There’s something instantly calming about the sight and sound of water. In busy capitals like London, the fact that the River Thames punctuates the city adds to its beauty, offering wonderful views.
In recent years, developers have sought to reclaim areas of wasteland on the river banks, spotting opportunities to build new waterside property which exploits the views and present investment opportunities for those looking to acquire something down by the riverside.
The question is are people prepared to pay a premium to wake up to a view across the water. Charlie Parkin, Associate Director at Aylesford International thinks not. “While river and canal views are desirable, they are not for everyone. Buyers seeking to be at the heart of the action and living on terra firma, will prefer to buy in Prime Central London: Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge and Belgravia, which do not overlook the Thames but boast green space and garden squares, while located very close to amenities, great shopping and restaurants.
Undoubtedly some are prepared to live further out in Battersea, Chelsea Harbour when the upside is a more tranquil location and the benefit of more natural light. Prime riverside locations like Chelsea Embankment and Cheyne Walk are certainly more central, but the compromise on breathtaking views of the Thames and iconic bridges, is that they are busy 24/7.”
H. Barnes & Co
Mayfair based property consultant, Simon Barnes at H. Barnes & Co says, “Premiums depend on which strip of the River Thames – obviously certain parts command a higher price. Chelsea is far better than Battersea/ Nine Elms, whilst the view is amazing, the neighbourhood hasn’t caught up with the values of the river view developments.”
Rather like entering unchartered waters, or knowing your stern from your bow, it’s important to get your bearings when choosing which side of the river bank to buy into. Simon Barnes is clear, “Personally, I’d rather be on the south side, the view over to Chelsea is more interesting. Further down the river, the view across to the Houses of Parliament is great, as are the views across to the City, but the surrounding area has not developed as fast and this is often what puts buyers off.”
New developments tend to be built on neglected wasteland by the Thames and lack a sense of place and infrastructure, which takes a few years to build up with retailers and cafes moving into the area. Choosing a development in a residential area that has already put down roots to provide a lifestyle location is something to consider. A good example is the older development, Albion Riverside on the market at £12m, standing on the south side of the Thames between Albert and Battersea Bridges. Simon Barnes who is selling the luxury lateral 6000 sqft apartment explains, “Albion Riverside is an older, more established development, therefore the area around the development has grown at the same pace. So you have the best of both worlds – an iconic building designed by Foster & Partners, with amazing views, but also a neighbourhood, with great restaurants, shops and facilities that complement the development.”
Simon Deen, New Homes Director at Aston Chase is on the same wavelength, he cites The Henson in Camden Town, a waterside property directly overlooking the Regent Canal, as a perfect example of a development that has grown into its surroundings. Design led residential developer, Londonewcastle www.londonewcastle.com completed the conversion of the Victorian warehouse and former workshop for The Muppets creator, Jim Henson in 2012. Deen says, “Although it’s not newly developed, the canal side apartments achieved a 20% premium when we first sold the building. We are now selling the Penthouse at The Henson which is exceptional boasting 3,595sqft with four bedrooms and four bathrooms, in addition to a further 2000 of wraparound terraces.”
Deen believes that waterside properties do carry a premium if you choose the location wisely and invest in a quality build. “Personally, I think that the Regent’s Canal is a good example, as it passes through some of London’s most exciting regeneration zones. As the demand for PCL homes has softened, smaller apartments in what are considered to be emerging and vibrant areas shows little sign of abating, it’s more affordable and attracting British buyers.”
Ben Morris, Associate Director of New Homes at Colliers International agrees with Simon Deen. He believes there is a premium for waterside properties, but says, “It’s not as much as one might think. The Thames commands the biggest premium, but marinas dotted around canals across the UK offer waterside living for a lot less, and in recent years have become key sites for new developments from Bristol to Leeds and Manchester.” In London Morris advocates, “One of the best new waterside developments is the Onyx Apartments by Taylor Wimpey in regenerated Kings Cross; expect to pay around £1300/sqft. Other desirable locations are Canary Wharf for fantastic views west of the City and the Thames. Hoola in the Royal docks offers riverside views and of Canary Wharf for nearly 40% less than new projects in Canary Wharf. Expect to pay as much as £1,200/sqft in Canary Wharf and h£800/sqft in the Royal Docks.”
Journey outside of London or other cities and country properties with water nearby are a different kettle of fish – rare, prized and unique. In Hampshire, the chalk streams of the River Itchen and Test offer some of the finest trout fishing in the country, while Dorset is renowned for spate rivers.
Ben Horne at Middleton Advisors, who acquires property for clients across these counties explains: “The gentle sound of running water, the special countryside that rivers sit in and the wildlife the water attracts are positives for potential buyers. Of course everyone remembers the floods of January 2014, but the chalk streams of Hampshire operate on an aquifer system and are far less likely to flood and far less likely to dry up. I have one client at the moment who is specifically asking for Itchen, Test or Bourne valley – they can’t define it but they just want to be near the water!”
Horne’s pick of the best is Bossington Mill on the River Test in Hampshire (Strutt & Parker). “Very pretty in two acres, it has to be the water and the countryside that surrounds it that attracts buyers.” Another favourite is Monxton Mill near Andover (on the market last year at £1.55m). “The house has a fantastic lower sitting room where the mill wheel used to operate. Evidence of the building’s past intrigues buyers – the wooden hatch in the lower sitting room ceiling is still there with the rope marks where the millers would haul the bags up into the building. The Pill Hill Brook was diverted around the garden when it was converted to a house, making extremely attractive grounds in a very lovely village.”
As Ben Horne reflects: “Water often adds to the beauty of a property’s setting and makes it special, but those with small children will not often consider houses with water. The relationship between the water and the house is also important and can influence values, the rumble of water next to a house is very different to the 100 yard view to the river across a water meadow.”
It seems that what city and country waterside property living offer is tranquillity in a restful setting, but another likely advantage is an unspoilt view. Simon Deen, Aston Chase explains: “Not only is there something very tranquil about living close to the water, but if you live in a building immediately adjacent to the river, or a canal, you can be sure that the space won’t be developed and therefore your view is unlikely to change!”
DBPR: Amanda Sharpe May 2016