Blooming Marvellous


The air is rich with the sweet scent of wisteria blooming around doorways and in gardens across London. In Chelsea the finishing touches are being made to the highlight of the annual horticultural calendar.

At this time of year there’s something particularly special about Chelsea, particularly this year as its iconic flower show has returned to its traditional spring timing following the pandemic. Shops, pubs, and restaurants are all decked out with floral installations, and some 160,000 green fingered types will be making a pilgrimage to the Royal Hospital Chelsea to enjoy the very latest in garden design.

The capital’s property market is also blossoming, with prices and rents growing strongly across the capital, and exponentially in some key hotspots. The only dark cloud on the horizon is the ongoing lack of stock which has been clipping eager buyers’ wings for almost two years now and which is showing little sign of easing.

Like much of central London SW3 has had a tricky couple of years – average prices have dipped from around 2.4m in December 2019 to just over £2m at the start of the year according to property portal Rightmove. Over the past decade prices have grown 19% according to house price analysts LonRes, a solid but not shining performance thanks to a combination of Brexit, Stamp Duty increases and Covid-19. But something appears to be stirring on Sloane Square. Some well-directed investment by the Cadogan Estate has transformed Pavilion Road into a chic new shopping space, while new arrivals on and around King’s Road include the stylish The Ivy Asia, homeware stores like Soho Home Studio and plenty of hip new fashion brands in evidence.

Camilla Dell, Managing Partner of Black Brick comments; “Chelsea is an area we now get asked to search in more than we did pre-pandemic. There has been a bit of a shift from people wanting a townhouse in Belgravia or Mayfair. Both suffer a bit from a reputation that a lot of owners are from overseas and nobody actually lives there. Chelsea is a much more residential area and one that has got increasingly better over the last few years, with immediate access to lovely coffee shops and restaurants. The pandemic has definitely made people value having a great quality high street close to their front door.”

Traditionally, at this time of year, a flood of new homes come on to the market. This year they have signally failed to materialise, leaving many buyers in despair at ever finding a new home. Tom Bill, Head of UK Residential Research at Knight Frank, believes that what we are seeing is a collective case of the jitters, a “whiff of uncertainty” as the war in Ukraine continues and the cost of living crisis bites.

Camilla agrees that vendors are sitting on their hands. “I am not seeing a slowdown in enquiries from buyers,” she says. “You would usually expect to see a flood of new stock coming on to the market in spring and we are not seeing that this year.”

Beyond global political and economic problems, she blames the logjam on high buying costs.

“Some of that clogging up of the market has to be due to Stamp Duty,” she reflects. “The rates are extortionate now. There are a lot of people who are doing the maths and realising that they are better off staying where they are than moving or downsizing. The whole legal process of buying a property takes so long. There seems to be no efficiency in the conveyancing process.”

The vagaries of the UK’s buying system doesn’t help matters resulting in a scenario where some 23% of agreed sales do not proceed to completion according to the latest data from customer intelligence analysts Twenty Ci. Part of the reason for this is that the buying process is simply so slow that people have plenty of time to get cold feet.


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