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House & Home

Property: A compact space with all mod cons

Studio flats are back in demand - provided they're in the right location.
If anyone had asked an estate agent to sell a studio or one-bedroom flat over the last two or three years, they would have been met with a sigh of resignation if not a look of horror. But now the small unit is back - if recent demand is anything to go by.

In the Eighties' boom, anyone wanting to clamber on to the property ladder, but who didn't have much money, bought a studio or one bedder. So builders, with pound signs in their eyes, squeezed as many of these as they could into their properties, regardless of where the properties were. When the market turned, these flats became impossible to sell. With falling prices, first-time buyers could afford to buy larger, two-bedroom flats, leap-frogging the small units.

"Studios and one-bedders were a dead market," says Simon Agace of Winkworth. "But not any more. In areas just outside central London - Kennington, Battersea, Clapham, Chalk Farm - first-time buyers are looking at these, tempted on to the property ladder by all the mortgage deals on offer."

Location and condition, though, are of prime importance. Apartments in prime positions are being snapped up. However, eight-year-old well- worn studios are still sticking, unless they are newly done up. People might be buying a compact space, but they still want all the mod cons.

"Interest in good studio flats has definitely increased over the past few months" says James Gubbins of Dauntons in Pimlico, London SW1. "Last year buyers were interested only in one- and two-bedroom flats but now they appear to be keen to get into this market at whatever level they can afford". Dauntons is currently selling a studio flat with separate kitchen and bathroom in Cambridge Street, London SWl for pounds 65,000.

According to Savills' research department, one-bedroom flats in central London have out-performed all other property over the last 10 years in terms of rental returns, producing a 15.4 per cent gross return compared with 9.7 per cent for a four-bedroom flat.

Symphony Court, at Brindleyplace in the centre of Birmingham, is a triangular site sandwiched in-between the Birmingham Canal, Brindley Loop Canal and Sheepcote Street. A third of the 143 homes are one-bedroom flats and these have outsold all the other types of properties.

For one buyer, Andrew Morris, a 25-year-old chartered accountant, convenience is of prime importance. It now takes him five minutes to walk to work. "I've gained about two hours every day," he says. "I was living at home before and preferred to buy a smaller new flat, rather than a larger older one, because I like the luxuries of life and there is far less hassle with a new property. I also like the security of the development. It didn't make sense for me to rent, but I suppose that's the accountant in me."

Meanwhile in London, the 24 one-bedroom flats at Prospect Quay - a new development of 67 apartments beside the Thames at Wandsworth - sold quicker than anything else. And at County Hall,Galliard Homes has been converting two blocks into varying sized flats. At the initial launch of 120 flats last October, half were one-bedroom flats and the whole lot sold in one weekend. Some sold to parents buying for their children, others as pied- a-terres. Again, the convenience factor counted for a great deal. The next phase of 117 flats is being launched on 13 April - and because of the success of the one-bedders before, more of these have been built than originally planned. Prices will range from pounds 99,000 to pounds 155,000.

Berkeley Homes sold all its one-bedroom flats prior to construction at Riverside Plaza, a Battersea development overlooking the Thames - and 25 per cent of its new development in Islington, north London being built in conjunction with Manhattan Loft Corporation in Islington will be one- bedders. "City professionals and solicitors love this area and this is what the they want. One-bedroom flats are being bought for the lifestyle" says Paul Uallone, Berkeley Homes Kent.

The smaller flats are popular, too, in Scotland. CALA Homes is including one-bedroom flats for the first time in its sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow. "They are in great demand" says Alan Downie, chairman of CALA Homes Scotland "and we definitely intend to continue broadening our range in this way."

But remember, if you do buy a studio or one-bedroom flat, it must be in the right location to be able to sell it again.

Berkeley Homes Kent, 01959 564644; CALA Homes, 01324 638889; Dauntons, 0171-834 8000; Galliard Homes, 0181-508 8881; Prospect Quay from Winkworth, 0181-788 9295; Symphony Court sales centre, 0121-643 7900.