FT: Falling prices – concerns “Nine Elms disease” could spread 

Five years on, are the steroidal towers of the ‘New Heart for Vauxhall’, ‘Nine Elms on the Southbank’, ‘Height of Sophistication’ about to go pear-shaped? 

Here are a few quotes relating to Nine Elms from the FT article:

“Britain’s biggest housing development area, Nine Elms in London, is seeing a wave of “flat-flipping” as investors try to sell unbuilt properties amid fears the capital faces a glut of expensive homes.

Nearly 20,000 units are under construction at Nine Elms, on the south bank of the river Thames facing Chelsea — the equivalent of a new garden city. The partnership behind the project describes it as “the greatest transformational story at the heart of the world’s greatest city”.

Many of the flats have been reserved by foreign investors, who usually pay a 10-20 per cent deposit but do not need to find the balance until construction is complete. Selling the home on before that suggests the buyer wants to get out of the deal, agents say.

House prices in London’s most expensive areas fell in the second quarter of this year for the first time in more than half a decade, recent research for the Financial Times by data provider LonRes found. At the same time, developers have embarked on a building boom: more than a decade’s worth of high-priced homes are being built across the capital.

The market wobble has begun to feed through into buyers’ sentiment: a third of the homes for sale on property portal Rightmove in the Nine Elms area are resales of as-yet unbuilt high-rise apartments, an analysis by the Financial Times has found.

Some of these homes will be duplicate listings but estate agents familiar with the area said they were seeing high volumes of previously sold flats back on the market.

Ed Mead, a director of estate agent Douglas and Gordon, said the Nine Elms area was “getting a bit silly”. Prices were “wildly out of kilter with what homes in the surrounding areas are selling for”.

The number of as-yet unsold flats being put up for resale suggested that “some people do feel vulnerable”, he added. “There is a weakening of sentiment.”

Charlie Ellingworth, a partner at buying agent Property Vision who has dubbed Nine Elms “Singapore-on-Thames”, said that buying off-plan was “the ultimate option play” for “a lot of the buyers [who are] Asian”.

“You only need to put down 10 per cent and then see how the market goes,” he said.

A lot of these buyers are effectively taking a financial position rather than buying a property

The Nine Elms area is particularly prone to speculative buyers, he added: “It’s a dog-basket of developers all whacking stuff up, all jam-packed against each other, and walking out of the door and trying to find a pint of milk is really hard. Looking at what’s coming out of the ground, I wouldn’t want to live there and not many people we talk to want to buy down there.”

Henry Pryor, an agent who acts on behalf of wealthy buyers, said that some foreign investors treated apartment pre-sales as “currency trades” and “currency speculation”.

He added. “A lot of these buyers are effectively taking a financial position rather than buying a property.”

Mr Pryor warned that “investing for capital appreciation rather than yield is gambling” and predicting that the future for house prices in Nine Elms was “down”.

“If you can find some other patsy then my advice would be absolutely to [sell],” he said. “As long as the music keeps on playing, everyone is happy but at some point the music stops.”


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