Hot Spot: Chelsea, London

We're not talking cheap, but properties linked to the cool vibe of the Kings Road maintain their value whatever state the market is in, argues Robert Liebman

Mayfair, Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Chelsea. Nice places all, but in prime Central London, only the latter is a genuine urban village, complete with premier league football team.

Mayfair, Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Chelsea. Nice places all, but in prime Central London, only the latter is a genuine urban village, complete with premier league football team.

"Kings Road is a great crowd puller, vibrant and still with the feel of the swinging 1960s," says Lulu Egerton, of Lane Fox. "You can sit in a café and watch a Chelsea pensioner walk by one moment and Britney Spears the next. But Chelsea prices are not for the faint-hearted. Even at the lower end of the market, good one-bed flats sell for more than £500,000 A four-bed house might be worth £1.8m unmodernised and £3m modernised."

In this area of large historic estates, many houses are leasehold. Ground rent is not necessarily peppercorn, and service charges can also be eye-watering. But Chelsea's priciest properties consistently maintain value. "The top end is more buoyant than the bottom, and some sales are over the asking price," says Dominic Pasqua, of Hamptons. "Americans, French and Russians are returning to Chelsea. People move here knowing that when the market is good they will benefit and when it slips the area's desirability will cushion the tougher market."

Charles Puxley, of Carter Jonas adds that "the many short leases are proving very difficult, as the uncertainty of the cost of a long lease makes buyers cautious. However, the £3m-£4m top end of the market is still buoyant, as at this level market forces are much less relevant." Estate agents expect late but lovely Christmas gifts. "We understand that City employees are anticipating good bonuses and, based on experience, we predict a busy first quarter in 2005," says Tom Dogger of Winkworth. "There will always be sufficient demand and turnover in central London, and eastern Europeans and Americans favour Chelsea."

THE LOW-DOWN

Getting there

The District Line is at Sloane Square, but Chelsea's sole underground station is bolstered by numerous bus lines to nearby Piccadilly Line stations and all other central London and City locations. A planned new station on the West London Line will be convenient for Chelsea Harbour and Imperial Wharf

Prices

According to Cluttons, "the average price per square foot is c.£800 but the typical five-storey townhouse can command closer to £900 and the really sought after low-build houses in addresses such as Chelsea Park Gardens, Mulberry Walk and Mallord Street can command £1,000."

Bottom rung

A one-bed flat (c.550sq ft) in Swan Court, Manor Street is only £150,000 due to its short lease (14 years) and unmodernised condition. Farley & Co (020 7589 1234).

Two-fer

Two separate flats within one lease can be kept divided or reinstated as one 2,982sq ft unit; £995,000, 20-year lease, £6,037 ground rent, £3,037 service charge. Carter Jonas (020 7758 9694).

Roof terraces

A one-bed flat atop a five-storey block (accessible via a lift) has a 22x20ft roof terrace but needs modernisation; £249,950; 11.5-year lease, £3,332 ground rent, £2,468 service charge. Brompton (020 7628 1800). A two-bed flat with 26x12ft roof terrace, £825,000, 41-year lease. John D Wood (020 7352 1484).

Tube garden

A new interior behind a period façade on a corner plot on Cadogan Street, this large house has a roof garden, patio and, under licence from London Underground, a garden. £2.375m, FPDSavills (020 7591 8600).

"key" house

The west-facing 30 Drayton Gardens (six levels in four storeys) is a 3,583sq ft "key" house with front and rear gardens, roof terrace and conservatory. "Key" refers to its particularly ornate façade. £2.65m, Knight Frank (020 7591 8600).

For the 4x4

A six-bedroom, period house on Shawfield Street has a garden and integral garage, £2.2m, John D Wood.

Leasehold house

A five-bedroom, double-fronted house (four levels in three storeys) in Egerton Terrace, with front garden and rear patio, £4.35m, 31-year lease, £12,000 ground rent, Chesterfield (020 7581 5234).

Change from £7m

The 10,447sq ft Garden Corner on Chelsea Embankment is a red-brick, Grade II-listed, five-storey mansion with southerly views over the Thames, with balconies, a roof garden, a lift and a cinema room; £6.85m freehold. A garage is not included, but a leasehold garage, on Dilke Street, is available by separate negotiation. Cluttons (020 7584 1771).

Communal gardens

A two-bed maisonette in Ormonde Gate with direct access to communal gardens, £595,000, 41-year lease, £1000 ground rent, £1,300 service charge. John D Wood.

Swimming pool

A five-bedroom house on Cale Street has a heated outdoor pool and spa in a south-facing garden, £2.35m, Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward (020 7581 0155). A one-bed flat in a block with a swimming pool, communal gardens, and share of freehold, £375,000, Chesterton (020 7589 5211).

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