Property: Make your home in a shell

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The Independent Online
In its latest London residential survey, FPD Savills reports that one of the trendiest styles of Nineties living, the shell apartment, accounts for just 2 per cent of all current units compared to 12 per cent a year ago. It seems that although buyers like the idea of loft living, and of stamping their own mark on a place, they prefer in the end to pay more and buy their loft fully fitted out by the developer. Lofts were originally very much the territory of the creative professions but many buyers without a particular flair for design feel daunted by the challenge of filling a large empty space. The work often adds a good pounds 50,000 to the cost of the shell. Nervous buyers can see now that in the second-hand market individualistic interior designs can be difficult to sell. One of the few buildings with shell apartments is The Factory at Shepherdess Walk, off City Road. Manhattan Loft Corporation has 29 shells remaining out of 50, priced from pounds 155,000 to pounds 400,000. The average size is just 1,500 sq ft. Sales office: 0171 490 3949.

Studio flats in the centre of London are making a come-back. When property prices fell, they plummeted, but now that they have emerged from the doldrums, smarter and often close to regenerated areas, prices are rising. Winkworth is finding a new demand for studios from young professionals and also those who live out of town but need a city base. Apparently there is little price differentiation between the central London postal areas with the majority changing hands at between pounds 70,000 and pounds 100,000. "They used to be the cheap and scruffy alternative to one-bedroom accommodation, the preserve of the volume landlord looking for high yields and the buyer with a low budget," says Hilary Wade. "They are becoming the new hotel rooms of central London". They also fit the bill for anyone who wants to walk to work, since a great many of the new studio flats have popped up in areas close to the City.

By-passes normally bring their share of protest but if the estate agents Lane Fox are correct, residents west of Gloucester should see certain property prices rise by as much as 10 per cent now that the Cirencester by-pass has been opened. The new road puts the area within reach of London buyers. The drive-time has been cut from almost three hours on a bad day, to the two hours which tends to be the cut-off point for Londoners. A Georgian house in Taynton, west of Gloucester, which Lane Fox has been marketing at a guide price of pounds 525,000, would have been closer to pounds 1m had it been east of Gloucester. Tim Lawson, a director, expects that gap to narrow over the next few years.