Treehouses: JK Rowling joins the high-flying housing trend

Author JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books have gained her millions of fans around the world and a fortune said to be worth £650m. But her latest  attempts to create a fantastical world have attracted an unlikely new audience – planners.

The famously charitable writer, who has given away hundreds of millions of pounds to a clutch of good causes, wants to build two turreted treehouses for her children within the opulent grounds of her main family home, which is in Edinburgh’s north-western affluent suburbs. She bought the house in 2009 for £2.55 million and then last year spent £1m+ buying a neighbouring property and knocking it down to enlarge her garden.

This has created space for the pair of stilted, two-storey Hogwarts-esque houses (pictured below) she wants to erect, which have been given planning permission and were designed by UK tree house specialist Blue Forest. They are to be built within their own fenced garden, topped by copper finials and join an existing summer house and garden room within the grounds.

But JK Rowling is not alone in her passion for treehouses. There is a growing fashion for such ‘eco perches’ (as they have been renamed in recent years) and many homes for sale now come with such elevated hideaways thrown in – from the lavish mini-homes to humble, knocked together ‘DIY-dad efforts’.

Here’s five treehouses on the market today on that capture the spirit (but not the cost) of JK Rowley’s designs.

1.  Blakeney, Gloucestershire – £350,000

The treehouse:
Substantial hideaway at the end of the garden overlooking the main house and nearby rolling hills. Descent is easier than ascent into the treehouse, which has a slide for quick escapes should dinner be called.
Comes with:  Four bedroom cottage.
Hogwarts rating: 5/5
More details on the property

2. Weedon, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire – £695,000

The treehouse: Glorified and large sloped-roof wendy house on a wooden platform within a three-acre wood that features winding paths and stone benches nearby.
Comes with: Four bedroom house that’s essentially an eighth of historic 1870s-built estate called ‘Lilies’ broken up during the late 1980s.
Hogwarts rating: 3/5
More details on the property

3. Allens Green, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire – £795,000

The treehouse:
Large stilted and water-tight structure that’s really a mini home with its own stairs, balcony, power and toilet.
Comes with: Cuitie-pie thatched and Grade II listed cottage with four bedrooms and a huge garden.
Hogwarts rating: 3/5
More details on the property

4. Newquay, Cornwall – £359,950

The treehouse: Basically a budget effort that’s a garden shed on stilts in the corner of a lawn-only garden. But someone’s gone to great lengths to put a decent stairway in where other might just lean a ladder.
Comes with:  1970s four-bedroom detached house with a lovely sun terrace all overlooking the estuary at the rear of the town.
Hogwarts rating: 2/5
More details on the property

5. Wellington near Telford, Shropshire

The treehouse: A raised-up hideaway that has, in reality, lost any pretence of being in or near a tree. But nevertheless would make a fantastic childhood retreat for your offspring, who can survey your gardening activities from up top.
Comes with:  An early Edwardian semi with five bedrooms with off-road parking. It would normally be a three-bedroom home but the attic has been converted and two added.
Hogwarts rating: 1/5
More details on the property.

August 1, 2012 at 3:53 PM 2 comments

Top 10: Olympic rental properties

The market isn’t big but the large sums to be made from this summer’s Games most certainly are, if the properties available to rent near Stratford’s Olympic village are anything to go by.

Stratford in East London, which normally features an average rental price of £1,700 a month, has been flooded with properties being offered at up to £10,000 a week, prices you might normally expect to pay in Chelsea or Kensington.

The area offers 277 such short let Olympic properties at the moment for between £4,000 and £6,500 a week, as displayed by our Smart Maps tool below.

Top of the pile is a house that’s ten minutes on foot from Stratford (see below), available for £10,000 a week or £43,000 a month.  So what else remains to rent at the top of Stratford’s Olympic property market?

1. £10,000  a week
 It might be sparsely furnished but it has seven bedrooms and therefore could sleep 14, making the rental price look more affordable per head.
Ten minutes by foot east of Stratford Station in a quirky street of terraced mid-Victorian houses.

2. £6,500 a week

What: Three bedroom terraced mid-Victorian house that’s been expensively decorated throughout and includes an upmarket Italian kitchen. Comes with off-street parking, broadband and a twice-weekly cleaner.
Where: On a pretty and quiet street three miles south-west of the Olympic site. A bit out on a limb, but still just 20 minutes by public transport to Stratford station.

Olympic property

3. £5,000 a week

Where: A stone’s throw from the stadium overlooking both it and a canal.
What: Very large two-bedroom corner flat in a new-build block.

4. £5,000 a week
What: Three bedroom split level penthouse with three balconies, most offering excellent views of the Olympic site (pictured below).
Where: Five minutes by foot east of Stratford town centre and access to the Olympic village.

olympic property

5. £5,000 a week

What: A furnished three-bedroom 1970s terraced house with a garden and, most crucially, off street parking. Has been refurbished recently.
Where:  Just over the trainline from, and east of, the Olympic village. A five minute walk from Stratford rail and tube station too.

olympic property to rent

6. £5,000 a week

What: Noughties-built end of terrace family home in a residential-cum-industrial area. The attraction is its size – five bedrooms so will sleep ten people. Available only as a month-long let.
Where: Five minutes walk – and to the east of – Stratford town centre.

olympic property

7. £4,800 a week

What: Tastefully decorated late Victorian terraced house with five bedrooms and a Zen style garden.
Where: Near Bow Street railway station, which is two stops (or two miles) south of Stratford.

8. £4,000 a week

What: Sportingly funky three-bedroom split level apartment with balcony. Pictures were obviously taken in late December, as there’s a Xmas tree in the lounge.
Where: Overlooking the Olympic village on a road to the west of the village.

9. £4,000 a week
What: Two bedroom new-build flat.
Where: Overlooking main stadium and canal from the west on a perimeter road.

10. £4,000 a week
What: A classy apartment in a recently-built block with three double bedrooms.
Where: Near a Unversity of London faculty next to the Olympic site.

July 19, 2012 at 9:29 AM 2 comments

Will the Olympics win gold for Stratford?

There has been feverish speculation about the Olympic property market in and around Stratford in East London for years but, as the first athletes arrive and the opening ceremony prepares to kick off in ten days, will the Games really be good news for the area’s property market?

We’ve looked at all the homes for sale within a mile of the Olympic stadium, covering Stratford but also reaching north to Hampton Wick, south to Bromley-by-Bow, east to West Ham Lane recreation ground and west to Well Street Common. See our Smart Map below.

map of homes for sale round the Olympic village in Stratford

It’s a market largely made up of Victorian and Edwardian semis, post-war council properties and recently-built glass and steel apartments, and there are currently 618 properties on the market. Prices remain inexpensive by the capital’s standards and east of the stadium are the more prime addresses where most of the new apartment blocks have been built. Homes to the west of the stadium are substantially cheaper.

And according to our property data, the average value of a home within Stratford is £234,034, approximately 20% lower than East London’s average (£289,832) and 46% lower than London’s overall average.

At the top of the market is a four-bedroom apartment for £595,000 on Gerry Raffles Square, two streets east of Stratford’s shiny new train and tube station.

The bottom of the market is a one-bedroom shared-equity apartment for sale at £94,500 opposite Strand East, an urban village being built by furniture store IKEA, most famous for its 150 foot ‘Olympic Torch’ nearing completion at the moment (artist’s impression pictured below).

But you’ll need at least £200,000 to buy either a one-bedroom apartment within an upmarket apartment block or a two-bedroom period house, and those with clear views of the Olympic site (such as the one pictured below) attract a premium of between 5-8%.

view of Olympic village from apartment for sale in Stratford

The area’s most expensive properties kick off at £300,000 which buys an entry-level and new two-bedroom apartment or a three bedroom period semi.  But the best apartments with views over the Olympic site are within Stratford Eye (pictured below), a new, cigarette-lighter shaped apartment tower on Angel Lane, and many flats within it have 180-degree views of the venue.

But the house price boom that was expected has yet to arrive, although prices have been rising reflecting the number of high-end apartment blocks coming on to the market rather than rising values for the rest.

Prices have picked up over the past six months or, we have noticed, stopped dropping and begun to swing upwards (by 1.20% over the past three months).

This is hopefully the ‘Olympic effect’ kicking in as the Games have loomed, but more likely it’s the area benefitting from the £15 billion the surrounding borough will receive directly and indirectly from the Olympics, including 62,000 new jobs and 59,600 new homes.

July 17, 2012 at 2:38 PM Leave a comment

Adele quits her rented Sussex mansion

As Someone Like You singer Adele is named the sixth richest under 30-year-old in the world, it’s evident her new wealth is being ploughed into property as she casts around for a £10m London property and prepares to buy a £2.5m Brighton seafront house next door to Fat Boy Slim and Zoe Ball. Which means it’s curtains for the £15,000-a-month Sussex mansion she began renting in February this year.

But Lock House, which she was filmed walking around for a US television show recently, and which has now been put up for rent again on, has a fascinating history featuring the sort of heartache Adele loves to sing about. This includes links to a doomed land speed record holder, Turkish royalty, a troubled property tycoon and an order of nuns.

Lock House was built in 1900 but by the 1930s had become the home of Andrew Harvey, father of world speed record holder Donald Campbell’s wife Gina Harvey. Then, in 1971, the house became a nunnery belonging to the Roman Catholic Order of the Visitation, which in turn sold it on in 2003 for £2m to a Turkish princess, Ayse Gulnev Sutton, wife of high rolling London-based property developer Nick Sutton.

At the time of buying Lock House Nick Sutton had recently been voted Young Property Person of the Year and was riding high both as the founder of several successful businesses and as the ‘secret’ buyer of Craven Cottage, Fulham FC’s west London home ground – a deal which (happily for fans) fell through.

After this the couple, who cut dashing figures on the London social scene, then concentrated on their hotel development firm, which went on to build and operate famous name hotels including Brighton’s seafront Lansdowne Hotel.

While building a Radisson hotel in Cardiff, which is now the city’s tallest, their firm’s  operation in the city was reported to be in administration leaving behind unpaid bills of up to £3 million. It is now in the hands of a receiver, Deloitte. The couple have not lived in Lock House now for over a 18 months.

July 13, 2012 at 9:25 AM 1 comment

Beach huts for sale: TOP TEN of Britain’s most beautiful

Some say it’s a property market with no foundations built on shifting sands but despite often having no running water and cramped living conditions,  Britain’s beach huts are rapidly reaching castle-like prices.

Last month an 18ft wooden hut overlooking the Solent on Mudeford beach near Christchurch – the Knightsbridge of the beach hut world – fetched £170,000 after going on the market for two days. And this week an 11ft former fisherman’s hut with views of Lyme Bay and Chesil beach in Dorset (and the Olympic sailing area) was put up for sale at £75,000 through eBay.

But not all such beach retreats are so expensive. So here’s some of the more alluring but affordable if you have a yen for hitting the huts. All these properties, like almost all beach retreats in the UK, are available on year-long leases negotiated (usually) annually and not available for overnight use.

1. Price: £69,000.
Where: Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk
What: Recently rebuilt beach hut (2010) at the end of Holkham beach where dogs are allowed.
More details

2. Price: £60,000
Where:  Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk
What: Hut on a raised platform close to the beach car park west of the local Lifeboat Station.
More details

3. Price: £57,500
Where: Wells-Next-The –Sea, Norfolk
What: Partly-refurbished cabin on the popular and dog-free Holkham end of Wells-Next-The-Sea beach.
More details

4. Price: £33,500
Where: Portland Bill, Portland off Weymouth
What: Medium size hut that’s shabby chic on the outside, Cath Kidston inside.
More details

5. Price: £25,000
Where: Old Hunstanton, West Norfolk
What: Cute, single room hut overlooking gorgeous sand dunes rebuilt in 2008.
More details

6. Price: £22,500
Where: Tankerton, Whitstable, Kent
What: Large seafront raised hut 15 minutes by foot from central Whitstable along the town’s esplanade.
More details

7. Price: £20,000
Where: Alum Chine, Bournemouth, Dorset
What: Extremely pretty 2010 built beach hut on a hillside overlooking a sandy beach in front of the shops and other amenities of a small village.
More details 

8. Price: £22,000
Where: Church Ope Cove, Portland, Dorset
What: Hut clinging to a hillside overlooking a rugged bay on the east coast of Portland isle.
More details 

9. Price: £17,500
Where: Whits End, Tankerton, Kent
What: Attractive powder blue furnished beach hut to the east of Whitstable a short walk from Chestfield & Swalecliffe railway station.
More details

10. Price: £13,950
Where: Ferring Beach, West Sussex
What: Front row beach hut on the fashionable western side of Worthing on Ferring Beach, famous for its long-established foodie haven the Bluebird Cafe.
More details

July 12, 2012 at 11:44 AM 1 comment

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