With summer around the corner, many Londoners will indulge themselves with an annual fantasy; living by the coast. The city seems particularly stifling in warmer months but, as London's rivers and canals undergo huge regeneration, a scenic waterside location is within easy reach.
The Thames' success story is legendary but less talked about are London's many canals. Winkworth's Islington branch is selling a stunning mews house on Regent's Canal at Union Wharf, N1. Set within a private gated mews development, the house has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage/gym, large conservatory plus a roof terrace with views over Regent's Canal and beyond. Priced at £850,000, agent Matt Chapple believes that the location will clinch a sale: "Demand for canal side property has never been higher. You only have to look at the regeneration and new development springing up throughout the city to see that it's now very desirable."
Three years ago the same property sold for £625,000, showing a healthy appreciation, but Chapple finds that buyers of waterside homes are less concerned with investment than with quality of life: "People in the city want space, peace and quiet and, importantly, the knowledge that no development is going to spring up directly in front of them. Buying canal side is one way of guaranteeing that." Properties such as this one also give buyers new access routes into the city, says Chapple who sees many joggers and cyclists regularly using its towpaths.
Much is heard about the eastern stretch of river, especially Docklands, but the western stretches are also attracting those looking for waterside homes.
Based mainly in Bermuda, Sally Ann Smith regularly travels to London and has just bought a pied à terre at the Pumphouse, a development of converted and new build homes from St James on the site of a Victorian pumping station in Hammersmith. Smith loves the design of her two bedroomed apartment but, having lived on an island, her new apartment's riverside location was crucial. "Living by water is very important to me," she says.
This stretch of river, between Chiswick and Hammersmith, is regarded as being particularly attractive and owners have private gated access to the Thames path through the gardens. The final homes, including seven penthouses, will be released this summer with prices starting from £245,000 for studios and £395,000 for two-bedroom apartments.
But bagging yourself a waterside home doesn't have to mean buying new build. Further west in Hanwell W7, agents Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward are selling Lock Cottage, which overlooks the Grand Union Canal and the River Brent. This two-bedroomed Grade II listed cottage has ishing rights and its own jetty. Priced at £525,000, the detached house is entered from the canal path and has many period features including cast iron fireplaces but also has a heated outdoor swimming pool, sauna and a kissing bench overlooking the canal.
Many other lesser-known rivers are becoming attractive for buyers wanting waterside locations. Management consultant Chris Pailthorpe, 56, bought a seventh floor apartment at the Iron Works, overlooking the River Lea, near its junction with Limehouse Cut.
"I was attracted to the space, light, water and wildlife," says Pailthorpe, whose 1,000sq ft apartment has an extensive living area with spectacular cantilevered glass wall. A balcony maximises the waterside views but Pailthorpe also enjoys the river's external benefits where he regularly walks: "Along the River Lea, Lea Navigation, Limehouse Cut and Limehouse Basin, it's like a refuge of tranquility and one of London's best secrets."
Tranquility and views may be driving the market but investment is key to some buyers' decisions. Agents Hurford Salvi Carr, based in central London and Docklands, has carried out research showing a hierarchy in Docklands waterside locations and showing that riverside is invariably more expensive than canal side. The firm also found that property values are in direct proportion to the width of the body of water that they overlook, with a Thames-side two-bedroom apartment in Docklands typically fetching up to £500,000 more than an equivalent property overlooking a canal.
Land director Jonathon Woodfield explains the draw: "In this part of London it's a big working river as opposed to somewhere like Twickenham. Here the tidal variations make it more interesting, as do all the big boats which pass through. Sitting right on the river or overlooking the big basins the views really are fantastic and it makes a big difference to buyers."
Hurford Salvi Carr is currently selling new development Shepherdess Walk N1, which fronts the Grand Union Canal. This contemporary scheme by developer Mount Anvil is due for completion in early 2009. Twenty-eight apartments, comprising a mixture of one-, two- and three-bedroom homes from 430sq ft to 915sq ft, are priced from £260,000 to £475,000. Hurford Salvi Carr is also selling Tequila Wharf, a contemporary scheme by Telford Homes, where many of the one- and two-bedroom apartments have west-facing views along the Regent's Canal or, from the higher levels, south-east to Canary Wharf. One-bedroom apartments start from £225,000 and two-bedrooms from £285,000.
Many new riverside developments continue to come on line but the future market may be restricted to resales as riverside locations become increasingly scarce. St James Homes' Robin Rixon says: "There's a lot still going on in areas around Greenwich but in west London there are few sites left as developers have realised the river's potential." Rixon believes that St James's flagship riverside development Grosvenor Waterside stands apart from most. The mixed-use scheme will transform the historic Grosvenor Dock and is the only Dockside scheme in Zone 1. A series of stylish glass fronted apartment buildings rising from four to 11 storeys have been created around the dock basins, with prices starting at £395,000 for one bedrooms up to £2.25m for the penthouse. Some apartments have dock views only while others have river and dock.
River views are always higher on buyers' wish lists, says Rixon, "particularly as this is an incredibly attractive stretch:you have views of Chelsea Bridge and look east to the iconic Battersea Power station."
Winkworth Islington (020-7354 2480; www.winkworth.co.uk)
The Pumphouse (020-8563 9139; www.phw6.co.uk)
Hurford Salvi Carr Limehouse (020-7791 7071; www.hurford-salvi-carr.co.uk)
Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward ( www.kfh.co.uk)
St James Homes' Grosvenor Waterside (020-7828 6326; www.grosvenorwaterside.com)