excellent porterage. One would expect to pay approximately £800-£1,000 in a good conversion and £1,500-£2,500 in a well-run block, depending on the size of the flat.
What are your favourite viewings to show potential buyers?
There are some stylish and eclectic flats at 21 Dean Street, above Soho theatre. The roof terrace on top of Stirling Court is also fabulous and has one of the best views in Soho. Houses and flats in Meard Street also go down well.
Where would you buy in the area?
I would like a flat in Fouberts Mansions looking down Newburgh Street, or a 10th-floor flat in Stirling Court looking west over London’s rooftops. I would also like a Queen Anne house on Meard Street which has so much history and character.
Laurence Glynne is a Partner at LDG