“It’s been the same ever since Covid – everyone wants houses with gardens and outside space,” says Gold. As soon as people were faced with the reality of staying at home, the need for a garden became pressing for everyone, and it remains that way now. “We’ve seen a definite move away from purpose-built blocks with small balconies and the heat has very much gone out of the flat market altogether,” he says.
In his patch of Golders Green and Hampstead Garden Suburb, the trend is for buyers to come from more central areas in search of more space for their families. “If you’ve got a two bedroom flat in West Hampstead, you can swap that for a three or even four bedroom house in Golders Green with outside space,” says Gold. “The area offers good value – it’s only a mile or two down the road, and you’re halving your price per square foot.”
These postcodes are characterised by lots of big 1930s houses, which are more popular than ever right now. While they may have been seen as unattractive in the past, buyers are more aware now than ever before of the potential they offer. ”People can see beyond the front elevation, and they’re realising that if you take out the wall between the kitchen and the back living room, you can create a really big open plan family space.” The 1930s house lends itself well to a modern update and with the area’s relaxed planning restrictions you can make an 1100 sq foot house into a 2300 sq ft one quite easily. The transformation is simple: a loft conversion to add another bedroom and en suite, plus a large kitchen extension on the ground floor. “We’ve seen a move away from bifold doors to sliding patio doors which create better garden views, but everyone wants a kitchen island and a breakfast bar, plus a utility room,” he says. Garden offices are popular too, with a lot of people wanting study space, and units in gardens can be quite spacious to create gyms or yoga studios.
With the cost of building materials rising sharply in recent months, buyers are slightly less keen to take on a project and more interested in houses that have already been done up. And things are selling fast. “If we take on a house now that’s chain-free we might use a guide price and have between 15-20 people viewing within two weeks and at least one buyer at the end of that. It’s quite common that we’ll go down the sealed bids route for houses in the £1.2m-£1.8m bracket.” There’s a huge demand and not enough stock, so agents have big waiting lists.
The driveway is another advantage of the 1930s house, as more and more people are installing electric car chargers. “It’s hard to do that in a Victorian terrace in Queens Park,” says Gold, and the extra space offered by houses in NW11 is a big plus as drivers move away from petrol.
So what the property buyer of 2022 wants is clear: a 1930s semi with a loft conversion, a garden office and a driveway. Simple. But with people reluctant to downsize as they have in the past – everyone wants to stay put with their gardens – there just aren’t enough to go round. The pressure is on, and buyers need dedication and patience. Good luck to everyone!