PROPERTY SEARCH – House Hunting in London…!
Over the last few months or so I’ve been pre-occupied (ok, totally immersed) in house hunting for a place in London. We’ve gone through some highs (and lows) but finally found a perfect place in the Crofton Park end of Brockley, South East London.
It did take quite a while to get to this point though and we had a place to sell first, so here’s our journey (with a few tips on the way!)…
First off, we booked in a handful of appointments with estate agents in the Blackheath/Greenwich area to value our place, which we were selling in Charlton. From the website, I was really impressed with Winkworth (so much so that I thought these are the guys we’d definitely go with), but was so disappointed with them in real life. The guy turned up for about 10 minutes (all other valuations were around 40 mins to an hour) and he showed very little interest in us or the house. He also undervalued it by about £30k, telling us we’d never get more than that! [NOTE TO AGENT- it sold within the first few days for the full asking price!]
Anyway, we ended up choosing a smaller, local agency who clearly knew the area, was extremely pleasant to deal with (not at all sales-y) and who’s agent had obviously done his research!
TIP: If you can see lots of ‘For Sale/Let’ signs in the area with the agency’s name on them that’s always a good sign. Whoever you choose, the agency fee is something you can always negotiate on (ranges between about 1-2% of the total value of the property). The bigger agencies are also definitely willing to talk on this, they want your business, so don’t be afraid to negotiate!
The house sale actually went fairly smoothly and we moved out before we’d found a new place so stayed with family in Blackheath for a few months in the interim. This is a good strategy if you can do it, even if it means putting your stuff in storage for a few months. By doing so you break the chain and it’s amazing how differently agents see you. It also puts you in a stronger position to negotiate on price, as you’re ready to move immediately and not dependent on another property being sold first. I know this is not always possible, but if you’re a first time buyer anyway you’re in the same position.
After visiting estate agents in West London, looking at properties in North and East, we decided to stick with where we knew and liked, South East London. However, the key was to be somewhere with good transport links, so friends in Hoxton and other areas of London were just a short train ride away.
We started off looking at East Dulwich, the buzz of the place felt great and the main strip – Lordship Lane – was bustling with bars, little cafes, restaurants, local butchers and delicatessents. It also has Dulwich Village on its door step which is stunning with a real Cotswold, countryside feel to it. Lots of folks are moving into the area from Clapham. It has a slightly older (late thirty-somethings) feel to it, but good if you have young children.
However, we felt for the asking prices and what we were looking for, we just couldn’t quite get the value for money. So, after viewing dozens of properties there, we started looking slightly further out to the top end of East Dulwich, the Peckham Rye area.
TIP: Our main dilemma was location over property, what we were prepared to compromise on and by how much. We drew up a list of the top 3 things we felt were essential for the new house e.g. good transport links, value for money, community feel, good local pub..etc. We made sure we kept this in the back of our minds at all times when looking.
We loved Peckham Rye, the Bellenden Road has a similar feel to Lordship Lane (although smaller), but it also has a younger, more edgy feel to it. But we found prices were just slightly too high and seemed to be increasing month-on-month. We also felt some estate agents were playing a bit of a game, it was like monopoly money to them and they were playing buyers off against one another.
I met quite a few buyers at viewings who had been looking in the area for a while and still hadn’t found somewhere that fit the bill. One told me that he’d seen prices hiked up over the last 4 months to such an extent that they were now looking elsewhere. We had quite a few disappointments, with some offers declined as we didn’t offer near enough to the asking price, but the properties just didn’t feel good value for money at that price. Interestingly, most of those same properties are still on the market and the asking prices have all dropped.
TIP: Don’t feel pressurised by agents into making snap decisions. It’s a huge amount of money and the biggest thing you’ll probably ever purchase. I felt quite pressured with some agents at certain points, they clearly wanted to secure the sale (plus commission) and didn’t really have our best interests at heart. One even let slip that it is the seller that always come first (then backtracked!). It may be true, but we are the ones buying it, so without a good match there is no deal!
After feeling slightly disheartened by the whole process, we came across Crofton Park, Brockley. It seemed to tick all our boxes: great value for money, great transport links, a community feel…and a good local pub, Jam Circus!
Brockley, just by New Cross and Lewisham, is Zone 2 and has brillaint transport links on the overland and underground (due to the new East London Tube Line being extended through Brockley and Honour Oak). You can pick-up a beautiful, Victorian house for the same price as a flat in Shoreditch! It’s also quite nice to feel like you’re part of making a community, rather than joining something already established. Everyone I speak to at the moment seems to know a friend moving into the area and it’s mainly younger, professionals/creative-types. With Goldsmiths Uni (specialising in arts/drama) just around the corner in New Cross there’s also a strong student community.
This is a more up and coming area in terms of pubs/cafes..etc, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction. There is the Brockley Jack-a big pub and fringe theatre nearby, the retro Rivoli Ballroom (the location for many films) which does old-school jive, salsa and ballroom dancing and where hundreds head to on a saturday night!, a lovely wine bar, local pubs and an amazing Indian restaurant (to name a few!) We are located at the Crofton park end of Brockley – sandwiched in between Brockley and Honour Oak – which also has a lovely stretch of independent shops.
So after months of looking (and several locations later), we have finally moved in. I feel totally drained, but glad we’ve made it and excited to discover a new area!
BROCKLEY IN THE NEWS…
The Evening Standard did a big two-page spread on Brockley at the start of month, see ‘Spotlight on Brockley and Honour Oak’
In addition, there is a great blog called the ‘Brockley Central’ which is regularly updated and a brilliant site for info on the area and surrounding South East.