20 November 2009 – The Times
Downsizing once meant dropping out. Their working years almost done, older householders were expected to trade in their family home, pocket the change and retire somewhere with a parish council to trifle with. But, my, how those winter evenings creep by.
Now agents say that downsizers are just as likely to be staging an energetic return to the city. Having moved to the country, or deep into the suburbs to give their children space, safety and a good education, many near-retirees are grasping their chance to snap up a pad in fine city developments. Some, having bought with investment in mind, “soon realise the benefits of a London pad and use it themselves”, Lucy Morton, of the agent WA Ellis, says.
This trend has been accelerated by the downturn. Lucian Cook, of Savills, says that those who are still working are keen to display their diligence. He says: “The recession has brought job security and earnings to the forefront. These buyers probably need to be seen in the office more and want to minimise their commute. For many, the ideal of part-time work in the country has been put on hold.”
But resist the temptation to feel for these buyers. Cashed-up and rich in equity, wealthy downsizers are the best equipped of buyers to snap up crashpads close to theatres and fine restaurants. Many are colonising the design-led schemes originally envisaged for image-conscious youth, such as Arundel Square in Islington, North London, a supermodern terrace of homes and other developments (see right). Lisa Hollands, of EA Shaw, an agent in London’s West End, which has been marketing a Squire and Partners-designed scheme on Berwick Street in Soho, says: “These buyers are not the kind of people looking for the worst apartment in the best street. Often we are selling penthouses to them.”
The speed with which this part of the market has revived is, according to Cook, testament to the awareness of these buyers that with “prices still some way off their peak, it is a good time to buy”.
But the quality of the homes that they can afford — with porters, sleek interiors and lots of lovely London space — helps to produce a pitfall: colonisation by the children. Hollands says that many crashpads are taken over by offspring studying or working in London. Owners, she says, discover that a city apartment becomes a new venue for the next stage of family life, with theatre shows and restaurant meals with children in tow. She says: “It becomes a real family pad.” That is, loneliness banished.
Merchant Square, Paddington
What? Waterline House, a selection of two and three-bedroom apartments on the edge of the canal, will be complete next November.
The development — part of a large-scale redevelopment of the basin — will centre around a new central area called Merchant Square. There will be 193 units, 40 of which will be affordable. Twenty-three apartments are still available.
Where? On the end point of the Grand Union Canal, in Paddington. Two minutes from the Underground and mainline station. How much does it cost? Prices range from £650,000 for a two-bedroom apartment to at least £1.2 million for a penthouse. The best apartments will look out on to the canal or the square below. Once completed, this will have cafés and a large water feature (by the Fountain Workshop, which created the ever-popular fountains outside the Mayor of London’s office). Who? The developer is European Land (merchantsquare.co.uk ). For sale with King Sturge, 020-7993 7393 – firstname.lastname@example.org