Interesting properties: homes on a space diet

To be called narrow minded is for most of us a severe criticism of our tastes. But not for the select group who love homes built in extremely restricted spaces.

The race to find affordable homes in today’s cramped cities and towns has forced some to seek out radical solutions to their housing needs – and the result is sometimes homes that look barely wider than a bookshelf.

The current title holder for the world’s slimmest house is The Wedge, which is 47 inches or just under four feet across at the front, built on the island of Great Cumbrae off Scotland’s North Ayrshire coast, although the house opens out to 20 ft wide at the back, as its name suggests.

narrow house w2 london

Next up is an extraordinary house in Warsaw, Poland that’s 60 inches or five feet across built by an architect between two apartment blocks. But also worth a look is a property (pictured, above) in London’s W2 postcode by architect Luke Tozer of Pitman Tozer Architects, which isn’t far behind on the slim stakes at eight feet across.

But do properties like these ever come on the market? Three in London currently fit the bill, or should we say squeeze in to it.

Narrow house for sale

First up is a house (pictured, above) measuring just seven feet across that came on the market in June on Homerton High Street in Hackney not far from the Olympic Park. Bought for £93,000 at auction by a developer, it’s still for sale at £275,000 and is next to both a small park on the one hand and a fried chicken takeaway restaurant on the other.

narrow house walthamstow

Another narrow property for sale is in Walthamstow Village, a house (pictured above) built between two early Victorian cottages at 3a Church Path famed locally both for its glass front and seven-foot-wide frontage but also its former owner – thought to be Bill Drummond, the colourful front man of 1990s acid house band The KLF, who sold the property to its current owner in 1993.

The two-bedroom house is for sale at £355,000 and has found a buyer, although the vendor says he is continuing to accept offers after the buying chain hit the buffers further down the line.

narrow house walthamstow

And Walthamstow seems to be a hotbed of narrow homes – three streets away in Grosvenor Park Road (pictured above) is a similar-looking glass-fronted property known locally as The Blue House also on the market but for substantially more at £450,00; although it’s got a fatter waistline at 12ft, three storeys and bedrooms plus a reasonably big terrace garden at the back.

August 9, 2012 at 2:10 PM Leave a comment

Time for a property post mortem?

Would you buy a former mortuary even if it was ripe for development? Well, there’s one you might suspend your distaste to purchase – a quirky stone building overlooking one of Britain’s most beautiful beaches complete with bags of – sorry – considerable development potential.

Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council is offering up the small Grade-II listed storage shed for sale in Saltburn-by-Sea, one of the North East’s most sought-after Victorian seaside resorts famed for its historic funicular railway that scales the cliffs above the town’s short but quirky pier.

The mortuary first sprang into life during 1881 to deal with the bodies washed up by the sea along this stretch of coast but, as ship safety increased, was used  as a general mortuary by the local council until the late 1960s.

Since then it’s been a store room and, although battered by the stinging winter winds of the area, the interior has been well maintained and comes with much of the paraphernalia of a mortuary including a stretcher, stone slab and washbasin.

But what those looking for an unusual holiday home will be interested in is its position, opposite The Ship Inn (see picture, top) on the main Saltburn to Whitby road overlooking a gorgeous beach dominated by the huge bluffs to the south of the main town.

Just a handful of weather-whipped houses overlook the beach and the property’s most obvious neighbour is the bright red boat often parked alongside by a local fisherman.

The hardest job of all would be to work out how much the former mortuary might be worth both before and after conversion into a holiday home.

Period properties with sea views and one bedroom (as this one would probably have) fetch approximately £130,000 in Saltburn, so as at least £20,000 would be needed to turn it into a home and therefore expect tenders for residential use to be around £100,000.

Hurry though if you want to put a bid in. The council wants tenders in by Friday 10th August by post. More information from the council’s Estates Surveyor, Christopher Black, on 01642 444360.

August 3, 2012 at 4:14 PM 1 comment

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

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