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How hot is your high street?

Foxtons agency image

Streatham is a sprawling suburb of outer London famous for having the UK’s longest high street. It is claimed to be 1.8 miles long, something the local council shouts about on large banners hung from lamp-posts all along it.

The area is a very mixed bag of housing ranging from small, bijou (pokey) one bedroom flats starting at £230,000 to large detached Victorian villas for £3 million and sometimes more and, like many parts of London, rich and poor live cheek by jowl.

Sales competition

Property sales in the area this year are running at 120 a month in the five postcodes around the high street (SW2, SW12, SW16, SW17, SE27) with a total value of £70 million which works out at around six sales per branch on average, Land Registry figures show. These figures are from its data for January, which also reveals that 16 homes worth £900,000 or more were sold in the four postcodes, while there were 56 sold worth £500,000 or more.

Compared to other areas nearby it can be 25-50 per cent cheaper. You get buy-to-let investors here too but we don’t see many bankers in Porsches. James Brooks, Brooks.

James Brooks, Brooks, image

James Brooks

At its northern tip Streatham High Road is at its most upmarket with several branded coffee shops, posh restaurants and gastro pubs. It’s also the area nearest the two richest postcodes along the high street, SW16 and SW17.

This is reflected in the agents who reside upon this upmarket end of the high street, including the larger chains such as Winkworth, Foxtons, Andrews, Townends and Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward.

The further south you go out of Streatham, the more sparsely the agents are scattered but this is a market dominated by smaller and medium-size independents – 70 per cent of all agents here are of this size. The larger agents or ‘corporates’ are Foxtons, Townends, Winkworth, Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward, Andrews and Haart while the medium size ones include Dexters and Jacksons.

But the larger chains dominate the market. Foxtons has the greatest number of homes for sale followed by Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward although Jacksons, which is a medium size London chain, comes third (see full list below, calculated at the end of February 2016). In lettings the market is turned on its head and the small and medium size independents lead the field.

Portal choices

So how is the portal war playing out among these 19 agents? 52 per cent are signed up to both Zoopla and Rightmove while 42 per cent are with both OnTheMarket and Rightmove. The area contains mixed news for Zoopla – it would seem most agents here have stuck with Rightmove when applying the ‘one other’ rule demanded by OnTheMarket. However, there are two agents who have taken a more unusual approach and signed up with only one portal; one with OnTheMarket and the other with Zoopla.

One agent who has joined OnTheMarket and stopped using Zoopla is Marc Wiehe, the franchisee holder for the high street’s long-standing Winkworth branch.

“We and our head office decided it was the way to go,” he says. “We had this bizarre position where there was a duopoly between Zoopla and Rightmove and what we found was that the two portals mirrored each other. So you’d find the instructions from Rightmove were pretty the same as those from Zoopla.

“Now, there seems to be a better differentiation between the platforms and I think OnTheMarket is much cleaner, clearer, ad-free and generally looks better.”

Industry organisations

Agents here are all also a well behaved bunch, as you would hope. All of them bar three are signed up to one of the ombudsman schemes although membership is dominated by The Property Ombudsman (TPO) with 14 agents. Three have no listing with any of the three schemes, while two are signed up with TPO’s rival, Ombudsman Services: Property.

The situation on the ground is less cheery for the industry’s associations, which, except for the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), aren’t strongly represented on the high street. Eight are members of ARLA while only four are members of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and just two are signed up with the National Approved Letting Scheme or the London Rental Standard. None of the other membership organisations are obviously represented on this high street.

Local market

Streatham is feeling the huge pressure bearing down on London’s sales and lettings market, both of which continue to feature demand that far outstrips supply. According to Rightmove, the average house prices in Streatham is £452,000 a figure that has risen by 10 per cent over the past year. Even apartments aren’t cheap here by national standards, at £358,000 on average.

Streatham is interesting… great value, versatility and a wonderful mix of architectural styles on every street, it always feels fresh and exciting. Thomas Howe, Foxtons.

Thomas Howe, Foxtons, image

Thomas Howe

But by London’s strange benchmarks Streatham is affordable, mainly because it doesn’t have a tube station and because buyers think it unfashionable. The well heeled prefer to buy or rent in nearby Clapham or Dulwich.

Still, rents in the area tend to be eye watering. Foxtons, which operates at the top of the market, says a two-bedroom apartment here costs £1,450 a month while large five bedroom houses can go
for £3,000 a month but again, by London standards this is ‘affordable’.

townsendsandrewsdextersoaksjacksonsunited

Views from the street

1 The independent
James Brooks, Director of Brooks
“This area is performing well at the moment which is down to the pan-London trend of high prices fanning out into outer areas like Streatham,” he says.

“We are cheaper than more attractive areas to the north of us, but Streatham is more expensive than the areas to the south of us.

“Overall Streatham is one of London’s more ‘normal’ markets. It attracts first timers looking for an affordable first apartment and people moving from more expensive areas with expanding families to buy more space. Our advantage here is that it’s not a ‘named’ area and has no ‘snob value’ so prices are lower.

“I’ve been living and working as an agent in Streatham for ten years now and you deal with pretty straightforward people even though a first time buyer might be paying £400,000 for a flat and a family paying £850,000 for a house.

“It’s no small beans but compared to other areas nearby it can between 25 per cent and even 50 per cent cheaper. You get buy-to-let investors here too but in general we don’t see many bankers in Porsches.”

James’s business is split evenly between sales and lettings, he says, and his Streatham office faces less competition than his other office in white-hot Balham, 10 minutes away by car.

“We started up here a few years ago and since then we’ve seen quite a few agents enter the market in Streatham and I’d say we have now five or six strong competitors including Foxtons, Winkworth, Andrews, Townends and Haart.

2 The franchisee
Marc Wiehe, Winkworth
Marc Wiehe, Winkworth, imageMarc says Winkworth has been on the high road since the mid-80s. He’s been working in Streatham since 1996 so he’s celebrating 20 years in the industry. “There have been quite a few changes
since I started here. There weren’t many agents here in Streatham in the 1990s but that number has grown and we have a huge number working up and down the high road now,” he says.

Streatham had an image problem, a big vice industry, seedy nightclubs… but there is a renaissance here… maybe another golden era is coming soon. Marc Wiehe, Winkworth.

“Back in the day Streatham had an image problem. There was a big vice industry here with quite a few seedy nightclubs; crime was a problem too.

“But in its heyday during the interwar years it was considered a very glamorous and well-to-do suburb of London with big entertainment venues, dance halls, music hall theatres and it was quite a prosperous and rich, so it felt very different.

“Now, it’s a very diverse neighbourhood and you have people from all walks of life. It’s less of an artificially constructed area and doesn’t have a lot of the generic national chain retailers on the high street.

“There is a renaissance happening here, to a great extent because of the Streatham Business Team, which was set up a few years ago. It has been attracting independent businesses to the high street and that’s why it’s beginning to turn itself around.

“So it had a golden era then and who knows, perhaps that another one is coming soon.”

3 The chain branch manager
Thomas Howe, Foxtons
“We opened in 2010 and I have worked for the branch since its first day of opening. These days compared to neighbouring Clapham, Balham and Brixton, Streatham offers good value for money.
“And because of the great selection of private and public schools in the area, the property market is very competitive, especially for young families looking to upsize.

“If anything has changed from last year, it would be that demand for available properties has increased – like everywhere else in London, demand outweighs supply significantly.

“Due to the seasonal nature of the market, the sales side of our business is slightly busier than lettings at present. Competitive mortgage interest rates and the various Help to Buy schemes available mean more people are looking to get onto property ladder.

“Working in Streatham is particularly interesting both because of the great value the area offers and the versatility of the property portfolio. It has a wonderful mix of different architectural styles on every street and the area always feels fresh and exciting.”

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