Every serious inquirer after 32 Grove End Road in St Johns Wood, north-west London, receives an envelope which contains an exquisite brochure depicting the interior designed by the architect Dirk Meyer.
This is an end of the market in which estate agents are property consultants and details come in the sort of booklet that would not disgrace a Cidue marble coffee table, should the prospective purchaser own one. (If not, just the very thing is included in the sale and provided in the master bedroom suite.) Photocopied details are infra dig.
No 32 Grove End Road, on sale through Savills' Hampstead office at pounds 2.5m, symbolises the great unwritten rule of housing: there will always be another half. Where the other half starts, however, is totally dictated by the location. Up-market in St Johns Wood is unimaginable in Derby. Up- market in York is two-a-penny in Hampstead.
Grove End Road is one of several multi-million pound properties deemed worth its own colour brochure by Savills' office in Hampstead. This is hardly surprising since residential associate Frank Townsend oversees NW5, NW1 and NW3, postal shorthand for St Johns Wood, Regents Park and Hampstead.
'The average home is around pounds 56,000, not pounds 1m, but in the market I specialise in, there is actually a small supply. Demand is quite good, but if somebody is asking too much money, they're not going to sell because the market is very price-conscious.'
For the privilege of living in Cavendish Close, 'an exclusive cul-de-sac' within earshot of Lord's cricket ground, potential purchasers are asked for pounds 2.2m or pounds 2.5m for 70 unexpired years of lease on two neighbouring houses. Like all homes in the pounds 1m-plus bracket, they come with the latest security systems, video-entry cameras and sophisticated alarms.
Savills is also handling the sale of two houses in the Bishops Avenue in north London, where residents enjoy the alternative sobriquet of 'Millionaires Row'. These feasts of excess in marble, gold leaf, crystal and doric columns could be destined for foreign ownership. Current exchange rates make them more attractive and have been responsible for some uplift in the prestige homes market.
'Purchasers from the Far East, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany and even some Americans are currently looking,' says Mr Townsend. 'Anyone who holds dollars has effectively seen a 20 per cent increase in their value in relation to the pound.'
Outside London, rich overseas investors are the last people expected to step in with the asking price for the structural rubies of the provinces. York surveyor Philip Procter, senior partner with Humberts, would not be surprised if an academic was the buyer of 16 St Saviourgate, a rare Grade II listed building inside the city walls.
Dating from 1740, the house is among the most important 5 per cent of listed buildings in the country. An orgy of Georgian indulgence, it comes with the contemporary benefit of a garage. Offers around pounds 287,500 are being asked. An old house in the city centre or something Regency or Victorian in The Mount, about half a mile outside, are considered prime properties to own in York.
'York is essentially a railway town with an enormous number of terrace and semi-detached houses and relatively few town houses and they command a premium wherever they are,' says Mr Procter. Rarity value protects the price of properties like St Saviourgate.
One of the most distinctive houses in Bristol is currently on the market. Towerhirst, a restored mid-Victorian period edifice on the edge of the Downs, is in Sneyd Park - an area three miles from the city centre which vies with Clifton as the most esteemed address to buy into. It was built by a Bristol sherry merchant, Wylde, in 1863, pre-dating the Clifton suspension bridge by a year. The height of up-market living comes at pounds 475,000. Closer to the bridge, a listed six-bedroom Georgian terrace in Canynge Square is on offer at pounds 365,000.
Prestige living in Leeds comes gentrified, rosemary-tiled - and preferably far enough away. A panoramic view over the northern conurbation is widely deemed preferable to being in it. At pounds 675,000, Adel Brow sits in two acres bounded by high trees and hedges a comfortable six miles from the city centre. Here are eau de nil carpets and Adam fireplaces; no architect has been let loose here to eject the floral glazed cotton sofas and bring in something by Le Corbusier.
Tim Waring, a partner in Cluttons, based in Harrogate, says that the best areas of Leeds are now well outside the city centre (unlike Nottingham, for example, where a one-time royal deer park, The Park, enjoys an NG1 post code). 'The northern outskirts of Leeds such as Scarcroft, Adel and Alwoodley are probably the three main areas but the commuter belt is going as far as York, Ripon and across to Skipton.'
Sandy Lodge, a four-square, five- bedroom, solid, mildly smoke-blackened residence in Shadwell, has gone on the market at nearly pounds 400,000. Daisy Hill, set in eight acres at Rawdon and eight miles from Leeds, has an asking price of pounds 595,000.
'We have people expressing surprise, particularly moving up from the South, at the prices we are still asking and still achieving,' says Mr Waring. 'It's very much a supply and demand argument. I've had clients in the past ask me to find them something similar, in Yorkshire, to a huge 10-bedroom mansion they've seen in Country Life. There are only a limited number of houses like that up here.'
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